Catch up with Salt Lake City-based indie pop band Fictionist and watch the video for the title track off the band's Free Spirit EP, out now.
What brought you all together?
Stuart: All of us - on the phone - we played in bands together in high school. Actually, different bands, different projects - and that was a while ago - so we've always wanted to make music and made a lot of music together, but I can't remember what inspired us to start this band. It's just kind of something that we've always done.
Robbie: Yeah, I think it was just the evolution of always being in bands from high school.
Where does your name, Fictionist, come from?
Robbie: Pretty much, we talked about a lot of different options and the story goes, with our drummer Aaron, he had a dream about the name 'Affectionist' [laughs] and we thought that was interesting. Then, also, we were kind of exploring names of different varieties, things having to do with taking people to other worlds, and Brandon came up with the word 'Fictionist' and we were all like, 'wow, that's really cool,' and we liked that it was like a brand new word that we could just make our own and it's been really awesome.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
Stuart: We'd probably just have to answer that one individually, just because we all have different influences. So, influences for me, gosh, that's tough. I remember kind of feeling changed, musically, when I listened to Spoon's Transference album; that's kind of relevant to what we're doing: it's kind of got a little bit of a grungey/garagey feel to it that's pretty inspiring. That's one, I don't know... Do you guys wanna jump in?
Robbie: Yeah, our band, I think, is a big mix of a lot of different things. We've all been pretty well versed in classic rock and digging in to all kinds of '80s music and '90s music and so we kind of like to just blend all of that. And we do some current artists that are making stuff now, too; I really like everything from Future Islands to Caribou to Courtney Barnett. Those are just a few examples I'm thinking of of current artists that I think are doing really cool stuff.
Brandon: Yeah, I think that that encapsulates it pretty well but I'm just going to add, you know how everybody says Radiohead? [Laughs] I think these days - I mean, I would say Radiohead, but I don't want to be too predictable - Tame Impala is kind of the new one where everybody's like, 'yeah! They really influenced me'. Just of the more recent bands, Tame Impala is a big one; a record I heard, actually through a mutual friend of a guy in the band that I just heard was super cool, was the Potions' record. I guess I don't know if Wye Oak would be so much an influence so much as just a really cool artist maybe everyone should listen to.
What words would you use to describe your own sound?
Stuart: We've been toying with the idea of - and please, pipe up other band members if you feel boxed by this - but I like the idea of progressive garage or progressive indie because, in what we do, there's always a flair of experimentation. We tend to be pretty reckless and are always pushing each other and pushing the boundaries of what we have done together musically, and there's something very progressive about that - not like Rush progressive - but it's the way that the idea that the rise of indie music and garage rock and progressive thinking collide. With that being said, we definitely write pop songs, or at least we appreciate them; we like songs that you can sing and we like to sing them. We're definitely aware of popular music and don't have an aversion to it.
Robbie: I think, maybe, the thought that just came into my head was unconventionally hooky and sometimes conventionally hooky. It goes along with that idea of pop sensibility in the writing but, with that, we always tend to tweak that straight ahead pop thing or that rock thing and I think, especially lately, just really sturdy.
What were your inspirations behind your video and the single for "Free Spirit"?
Stuart: Well, I wrote the song, so I guess I can talk about the inspiration of it. Honestly, gosh, where do songs even come from? I sat down to write music [laughs] and that was the song that came out that day. [Laughs] That's not very good... I don't know, I'm always surprised by the songs as I hear them back; sometimes I find, if I'm too aware of what I'm writing about in the moment that I lose the sense of discovery, whatever little emotional insight or idea that was hiding inside of me at that time and that song was no different. It's a lot about relationships, looking back on it. Yeah, it's a relationship song.
As far as the video is concerned, a friend of ours, Jed Wells, came up with the concept and he basically pitched it to us and we thought it was a cool idea so we went with it but it was a huge undertaking. When we showed up - he said, 'hey, I want to do this video for you guys,' and we were like, 'cool' - we showed up and there was like a crew of 30 people there [laughs] - it was outrageous. I was really surprised, everything that went into it, we shot in different locations and it took all day along to do; we started in the morning and finished that night, but it was really cool to make it. The concept was Jed's to begin with.
Robbie: I'll just add that the concept, just to give a little history of the band, we've been through a lot together. We've had different managers, labels, and a bunch of stuff that we felt tried different things on us and we went through a major label thing that felt like that, so the original idea behind the video was to have a play on that and have people trying different things on us and dressing us up different ways but, in the end, we just feel most comfortable playing our music.
Brandon: Hear, hear.
Could you tell us more about your Free Spirit EP?
Stuart: I'll just say that, with this EP, we purposefully chose songs that we thought were fun to listen to. Especially historically, for us, it's definitely the group of songs we've released that we've done that feels the most carefree and upbeat and we mostly just wanted to get something for people to listen to and have a fun time listening to. The name Free Spirit ended up being kind of ironic with that, it just has less heaviness to it in general and less inhibitions.
In one sentence, how would you sum up that new EP?
Robbie: I don't know a sentence, but the word that came to my mind was abandonment.
Stuart: The EP is energetic, it has rough edges, there's a lot of abandonment: we favor all the rough demos and I'm not saying there was very little thought that went into it, but the idea was to really just capture the energy and the excitement that we feel when songs are new and fresh and just premiere it as is.
Brandon: Wait, I've got one.
Robbie: Yeah! Go, Brandon.
Brandon: Okay, so, the messy demise of pretense.
Stuart: Yeah, go with that.
Is there one song off Free Spirit you're most excited to be sharing with fans?
Robbie: "Free Spirit" we technically have already released and as artists we're always most excited about our new things - but we were excited to re-release "Free Spirit" - but I would say, me personally, we've been playing the song "We Can Sleep When We Die" for over a year and it's always been a lot of fun, so I think I was excited to actually just have it released and get it out there for people to enjoy.
Stuart: I'll pipe in and just say that I think that people should listen to the title track. I think that "Free Spirit", again like Robbie said, locally where we are, people know it and it was on a previous album and we're puting it out again just to get it to a wider audience because we think it's a song that should be heard. But that said, I think, just gut feeling, I was most excited to release "High Society" because it's got a lot of really good groove.
Brandon: This is true it does have a good groove... Man, you asked the hardest question for me to answer. I don't know. I'll echo what Robbie said just as far as getting "We Can Sleep When We Die" out; it's been such a solid part of our set forever. The song "Right Now" - now we've said basically all of them - I've always loved that one just because out of all the songs on there, I think that one has the most chaotic - I don't know what you'd call it - it's just energy, energy, energy. We've never done a song that had that much of that in it and so it's fun for me to hear us do such a sweaty song. It's nice to hear that side of us. On our last record, we did a lot of groove based stuff and that one's just straight up crazy, so it's fun.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Brandon: Just an all around good feeling.
Stuart: I think it might be fair to say that, when people listen to our music - I, at least - personally want them to let go. Take that for what you want to understand it as, but I want people to let go.
Is there anything you want to add?
Brandon: Stay tuned to the Fictionist channel.
Robbie: We're releasing this EP obviously with the idea of releasing more music. We have a really exciting kind of a conceptual micro album that we've got that's just about ready that is everything that this EP is and a little bit more in a little crazy direction and so we're super stoked about that. And we've also been talking about the next wave of music even after that, so we've got a lot of cool ideas and we're in a good place artistically and I'm excited to be getting out there.
Brandon: Hold on for the ride. So, climb aboard.