It’s a double-edged sword – having a brand of sound so unique, the English language has yet to catch up with a proper description. Yet Fine Animal (Kelan Gilbert, Lucy Oaks) waited patiently for their hometown scene of Columbus, Ohio to catch on…and catch on, they certainly have. This musical mix of dream pop, indie, electro (what the duo playfully refers to as ultra lush music for ice skating) is absolutely ear catching, and what better proof than Fine Animal’s new LP: Before The Glow.
We asked the twosome to give us their input on the approach to the new music – Gilbert said “I feel that Before the Glow is the sum of everything that is Fine Animal. No two songs were written, recorded or produced in the same way. Really we were just trying to find our way as a band and while searching for this managed to write some songs. The result was this album. Hopefully people who listen to it will hear that we have found a sound that is uniquely our own.” We here at PEV have no doubt you certainly will; just click over to http://www.fineanimalmusic.
XXQs: Fine Animal
PEV: How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Kelan Gilbert (KG): To me, our music has always had a knack for side stepping characterization. Not that it was ever our intention to do so. In fact, our lives would probably be a lot easier if our music would simply fit into one compartmentalized genre or another. I think this is why we often defer to silly slogans and one-liners such as, “Like drinking a refreshing glass of clouds” or “Music for ice skating…” etc. I like that we wear many hats. I think that makes us stand out.
PEV: What kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
Lucy Oaks (LO): My first concert was Death Cab for Cutie. They were my favorite band when I was growing up. I got really into math rock and shoegaze when I was a teenager. I think there are definitely elements in our music that were influenced by bands like Death Cab, My Bloody Valentine, and Slowdive.
KG: My taste in music has had a pretty interesting and eclectic evolution. I was fortunate to grow up listening to a lot of amazing music thanks to my Dad. He made a point to raise me on Bowie, Roxy Music, The Stones, Velvet Underground, and many more. From there, I managed on my own to latch onto some really great and really awful music in the 90s and beyond. I’ve always been a sucker for grunge and shoegaze from that era. I remember my first concert was a Bad Religion show that my Mom dropped me off to see. Blink 182 was actually the opener (laughing).
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
LO: It was a little rough trying to break into the music scene in Columbus. At times we felt like we didn’t fit in with the other bands in the music scene here because the music we produce is pretty abstract, but we love where we come from and the people here who support us. Columbus is a really unique music community that we are really happy to be a part of. Our first show was a charity show for Leukemia and Lymphoma. A good friend of ours put the show together and was gracious enough to include us on the bill with some awesome Columbus bands. I was really nervous, but it ended up going very smoothly.
KG: It was actually a real challenge at first. It felt like it took us forever to gain any kind of traction, but in reality it probably was only a few months (I’m an impatient individual). Columbus is flush with bands so we really worked hard this past year to get our name out there. In my mind, we’re still a long way from where we want to be… Our first show was really nerve-racking because we had this crazy digitalized, complex setup that, at the time, was “high risk” of some sort of malfunction or melt down. Shit, we were all at a high risk of a meltdown (laughing). Everything went off without a hitch, and it really felt good to get that one under our belts.
PEV: What has been the most frustrating part of the whole “music business”?
KG: All of the things that don’t have to do with music. The politics that go into this business can be really disheartening. All I want to do is write and perform, and there’s so many things completely unrelated to music that go into being a musician in a working band. Sometimes it seems fortune favors those who are more inclined to be the politician and occasionally write a song.
KG: Honestly, I have no idea. Sometimes I don’t even know what to expect from a Fine Animal show. Our sound and performance is always in a state of change and upheaval, so it’s hard to know what’s coming. In the most cliché sense of the phrase, expect the unexpected.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
KG: Enjoy this.
LO: I’m usually thinking about how grateful I am to be doing what I love to do. I’m usually a little bit nervous too.
PEV: How has playing in Fine Animal been different from working with other artists or projects in the past?
LO: This is actually the first band I have ever played in. I was classically trained, but I mostly performed by myself. Working on this project with Kelan has really pushed me as a musician. It has enhanced my creativity and my playing ability. I would say the biggest difference between Fine Animal and other projects I’ve worked on is our drive.
KG: It’s the most abstract project I’ve ever been a part of. Fine Animal thrives on being unique, and I think that is what keeps me so engaged with this band.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?
KG: I wish I had a sensible answer for that. I’ve found that letting the music write itself is the best approach to songwriting. I’ve never been the type to say, “Today I will write a song, and it will be great.” It’s been my experience that the best ideas will usually fall into my lap when I’m least expecting it. If I experience a feeling or a thought worth writing about, I usually don’t have to think about writing, it just happens. I often find that it’s either complete stillness or total chaos that lends itself to harnessing new ideas. Sometimes when I’m attempting to fall asleep, melodies or lyrics will just manifest out of nowhere. Other times, it’s in those high-octane type moments, moments I might not even have any business thinking about music, that inspiration will present itself.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
LO: All the time. We have had our fair share of trials as a band. We have seen a lot of members come and go and have really struggled to find our sound, but we have never felt more solid as a band than we do right now. Releasing the album and playing our first tour made all of the hard work worth it.
KG: Yes. All the time. I often think about all of the things that had to have happened or not happened for me to be where I am now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
LO: This is a tough one…people always seem surprised to hear that we record everything in Kelan’s bedroom. #bedroompop
PEV: Tell us about your new LP, Before The Glow. What can fans expect from this work?
KG: I feel that Before the Glow is the sum of everything that is Fine Animal. No two songs were written, recorded or produced in the same way. Really we were just trying to find our way as a band and while searching for this managed to write some songs. The result was this album. Hopefully people who listen to it will hear that we have found a sound that is uniquely our own.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it for the first time?
LO: Listening to a new song for the first time is incredibly satisfying. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I will often rock out to a new song we have written and be like “Hell yeah…we wrote this!”
KG: Nothing compares. Every songwriter worth their salt has had the experience of listening back to a song after completion and being met with one of two feelings. Either total disappointment or complete bliss. The latter is often the rarer of the two in my experience, but that just makes it that much sweeter.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
LO: Everywhere? I would love to play in Europe and the and West Coast in the near future.
KG: There are so many places I would love the chance to perform. Europe comes to mind because, thanks to the power of the Internet, we’ve received a little attention from various outlets over there. I think it’d be amazing to see how people would actually react to seeing us perform there, whether the reaction is good or bad!
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?
LO: My friends and family are very supportive, but they definitely worry about the security of being a full-time musician. They have never stopped me from pursuing what I love and are our biggest fans.
KG: Words can’t express how supportive and wonderful my family and friends have been throughout not only the pursuit of music but throughout my entire life. Our hometowns are in different places, but it’s always special playing close to home and having those special people there to be a part it.
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
LO: I like to spend any free time I have outside. I love hiking and backpacking, so I can usually be found doing that when we have a free weekend, but those are hard for me to come by now.
KG: My life is truly centered in music. Most of what I do is somehow related to music. In the rare time I do get for other things, you might catch me enjoying a movie or watching basketball. I find a lot of “Zen” in mindlessly watching a basketball game (laughing).
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
KG: St. Vincent. No explanation necessary.
LO: That’s who I was going to say!
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
KG: So many. Locally, Damn the Witch Siren is a fellow Columbus act to keep on your radar. Ellie Herring out of Lexington is also making quite a name for herself.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal,) what do you think each of you would be doing for a career?
LO: I graduated from Ohio State this Spring, and I’m now working in public health in addition to Fine Animal. If playing music wasn’t my life goal, I would probably be building a career out of improving the health of communities.
KG: It’s really hard for me to imagine that. Something related to animals / dogs or movies or coffee or travel or…
PEV: So, what is next for Fine Animal?
KG: We are eager to start writing for the next album. We’re also in the process of booking a few short tours here and there. It’s always a bit of mystery, but I dare say that’s how we like it. Hopefully the best is yet to come.
For more information, click to http://www.fineanimalmusic.com/.