Cliff Campbell: Guitar|
Darroh Sudderth: Vocals
Logan Kennedy: Drums
Ryan Collier: Bass
Matt Langley: Keys/Electronics
Depending on who’s counting, there are anywhere from 100 to n-frigging-thousand
subgenres of rock music a band can slide into for easy categorization. And depending
on where you drop the laser on Fair to Midland’s Serjical Strike debut album, Fables
From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True, at least half of those subgenres
are being reinvented at once. But to call this Dallas quintet (who, ironically, get
their name from an old Texan play on the phrase "fair to middling") merely eclectic
is to sell them way short. No, Fair to Midland are masters of fusing those subgenres
into something that’s cohesive, intensely focused, and in a bold new category all its own.|
Since the release of Fables From A Mayfly, the band has toured extensively throughout the world. They have shared the stage with many of today’s important bands, such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Flyleaf, Chevelle, Dir en Grey, Alice In Chains, and Serj Tankian throughout the U.S. & Europe. The band has made high profile appearances at music festivals around the world such as Coachella, Bamboozle, Download Festival, Rock AM Ring and Rock IM Ring Festival in Germany. Since 2007 the band has also embarked on multiple headlining tours through the U.S. and Europe.
The aforementioned experience with the art-rock super-producer (Tool, Muse, Peter Gabriel), found Fair to Midland stretching out far into the aggression and atmospherics at their core while taking their inherent gift for melody to new levels. Tracks such as "Kyla Cries Cologne," "April Fools and Eggmen," and the gripping first single, "Dance of the Manatee' (which was in the top 20 at the Active Rock Charts while also breaking into the Alternative Radio charts), showcase Fair to Midland’s flair for combining progged-out virtuosity with lead-heavy riffs, dynamic tidal waves, and frontman Darroh Sudderth’s operatic vocals. Even when the volume lets up - as in the softer, spacier folds of "The Wife, The Kids, and the White Picket Fence" and "Say When" - Fair to Midland create sonic tidal waves big enough to level arenas. As the Dallas Morning News described it, "Fair to Midland not only delivers heady, poetic, powerful and often fascinating hard music; they deliver it live with the gumption of a marauding pack of tribal warriors."
Currently Fair To Midland are writing and recording their follow up album to Fables From A Mayfly. This yet untitled album is still in its infancy, but all indications are that it will usher a new crop of fans while their established fanbase will be pleased with what they hear. The band has enlisted the heavy-hitting producer, Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, Coheed and Cambria), to man the board for this next offering. In the three years since Fables' has come out the band have shared experiences that have made them grow as people and artists. Those experiences coupled with the knowledge gained from recording Fables From A Mayfly has the band poised to break through in the coming year.
Founded in 1998 in the quiet farm town of Sulphur Springs, Texas, Fair to Midland quickly became one of the Lone Star State’s fastest-rising musical forces, earning critical acclaim for their first two independent releases, 2001’s The Carbon Copy Silver Lining EP and the 2004 album inter.funda.stifle, despite being completely under-the-radar. But with a growing buzz and a trail of blown minds behind them, Fair to Midland naturally found themselves looking for a label that could respect their DIY roots, while giving them the means to take their sound to the grand new level it demanded. Enter System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian, who, after being blown away by one of the band’s live performances in April of 2006, signed Fair to Midland to his Serjical Strike label and that Fall released the band’s first "official" recording: The Drawn and Quartered E.P. "It’s not often that one comes across bands that are truly original, poetic, progressive, artsy and memorable, compounded by a killer live performance," Tankian says of his protégés. "Fair to Midland is such a band."
Anyone who thinks the phrase “it’s all been done before” carries real weight clearly has yet to encounter Fair To Midland. Dark, heavy, moving, cryptic, progressive art-rock collides with flourishes of old-school country, Americana and Delta Blues in their sound. These Lonestar boys genre-defying and boundary obliterating ocean of sound righteously upends the old phrase “fair to middling” from which their Texas-ified moniker was drawn.
Arrows & Anchors, the five-piece band’s first album in partnership with eOne Music, is meaner, sadder and altogether more desperate of an affair than its predecessors. “It’s a very bitter album,” offers vocalist Darroh Sudderth. “The last album had some light at the end of the tunnel in some of the subject matter. This one doesn’t have that quite so much.”
This particularly invigorating yet undeniably gut-wrenching collection of songs is the product of a string of years of career strife since the group last poked their head into magazines and record shops. Arrows and Anchors follows a change in record label, a change in management and one (“maybe two,” Sudderth laughs) changes in booking agent. All of that change and upheaval definitely played a role in the creative process; artistic lemonade from business lemons.
There has never been a lack of faith from the diehard admirers who have steadily adopted the band as their own in growing numbers since Fair To Midland’s initial pair of self-released albums, The Carbon Copy Silver Lining (2001) and inter.funda.stifle (2004). Both were explorations into the furthest reaches of the musical psyche that earned them praise from critics, fans and fellow musicians. Fair To Midland are a true “band’s band.”
So much so, in fact, that eclectic musical connoisseur and multiplatinum recording artist Serj Tankian, best known as the frontman for System Of A Down, signed them to his Serjikal Strike imprint, which released The Drawn and Quartered EP (2006) and the band’s third full-length album, Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True (2007).
A killer live show and intensive roadwork as a headliner, at prestigious festivals such as Coachella, Download, Rock AM Ring and Rock IM Ring and together with bands like Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Flyleaf and Dir en Grey has brought the band’s skillful and adept approach to art rock infused prog-metal to international attention.
There are a few of their by now trademarked tongue-in-cheek dalliances to be sure but for the most part Arrows and Anchors is Fair To Midland’s most cynical offering. By the same turn, it’s a performance album with a laser-like focus on the raw passion and intensity. In an age of overly processed heavy music, the band partnered with producer Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Coheed and Cambria, The Melvins) who sequestered them into his self-appointed House of Compression in Pasadena, California and wrenched out top-tier performances.
The recording captures an authenticity and a sincerity that’s lacking in most modern records. “We always want to work with someone who is interested and enthusiastic to work with us,” Sudderth explains. “Because at the end of the day they’re going to spend that much more time wanting to make the record their own, as well. We didn’t want to worry about everything being immaculate, pristine and polished. This is absolutely a performance-driven record.”
Arrows & Anchors is also a testament to Fair To Midland’s personal chemistry and unique collaborative perspective. Some songs were written together. Others were demoed out by a particular member – say keyboardist Matt Langley or his six string cohort, Cliff Campbell – right down to the programmed drums. “Or maybe I brought a completed song where I programmed whatever instruments I can’t play,” Sudderth elaborates. It was a very open process.
The bizarrely creative and inspired vocals and guitar work in Fair To Midland play against the counterintuitive and monstrously rhythmic backbeat of drummer Brett Stowers and bassist Jon Dicken. Matt Langley’s ethereal electronics enhance everything else. The group’s canvas is as expansive and breathtaking as the state of Texas itself.
Fair To Midland is one of the rare bands who expertly walk the fine line between accessibility and integrity, between open lines of communication and introverted psychic exploration. “We’re not gifted songwriters,” Sudderth says with genuine self-effacing humility. “So we have to be really resourceful and that’s a talent in and of itself. We do our best.”
Founded in the quiet farm town of Sulphur Springs, Texas—"Where people still say 'please' and 'thank you,'" as its chamber of commerce notes—Fair to Midland have become one of the most idiosyncratic musical forces in the Lone Star State. But as singer Darroh Sudderth—who rounds out FTM's current lineup with guitarist Cliff Campbell, drummer Brett Stowers, bassist Jon Dicken, and keyboardist/electronics manipulator Matt Langley—explains, idiosyncrasy also helps give the band its internal power.
"For the most part, our musical tastes are completely different," Suddereth begins. "All of our songs are just us trying to find a happy medium between what everyone in the band listens to—and I think that actually being able to do that is what makes us so different from a lot of other bands today."
"Disciplined stream-of-consciousness" is an apt phrase to describe Fair to Midland's music, which deftly fuses hard rock with art rock, shot through with soaring vocals, virtuoso guitars, allegorical lyrics, a driving rhythm section and richly woven keyboards. This stream-of-consciousness is impressively showcased on Fables From a Mayfly, the band's full-length debut being jointly released by Universal Republic and Serjical Strike on June 12th, 2007.
With songs such as "Kyla Cries Cologne," "April Fools and Eggmen," "A Wolf Descends Upon The Spanish Sahara," and "Dance of the Manatee" (the album's first single which is currently taking radio by storm) the band captures the ear with unparalleled force, coupled with rich orchestration reminiscent of Queen and hard rock dynamism in the vein of Tool, King Crimson and Mars Volta.
And if their song titles sound more like names of paintings, this may be intentional; they do reflect the grandeur of Fair to Midland's music: Sparkling, but not ostentatious...beautiful, but not overwhelming...powerful, but not pummeling.
-Fair to Midland's Facebook