LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE by FEAR OF FALLING | INTERVIEW
Author: Sean Manuel
You cannot keep a creative down. This week's BlowUpRadio.com artist spotlight, Mine Hills's alternative rock band Fear of Falling exemplify this statement with their first studio recording release since 1994's quintessential album "Tree." The release, a single entitled, "Looking Out For Number One," broadcasts the band's best qualities, those being: the much-vaunted Bruce DiBisceglie-Rob Savoy (bass and drums, respectively) rhythm section, the Steve Lanni-Kimon Katafigiotis songwriting corps, production treats like sequencing and samples, and an adventurous spirit to experiment with 2023's modern music and audio technology. Fans of Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, and Tears for Fears will enjoy, "Looking Out For Number One." With the song released March 10th (available now on all streaming platforms) and their Crossroads return show on March 11th behind them, we now must catch up with Fear of Falling.
Hey there, Fear of Falling! Congratulations on your single release entitled, "Looking Out For Number One." This is momentous, for this is your first studio release in close to three decades. From my research, I discovered it was significant others who catalyzed your return to being an active band. Was there a specific event(s) that motivated the band to entertain the possibility of reuniting?
Bruce: Thanks for that question, Sean. While we were all in touch in various combinations of two or three since our last concert in '96, all four of us hadn't been in the same place until a party in the summer of '21. Our wives were there with us too, and they were urging us to play again. It was also there that Steve turned us on to a new song he had in mind, and we were stoked... we were all in. One thing quickly led to another, and within a few months we were playing a festival, our first live music together in 25 years. The vibe at that concert between the four of us and the audience was strong, and we realized that we still had music to make, so we've been back together since.
You recently signed with Quark Music Group and worked in partnership with InGrooves (Virgin Music Group, Universal Music Group subsidiary) to distribute, "Looking Out For Number One." Quark President Curtis Urbina supplied a great endorsement when he stated, "We're very excited to get this band kick-started again... this is going to be fun." Tell us how they have assisted in augmenting this release and your future releases.
Kimon: We're really happy to be working with Quark's president, Curtis Urbina... again. Steve and Bruce worked with Curtis back in 1989, when they teamed up to release our first single. "Toss Of A Dime" on Urbina's Emergency Profile Records.
Bruce: Earlier this year, after we recorded "Looking Out for Number One", Urbina contacted Kimon within a day of hearing it, saying that Quark was behind us again and that we're going to have fun doing it. Curtis is good people and we're stoked to be working with him again too. Right away, Quark, through their association with InGrooves/Virgin/Universal, has been using their collective resources to promote FOF, by securing commissions for our music and by promoting our music to film and television producers.
Quark/Virgin/Universal immediately pushed "Looking Out For Number One" to all of their digital resources, and we're really happy with the early results. Our music was listened to by people around the world within a day of Quark's release on March 10th.
Back in the 90s, we did the DIY thing, and while rewarding, it was exhausting. We were able to vault our second single, "V.E.", to Top 20 charts on over 40 radio stations on our own, but the business side took so much away from the artistic side. Now we have Quark to advocate for us for payment when our songs are used commercially. In today's digital age, we're hoping that Quark can open the doors to FOF for opportunities with a little help from our old friends.
From your extensive touring schedule taking you throughout North America and Europe, I can imagine your recording process was extremely time-sensitive and stressful in the 1990s. With the benefit of time at Ultrascene and newer technologies developed since the 1990s, explain your current creative experience from writing to tracking in the studio. Are there any ways in which it is similar to your process in the 1990s? Are there any in which it is different?
Kimon: Absolutely! Whether we were recording in London, here in New Jersey, or in New York City with David Sussman, we were always crunched for studio time, walking the line between availability and affordability. But now at Ultrascene, we have just about every mixing option at our finger tips and no time constraints at all. We're seeing now how this is really letting the creative juices flow. We can write and rewrite on the fly without concern about time or money.
Even though we LOVED working with producers like Chris Butler and James MacMillan in the past, time and money were always gnawing at us. Now, we have more studio experience, more digital tools, and more ideas. There's nothing like limitless creativity. In the past, we had a number of songs we wanted to record but had to cut corners and drop some.
Today, it's the exact opposite. This past winter, we were only going to record three songs. The funny thing is that "Looking Out For Number One" wasn't one of the first three. In the 90's we'd maybe finish two of the three. After the first three, we kept going with more ideas, writing new stuff and reworking old unfinished ideas. Now we're up to about nine songs in production. We're having a ball.
"Looking Out For Number One," is an ethereal mid-tempo soundstage in A mixolydian with ruminative lyrics sung by Steve Lanni like, "No longer will gravity hold you down...It's only your vanity keeps you bound," and, "If we could just see beyond ourselves, would we see someone else." In the aforementioned lyrics above, the song appears to call attention to selfish impulses; however, other lyrics like, "Now imbibed, kept alive with the blood of our savior, as if it flows like water," and, "You're quietly quitting, you're seeing the proof, your truth, your savior," introduce a religiosity theme. Which is the true interpretation?
Steve: Your comments are insightful Sean. FOF lyrics have often skirted religiosity, or rather allusion to religious themes. Other songs from our catalogue for example "Faith", "Healer", and "Voice of the Martyr" reference ideas that could be considered religious. "Looking out for Number One" is an interesting case lyrically, because the first verse and chorus appear on a demo from "the late 20th century" and were added to and finalized earlier this year (2023). The "theme" ultimately emerged as how one deals with guilt or shame or failures.
"Being imbibed on the blood of our Savior" is my attempt at a poetic description of being drunk in order to hide insecurities. A solution which only succeeds in keeping those feelings alive. Being substantially more mature (old) now, I opted to make the second verse optimistic by saying to be truthful with yourself is the only way to get past your "world without change"; "Quietly quitting" my old way of thinking and looking at how far I have come in life. (with a nod to COVID era terminology).
In turning the lyric into an introspective personal journey, it better fits today's "you be you" zeitgeist. Thankfully, today many people feel entirely "free to show ourselves".
On another "note" - thanks for determining the key and melodic structure of the tune. We had some discussion about which modal the melody and chords fit. But after all it's only rock and roll.
Projecting into the recent past, Fear of Falling performed a live reunion show on the heels of the March 10th "Looking Out For Number One" release at The Crossroads in Garwood on March 11th. Please tell us about the experience and your billmates: North Ave, Higher Ground, and King of Pain. From your setlist - which can be found on Setlist.fm and included an even distribution of originals from each prior album release (the most being from Mind-Set at three) and two Peter Gabriel covers - provide the song you would refer to a new listener as the, "This is Fear of Falling," song and explain why.
Steve: The experience of playing together at Crossroads was fun and welcoming. Crossroads is a fantastic place to showcase as folks come just for the live entertainment. We enjoyed the sets from the other bands on the bill. I think it was a well-rounded night with original and cover music that extended into folk and bluegrass and straight up pop. Our friends and fans made it a memorable show. It was great to have such a turn out. I hope we made some new "FOFsters" that night as well. It will be difficult to pick out a tune to say "this is Fear of Falling". It actually feels all new to us right now. We are coming up with new ideas and recording in such a new way. Personally, I would just say, to use and old phrase, - Just "drop the needle" on our recorded tracks. There is much to hear there and something for everyone. And so much more to come.
You indicated there are more songs in parallel to, "Looking Out For Number One," in the works. Have these new songs been long in development or have they been created in the past calendar year? Is all material finished or still in production?
Rob: Well, Sean, the short answer is yes to all of these questions! We have seven more songs that are in production. All basic rhythm tracks have been completed on these tunes and they are currently all in different stages of production. "Looking Out For Number One" is the first of this group of eight to be released. Bruce, the band's bass player and archivist, unearthed several "practice tapes" from 1995 and '96 that served as demos for this gem as well as "Keanu Reeves".
Three of the songs, "13 Days (Bischofswerda)", "Fight Or Flight"and "Thursday's Letter" were originally composed back in 1994 and then basic rhythm tracks were recorded in London's Greenhouse Recording Studio in Feb. '95 immediately following our tour of Germany and England. We initially used "working titles and lyrics" while we polished the songs on stages in Germany and England. Final lyrics were finished on the bus, backstage, and in hotels just in time for the recording sessions in London.
Fast forward to this century when we unearthed the 2" tape from storage and found it required a kiln baking in attempt to save and revive the songs. Unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunately they were ultimately unusable so we recorded them all again from scratch.
"Bleed" and "King Of America" were written in the same era and also worked out on stages in Europe and the U.S. They appear on our "Live" EP that was released in 1996. We planned on recording them on our next album of studio recordings in 1997 but this FOF lineup broke up before we could. Now, in 2023 we are finally making it happen.
It all began when Steve told us he was writing a new song, "When I Danced With Mary", and we decided we should get to work on it and see what happens. It snowballed into recording this one new song as well as seven from our past that were never fully realized. We plan on releasing a few or several singles. Ultimately, we hope to release a full album of this collection of songs. There is at least one more tune that was unearthed via our "practice tapes" that we are considering adding to these recordings. We plan on writing more brand-new material, as well. There is much more to come!
After your April 23rd Ringside Pub show, do you plan on playing more live concerts? If so, would you like to tease one? Where can people go to connect and interact with Fear of Falling?
Bruce: The April 23 concert was the last scheduled show on the band's calendar. We are working on a possible special show in August, and we'll share that once it's confirmed. For now, we shift our focus back to Ultrascene. In the meantime, people can check out all things FOF at https://linktr.ee/fof.usa
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Bruce: We'd be remiss if we didn't say how much we appreciate all the love and interest that our extended family of fans and supporters around the world has shared with us. Spotify has gotten our music to over 40 countries, and we're grateful for every stream, add, and like. And thank you to BlowUp's Lazlo & Sean for the opportunity to share our story and our music.
Artist Bio: The NJ/USA based Fear Of Falling is Steve Lanni (lyricist, primary vocalist, guitarist, keyboards), Kimon Katafigiotis (lyricist, vocalist, guitarist) Bruce DiBisceglie (bassist, vocalist), and Rob "Yovas" Savoy (drummer, percussionist)
The NJ/USA based Fear Of Falling has spanned three decades with Lanni and DiBisceglie for most of that time. FOF has dedicated themselves to crafting intelligent music and extensive touring without taking themselves too seriously. Grueling touring throughout the US, Canada, and Europe took its toll on the band's line-up, which placed FOF in either creative, touring, recording, or reforming mode at any given time.
The hard-working band has been fortunate to tour with a variety of talented musicians. For years, drummers Rob Savoy, Mike Pinchera, Mike Freidman, and Dave Stengel laid down a solid backbeat with bassist DiBisceglie, and have had the good fortune to play with talented guitarists that included Kimon Katafigiotis, Ray Nissen, Bob Butchka, Patrick Borelli, Matt Spagnolo, and Brian Nolan. For a time, FOF incorporated keyboardists John Foster, Kenwood Nevola, Rob Jacklosky, Joe Too-Serious and Ray Nissen, who added a richness with Lanni to form Fear Of Falling's unique sound. Fear Of Falling also recruited several artists to add to their albums (Mikey "Fresh" Ferentinos, John Chayko, Caryn Lin, and Pete Viatalone).
After their second tour of Europe, Fear Of Falling took a break, but resurfaced in 2021 with Lanni, Katafigiotis, DiBisceglie & Savoy. This quartet is the same four who recorded the band's signature album, "Tree" in 1995 and "Live" in 1996, supporting both with their tour of Germany and England.
Touring has always been a huge part of Fear Of Falling. The band began playing along the Boston/NYC/Philly/Balto/DC I-95 corridor, then expanded its base to play close to 500 shows in the US Northeast, the South & Midwest, Canada, and ultimately two European tours.
Venues played: 9:30 Club (Washington DC), AKA (NYC), Avalon (Chicago), CBGB's (NYC), The Channel (Boston), Chestnut Cabaret (Philly), China Club (NYC). Cicero's (STL), The Continental (NYC), Cork Town (Toronto), Electric Banana (Pittsburgh), Fastlane (Asbury Park), Frankie's (Toledo), Grand Emporium (KC), Griff's (Pontiac, MI), He's Not Here (Raleigh, NC), JC Dobbs (Philly), Kenny's Castaways (NYC), King's Head (Norfolk, VA), Khyber Pass (Philly), Last Exit (Memphis), Lili's 21 (Detroit), Limelight (NYC), Lion's Den (NYC), Live Tonight (Hoboken), Maggie Mae's (Austin), Max's on Broadway (Baltimore), Maxwell's (Hoboken), Melody Bar (New Brunswick, NJ), Metropol (Pittsburgh), Mongo's (Memphis), Odeon (Cleveland), Other World (STL), Quarterdeck (LBI, NJ), Spiral (NYC), Stone Pony, (Asbury Park). The Underground (Milwaukee), The Uptown (Minneapolis), TT The Bears (Boston), Under Acme (NYC), Wetlands (NYC) and Zee/Gulifty's (Harrisburg).
European cities played: London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Erfurt, Guben, Cottbus, Walershuassen, Saalfeld, Mainz, Jena, Puttlinger, Pirmasens, Aachen, Kreuzberg, Zwiesel, Neiderweidbach, Julich, Weitzlar, Bad Bergzabern.
Colleges played: Caldwell College (NJ), Carroll College (WI), Central Connecticut State College (CT), Clemson (SC), Cottbus University (Germany), CW Post (NY), Lafayette College (PA), Loras College (IA), Montclair State (NJ), Moravian College (PA), NJIT (NJ), Rowan College (NJ), Rutgers (NJ), St Joseph's College (PA), Stevens (NJ), University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania & University of Wisconsin.
About the Author: Sean Manuel is a Senior enrolled in New Jersey City University's Honors Program. A Music Business major, Sean specializes in the piano and bass guitar. Outside of academia, Sean performs in and manages the Bayonne indie-pop group BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Are you interested in their music? Follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj and stream their releases on all platforms.