Fight From Above is like a group of guys you’ve known forever that just happen to make great music. On a phone interview that would have been better suited across a table topped with beer bottles, I had a chance to talk with the band, one of many on the L.A scene and arguably one of the most deserving indie rock bands currently looking to expand their reach.
The group is made up of old college buddies and former high school band mates who like to crack jokes, laugh at each other’s expense, and create music that sounds good on disc but truly sounds better live, when the chemistry and cohesiveness of the four is visible. On stage you see a band that’s really in tune with the flow of the music and the crowd around them. At the risk of sounding clich’e, you see a band that’s meant to be together, each member in their zone while performing, handling their part with intense ease. Within this collective independence you can also see the members don’t have to look at one another, the music comes together naturally. Surely this comes after years of band practice but it isn’t something that all bands can achieve, ever. This group seems to have cohesiveness down to a science, an effortless science at that.
Raised in Hawaii, frontman Justin “Miner” first learned to play a ukulele. He didn’t begin writing music until he went to college at the University of Southern California, where he met his future band mates. His first attempts were what he calls “little acoustic songs” and were the exact thing that caught the attention of Zack, the now guitarist of Fight From Above.
Zack: “When I heard Miner’s acoustic album I was like this guy just has something really good. And I played it for Dave, who really dug it and same with Krook who later came on board.”
Dave and Zack had played together in a band during their high school days and Justin “Krook” was a friend at the time. Krook had been in bands in the past, though never as a bass player; he reportedly learned the skills of the instrument in under 5 months time.
Zack: “Basically we all liked what Miner was doing and were like, ‘this is the best reason to get a band together’.”
That appreciation of talent brought the group together in 2005, creating a musical team and a friendship of four that has reached beyond music.
After forming, they began playing shows, perfecting the union, and released two EP’s within the next few years. Tigers of Toluca was released in 2005 followed by It’s Just Something to Say in 2006. Now, the band is promoting their first full-length album, playing shows in their home state and sticking pretty close to L.A. They are looking to branch out as they collaborate schedules to bring their music to the masses in hopes the energy they have created in L.A. clubs will catch on in other locales as well.
The album, L.A. Kids, draws inspiration from the city they call home. As Miner said “It’s kind of a love/hate letter to L.A. There’s no better or worse place in the world.” The first single off the album, “Between the Curves” exemplifies this in the video, showing the band as massive figures stomping through the L.A. skyline. Directed by Krook himself, the video makes it obvious music isn’t the only talent among these friends. They admit to making viral videos for fun and their newest video for the single “Winter’s Night” shows the group doing some things you might expect from a You Tube sensation, the band dressed in layers of winter clothes on one of the hottest days on record.
Dave: “There was a moment when Miner turned to me and said ‘this is what it feels like to have a thousand eyes on you.’ We were at the beach and everybody was giving us these looks…some people were taking pictures and loving it and others asked us if it was for an episode of Jackass. You throw on some heavy clothes in hot weather and people freak out, they don’t know what to think. We had a blast doing it.”
In the video, the band wreaks some summertime havoc, perhaps killing summer as the name implies.
Miner: “I especially enjoyed the scene where we destroyed the sand castle and the kids chased after us.”
“Winter’s Night” is an ode to innocence lost, things weighing down on you, and adulthood moving in. Miner points out it was once a darker song but his negative original got a bit of a positive boost when the band overruled one line, making it their new “hope anthem”.
Miner: “I agree it’s better now and now it has kind of become our ode to making it through whatever you’re struggling with, that there’s a light on the other side.”
The band makes music that lifts you. The lyrics may be deep and some even cynical, but they are balanced against passages and melodies that are notably positive and easy going. The formula seems to be working as Fight From Above has established a following at several venues in the area, getting airtime with the nationally recognized KROQ and keeping a steady calendar of shows.
Ask anyone who has played live shows and the vibe comes down to much more than who shows up. The environment, the set up of the bar, the intoxication of the patrons, and the mood of the band on the stage all makes a difference. When asked about the venues they play, the band made it clear that their performance is directly related to the crowd, selecting the Troubadour in West Hollywood as their venue of choice.
Miner: “It’s a lot of fun there. I like being able to look at the crowd from the dressing room.”
Zack: “We enjoyed playing a set at the House of Blues and I think we’re starting to develop a good relationship with the Viper Room. But the Troubadour, we’ve had some live videos going around from our shows there and the energy there is just really awesome. Like Miner said, it’s kind of cool to look down from the dressing room at the crowd. It gets you in the mindset to go out and play.”
Connecting with the crowd is something the band enjoys and wants to do more of.
Zack: “If you are at one of our shows, please come up and talk to us. We’d love to have a drink with everybody. That’s the best part of doing this. We are really into that whole part of the experience. Once we got to the point of having people tell us that our music meant something to them it became really great to be able to talk about it with them.”
The band is more than just music. Four guys having spent the majority of their days in contact over the past nearly 5 years have much more to talk about than making music. Bringing up what they do outside of the music scene is when the guys revert to their humor, that kind of off the wall humor that exists among best friends.
Dave: “We’re always hanging out, going to bars, watching movies…We have a great time making each other laugh, holding hands, and walking on the beach. We’ll go to football games…we do it all together. We are together enough to hate each other sometimes.”
Miner: “When you’ve been in a band this long you really don’t have any other friends. This is really all we’ve got.”
When asked about their phone preferences, iphone or Blackberry, the group responded with a resounding “Neither” and even, “I think the more appropriate question is whether or not you would want a phone at all”.
Zack: “I’m sorry; I’m a big Blackberry fan. I gotta be honest, I like my Blackberry. I actually had an iphone too. I may just go back to a rotary phone.”
The band talks about the potential of going back to the Pony Express days, preferring to be tracked down rather than immediately and constantly available. Connecting Morse Code to the “original Twitter” they reflect on how communication could be streamlined if delivering messages was more difficult. But they also recognize the value of being in constant contact.
Dave: “We have made fans that live in Indonesia, literally, from Twitter. We’ve met some other great bands and offers have come through. It has worked to that advantage. You won’t catch us twittering on personal accounts about what we’re doing at the moment. But obviously someone’s got to run the band one; you’ve just got to have one. You can’t act like you don’t care too much, this isn’t the seventies. We appreciate the inventions of all of these social networking sites.”
They prefer Facebook but maintain a Myspace page as well. Zack has a blog that is regularly updated and the band definitely has an online presence with pages throughout the social networking realm and a website that links to them all. Of course it’s about getting the music out there but it seems to be just as much about connecting with fans.
Building a fan base and having fun, Fight From Above resembles a group of guys that we all know. The difference between these four and the guys laughing in the booth next to you this weekend is that these gentlemen are talented musicians with a true passion for what they do and the people it reaches. Their love of the art comes through in their desire to connect with the people their music touches. That passion and the seemingly effortless cohesiveness may be what takes this band to the next level. That and the time spent holding hands on the beach.