El Paso Music Scene

Mark Fredson (The Lonely H) Interview

11/5/08

EPMS: How were you treated by the people that you grew up with? Were you treated well, were you made fun of?

Mark Fredson In high school, we weren't made fun of. We were part of the middle. You have your nerds, you have the chess club... we definitely weren't the jocks. We weren't playing varsity basketball, we were kind of the "artsy musician" type. It was choir, then it was Band. We were all treated pretty well. We were classified as "The Hairs." But nothing got too rowdy. We grew up in a blue-collar logging town, kind of. We grew up around the hicks, as we called them. We classified people, they classified us. They weren't big fans of the long hair, but it wasn't anything other than verbal abuse. That we can take. If anybody's got a knock on long hair, nothing's going to get to them. It really is just hair. For the most part, we lived in harmony. It wasn't anything special. We played in a band, but we weren't anything other than just regular high school kids. This was our extra-curricular activity. The girls did cheerleading and volleyball, guys played basketball, we did music.

EPMS: You have an album called Hair. Most of the songs on it are three minutes, but you have one, The Drought, that's eight minutes. Tell me about that.

Mark Fredson That was my conception. I always kind of wanted to step outside the box... Most songs are conventional, three-minute pop songs, pop-rock songs. What I pretty much ended up doing was making an eight-minute song, bringing the scene from beginning back to the end, but in the middle, it's pretty much a whole bunch of different things, transitioned semi-well. But I was very proud of it. It was just our way to kind of step outside the box and try something new. I think it ended up really well. I'm not sure if we're going to do anything like that in the future, cause, as of right now, we're kind of in search of the perfect rock song. The most appealing, the most identifiable with the eastern people. But I had a wonderful time writing that. Once we got our sleepless nights wondering how we were going to transition from one part to the next. The whole idea behind that, where the guitar would come in, what different keyboards to use; it was a very, very complex process.

EPMS: Do you play it live at eight minutes?

Mark Fredson Yep, we do the whole thing live. It's a little tougher. Vocals, we got cello, we got violin, four different types of keyboards and organ, and it's a little tough to re-create live, but we do our best. I think we keep up the spirit of the song live. I think that's what counts.

EPMS: Did you try out two guitarists for a while?

Mark Fredson Yeah, we had two guitarists up until November, a year ago, when we lost our second guitarist. We've done a large majority of our touring without him. Our first tour, we did with a second guitarist. We weren't planning on him leaving the band, but it's just kind of like, he had different interests, different priorities. He wanted to do cello instead. He wanted to pursue a career in that, so he's gone to school to be a concert cellist. That's what he was really interested in. We're glad he got his rock thing out of the way. Now he's doing what he's really passionate about, but we're definitely, we're still good friends with him, but it just wasn't in the cards for him. He just wasn't dedicated as much as we are. Nothing I hold against him. Right now, we got two benches in the van, we got a passenger seat and a driver seat, so it works out. it works out really well as far as room in the van goes. I think we have more than adjusted to being a four-piece. It pretty much took a weekend in Montana without him to realize that, and we've been like that ever since.

EPMS: I read that you guys met each other through "School, brotherhood, or baseball." What kind of brotherhood?

Mark Fredson Eric and Johnny Whitman are brothers, The bassist and guitarist. They're two years apart. Eric's twenty, Johnny's twenty-two. They're brothers. Eric and Ben met each other through baseball. Eric and I went to kindergarten together. I've known them a really long time. I met them in middle school we were all friends before, friends or brothers, before we started a band, and music has just brought us closer together.

EPMS: Are y'all big baseball fans?

Mark Fredson You know, we ended up watching a good part of the series, but this year we didn't have too much time for catching up on who's winning the division race, how the Mariners are doing, LOL. We watch definitely, big-time I guess, the big series. We watched the Celtics and the Lakers. We watched that. Whenever we get the chance on the road, we'll play a little basketball.. We played football the other day with our friends here in New Jersey.

EPMS: You're in New Jersey now? I lived there for a while. I don't know how it is in Seattle, but none of the streets in New Jersey are labeled.

Mark Fredson We have GPS, which tells us where to turn. That's a lifesaver when it comes to the really confusing cities. We haven't noticed (about the street signs). When we get on the road tomorrow, we'll see what's up with that. That sounds a little ridiculous.

EPMS: To me, I'm from Texas, where people are really friendly. New York, New Jersey people are not so friendly, That just says it all. "If you're not from here, you're on your own."

Mark Fredson They are amazing people. They might be a little tougher to tap into than some of the more hospitable southern guys, which we are big fans of. By the time we get to the south, our stomachs start growling. We've been sleeping on the floor the past three weeks, when we get down there, we get the couches, home-cooked meals. Yeah, we love it.

EPMS: How long have you actually been touring?

Mark Fredson Since last July '07, we have had five tours. We're currently in the middle of our fifth tour. We took a quarter of college, and decided we were just going to tour after that. We did our first tour last summer, and then we pretty much took a full quarter at the University of Washington. After that, from January up until now, we've had, cumulatively, a month off.

EPMS: Like fifteen months or so?

Mark Fredson I've kind of lost track. We've played a good two hundred fifty shows, maybe?

EPMS: Wow. Have you ever been to El Paso?

Mark Fredson Yes. We have played El Paso once, and been there twice.

EPMS: How many times have you been to South By Southwest?

Mark Fredson We've been to South By Southwest twice. We were there in '06 and '08.

EPMS: Are you going back in '09?

Mark Fredson Oh, definitely, we're definitely planning on it.

EPMS: What's your reaction to it?

Mark Fredson South By Southwest, it's a musical pandemonium. It's so concentrated, everywhere you look, there's somebody in a band, somebody related to part of the industry. Seventy-five percent of the people attending the festival are either in a band or music industry people. It's overwhelming, because you feel like a little drop of water in an endless sea of music and bands, but we love it. Surrounded by peers and people that we respect, you have to be there. You have to be a good band to get a showcase down there. Go down there, playing with the big boys... We can't wait to go back in '09, and hopefully get a few more people out to the show, and probably have an album wrapped up by then...not actually released. We're definitely looking forward to it. It's a very door-opening experience, and the barbecue is great.

EPMS: You like Texas barbecue? Have you ever had barbecue in Kansas? I used to have this Kansas lady I knew tell me they had the world's best barbecue up there.

Mark Fredson Up in Kansas? I don't know, the best barbecue I've ever had might just be in Austin, about half an hour out of Austin. It's a big place, where they do the slaughter, and they do the cooking.

EPMS: You actually get to pick out your cow, and they slaughter it in front of you?

Mark Fredson They don't go that far, but they got the whole ranch out there. It's about twenty to twenty-five minutes outside of Austin They slow-cook the brisket for twenty-four hours. You just order the family-style. You just keep the meat plates coming. It's delicious. We can't wait to go back. When we're in Austin, we make it one of our main priorities to go there and stuff ourselves silly.

EPMS: What do you think of the term, 'New classic rock'?

Mark Fredson We always kind of enjoy that term. It's flattering, because it's tacking the word 'classic' onto a type of music. It's like, Oh, that was easy, we're already classic! LOL I'm ok with it. It doesn't really appeal to all those gravity people. So yeah, I agree with that for the most part. It kind of puts you inside a box, though. We're not saying that we don't really enjoy classic rock, but it's not all that we are. We're not just a throwback band. It's not like it's some formula that we adhere to. It definitely appears in the music that we're making. For the most part, I will say, 'yes' to that.

EPMS: On your myspace page, under 'Sounds like:', it says, 'Sounds like glory'.

Mark Fredson LOL. That's just being.. so poppish. Not wanting to deal with the whole, 'Classify your band' explanation, because it's always been a tough one for us.

EPMS: So, Glory's not actually a band, right?

Mark Fredson No, it's not actually a band, no. We're just talking about the sound.

EPMS: I saw that you used to ride ferries to play rock shows on school nights. That blows me away. I've rode ferries before. Have you done a lot of ferry-riding to play rock shows?

Mark Fredson I mean, we grew up on the Olympic Peninsula. You got Puget Sound, which is between the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle, which is where all the... the main music scene is in Washington. And so, growing up in high school, every weekend we'd take the ferry to downtown Seattle. Every weekend, we took it there and back, round trip, and so, yeah, it became part of our lives. Then we see people, come there, they just ride the ferry. They go there, and they go back, they don't get off the ferry. They're just tourists. We're like, wow, we use it as transportation, other people think it's a big deal. We never thought too much about it. You don't find ferries in too many places around the country.

EPMS: Is Experience Music Project the same thing as Sound-Off?

Mark Fredson Yes. The museum, the Jimi Hendrix Experience Museum. They put on a battle of the bands competition every year. attached to the museum is a venue called Sky Church, and that's where they hold the Battle of the Bands.

EPMS: In one place, you said that finishing second in that was your biggest lifechanger. Somewhere else you said that meeting up with your manager, Joe, was. Are those still the biggest life-changers?

Mark Fredson Both of those are definitely up there. The fact that we still have Joe on our side... He's always going to be big factor in whether or not we're going to be successful. Right now, we're meeting people and going on tour. Going on tour gets you respect. It's been amazing, but I'd say both are up there, but just the fact of us going out there and playing shows gaining a small but really dedicated base in homes away from home all across the country, has really meant a lot to us

EPMS: Something I've seen that really impressed me, you have reviews by MSNBC, Spin, the New York Post, and CMJ, places that are that high-up, reviewing you, that's impressive.

Mark Fredson We've got some great people working for us, you know. We don't know whether or not that's necessarily from our band interviews, or our PR guy, pretty much just working his connections, but nonetheless, it's really nice to have those kind of things written about us. We're forever grateful to the PR guy on our label for getting that kind of press out there for us.

EPMS: Do you mean Alex Steininger?

Mark Fredson Yep, that's the guy. Alex is great.

EPMS: How long have you been dealing with him?

Mark Fredson We've been dealing with him since Hair came out, which came out back in July of '07, so, we've been touring behind that album for a year now. Every time we go out, he keeps getting interviews for us, he keeps getting us press. He's an amazing guy. We hope to continue to work with him.

EPMS: Do I understand you have a third album coming out?

Mark Fredson Yeah, we made some demos. We got seven or eight songs, right before we actually left on this tour. So, back in October. awesome Joe, our manager / producer / many hats, he mixed them. We just got to hear the mixed versions last night. They sounded great. They're just demos but they sounded as good or better than Hair, musically, but the production sounds great. What we're going to do is, head home, take a week's cool-off tour, then in December and January, we're going to head into the studio, just really get perfectionist about it. the last album, we did all the weekends, mixed in with school and touring. we can use the album as our homework After we leave the studio, we don't have to go home and do our math homework Our homework can just be, thinking about what can make this track sound better, what can I do to, make tomorrow a success. we're really excited, as we think every band should be. We think it's our best work yet.

EPMS: Why do you think you've come fairly far in a fairly short period of time?

Mark Fredson I think, first, the people we have behind us. Alex, our manager, and our label, and just the people you meet on the road. The booker who lets us play in their venues, fans who come, not necessarily to come and see us... The whole group of, just people who support us, it's really, really... It's just been amazing this year, and second of all, I think is, we were a little hesitant, whether or not we wanted to devote full-time to music for us, because we were in college, we weren't sure how to balance college with shows, regionally or on the weekend... Then we just decided to devote all our mind and heart and soul and our bodies and our time... I think it shows when you look at how much we've done this year. Eight months, we've been around the country four times. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Sleeping on hardwood floors... I can't imagine myself doing anything other than this.

EPMS: What did you think of Tom Petty in the Super Bowl?

Mark Fredson I thought it was one of the best Super Bowl performances i've seen.. I've ever seen. Definitely, top two, with Paul Mccartney. I actually saw Tom Petty back in August, in central Washington. I've seen him three times live. He's actually my ringtone, when you call me. You talk to me about Tom Petty, you're talking to a fanatic. He's one of my all-time favorite artists. I draw a lot from him lyrically, musically. We've watched Runnin' down the dream, that four-hour documentary, three or four times. I identify with him so much. We just love his whole album... about music and rock n roll and life. Some of the most perfect songs I've ever heard, so yeah, Tom Petty, big, big fan.

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