In advance of the Fear Before the March of Flames show tonight at the Marquis Theater, we sat down for a chat with frontman David Marion, who filled us in on everything that’s been going on with the band, from recording the new record, which the act just finished, to getting ready to head back out on the road for an eight-week tour. He also talked a bit about the band's videos, explaining the process behind making the very stylized “Taking Cassandra to the End of the World Party” as well as the concept behind the decidedly creepy “My Fucking Deer Hunter.” Excerpts from that conversation appear in the September 4 issue of Westword; below is the entire transcript, interspersed with clips of the band in the studio and the full videos for "Cassandra" and "Deer Hunter."
Westword (Dave Herrera): Are you guys ready to get back on the road?
David Marion: When we left the studio, we started a tour in Canada that was three and a half weeks. We came home straight from there. We’ve been home about a week and a half. I was ready to leave a couple days after we got back. Everyone in the band said I was crazy, but then they felt the same way about a day or two later. We’ve been home a lot this year, just writing and really just kind of in between spots. We’re just ready to get the new stuff out.
WW: What can we expect from the new record? Is it an even bigger progression than The Always Open Mouth was from Art Damage?
DM: I kind of challenged myself to start singing a lot more. It was fun writing more melodies, and Adam’s screaming a little bit more – we kind of switched things up. I’d say it’s catchier than our old stuff, but a lot more focused. We were able to get ideas across a lot cleaner. I think a lot of people are going to be pretty surprised. It’s still a big progression, but I really think it has potential for everybody to be happy. I think it’s a lot like the last record, just its sound and musicianship, but it’s a little more upfront and has more energy like Art Damage did. On Mouth, we would start writing with an electronic base; on this one, we just wrote the songs as a band and then put electronics to it in parts. It just feels like us. It’s awesome. I’m so proud of it.
WW: You guys went back and recorded with Casey Bates again, how was that? How was this time different from last time?
DM: I think it was just how comfortable we were going back to work with Casey again. He has a new studio, and we were able to sleep there. Mouth was awesome because it was easy to work with him, but going back it was just like hanging out. There were no walls. We weren’t afraid to speak up when something didn’t sound right.
Fear Before In the Studio
WW: Has the gas situation effected your routing? Are you guys at all concerned about that?
DM: We’re always concerned about that. With this tour, we’re booking it all ourselves, doing a little more DIY, and we’re going for low ticket prices. We’re just going to go out and try to cut out a lot of that useless spending that isn’t really needed. As far as routing, we kind of just take what we can get, especially doing it ourselves this time.
WW: You guys have always had a definitive sense of integrity. Is that still your approach?
DM: One thing we’ve lucky with in the last five years or so is having Equal Vision on our side. That takes the marjority of the worry out of being a band, as far as just having a team that believes in you and wants you to be able to stay on the road. Still, to this day, every band that we tour with can talk shit about their label all day long, but we just can’t. We always have a good idea of what we’re trying to go for and it’s all about finding people that kind of match that. We always want to grow and keep reaching more and more people.
WW: I get the sense that you guys are more concerned about growing your art than your fan base.
DM: Exactly. We always want to grow and keep reaching more and more people, but say we did get all the fans in the world a couple of years ago – where do go from there? I can’t tell you how many bands that we’ve toured with that maybe had their hit and that’s all people want to hear. I’d rather be remembered for something that we wrote when I’m 25 than for our first album when I was eighteen, you know?
WW: You guys have progressed dramatically. From Art Damage to The Always Open Mouth, you didn’t even sound like the same band. What do you attribute that growth to?
DM: I just think if we didn’t change, we would’ve gotten bored a long time ago. We would’ve been one of those bands that just kind of disappeared. It happens all the time. I think we all, as different people, listen to so much different music, that I honestly can say that we’ll never all have the same opinion on one thing. We’re kind of picky and kind of just weird people. So it’s kind of fun to challenge even your fans, you know? It helps grow their musical tastes, too.
WW: Did you notice any sort of blowback inspired by the progession that you made from Art Damage to The Always Open Mouth?
DM: Yeah, but, you know, we’re the first to tell people not to expect the same thing. It’s just funny when people do. If they actually come up and say that we should sound the way we did three or four years ago, it’s like, well, that’s pretty much be on mission to not do that. I just love creating new stuff. I think we all do.
WW: How long did it take to track this new record?
DM: We were in the studio for a month, from the middle of June to the middle of July.
Fear Before In the Studio Part Two
WW: Was it nice to be able to take that much time?
DM: Oh yeah. We got it done a lot quicker than we thought we would. With Mouth, I think we had two months, but this time we were on top of it and we knew what we were doing. When we got in, Goose nailed all of his drum parts in a day! We recorded drums in a studio called London Bridge. I don’t know, it was… I’ve got a Pearl Jam tattoo on the back of my arm. The first album I ever bought was Ten. So the fact that they recorded that there was just kind of cool for me. But yeah, Goose is just a machine of a drummer, man. He’s incredible. And we got to do a lot of extra stuff, like there’s percussion and electronic drums, so there’s a lot going on that he’s still a part of throughout. But the main drum tracks, yeah, he did every song, like, three times or something like that. It was pretty awesome.
WW: So how long did it take for your cheek to heal after being punctured by that bass peg?
DM: Uh, well, fully, it probably took a few weeks for it to be all healed up inside my mouth, to not really be visible. But I only missed – well, when it happened, I woke up after being knocked out on the stage. We were in San Diego in front of a couple thousand people and it was only our third song, and I didn’t think it was that bad – you get hit all the time with guitars and stuff. So I didn’t think it was that bad until the next song when I started singing and there was air going through my cheek. When I would sing – some words, you need your cheek, but if there’s a hole in your cheek, it just doesn’t work. [laughs]
I think I did like five songs after that, or six songs after that. And because I did that, air got into the wound, and from collar bone to the bottom of my eye socket it was just puffed out. I looked like Quasimoto. If I pushed on it, it was just gross. They had to make sure there wasn’t air in my brain, so I had to get a CAT scan. I missed L.A. the next day and then Anaheim the next day and then San Fran the day after that and then I was back on for Portland. I didn’t have any insurance and the doctor said I needed three or four stitches. Since I didn’t have any insurance he said I could just leave it and it might end up healing better on its own anyway, because the stitches can make it scar worse. So I just put vitamin E on it everyday and that’s it pretty much, and I had a butterfly bandaid over it for a while.
WW: That had to hurt like hell.
DM:Y eah, it did. But it mainly felt like a migraine for about a week.
WW: So on the shows you were sitting out you had fans singing the songs, right?
DM: Actually, we had to cancel the day after in L.A., and then in Anaheim and San Francisco, Tommy from Between the Buried and Me and Cory from Norma Jean filled in for me. So I got to watch us play without me. It was really weird.
WW:What was that like?
DM:It was really weird. It’s as close as I probably get to seeing my band live. It wasn’t me, though, so it was still a little weird. As much as I love those singer, I don’t know if they were hearing what I do there. Being a fan of Between the Buried and Me for a long time and Norma Jean – they were just awesome dudes, and we’ve toured with them a few times now. It was just good to have your friends there to support you.
WW:So here’s a question I’ve been wanting to ask: What in the hell is up with your video for “My Fucking Deer Hunter”? It reminded me of that “Criminal” video by Fiona Apple, the way it’s lit, mixed with some twisted snuff film or something. It’s fucking creepy, man.
DM:That was what we were going for. We originally released it on YouTube without our name on it at all. We just wanted to see if people would start watching it, you know, just kind of see what would happen, if it would get back to us. And it got a ton of views without our name on it at all. Slowly – I would always check to see the comments and stuff, and people were like, ‘What song is this? What is this?’ We did want it to be awkward and to look like it was made at home. It’s awkward to watch because it’s so long, that intro. That was their idea for the video and we loved it from the start. It’s my favorite video, and we’re not even in it.
WW:It’s such a contrast to the other videos that you’ve done like “Taking Casandra to the End of the World Party,” which was so stylized.
DM:That was a big production, man. We got Travis Kopach and David Bell. That whole set was designed and built just for that video, in a warehouse in New York. We flew in for it, and we showed up and there was like thirty people already there, working on it. The extras, some of them were homeless, some of them were actors. It was a little bit of everything. It was huge. It was a really crazy experience. It was overwhelming kind of. It was really great to do. but at the end of the day, when we tried to give it to MTV2 and even Fuse, suddenly, the music, they said, was too weird. We didn’t fit in with any other shows; we weren’t heavy enough for Headbanger’s Ball, and we were too creepy for Steven’s Untitled Rock Show. We were like, ‘I guess we just have to put that video online now.’ It was cool to do a video after that and just do a little smaller of a production. And ‘Deer Hunter’ came out amazing. It’s always fun to try new things. We did performance videos the last couple times and we thought it would be cool to not be in one.
WW:That’s kind of been the story with the band. You’re not heavy enough to be considered pure hardcore and you’re a little too arty…
DM:It’s cool. It’s allowed us to be able to tour with everyone, like, we can do metal tours and we can do indie rock tours. And I don’t want to do either of them full time, so it’s been great because new people get to see you all the time. Like when we did that Sounds of the Underground tour, we were getting that were like, ‘I only came here to see Clutch, but I love you guys.’ And it’s like, I’m never going to reach that guy any other way.
WW: You guys are notoriously lazy for naming your albums – your band name you obviously took from a headline in the Rocky Mountain News, as well as the name of your first album. Art Damage was from a producer you worked with saying you guys were art damage. So was A Little Less Teeth another case of you being lazy or was that meant to be an allusion to getting a blow job.
DM: [laughs] That’s funny. I haven’t heard that one before. A Little Less Teeth was a kind of B-side and live thing that we put out for the last record, The Always Open Mouth… but a little less teeth. For Mouth, Adam and I and a couple other guys originally wanted to call it Shit Talker, but we ended up going with The Always Open Mouth, like people always have their opinion.
WW: And the name of the new album?
DM: Speaking of lazy, it’s Fear Before. [laughs] I don’t know. It is our fourth record, our senior record, and we’ve been a band for six years now, and we kind of earned it, you know. People call us Fear Before.
WW: You guys have obviously spent so much time on the road that you really haven’t established deep roots here in Denver. Do you feel a little disconnected from the scene at all, being away from it for so long. And now that you guys have been back have you had a chance to get back into seeing what’s going on? I mean, the scene has changed dramatically since you guys started.
DM: Yeah, and I we kind of never really felt apart of it because we have been gone. Sometimes it feels like people look down on you for that when you get home. It’s a little unfair. But as far as trying to be in touch with it, it’s just kind of hard because when I’m home usually we’re out of money and we don’t really go out unless some of our friends are in town. I don’t know. I can’t really tell what’s going on with some of the music in Denver these days.
WW: Was it a little shocking to find out that the scene kind of exploded while you guys were on the road?
DM: Yeah, just because I’m always surprised at the bands that do get recognition. It’s always a little funny to us, at least.
WW: Was that your intent from the beginning, to make your name on the road?
DM: To me, it always just seemed lazy to stay home. Everybody just waits for it to happen. It’s just kind of not what we’re about. We’re not going to sit and wait for it to happen. We’re going to do it until it happens.
WW: You kind of paved the way for a lot of bands. It seems like after you were out there and making some headway a lot of bands saw what you were doing and followed suit.
DM: I don’t think we’d have been able to do what we do if it wasn’t for bands like VAUX or Planes Mistaken for Stars. We had those bands to look up to that were out there doing it. And fuck me, I thought VAUX was going to be the biggest band ever. We’re inspired by cool bands like that that aren’t cookie cutter. To see that not happen for those guys was hard, you know? I just don’t understand why people didn’t get that band. It’s just kind of staying true to the music that you like.
WW: Since you guys play Denver so infrequently, it is extra special when you do play here?
DM: I love playing Denver. It just kind of hard to keep people willing to come out. The last time our CD came out, we were already confirmed on a tour that was coming through Denver, and we were just not allowed to play in Denver before we played on that package tour. You just can’t, you know? So we weren’t allowed to have a CD release show, and that hurts, you know? The last handful of times we’ve come through Denver it hasn’t been our show, and that can be an expensive ticket. So this time around when we play the Marquis, it’s going to be affordable and we’re just going to have a good time, playing the new record and just kind of having a listening party. We’re all really excited. The record comes out October 28, which happens to be the last day of this tour. And then, hopefully, I would love to do something for Halloween, maybe the day after we get home. One just because it would be fun, but two, every year that we’ve been a band, we’ve played dressed up for Halloween.
WW: What are some of the costumes you guys have done.
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DM: Last year we were Juggalos. We went all out. We even downloaded some samples of there’s between songs. And the year before we were a basketball team and played jock jams in between and had mascots with us on stage. I think before that we were King Zesu from Life Aquatic, wearing blue jump suits. I don’t know. It’s always fun.
Fear Before the March of Flames With Damiera, I Am The Ocean
09/05 Denver, CO - Marquis Theatre 09/06 Fort Collins, CO - Hodi’s Half Note 09/07 Rapid City, SD - Imperial Inn 09/08 Billings, MT - Railyard Ale House 09/09 Minot, ND - The Red Carpet 09/10 Fargo, ND - The Aquariam 09/11 Sioux Falls, SX - Nuttys North 09/12 Omaha, NE - Saddle Creek Bar 09/13 Lawrence, KS - Jackpot 09/14 Springfield, MO - The Vault 09/15 Iowa City, IA - Picador 09/16 Milwaukee, WI - The Rave 09/17 LaCrosse, WI - The Warehouse 09/18 Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen 09/19 Pontiac, MI - The Eagle Theatre 09/20 Cleveland, OH - The Agora 09/21 Covington, KY - Mad Hatter 09/22 Buffalo, NY - SoundLab 09/24 Wallingford, CT - The Cellar Door 09/25 Allston, MA - ICC Church 09/26 Ithaca, NY - TBA 09/27 Watertown, NY - Velocity 09/29 Lancaster, PA - Chameleon Club 09/30 Richmond, VA - The Canal Club 10/01 Charlestown, SC - Oasis 10/02 Atlanta, GA - TBA 10/03 Little Rock, AR - The Village 10/04 Tulsa, OK - The Marquee 10/05 Houston, TX - Walters 10/06 Austin, TX - Red 7 10/07 Dallas, TX - The Door 10/08 Amarillo, TX - TBA 10/09 Albuquerque, NM - Telos 10/10 Tucson, AZ - TBA 10/11 Phoenix, AZ - The Sets 10/13 Victorville, CA - Karma 10/14 San Diego, CA - TBA 10/15 Anaheim, CA - Chain Reaction 10/16 Bakersfield, CA - Studio 99 10/17 San Jose, CA - TBA 10/18 Modesto, CA - Sidelines 10/20 Roseburg, OR - The Grande Hall 10/21 Portland, OR - Satyricon 10/22 Longview, WA - Reid’s Pit Stop 10/23 Seattle, WA - King Cobra 10/24 Richland, WA - Ray’s Golden Lion 10/25 Spokane, WA - Big Dipper 10/26 Missoula, MT - Union Hall 10/27 Blackfoot, ID - TBA 10/28 Salt Lake City, UT - In The Venue