Not too often does an act come around where the band name actually helps drive the success of the band. Occasionally, flipping through a CMJ flyer or plotting bands to see at SXSW, a name might catch your eye like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. or the Madison Square Gardeners based on kitschiness alone, but usually it’s the opposite: bands have terrible names that their fans overlook because they like the music.
[Photo Credit: Jonathan Meter]
Well, Food Will Win the War manages to make good on both fronts. The multi-instrumentalist approach to front man Rob Ward’s songwriting makes for a hearty live show and potent studio output, while the band name just seems destined to be one indie music fans will know. With a new album fresh off the presses and shows on the docket at the popular Cameo Art Gallery in Williamsburg next Thursday and the Mercury Lounge on April 21st, it shouldn’t be long before people do know the name Food Will Win the War.
Hidden Track: First off, even though there’s a lot of common denominators and single degrees of separation between you guys and other bands we’ve covered here at Hidden Track for a while, I don’t know much of the back story behind the history of Food Will Win the War. Could you give a bit of background on how you all know each other and where it began?
Rob Ward: Jeff (violin) and I met through a mutual friend, Judah Dadone (of Freelance Whales). And Devlin (glockenspiel, percussion, vocals) and Jeff used to play in Manson Family Picnic together. Dan (drums) and I have been friends for years and years and years. He and Matt (bass) have been playing as a rhythm section for quite a while for various projects. Scott (keys, accordion, vocals) is a childhood friend of a friend of Dan’s. What a tangled web we weave. Or. Not very tangled. But just a web.
HT: As anyone who’s ever been in New York City during Santa Con can attest, shooting a video during that shitshow was ambitious to say the least. Were there any funny stories or crazy people you encountered during the shoot?
RW: The video shoot at SantaCon was absolute and pure insanity. The entire decision to shoot a video during SantaCon was decided the night before. When you have a group of six musicians plus a director plus a couple of assistants, there’s a lot of planning and scheduling that have to be done prior to shooting a music video. We did all of that in twelve hours. That madness set the tone for the entire video.
HT: When we started shooting, it was an incredible experience. Most everyone at SantaCon was good-natured and friendly (especially as the day progressed and all of the Santas had a chance to enjoy a few beverages). As you can see in the video, people were very jolly during the shoot. From putting ChapStick on my lips while I was singing to dancing around inside a burger joint to pressing accordion keys while Scott squeezed the box, everyone was eager to be involved. It kind of took on a life of its own because we rarely asked people to do anything specific. Instead we were just a small part of this amazing event, and the director, Ian Cinco, and his assistants, Nolan Conway and Mark Pitre, tried to capture all of the best moments. All in all, it was about sixteen hours of shooting. Ouch.
This past winter, we did an anniversary show during SantaCon 2011 at Empire in Portland, Maine. Insanity.
HT: I’ve become a big fan of The Astronaut Song from the new record. It’s such a goofy idea for a song; I’d love to hear how you thought of it.
RW: The Astronaut Song is probably one of our most literal songs. The lyrics describe exactly what I saw in my dream about an unfaithful lover. It didn’t even take much editing. When I started writing the details of the dream, a lot of it was coming onto the page as verse. So it didn’t take very much effort to put the song together. It’s like Tom Petty said, “every song has already been written, you just have to tune yourself into the cosmic radio station.”
The Astronaut Song[audio:https://glidemag.wpengine.com/hiddentrack/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/07-The-Astronaut-Song.mp3]
HT: In crafting the record, was this something where you were going for any kind of overarching themes or fluidity in terms of content?
RW: When we started making A False Sense of Warmth, we were mapping out a sort of journey with the songs. I guess it’s a journey through various strata of emotion. And at the root of it all, we’re trying to face conflicting emotions. Trying to feel those conflicts, understand those conflicts, express those conflicts. That’s one of the reasons that many of the songs on the record have dark music when the lyrics are light (and vice versa).
HT: What are some influences that you might point to on this record that might surprise people who know your music?
RW: We try to emulate the Insane Clown Posse in every way possible. But that should come as no surprise.
HT: Within the next say the next two years, what would be an attainable venue you would love to play?
RW: It’s hard to talk about venues because there are so many elements to a performance; there are so many intangible variables that are hard to verbalize, but when they all line up in that special way, then the performers and concertgoers share something that you can’t get anyplace else. A lot of our favorite shows have been in DIY venues.
As for traditional venues, there are a slew of great venues in NYC right now. Mercury Lounge, Rockwood Music Hall, The Knitting Factory, Bowery Electric, 92YTribeca and Rock Shop are all great-sized venues to have a show that’s both intimate and well-produced. We’ve had so many memorable nights at these venues… sometimes as performers and sometimes as audience members. In DC, we’re playing at Rock & Roll Hotel next month (3/31/12), and we’re stoked to play at that venue. Black Cat is another DC venue that we’re huge fans of, so we’re hoping to set up a show there sometime in the near future.
The next two years? Maybe Canada. Let’s go to Canada. I guess that’s not really considered a venue, though.
HT: Finally, how would you characterize the coolness factor of New York City music scene today relative to some of the more recognized eras like the folk movement in the ’60s, the beginnings of the punk scene or even the downtown indie scene of the aughts?
RW: I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on the coolness of anything. That being said, there are quite a few New York artists who have had a fairly direct influence on what we’re doing. The Velvet Underground, La Monte Young, Television and Talking Heads are all staples in our tour van. In fact, we almost always have Stop Making Sense playing on a TV while we get ready for a show. Either that or The Last Waltz.
As for folk scenes… I’m not really sure. I mean, I’m interested in the music of Dylan et al. but I’m much more interested in the folk music that came before them. Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Carter Family recordings and perusing Appalachian song books.
There’s a lot of great music being performed in New York right now. Outside of making our own music, we spend most of our time at concerts. But personally, I think I’m oblivious to any type of “scene” until I read a book about it ten years after the fact. I guess right now it just feels like talented musicians and/or good friends and/or killer parties and/or awesome DIY venues and/or deeply moving emotional experiences. I know that’s a lot of ands and/or ors. Sorry.