Fair To Midland was signed by Serj Tankian (System of a Down) to his label Serjical Strike last year, and this summer they released their major label debut on Universal Republic. FTM have just returned from Europe where they toured with Serj and also the Smashing Pumpkins, Chevelle, Dir En Grey and Flyleaf - all this year. Having performed at this year's Coachella and Bamboozle, as well as at the UK's Download Festival and the main stages of both Germany's Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park mega-fests, Max Ink's Sarah Grant caught up with keyboardist Matt Langley as the band heads to Madison to play the High Noon Saloon on December 13th and then on to St. Paul to play Station 4 on December 16th.
MAX INK: When Fair to Midland comes together to make an album, are there any elements, lyrically or musically, that need to be nailed down first?
MATT LANGLEY: Well, usually the lyrics and vocals are the last things to come, and I've gotten used to the fact that when a song is in progress, nothing is ever really nailed down until it's recorded, and the finals are going out for mastery. Anything can change at any time. They might decide that this part should do this, or the vocals aren't jiving with the rest and something needs to be changed. I've gotten to a place where I try not to get attached to any one idea.
MAX INK: What type of evolution do your songs generally go through and whose advice is the most important along the way?
ML: It's all part of the process. We had a hard enough time before we even got signed, because we're all people with extremely different musical tastes. So getting a song together that makes us all happy is a pretty long and arduous process, and each song will probably get torn down and built back up in the course of months until everyone's happy about it. One of the primary hands in making the music accessible to a wide audience was from our producer, and he would make suggestionsthe ones that suited us and went with our tastes, we went with, and the ones that were against what we were trying to do, we didn't. He had a lot of really great ideas to help us along.
MAX INK: It's rare to see a band that can function with each member having such different musical interests.
ML: I think we all came together in the first place because we're all from the same place, a very small town in Texas. That type of musical community, the ones that are trying to do the same thing we are, are few and far between. If you can get a group together that's marginally compatible, you're doing okay. Giving everyone their voice in the process is quite a difficult balancing act.
MAX INK: Speaking of different tastes, what is yours?
ML: I'm a big fan of Tool, A Perfect Circle, I love the new Pumpkins record. I also like Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, and a whole lot of stuff I'm forgetting to mention.
MAX INK: Whose musical taste in the group is the most adverse to yours?
ML: Well, I'd have to say Jon [Dicken], because he's a country music fan. He likes the old Patsy Cline and that period stuffbut maybe I shouldn't say that, because I like a lot of that stuff myself Johnny Cash and that group. It might actually be Cliff, because he doesn't really listen to music all that much. He's really a musician... a strange one [laughs].
MAX INK: What was the most challenging part of compiling the album for you, personally?
ML: Probably just standing up for the way I wanted things and asserting my own two cents. Because the number of opinions you have to listen to in regard to how your finished product is going to be, it becomes a much bigger battle with more hands involved. Having to assert yourself in front of all these professionals can be a little difficultactually, it's the hardest part, because I enjoy the recording and production process; those are pretty satisfying for me.
MAX INK: Are there any specific parts of a song that you contributed before the rest of the song was put together?
ML: “Say When” is actually a song I put together in its musical entirety. The band just learned his own parts. But that was a song that started with me.
MAX INK: What's been the most unexpected part of this unpredictable and erratic life as a musician?
ML: I have to say the constant, constant road business. I wasn't expecting to be away from home quite this much. And it's a strange thing to be home for a while and some of your friends have moved, some have married, a few have died, and it's never the same place you left. Every time you leave, it's like that home is gone forever.
MAX INK: Who is one musical influence that you're embarrassed to admit or is so outlandish that is it hard to believe?
ML: Well, people have always made a lot of fun of me for this, but Prince was actually one of my first influences. He's done some stuff that is truly over the top, but if you listen, he does some stuff that is quite brilliant. I think he plays like eleven or twelve instruments well. Without all the imagery, he's had some real moments of genius I think.
MAX INK: Okay, so you've been on the road, you're seeing the world, what is one thing that you can only find in Texas and haven't found anywhere else?
ML: [Laughs] that's a good, good question. Well, my answer's going to have to be home. I can't think of anything else.