(To Brett) Did you grow with the rest of the band?
I am originally from aurora, which is a suburb of Chicago. I moved to U of I in 1995 or 1996. I got into the rock scene down there and moved into a house with a band friend and started throwing weekly parties. One of Absinthe’s first shows was at our house. That’s how I met them. I got my undergrad degree and moved back to Chicago then moved back to start a grad degree. That’s when I joined the band.
(To Tristan) Tell me how you know all of the Fein’s.
I met Seth in English class my freshman year in high school. And ever since then, we sort of argued and made fun of each other in class. One day, music came up. We were like, what do you play. Seth said he played drums and I said I played guitar. I asked, “do you have drums?” and he said no. He asked, “do you have a guitar?” and I said no. So, we were like, let’s start a band! That’s how we met. I met Seth’s brother through him and also Erin. Then Brett came along a long time later.
You (Erin) joined in 1999. Why did you join the band so late in its life?
I was 13 or 14 when the band started. I am from Urbana, but I was living in Northbrooke, a suburb of Chicago, because I use to figure skate really seriously and moved away from home to pursue it. I suffered a pretty serious back injury and moved back home in 1999. I was very musical since I was very little but did not necessarily have plans to join the band, but I did hint to my brother that I might want to try it out. But I got my keyboard and started doing some stuff. The band had tried some other female vocalists that weren’t really working out. It just made sense since I had come home and we tried it out and it really worked.
Adam – We always thought she would be in the band, but she was too young and in Chicago doing other things. So, it worked out nicely in ’99 when she joined.
Did you always picture parts of your past songs with female vocals?
Adam – Not always. We have always been open to that.
Tell me a little about your role in the band.
Brett – I play bass guitar and I trigger samples. I also have a recording studio in my apartment. Demo land.
(Erin, when Tristan was about to answer this question) He sucks!
Tristan – Well, I guess that says it all! My role kinda changes as we have gone through line-up changes. I used to be a major music writer. Erin joined and started writing much better music.
You’re (Tristan) not bitter are you?
No, I love making music with her. I am bitter at Seth though. I hate Seth! He’s always trying to drown us out with his drums. No not at all. Every move we’ve made has made us a little bit better. At least for me, it has been more fulfilling.
Give me a sense of your involvement in the song writing process.
Brett – Well, I’ve only contributed to two songs in the band. Band members come in with an idea and I throw a bass line on it and see if it works. At this point, that’s about it for me.
Erin – I have been in the band for a lot longer than Brett, so I have contributed to a lot of songs. It is a pretty democratic process and we are all pretty open to hearing what other people have to contribute. Depending on the song, some people will come in with new ideas. We really feel that when everyone contributes, the songs turn out better. We are a very low-ego band.
That leads to the next question. Many bands self-destruct when they write songs
democratically. Do you worry about that?
Erin – It has never been a really problem. We argue about lots of things. Bret and I could tell you about that. but in terms of writing songs, there may be a little tension at times like when I am doing something I really like on the keyboard or maybe I am doing something I am insecure about on my keyboard, so I might be a little bit aggravated. It is not generally a cause for worry or self-destruction in our band. Mostly it’s just really, really fun.
Seth – We broke-up in ’99 for two months. We broke- up after a Canopy Club show on Februrary 17, 1999. Tristan and Mike were like “we can’t do this anymore. this is over.” Adam and I were wigged out. Adam was all about getting the band back together. I was like, no way, if they don’t want to be with us, I don’t want to be with them. After a month and a half, I was talking to Tristan and Mike about adding more elements to bring our sound out. From there, we have been going on a steady pace.
Do you think the family core of the band has anything to do with that?
Brett – Being an outsider, I have to say, with them being siblings, they have had all this time to learn how to communicate and deal with their own differences. It’s a good thing.
Erin – In other ways, the sibling thing has caused a little trouble. you know when you are so comfortable with people and they are always going to be there, you say things and do things that you would do to just a friend. In general we really get along pretty well.
Brett – when you are living in a van for weeks at a time with 6 people there is inevitably things that creep up, but nothing that can’t be laughed at later.
Erin – This is true.
Seth – [Being with family in the band] sucks and it’s great. The good always out ways the bad part. It’s universal, sibling rivalry is universal. Adam and I were in our first band when he was 8 and I was 5 called Steal Faces. We rocked dude!
Adam – We have been messing around with music for a long time. We were always enthralled with the idea of being in a band but never really spent a whole lot of time learning music. A little piano lessons and stuff, but nothing serious.
Seth – We just liked hearing U2 and thought it would be cool. Then we got into baseball for a while. Then, around ’94/’95 we were like we can do this. I started playing guitar.
Adam – I started playing guitar.
Seth – So, Tristan and I had our first band in ’94/’95 called the Dr. Johansson Band and Adam had a band called Absinthe Blind for about 9 months with different members.
Adam – Basically us trying to get off the ground and those bands dissolved at similar times. Seth and Tristan were messing around with music and I was at the same time, so, hey, let’s write songs together. Seth and I always listened to the same kind of music.
Seth – Adam was at college and he would come from the dorms on Sundays for dinner and after dinner we would jam for a while. He had been writing a couple of songs, as simplistic as they were, they turned out to be relatively good songs. I am not going to say that our first album was a good album. But I would say that it was a good start. We were trying to experiment and figure things out.
Can you tell me a little about the direction of the band musically?
Erin – I just see us getting better and better. We were home for 3 weeks after the first leg of the tour. We were all bursting with music and discovered that a lot of us had written a whole lot of songs. We went over to Brett’s and laid down a few basics songs, nothing permanent, but we realized that so much music is coming out of us and is ready to be worked with. All I can think of is that we are growing as musicians and whatever comes after Rings will be a reflection of wherever we are at musically and I think it will be really good.
Adam – Hard to say. Having Brett around now, we have hit a new creative burst, but we haven’t had much time to write. So this summer, we are really going to do some writing. It will be similar to rings. We are really happy with that.
Seth – Ya, it’s not really going to depart. Absinthe Blind, after 7 years, has a sound and it’s one of the things I am most proud of. I mean, we may play in Morgontown to 2 people, but I feel like we don’t sound like another band. What is most important for us is that we sound like ourselves. Sure, we are huge fans of Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Pink Floyd. All these different bands, but I don’t think we sound like any of them.
Adam – We are just writing stuff that we think is good and we’re happy that “x” amount of people think so too and are buying the album. That number is increasing.
Are you looking to work with Keith Cleversley and Matt Talbot on the next album?
Erin and Brett in unison – We’d definitely like to.
Erin – Right now we are in demo phase because we don’t have any money, but right now we have this amazing guy named Brett who can help us. We had a very good experience with them. They are really talented and really cool people.
Where have been you favorite places to play on the road? Are there any good road stories you would like to share with us?
Erin and Brett – Memphis is our favorite.
Brett – We hit Memphis on the first leg. Then we hit it again on the second leg. Those kids really, really love music. They were really supportive of us.
Erin – On the second leg, there were already these kids singing the lyrics. When you’re a little band and you don’t have this enormous fan base, it’s refreshing and touching. It’s touching, I know that’s cheesy, but it is. It’s neat.
Tristan – Beloit. Beloit, WI is where our tour manager went to school. So, he would always hook us up with these great shows up there. So now, when we go there, it’s just crazy. It’s a really liberal campus. A very small liberal arts college. You’re allowed to walk around naked if you want because it’s private property. You can drink. People there are pretty nuts so when we play there, it’s like a big party. A good time. L.A. is great because there are so many good people out there. Memphis, San Antonio. There are so many great places.
How did you get started in music?
Erin – I got started in music when I was very little and I know that I was playing the piano when I was 4. I took piano for a couple of years and soon after I didn’t do it anymore. I had other interested. My mom always said that I was singing when I came out of the womb. I think I just always had music in me.
Brett – My parents are both musicians and my earliest memories are of sitting at my aunt’s house. Her and my uncle owned a farm and had one of those multi-layered organs and I would play on the organ for hours. I didn’t know any theory or anything. I would just play with the keys and make different sounds. So, I took piano lessons for a while and kinda got board of it. My parents weren’t gonna let me stop playing music, so, I decided to rebel and started playing the drums. I played drums for a long time and I still do in Triple Whip. I have been in bands since I was 15 years old. Now I play bass.
Erin – He does a lot of other things too. He is really a multi-instrumentalist.
Brett – I do a lot of electronic music too.
Tristan – Well, initially, when I was about 5, my grand-dad was a violinist. And so I started playing violin. I took it pretty seriously. I played it for about 9 years. I haven’t played violin for many years. I hit puberty and hated it and I begged my parents for guitar lessons. They would never let me and my mom’s a piano teacher. I knew a little piano. I finally got a guitar at a garage sale for $20 and I sat down with a book and learned all the songs in it. I knew how to read music, so, I applied it to the graphs and I learned all the cords. Then I moved to France when I a Freshmen. I took only 3 albums: the Beatles White Album, Dark Side of the Moon, and Jimi Hendrix’ Greatest Hits. I was playing cords and decided to learn how to play guitar. I learned all the guitar solos on All Along the Watchtower and that’s how I basically learned how to play guitar. That’s when I met Seth.
What did you think of Wayne?
Tristan – I still haven’t heard his disc. Everyone else seems to have it, but I have only heard the song on the GTA comp. I love it! It’s gorgeous! I am a huge Lassie Foundation fan, so, I assume that, if whatever he does sounds like the song on the GTA comp, I will be happy with it. I’ll love it. Playing with him was great. The room was packed!
Seth – I want you to quote me! I am a big fan of Wayne. I want to have his children, but I don’t think that is biologically possible. You hear that Wayne? You hear that? Wayne?
Ben (the road manager) has a little story for the readers!
We have been on the road and we have to stop at rest areas and gas stations. We have noticed at three different places in Pennsylvania, Memphis and somewhere in Texas at rest areas on the toilet seat, there is written on the toilet seat in the same handwriting “dog sex #1.” Exactly the same! We have have no idea what it means, but we are following this guy around the country.
How did you (Ben) get involved in the band?
I’ve known Tristan since the day he was born. Our families are best friends. Back when the Dr. Johannson band was playing, they were like Freshmen’s and I was a Jr. or Senior in High School, I hooked them up with their first show at home coming. It was when they first formed. When Absinthe formed, I ran sound for them. Then, I went to college for four years and now I am back.
Any other comments to our readers?
Brett – Keep listening to music that doesn’t suck! That’s really all there is to it. There is a big billboard in New York right now that says “Radio Off/Music On” and that says it all.