Coming out of California and playing a surreal, yet moving style of post-hardcore, State Faults certainly garnered my attention with their latest LP Desolate Peaks. I reached out to the band recently to talk a bit about said album, their name change from Brother Bear and their enjoyment for older video games.
For the record, can you state your name and what you do in State Faults?
This is Jared Wallace and I play drums in State Faults
Some people might still know you as Brother Bear... there’s even a piece of merch in your store with that band’s name on it. Can you tell us how that transformation took place?
When we really started getting our music out there, we found out that there was already a slew of other Brother Bears who had been around for a bit longer than we had (not to mention the Disney movie), so rather than fight against that, we thought it would be best to just change the name. We loved Brother Bear and still do. It's always gonna be a name that we identify with, as goofy of a name as it is, but as Desolate Peaks started to develop into what it is now, we really wanted people to notice the difference between who we were with Head In The Clouds and who we are now. We felt a lot more mature as musicians coming into this full length and the name change really helped to solidify that.
How does the State Faults moniker better fit what you guys are trying to do musically?
The name sorta makes reference to the area of California that we all live in. We're sitting right on top of a major fault line so it's a clever little nod to the earthquake state. Plus I think it suits the type of music we play a little bit more. Brother Bear is quirky and different which isn't a bad thing at all, but I don't think it accurately represents where we're coming from musically. Honestly though, I don't think any of us mind either way. The music is what's most important, but if changing our band name means not getting confused with a bunch of other bands with the same name then so be it.
Your recent release Desolate Peaks is a solid piece of post-hardcore akin to bands like Pianos Become the Teeth. Where did you personally draw inspiration from for this record?
Thank you very much for the compliment! We drew inspiration from all over the place. Obviously heavier bands like As Cities Burn, Underoath, Trophy Scars and Circle Takes the Square had a pretty big impact on the heavier side of our sound. More often than not though, I find myself listening to much softer bands in my spare time. I know the other guys love a good soft jam as well. I think a lot of our tendencies towards melody and atmosphere in the guitar work come from artists like Thrice, Circa Survive and even bands like Death Cab For Cutie and Copeland. We're really drawn towards artists who make great use of that second guitar. You can take a normal riff and really make it stand out with a good melody played over it. That kind of songwriting pays off when you're in a band who's vocalist primarily screams as opposed to singing.
How do you feel you guys differ from a band like Pianos, who you have been sure to draw heavy comparisons to?
Honestly, the comparisons are really flattering! I'd be lying if I said that we've never been influenced by an awesome Pianos jam or two. They're amazingly talented guys and they've really helped to revitalize this whole "screamo" resurgence so being compared to them is kinda cool. But isn't that sort of how bands get their name out there in the first place? Everybody needs a point of reference when they hear something new. Comparisons help people to grasp on to music that isn't familiar to them. Then once they've had a chance to fully digest it, they start to see what really makes that band different. Every now and again you run across an artist who's a little harder to place, but I'm sure somewhere out there is another band who makes music that sounds similar and has been playing it a little bit longer. At the end of the day, we're just being ourselves when we play music so being recognized and appreciated for that in any fashion means a whole lot.
Lyrically, what are some things you felt compelled to touch on with this record, and how does it reflect upon the title of the record?
Jonny has always been incredibly honest and heartfelt in his lyrics. Whenever he writes a new song he always gives us a little insight into where he drew his inspiration from and it always blows me away. Some of the songs he writes from really personal experiences while others take on the narrative of different people in his life and the struggles and hardships that they experienced. Last Breath for example was a song about the lady who sold him his first car. She broke down in tears and told him about her husbands who had just passed away and how difficult it was for her to sell the car. It really got Jonny thinking about what it must be like to share a bed with someone for 50+ years and then suddenly they're gone. So the song tells about it through her perspective.
Jonny went about Desolate Peaks in a similar matter. It's a mixture of personal and shared experience but they all affected in a deeply personal way. I know a couple of the songs in particular deal with an abortion and how it had a major affect on him and his outlook on life. The guy has been through a lot but his family and friends have all helped him remain strong and I think that's an overarching theme that runs throughout the album. We all experience feelings of isolation and remorse and they can really leave us in a complete sense of helplessness, but all those feelings are temporary. You're never alone as long as you've got your friends and your family.
As far as melody crafting and songwriting, how does this band go about the writing process?
Nearly all of the songs on this record came from the 4 of us sitting in a room, each with guitars just strumming out ideas until one of us landed on something and the rest of us picked up on it started adding to it. It felt really natural and definitely helped the record come together really quickly. We'd just record what we came up with on Jonny's computer, set it to some computer drums so we could memorize it before next practice and then jam on it to fully flesh it out. It was a much more collaborative effort than our EP and I think you can tell just by listening to the two.
You’ve been around for about two years now, but this record took roughly a year to craft. How does that delicacy show in the final product?
We really wanted this album to reflect who we are as musicians. Head In The Clouds was a lot of fun to make and it was very freeing to just write whatever popped into our heads and not have to worry about anything because nobody knew who we were. It was much more of an experiment. After seeing where that record took us and the response that it got, we wanted to make something more deliberate. Something with teeth. We jammed the songs out a lot before we committed to anything because we wanted to make sure that they all reflected who we are as a unit, not just me and Jonny writing songs in our bedrooms for fun.
What would you say is the biggest progression you’ve made as a band on this record, and how is it evident in specific songs?
Like I mentioned before, the level of collaboration on this record is much more evident than with Head In The Clouds. We each added something to it, from the leads to the vocals to the drums. Everybody made contributions non specific to their instrument which was really cool. I don't think any of us had ever written music that way before. It definitely makes me excited for what's to come. The new stuff we've been writing is even more of a collaboration which has just been blowing my mind! This band always keeps me out of my comfort zone which I think makes for the best songwriting experience. You never want to let yourself get too comfortable with your music. It should always be a new and unique process.
Who did you record this LP with and how do you feel the recording process varied from the Head in the Clouds EP you self-released?
We recorded it by ourselves but as opposed to Head In The Clouds, we were much more involved and detail oriented. We went out and bought new recording gear, set up a mini studio in Chip's brother's house and tried a lot of techniques that we had never done before. It was very much a learning experience. There were a few hiccups here and there and a few things we'll probably end up trying differently our next time around, but a big goal of ours is to be a self-sustaining band, so I think we'll continue to record our music for the foreseeable future. Unless of course we happen to get some offer to record with some big deal record producer or something. In which case we'll all be taking notes for the next recording process when we fly solo again!
One of the criticisms of this LP is in the vocal department, only that the vocals are not easily approachable and are a bit shrill at points. Would you say that this is something that came from still learning and testing your abilities as a vocalist, or was this a deliberate aspect of your sound?
I can't say that Jonny really tries to go for any specific sound when it comes to vocals. He pretty much just opens his mouth and belts out his words and thats what comes out. We get a lot of varied opinions on it but I've always thought that was cool. You never want to be that band that blends in with the rest of the noise. The fact that people seem to either love Jonny's vocals or hate them says to me that he must be doing something right.
I've always loved artists like that who really polarize their critics. I've recently started listening to a lot of Bjork and she's a perfect example of a polarizing artist. She's gotten a bad rap before about her flashy, avant-garde image and her strong accent, but the emotion she packs into her voice and lyrics and the way she conveys it all through her music is really mind blowing. It just goes to show, you should never judge a book by it's cover, or band by its vocalist for that matter.
Tell us about how you guys hooked up with Tiny Engines. What makes them the right place for where you guys are in the artistic mindset of this band?
Will Miller and Chuck Daley are two of the guys who run Tiny Engines and one day Will hit us up out of the blue and said that he and Chuck really liked Head In The Clouds and would love to hear what we had been working on. So we sent them some tracks and from then on they were incredibly open and excited about what we were doing. It just seemed like the perfect fit. Those guys have been nothing short of amazing and have helped out a lot of incredibly talented bands. We felt incredibly humbled that they wanted to bring us into their family. Plus the fact that they're such a relatively young label really said a lot to us. We couldn't be more happy to be working with those guys.
Being from California gives you guys the opportunity to explore the west coast a bunch, but have their been any plans to try to do some more extended touring with the release of this record, especially after terrible weather cancelled your attempt at such touring earlier this year?
I can't even begin to tell you how anxious we are to get over to the east coast! We've had such a great response to our record from kids out there it's crazy. So far we've just managed to really start reaching out to the West Coast but I don't imagine it'll be too long until we're able to make it out to the rest of the country. We're extremely determined! We learned a lot from our last effort so now we know what to avoid and do better when planning a full US. It's going to happen!
You guys post a lot about video games on your Facebook, so I’d like to get your opinion on a few things... what are your favorite Final Fantasy, Mega Man and Zelda games?
Final Fantasy - It's a 3 way split between FFVII, FFVIII and Final Fantasy Tactics. Though I know Jonny loves FFIII. Sadly however, Michael has never even played one Final Fantasy game (all the way through at least).
Mega Man - Michael and Jonny are the Mega Man geeks and they are both very keen on Mega Man X5. I think they are nearing the completion of every game in the franchise. Kinda crazy seeing as how long ago the games came out! Just goes to show how incredibly difficult they all are. I've watched them play and it looks simply maddening.
Legend of Zelda - This one is unanimous: Ocarina of Time! A Link to the Past is a classic and will always be, but with OT they really took what makes Zelda such a great experience and truly made it life changing. With that being said, none of us have ever played a zelda game that we didn't like. They're all classics. And the end of Twilight Princess… so incredible. I almost cried. No Joke. It was magical.