WE GLADLY SAT DOWN WITH THE GOOD PEOPLE AT SCENEAZINE.COM AND THEY HAD A FEW QUESTIONS FOR US.
1) Let's start off by explaining the band name. Who came up with it? What, if any, reason did you guys choose it?
Alex: Well, it's a little of a long story but the original lineup of the band (started in Roanoke VA) had all been in the same band at one point in time. The leader of said band (after we were all let go) said that we were just a bunch of "Fill Ins".. So it just kinda stuck. We played around with a few other ideas but none really stuck like "The Fill Ins".
2) Introduce the band. Who are members and what instruments do they play?
Alex: I'm Alex Stiff and I provide the vocals and play rhythm guitar.. And the sexiness (laughs)
James: I'm James Capell Nunn and I'm playing the role of the bass player.
Mikey: “Muscles” Mikey Black. I play lead guitar, and lead right bicep.
Matt : I’m Matt McCoy, I play drums and break things.
3) So how long have you guys been a band? Is this everyone's first band they've played with? Share with us a brief history.
Alex: Well, it kinda all started with me living in Roanoke VA and wanting to be in a real band; so I starting being a band whore. At one point I had joined a band with a complete a**hole front man and during my time, got a new bassist and drummer within 2 months. After I left, the former members came together and formed "The Fill Ins". Sadly that didn't last too long so I packed my bags and moved back home to Charlotte NC. It took a couple lineup changes but I think we finally have it.
Mikey: I’ve been in the band since it’s reboot back in 2013. This is the first band I have been fully committed to, as far as writing music and playing songs. I love it.
Matt: I’ve played in a lot of different bands covering a lot of different styles of music over the last 20 years. Some of those bands were really great and played a major role in my progression as a musician. The Fill Ins are no exception, this is one of the best bands I’ve been a part of in a long time. No one takes themselves too seriously, I get to be myself when I play, and I’m allowed a lot of room to be creative while writing. Which is something that is really important to me, I think music can get stale really quick if you have one person in a band telling everyone else how and what to play.
James: I've always played in bands here and there as a guitarist, but I've never had a consistent gig until I moved here from Knoxville, TN a year and a half ago. This is definitely the tightest unit I've ever been a part of for sure.
4) Is there one person who writes all the songs or do you guys write as a band?
Alex: We all do to some degree. Almost all of the 1st album (Hipster Killers) with the exception of 1 or 2 songs was written by me. I always wanted to have a heavy hand in the writing due to this being my "baby". Thankfully I was able to find some musicians that feel where I'm coming from so I'm able to sit back some and let them take the reins a bit and some great stuff is coming out of it. One of my favorite songs on the upcoming album, titled "You're the Victim" was written almost entirely by Mikey Black; aside from the lyrics. No one has really thrown out lyrics yet so that has been a one man deal for me. I'm not sure how much more creative I can be come album 3 talking about the same s**t over and over... (Laughs).
Mikey: Our first album was mostly old Fill Ins songs, written by Stiff. With our newer stuff, usually Alex will scratch something out, send it to us, and we all take it and run with it, adding our own unique flair and style too it. As of late I’ve been writing a lot of good lead riffs as well.
5) Where do you guys usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is the bands usual songwriting process?
Alex: Dwarves and Supersuckers all the way. I love the attack of those two bands but they still have songs you remember the next day.
Mikey: I personally am a HUGE metalhead. I gather a lot of my writing technique and inspiration from bands like Dream Theater, Children of Bodom, Killswitch Engage, etc. Obviously that’s not close to our sound, so I usually use bands like Airbourne and Van Halen for inspiration, and use that metal background to come out when I’m writing solos and leads.
Matt: My favorite moments when writing a song are the ones that happen accidentally. Somebody will start playing a riff or I’ll just start playing a beat and it will resonate with one of the other guys and then the next thing you know, we’ve got a whole new song without even trying.
6) How often do you work on new songs?
Alex: Whenever it hits us honestly. We can go 3 months and not have anything new, then within a month we can have 2 solid new songs. There's little to no pressure to write new material. This isn't the 70s or 80s anymore where you have to have a new album out every year. I'd rather come up with 4 great songs and release an EP than have 4 solid songs with 6 filler tracks. We take our time and make it the best we can.
Mikey: All the time. Between Alex and myself, we always have new riffs and ideas to bring to the table.
7) If someone wanted to hear your music where could they listen to it? Do you have a sound cloud or ReverbNation account?
Alex: Our bandcamp page is the best spot. You can buy all things The Fill Ins there, including shirts and CDs. You can also find our stuff on Amazon, Spotify, BEATS, Rhapsody, almost anywhere you can stream music.
Matt : I’m old school, I’ll still take people for a ride in my car and turn it up too loud to talk and force them to actually listen to the music. There have been several occasions when, afterward, I had to give my copy of the album away.
8) Speaking of online, do you think that online presence like Facebook or Twitter is important for fans to find you?
Alex: We try to be active on FaceBook but for a "small time" rock band, there isn't too much to say sometimes unless your promoting a new product or a show. We always respond to our messages though. We even have an Instagram and people dig the "behind the scenes" stuff.
Mikey: Oh absolutely. These days’ people don’t just go out and buy CDs. We would rather them hear as much of it free online, and then decide if they like enough to purchase it on CD, or digitally. We live in an age where people use money as more of a reward to you, for liking your music.
9) Do you guys only play locally or do you tour much?
Alex: We all have "real jobs" so that keeps us from doing as much as we really want to do. We do have plans to visit TN and GA this year, but if the situation were to ever present itself to where we could tour and still pay our bills when we come back, you can bet we'll be on tour. We want to spread the Hipster Killer word.
10) What's your opinion of your music scene? And what would you like to see change if anything?
Alex: That's a pretty loaded question.. (Laughs) I mean, the scene is great, we have some truly great bands out there putting their blood, sweat and tears into what they are doing; but sadly they get swept under the rug due to the "buddy bands". "Buddy bands" are the bands everyone comes out to see not because they are great (even though a lot are) but because they have a ton of "buddies" that come out every time and don't move away from their same venue to see other great bands that play. Our mission it to align ourselves with these underrated bands and hopefully give them a bit more exposure like bands did for us.
Mikey: It’s alright. I see that usually it’s always the same bands playing together, and never much of a switch up. There’s also a lot of hate that goes on between some bands/other genres of music. Personally I wanna play with as many different bands as possible, and just have a blast!
Matt: Charlotte is a strange place, there is a lot of really great talent here, but no one really goes out to shows, which I find odd. When I lived in Huntington, WV and Pittsburgh, PA local shows were always packed. People in those areas really showed community support for all of their artists under any banner. It’s not like that here, people don’t really care to come out to shows unless you’re the next big thing. There are even times when I go see national and international touring bands and expect to see a huge turnout only to be shocked by the lack of attendance, as well as, the lack of interest in live music in general. The only people I see coming to shows are other musicians and hardcore fans.
11) Where do you see this band in a year or two? What are your goals for this year?
Mikey: I just want to see us playing bigger and badder shows!
Alex: I hope to just keep playing. Whatever happens, happens. You know? If you are in this for the fame and money, you're doing it wrong and you need to sell your gear. We love what we do, we need to play music. If we get noticed in the process, that's even better. People are starting to really notice and we have some awesome stuff planned for 2015, which is AMAZING, but we are just riding the wave for as long as we can.
12) If you were asked to describe your band’s sound or who do you sound like, what would you say?
Alex: I try not to compare us to too many different bands, but if I had to; we are The Ramones mixed with KISS. We play some simple punk stuff, we play rock n roll, but we also have a bit of a harder edge thanks to Matt and Mikey coming from metal backgrounds.
James: I always tell people we're just a loud, obnoxious rock band. Haha
Mikey: I would like to go on record and say that we are NOT, and have never claimed to be a “Punk” band. People always seem to get upset and say we’re “not a real Punk band.” Well yeah, obviously not. We’re just 4 dudes playing loud Rock’n’Roll music! WE love bands like Airbourne, Kiss, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Super Suckers, Social Distortion, etc. We don’t write about the world or politics, just having fun, drinking beer, and f****n s**t up!
Matt: I find it hard to describe us sometimes, because when I hear a riff it’s reminded me of another band or song and so I begin playing the way I think that drummer would have played it in that band. I’ve heard stuff that’s reminded me of Genesis, Cheap Trick, and Sweet before, but you’d never guess I was inspired by those bands in the songs we write. So, to me, we just sound like the Fill-Ins, but I’ve had quite a few people come up and say we sound like this or that. So, when someone else wants a description I just repeat what others have described to me personally.
13) Who would you guys say was the biggest musical or non-musical influence on each of you? And why?
Alex: Kind of working off the other question, Johnny Ramone as far as historical and powerful guitarists are considered. He was the man! As far as local influences, ANTiSEEN is my number one. We may not have the same sound at all, but Joe Young (Rest In Peace) and his brother Jeff (BBQ) Young showed me how to play my first power chord; that started it all. When Joe passed last year, that left a huge impact on me and made me want to push even harder as a sonic blast of a guitarist. Joe Young now rests on my right arm and gives me the power to fully assault any eardrum in sight.
James: I've only started playing bass seriously when I joined this band just a year and a half ago. The main person that I would try to emulate when I was figuring out how to play with these guys was Lemmy from Motörhead. Because this band is definitely nasty enough for that rhythm guitar style of bass that Lemmy does. I've developed my own style as we've been writing new material to make everything as tight as possible, but it call comes back nasty rock n roll groove for me that Lemmy perfected.
Matt: I have my heroes (Carter Beauford, Dave Grohl, Chad Smith, Stanton Moore, and Martin Axenrot to name a few) but I’m inspired by everything around me. When I was a kid and learning to play drums, there were trains that would run behind our house, each one would have their own rhythm, their own unique voice and so I started emulating those rhythms hoping it would help me create my own unique voice as a musician.
Mikey: My biggest musical inspiration, as a guitarist, would have to be John Petrucci. The man is truly something else, and writes some of the most amazing music I’ve ever heard. Non-musically, one of my biggest influences is Tony Robbins. I’m all about living my life to be happy, and to make a success while doing it. Keeping a positive attitude, and never letting the petty s**t get me down.
14) As a band do you guys have a favorite local club to play? What makes it your favorite? How about a regional club?
Mikey: Tremont. It’s our home.
Alex: Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte NC is our favorite place by far. We have had some amazing times there and John Hayes has been an amazing help getting us on some pretty awesome shows.
15) Let's get everyone's opinion on this. If someone ask you for advise about being in a band or about starting one, what would you say? Would you encourage or discourage them and why?
Alex: The number one thing I tell them is that it cannot be an "everyone has a say" band. Someone has to be the leader. If everyone has different opinions that do not work and you try to mash it together, it's just not going to work. You have to stay focused on the project at hand and if you have members that want to fulfill that goal, then you will have a great band.
Matt: I’d tell them that being in a band isn’t just about parties and being irresponsible, it’s a business first and foremost. I’d also say that when it comes to writing songs it’s not about being flashy or virtuosic, it’s about serving the songs. Look at drummers like Ringo Star or Charlie Watts they don’t try to overplay, they do what’s best for the song. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get a chance to play fancy fills, it just means you’ll do it less which will make the songs more dramatic and dynamic in the end.
James: Don't be afraid to express your influences and feel confined to play a specific genre. We all have completely different backgrounds and styles, but it all forms a unique, cohesive working unit that separates us from everybody else.
Mikey: It all depends on your reasons. If you just wanna play and have fun, go for it. If you want to make something out of it, and take it somewhere in the long run, it’s a lot of hard work. There’s more to it than just playing music and having fun. You have to book shows, make and sell merch, produce new music, grow to become better and tighter as a band. When you start a band, you’re becoming an entrepreneur and starting your own personal business. It’s ultimate success or failure lies upon your shoulders.
16) What are some of your likes and dislikes about being in a band?
Alex: My number one issue is that if you do not go out drinking every weekend and pay the "a** kissing" game, then people tend to get a preconceived notion that you don't support your local scene. The reality of it is that you may not always the funds or time to spend every weekend drinking and "hanging out". That's only a small issue though; being able to play a show, melt some faces and get GENUINE and honest feedback (both good and bad) makes it all worthwhile. Nothing better than seeing a new face in the crowd singing along and really getting into it.
Mikey: The only thing I dislike is have to load and unload all of my gear. Can we get some roadies, please!?
James: You know what? I like everything about it. Even the hard times. That's rock n roll right? I could care less about these cliques that people seem to latch on to. At the end of the day, I'm just happy to play rock n roll with my friends.
Matt: Sometimes I can feel overwhelmed, you know? I mean, it’s hard to balance work, band, my social life with my wife and I even take classes when I can to further my education. When you have that much on your plate it can just drain you. But it all seems worth it, especially when you have good shows like the Chris Peigler benefit show we just did. It was just such a great vibe that night, Chris had to have been there with us because I felt unusually calm and happy. Everyone was just being goofy and nothing really seemed to bother us, I broke a couple sticks, Mikey kept breaking strings, but it just didn’t matter. Those are the nights that make all the stress worthwhile.
17) Who have guys shared a stage with? Any national acts?
Alex: 2014 was a pretty awesome year for us when it comes to opening for "cult bands" that we adore. We opened for Joe Buck Yourself, Koffin Kats and Reverend Horton Heat and we started off 2015 by opening for Wednesday 13 (second year in a row). We are already aware of some great shows coming this year and we can't wait to tell you about it. We promise it's going to be great though.
Mikey: Some of my favorite locals bands to share the stage with include: DSR, No Power No Crown, The Body Bags, No Anger Control, Aloha Broha, South Side Punx, AM/FMs, and The Commonwealth.
James: I just have a bucket list of people I wanna open for: Motörhead obviously, Slash, Cheap Trick, etc.
18) Most bands dream of making it big or reaching the top. Do you guys have that dream or do you care if you get a recording contract?
Mikey: I would love it! If I could live my life and support myself financially from just playing music I would be set!
Matt: I could care less if we make it big or not, I don’t even think about stuff like that anymore. I just love playing drums and making music with friends. If someone offered to pay me to do it and I could quit my day job, I’d be stupid not to take it, but it’s not the reason I get up on stage, it’s not the force that drives my insatiable need to rock out.
Alex: Sure! Who doesn't want that? If we get to play the music we love and get a little help along the way, why wouldn't we?
19) How do you balance your music with other obligations like school, work, or girlfriend?
Mikey: Although the band is very important, School comes first. School > Band > Everything else.
Alex: Most of the other guys would disagree with me and I'm a rather big hypocrite when it comes to the issue; but I always say "Don't Date Musicians", plain and simple. We are arrogant and will ALWAYS put the band first. We may not say that, but watch what happens when she says "it's either me or the band", you're not going to like the answer. Here I am though, happily committed and she knows my point of view on the subject. So I guess it really comes down to communication.
Matt: A lot of other things begin to take a backseat like video games and having a social life outside of the circle of band friends. I swore off trying to maintain a relationship somewhere in 2003 and I didn’t get serious with anyone until I met my wife in 2009. She knew what she was getting into and understood the sacrifices that came with being in a relationship with a musician, but she also knows that she comes first and if she asked me to quit the band, I would. Thankfully, I know she would never ask that from me because she understands that it brings so much joy into our lives and we’ve made a lot of really great friends because of it.
20) So that's about it any last words?
Matt: I think we should stop trying to get people to support local music and just support live music in general. Every band across every genre has an artistic voice that needs to be heard, we should all respect that and step out of our comfort zones instead of dismissing everything we don’t like as invalid. I watch every band for what it is instead of what it’s not because I like to see how these people, who have so much music inside of them, decide to communicate it with the rest of the world.
Mikey: Rock n Roll!
James: Don't stick your d**k where you wouldn't stick your face.
Alex: We are very thankful and honored to be a part of this. So thank you for having us!