Earlier in 2015, The Fill Ins were approached by 'Fireworks Magazine' in the UK to do an album review of '5th Time's The Charm' along with an interview for an upcoming August 2015 issue. y December 2015, they had not delivered what was promised to us (not just the review and interview) so we pulled the plug on the operation. There were some great interview questions mixed in, so we now present the Unedited Fireworks Magazine Interview!
FW: How did you become involved in this crazy world of music?
ALEX: I started at a pretty young age. I got my first guitar when I was 12 or so and started learning how to play by watching videos of Johnny Ramone (The Ramones) and Joe Young (ANTiSEEN). After I mastered the power cord, I started taking cues from Ace Frehley (Kiss) on showmanship and soloing. At the age of 16/17, I joined my first band and they were horrible; but I loved it because I was playing music, it didn't matter how bad it was. Even though my time in that band wasn't very long, it gave me stage experience; enough to catch the eye of a crust punk band that welcomed me in with open arms. That was my first tour experience and I was hooked, I knew this was something I wanted to do with my life. After I left that band, I finally set out to start my own band and the product of that idea is what you see today. It got off to a pretty bumpy start with different members leaving or just not working out for the first few years; even though the band has been around for a few years, only within the past 2 years have we been an actual functioning band.
MATT: I’ve always been around music and musicians. My father played bass in my cousin’s country band and I would mess around with their drum kit whenever it was around. They would also take me along whenever they would go and hang out with friends from other bands and I would have to bang around on their drum sets as well. There was just something about drums that I was always instantly drawn to if they were within reach. But it wasn’t until my teens that I truly fell in love with the instrument.
One of my best friends that I grew up with, purchased a white, double bass, Pearl Export series drum kit adorned with Zildjian cymbals. It sounded so good, the bass drums really thumped and the floor toms growled heavier than any other kit I’d ever heard. I spent the larger part of the next two years hanging out at his house, where we would take turns trying to learn Slayer and Misfits songs. I also spent a lot of time, during those years, on my knees begging my parents to buy me a drum kit as well. They eventually caved and I got my first kit, a blue Tama kit with Sabian cymbals. It was one of the best moments of my life and I’ve been playing ever since.
FW: Who are your inspirations and what was the inspiration behind the album?
ALEX: Our inspirations come from different places but we all come together to provide the best rock n roll we know. I come from a classic punk background, Mikey Black (lead guitar) and Matt McCoy (drummer) come from more of a metal background and Captain Nunn (bass) comes from a classic rock background; so combine all 4 of us and tell us to make music, and you have The Fill Ins! Some people call us a punk band and that’s fine, some people say we are metal but we really aren’t; we are just high octane rock-n-roll on a mission to destroy your eardrums.
The inspiration for the new album came for a drive to provide the best music we could. The 1st album we released (Hipster Killers) was more of an angry album; probably because of the built up tensions about not being able to record our music for a long time. This time we are just as angry, but it’s more focused. We trash on the political correctness that seems to be taking over, especially on social media outlets like Facebook and Tumblr. We found an amazing producer we could trust with this album (Steve Coleman at Fithman Studios) and we just let it happen. Our album even starts with a disclaimer letting you know exactly what you are getting into when you hit the play button; so far no one has hit the ‘Stop’ button, so that’s a good thing.
MIKEY: I think it’s very important for any band to put out an album or EP right away. It’s a way to get your music in people’s hands after shows, so they can continue rockin out to your music, and it helps build that recognition; so that’s what Hipster Killers was, something we knocked out in 2 days and it has that raw, garage sound. This time we’ve taken a lot more time in recording the songs and trying to make it sound a little more professional, but at the same time not too polished up; it’s The Fill Ins, but a bigger and better Fill Ins. This is also the first album where every song was written by this lineup of the band, so it’s really brings out every members creativity and influence. We even got Alex to play to a click track on the new album, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.
FW: Could you tell our readers about the band and what makes you different from other artists?
ALEX: We aren't the 'cool kids' of the scene. We support our local bands, but we do not play the games that other local bands tend to play. As an overall look at us, we are real rock n roll; you aren't going to find songs that we write just to gain popularity or fans, we write songs that we love. Thankfully, the general public seems to be wising up and realizing that the acts that big radio is pushing just doesn’t cut it anymore; the people want a band that will excite them again, a band that actually plays their instruments, music with some substance. We talk about all the fun vises that are available today; drinking, partying, women, topics that everyone can rally behind regardless of age or where you came from. We are not a political band, but we do have a message; which is to have as much fun as you can while you are still alive and don’t let your life pass you by. We are very thankful that people enjoy it, it just makes it easier to make more music and keep playing out.
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, 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. I think that’s what sets us apart from other bands a bit more than the rest, because everyone has their own unique voice but it all works once we are all in a room together.
FW: Tell me about the album?
EX: This new album (5th Time's The Charm) is a bit different from our first one (Hipster Killers); the first album is more raw and has a bit more of a punk edge, where this one is a lot more rock n roll. Hipster Killers was mostly written on my own while finding the right members for the band so they did not have as much input, where as our new album was a true collaborative effort and I personally feel that these songs are much better because of it; and I know the other band members feel the same way.
With ‘Hipster Killers’, most all tracks were recorded live (drums, my guitar and bass) with no punching in and no click tracks; because of that, it has a very unique and vintage sound. This time around we went to a new studio (Fithman Studios) and it kinda flipped us on our heads… Dealing with click tracks, punch ins, extra effects; just stuff I personally was not used to. I objected to click tracks for a good while, but once we gave that route a try, we knew it was what we needed to make this album the best yet.
I think each band tries to out-do themselves with their newest recordings, but we didn’t set out to do that, it just happened organically. 5th Time’s The Charm has much better production on it so you really get to hear the sort of attack and relentlessness that our live shows provide, but the only difference is that it’s a CD.
CAP: With the first album being a collection of mostly songs Alex put together prior to this lineup, we were just getting comfortable with each other learning them. With this new album, we now collectively bring something to the table as a result of us rehearsing and playing shows for two years. Inspiration for new material just came naturally from knowing what we were capable of pulling off, whether it started with a riff or a drum beat. The pieces to the puzzle would come together fairly quickly, but we would also push ourselves to make the songs as strong as they could be.
FW: Where was it recorded who produced it and how long did the process take?
ALEX: We recorded 5th Time's The Charm at Fithman Studios and it took close to 2 weeks to complete. When I go into the studio, I have a schedule; I make sure everyone is rehearsed and ready to record and we do not waste any time hitting the record button. The process went rather smooth with only a few minor hiccups along the way; we love going in and recording new tunes. We were able to get the drum tracks done in 2 days, but adding the guitar and vocals took a little longer than we would have liked, but we also wanted to make this the best thing we have done to date and show the ‘naysayers’ exactly what we can do. With having Steve Coleman at the mixing board, we knew we were in good hands and we trusted him with mixing and we couldn’t be happier. We also filmed the process of this album being recorded as a documentary that is available to view for free on our YouTube channel.
CAP: Fithman Studios is where I've recording with another band that I play with called No Power No Crown that features Steve on guitar actually. With his approach and ideas for recording, the experience brought us a little out of our comfort zone, but it only pushed us to get the best performances we could capture. If we were up really late cutting tracks and starting to tire out, that's when Steve would encourage us and do what he could to get what was needed for vocal tracks, guitar solos, etc., and the results turned out better than we possibly could have anticipated.
FW: What's in store for the future?
ALEX: More music and bigger shows! Even though 5th Time's The Charm was just released, we are already writing for our next release expected to come out early / mid 2016 on Scatboy Records as a 4 song EP. 5th Time’s the Charm will probably be our last genuine ‘full album’ because we are planning on just releasing 3 to 4 EPs every year then combining them on a physical CD at the end of the year. People have very short attention spans so unless you have something new all the time, people tend to forget about you. With today’s technology, you have no excuse for not releasing music all the time; so that’s what we will do.
We also have plans for actually hitting the road this year too; visiting our neighboring states (South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia) and just making sure to release quality product that we can stand behind. 2015 has been very good to us so far because of the song ‘Spit In My Face’ being a big hit and we can't wait to show everyone what the next chapter for us will be.