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Interview: Fly Golden Eagle

At times it can be difficult to differentiate between artist and character; hell, person and character. Where is the line drawn between the two and how do you know which you’re dealing with at any given moment? As a group, Nashville‘s Fly Golden Eagle wade knee deep in this dilemma, their collective persona acting as personal extensions, yet also translating as something far too spacey to immediately suggest that they’re taking themselves all that seriously. The band’s press release for their recently released The Island Galaxy EP concludes, “Fly Golden Eagle is the present. Man and machine’s warm embrace. Sounds that bite, kick, pull, groove, soothe, and move ears and eyes alike. Tomorrow is not here yet, so today we will dance to the melodic sounds of the digital underground.” That’s honestly the most coherent part of the entire one-sheet.

Yet part of Fly Golden Eagle’s intrigue is found in this seemingly surface-level mystery, and when I reached out to the band for a quick email interview I really had no idea what was to come. Connecting with drummer Richard Harper, the depth at which he related the band’s story offered a bit of insight into what exactly it is that they’re trying to do; insight, but really no firm answer. Terms such as “music and its cosmic purpose” and “transformation of the mind” were batted around, and as he continued, the band’s higher consciousness approach to their music began to seem more and more genuine; like it’s not really a front after all. The perceived character might actually just be the artist. Harper believes in a message and he believes in the music; exactly that message is however, is still a bit unclear. To get a better idea of the group’s music however, The Island Galaxy EP is presently available as a free download via the Memetic Society.

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Chris DeLine: What’s the relationship is between the music I’m hearing, the band I’m seeing in the press photos and this Fly Golden Eagle? How did one lead to the other?

Richard Harper: Ben did his first album, The State of the Industry, on an inane whim by himself. It was very innocent and honest and young. As Ben’s music progressed (and as we all got on board because we believed in it) we came at things with a tension and once these worlds began interacting (playing shows, having albums, bowing to commerce, etc.) we were always asking ourselves questions about how we’re presenting things. So the eagle suit and those early days—while absurdly fun and pretty damn cool—were destined to evolve. The next album, BoreUs was a bit more direct about our/Ben’s “opinions” as it were. Political, social, etc., but it wasn’t too overt. The sort of M.O. for a while was, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” which is to say the things we were trying to have conversations about, or mysteries we were trying to live, are uncomfortable, honestly, both for us and maybe others. So the image we presented of the band at that point was three, glitchy, menacing stooges.

I remember we were playing a house show right as the BoreUs songs came out. People were really excited to hear them, there was a great energy between friends and strangers, and everyone was dancing. I was on the side of Ben playing drums and I remember I saw him saying these words that I believed in, and everyone was dancing, and he just looked like he was burning lasers into everyone’s eyeballs. He was serious. He meant every word he was saying. It was a moment I won’t forget.

Then we get to Island Galaxy. I think the angst settled a bit and Ben was sort of exercising the other end of the spectrum. Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being comes to mind. That implied duality that people tend to separate in life (or give heavier weight to one or the other). Breaking down false dichotomies. Maybe that’s what Island Galaxy was. The lyrics of “Push Pull” sum everything up well, I think. (But, at the same time, the spoken tension we carry with us is still in there, just shrouded a bit. “Here To Stay” is a pretty political song, IMHO. Ha.) Life is awfully serious, and there’s something we’re after, but you can’t stress out over that and one should certainly be laughing and having fun all along life’s path.

CD: When did the current lineup of the band get going?

RH: This is a nice one. People were having conversations about music and its cosmic purpose, how it gives meaning to things, how it can change things, etc., and Ben, at the time, would play shows by himself with a boombox and a guitar or with another person on bass, playing to tracks. Ben underwent a transformation of the mind around two years ago (but it had been happening all along), and from these conversations about BELIEVING in music, Ben really felt it was important to experience this with people of like mind and that he trusted. In other words, friends. So he added Mitch on keys because he can kill anything he puts his neon head to, and Richard on drums (because he can cut grass really well), and we played a few shows like that, and then got Ric on bass for the same reasons any of us were there. It locked in at that point. [Note: this is how Richard answered the question, speaking in third person.]

CD: “Here To Stay” is a great song, and I doubt anyone could reasonably argue that its hook isn’t infectious, but it strikes me as trying to pluck the sound of an era. What is the process when writing a song like that and how much of it is based on explicitly saying something like: I think it should sound more like this band or song from the past?

RH: It might be hard to suss this one out, but I don’t know if it’s conscious, per say. We’re all into a lot of different music and “songs from the past” are a huge part of that. I mean, Ben grew up in Detroit, so one would assume he just has that in his genes. Everyone is influenced by everything they take in, so a wide swath of inputs will always make for an interesting output. So it’s not so much intentional; no one wants to be a throw back band or pine for some sick nostalgia of the “good ol’ days,” it’s just the way it came out. We like that stuff, along with a ton of other stuff.

CD: What I really enjoy about the EP is the contrast that is found between each track: “Push Pull” has these looping electronic bits and pieces but is followed by “Any Other” which is simply a straight forward rock track. How does the band maintain a general focus and consensus amongst the members while still attempting to incorporate these different musical leanings?

RH: Ben basically writes these songs. He’ll ask our opinions, show us sketches or kick around ideas, or we’ll be jamming over at Mitch’s place and something will just come out and he’ll mine that for a song, etc. So what happens is, Ben/us will put something together that feels good, release it however the hell people release things anymore, and then we ALL will figure out how to play them live. When we play and channel that thing together, it’s all very continuous. Songs that may sound pretty disparate on a record or records will all flow fine when there are four humans playing them. We don’t use any tracks or anything, because if we can’t figure out how to make it sound banging as humans, we might as well quit. Thus the human element is ever present, and the songs tend to work.

Fly Golden Eagle “Push Pull” [Download Mirrors]


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