Reviews

Fall Back Open

Author: Joel Buchanan
06/22/2004 | Dallas Music Guide | www.dallasmusicguide.com | Album Review
Athens, Georgia has always been a place where one could find good music. Now It's Overhead is no exception. The quartet of Andy Lemaster, Clay Leverett, Orenda Fink, and Maria Taylor create what can only be described as the grown up sound of Saddle Creek Records. While touring in support of their sophomore release Fall Back Open, frontman Andy Lemaster spoke with the Dallas Music Guide and discussed his music, working with his influences, the only good thing about the city of Atlanta, and the attempts by the city of Athens to kill the musical community.

One of the more grown up sounding bands on the Saddle Creek label, Now It's Overhead has just released their second album, Fall Back Open. As is the case with most artists on the Saddle Creek label, the members of NIO often work more than one job. Singer/guitarist Andy Lemaster is also an occasional member of Bright Eyes, and two members of his band, Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink, release their own material as Azure Ray. The tour in support of Fall Back Open included an appearance at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Only a couple of hours after arriving in town, and finishing their first of two stellar performances, Andy Lemaster was gracious enough to answer a few questions for the Dallas Music Guide.

DMG: Does Fall Back Open have a central theme, as the debut album had?

Andy Lemaster: Yeah, there is. It's not as specific as the first record. It's a little more vast, kind of wide-open theme, and a little more… Well, not that the first record is a narrative but I think that the subject matter of the first record is a relationship. This record is more general and not as specific. It's kind of about longing for fulfillment in many different ways. I think the whole thing has a longing about it and it's kind of about searching for something and finding it and then realizing it's not it, and starting over again. It's kind of a cycle, and each song is kind of an avenue to eliminate the cycle and a different angle on that cycle that existed.

DMG: Being a singer/songwriter, is there anyone in particular who through their lyrics you feel connected to? A certain lyricist you wish you could write like?

AL: There are a lot of people I think that way about. There are so many. In a month, if you asked me that, I'd answer something different. Everything from Bruce Springsteen to My Bloody Valentine, and I mean songwriting wise too, even with My Bloody Valentine. A lot of people don't think about that as songwriting so much, but I do.

DMG: Being a songwriter and also being blessed with the gift of being a great producer and engineer, if you were given the option of working with Leonard Cohen or Brian Eno, who would you pick and why?

AL: I'd have to pick Brian Eno. Yeah, because… oh dammit. Okay, when you say "working with", you mean recording. Wait, you mean… What do you mean by that? Because if were with Brian Eno I would think that I'd be co-producing something.

DMG: Well, I mean writing songs with Leonard Cohen or co-producing with Eno.

AL: Oh god, well I'd be too intimidated to try and write songs with Leonard Cohen.

DMG: Maybe co-writing songs with Leonard and then co-producing them with Eno?

AL: Yeah, that's probably heaven for me. I never thought about that. Now my life sucks. No, I'm kidding.

DMG: Being from Athens, and being a part of the whole music scene there, I know a lot of the older musicians such as Michael Stipe and Kate Pierson of the B-52s are doing a lot of stuff to try and preserve a lot of the more historical places and older clubs. Do you ever see yourself getting involved with that?

AL: I would. There hasn't been any obvious opportunity or reason to do that for me so far, but I do value the music community in Athens, and if there were a way I could preserve it I would. The main thing that allows the music community to exist there is the cheap rent, and that's actually being threatened right now, because they've proposed over the last year back and forth about making this rule where no more than two unrelated people can live in the same dwelling, no matter how big the house is. It's their answer to preventing fraternity guys from renting a house and having a party house and annoying the neighborhood. That makes it impossible to live cheaply, and that's why Athens exists as a music community and it has, and that's why those bands are from there in the first place. That makes me pissed off enough to want to get involved politically.

DMG: Yeah, while you're fixing one thing, you're also putting a major hindrance on another.

AL: Oh god, I know. It's like nuking an anthill or something. That's way too vast of an action to take to eliminate that. There are lots of other things they could do that wouldn't hurt all of these other people that don't cause any problems.

DMG: Alright, time for the same boring question that everyone asks you. What are you listening to at the moment?

AL: I hate that question (laughs). That's my least favorite question. It's like going to the video store for me. I totally blank out. In the van, everyone's picking shit and you think, "Oh I forgot about that record". The last thing I listened to and was excited about hearing again was Outkast's Aquemini. I thought, "I forgot about this record. This record is awesome." That's one of the few good things about Atlanta is Outkast. I like them.

DMG: Earlier you mentioned the cheap rent in Athens. Other than that, just what is it about Athens that produces such quality musicians? Is it something in the water? What is it about Athens?

AL: The rent thing, like I said, is really the backbone to it, because people can move there, live cheaply, not have to work 70 hours a week, and they can have a little job on the side and spend the majority of their time playing music. And it's because the groundwork was laid by REM and the B-52s and whatever in the late 70s. That big explosion of a music scene has sustained this whole music community. Whether it's been a scene or not, as far as a specific focused sound, it's come and gone as far as that goes. I look at it as more of a music community now than a scene. So okay, the rent thing, and then I personally think that it's a really mysterious and kind of magical and weird place. There is a kind of magic there that I can't quite put my finger on.

(At this point, a couple of friends of mine that are huge NIO fans wanted to ask some questions. Besides, fans always have more interesting questions than journalists anyway)

Louisa Lee: Do you think that the Southern Gothic literary tradition influences the writing of certain bands?

AL: Yes, but I think that even the influence of the writing you're talking about is actually… more than that, just the landscape there is like this lush jungle. That's what I get off on a lot too. It's such a weird other place. It's so cool.

Emily Strong: I used to live in South Carolina, and I'd go to Athens every weekend.

AL: Yeah, I did that when I was growing up too.

Louisa Lee: I lived in Savannah for a while.

AL: That's fucking all the way (laughs).

Emily Strong: How do you feel that your producing has affected your own writing?

AL: I look at them as kind of one and the same, because, especially with this last record, I found myself writing the songs as a reaction to how the recording goes, and decisions I make on arrangements or a specific sound that I really get excited about. That's what can inspire me more than anything, just a sound.

DMG: Like, you work on another album and say, "Hey, I can do this!"

AL: Well, I guess I'm thinking more like… Yes, that happens, and I'm talking about when I go to record my songs. I'll try this and then, "Oh my god…", and then the song will go in a completely different direction. The production is part of the songwriting process. They're together.

DMG: So which came first?

AL: I got a guitar when I was in middle school. I played in bands first, and got a four track shortly after. I always got suckered into recording people, and I kept buying stuff.

Louisa Lee: Could you explain the term "Fall Back Open", what it means to you, and how it relates to this album?

AL: Well, the reason I like that title for the record is because I feel it's open to interpretation. It means several things for me. Like I said, I feel like it's kind of a vast, fairly interpretable record. But I feel like the general feeling, no matter what your interpretation of it is specifically, is the same in the part of the cycle where you're like, "Oh shit, there it is again." I feel like there is a kind of revolving motion about the whole thing, and it refers to that.

Fall Back Open

Fall Back Open

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Fall Back Open

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