FTY : Can you tell me about the history of Sky Flying By?
It’s kind of weird, a little indirect. I was in a band in college, the last band I was in, and the first non-hardcore band I was a part of. we recorded an album, we all graduated from college and just went our separate ways. This was in 1994/5, and i just got really into whole recording thing so I started collecting random pieces of gear for my little bedroom studio. I wasn’t doing much just recording incomplete pieces and learning how to write and produce. It wasn’t till sometime around 2003 that I started to share my half finished “songs” with a few friends I had met through slashdot. A couple of my friends started to pay attention but I never thought, “hey i’ll start a solo project and start making records.” it wasn’t that thought out. It wasn’t till 2008 that i had to do something more concrete. I was suffering for a while with major depressive disorder (aka clinical depression) and i had been on a whole variety of meds for a couple years and I just needed to do something different. I decided to make Sky Flying By a real thing because i found if i had something to look forward to, making a record, gave me what I needed, the act of making records put things to right for me, well mostly.
FTY : How did you come up with the name, Sky Flying By and is there a meaning to it?
The name comes from my favorite song from the band Samiam. Sky Flying By is a song off of their record, Soar. I remember hearing the song the first time, it was at night, summer time, and I was driving home from somewhere and yeah I could see the sky flying by, and as the song played, I was just one of those perfect moments. I haven’t have a lot of those, and that night driving in the middle of nowhere between Syracuse and Sherrill in central New York, I was able to shut down all the yammering and just enjoy that summer night by myself. It always stuck with me, and nearly 20 years later I can still listen to that song and relive that moment.
FTY : You have just released your latest EP? What is it called and describe the sound of this EP?
It’s called “Can You Say It With One Word?” I have this reoccurring theme where each record asks a question and the songs kind of try to answer that question. The sound, well, I wanted to do something completely different. i’ve always been in love with post rock. even before I knew it was a genre, since 1994 i had been into it, but i had just been exploring different kinds of music, neo classical, drone and ambient and over the last couple years have just fell in love with the lushness of those genres and wanted to try it. That and I read a piece about Brian Eno where he describes this concept of “music as furniture” and that just had me completely intrigued. The songs attempt to answer the question the album title poses. The album is about being able to crystallize a feeling you have about someone or something, breaking that feeling down into a single word. i’m not very good at recognizing emotions inside my own head at the time i’m experiencing them, i actually have to think about it, until i can recognize what the hell was going on in my own head.
The first song “Welcome” is how i feel about my friends. my true friends. they are always welcome to my time, my home, my whatever it is they need. i’m distant, sometimes aloof and often withdrawn, but i’m always completely engaged. this is my way of showing that.
“Reliving” is about reliving, not just remembering a perfect moment, or a traumatic moment. it’s fuzzy but punctuated by very pronounced recollections.
“Endearing” is a song about my sister, and it’s the common trait i find in people who i respect the most. earnestness, being endearing and just real without pretension.
“Irreplaceable” is about my best friend. i have a best friend who means the world to me. she and I have been through so much over the past decade now, and well, she’s irreplaceable. she accepts who i am unconditionally and just gets me. we are a lot like children, we have our own made up language, and we always know what each of us is thinking, every saturday we go grocery shopping and then watch Doctor Who or a Harry Potter movie, and she helps me with Sky Flying By stuff. that and she’s a genius and so creative in her own right, yeah i’m lucky to have a friend like her.
FTY : You have guest musicians on ‘Can You Say It With One Word’, how did they get involved in the EP?
Oh man you talk about being fortunate. First, Rachael Boyd, a beautifully gifted violinist from Ireland, arranged and performed all of the violin parts. She and I met through Reddit actually. I believe she posted a link to an album she had just released, and I listened to it and within 30 seconds my jaw dropped. So, I just sent her a message saying basically how amazing it was and oh yeah I do this project and I sent her my bandcamp url. over the next few weeks,and, after trading a few emails I asked if she’d be into helping with this album I was starting. At any point i was expecting her to just say, “wow yeah no, this is terrible!” I’d just send her demo versions of the songs over dropbox, she’d ask for some basic direction, but mostly she just got it intuitively. She’d send stems back after a few weeks and the tracks were so beautifully recorded, they required almost zero treatment. i can’t say enough good things about Rachael. It’s a little like winning the music lottery really. The cello parts were performed by Ro Rowan. She also did the cello parts on the last record. It was after that record that two things happened. One i got a bit more confident in my ability to write string arrangements and that whatever i did next would feature more strings and second, that with Ro, she is simply breathtaking. She’s such a pro, and well, there are so few people who I know like her but she’s one of the people i’m like “that’s what I want to be like when I grow up.” We recorded Ro’s performance at the studio in an afternoon, I had prepared the score and with within almost no time at all she nailed each part, including a massive improve part (the last part of “Welcome”) I just asked, “can you just make something up?” She did and zero edits later, had something I couldn’t have imagined.
FTY : This is your fourth release, either on Album or EP, and I think that you sound has changed from the first release to this latest release. Can you describe, in a few sentences, each of your releases and inform people who haven’t heard Sky Flying By?
How Much More Difficult Will This Get? This was my first real record. I recorded this in my bedroom by myself. this was basically an “alpha” version. I didn’t actually know what I was doing. This was the record I had to make as part of my “treatment.” each song was just made up on the spot and had no real production. I literally just fired up pro tools and used it like it was a 4track. I just did everything in one take, and hoped for the best and just needed to see if I could finish writing a handful of songs and then put them out on something. The sound was a mix of, I don’t know, posthardcoreish, “indie” instrumental rock with a smattering of electro here and there. Do
They Still Make Lighthouses? I’d call this a beta version. This marked the first time I ever let anyone else into this intensely private world of mine. I wanted to make a record that was done in a real studio and recorded by someone who knew what the heck they were doing, someone who wasn’t me. This record was difficult. I had no confidence, and just felt like a total idiot through the whole process. And it shows I think. In fact, I had to rerecord the drum tracks a second time because honestly the first time through the performances were so bad. The sound was much more full and well thought out and the writing was more traditional post rock i think, with lots of crescendos, yet i wanted to keep it rather minimal and not pack a lot into this. The prospect of working in a studio was enough without having to jam pack part after part into songs.
What’s The Farthest You Can See? I was starting to get more confidence as a songwriter and wanting to explore more of the atmospheric and soundscape side of things, but keeping things firmly rooted into the rock world. also branching out with vocals and different percussion parts and of course strings. I try to do a few things different with each album and these were huge things for me. The sound is getting better, better performances. This album has my favorite song to play on drums, “A Total Lack Of Understanding” just a flat out rock song at the end, I never played the drums so hard in my life before that day in the studio.
Can You Say It With One Word? Neo classical and ambient, dense, throwing all the rules out of the window and really just letting each song unfold how they may. Of course it helps when you have collaborators who, in a lot of ways, enable that, who kind of remind you that yeah, you are free to do whatever it takes for the music.
FTY : I would say that ‘What’s The Farthest You Can See?” could be described as a transition album, especially hearing the sound of the latest EP. Is that something that you had planned or did the sound just evolve through time?
Yes, I think that is accurate. and it comes down to confidence. “Farthest” was the first time I actually felt like I knew what I was doing (for the most part) during writing. I finally started editing and working on the craft of songwriting instead of just winging it completely. i don’t think it was totally planned, it’s like anything you practice at, you eventually reach an inflection point where the experience you have gained actually starts to shape and mold your present. Also i got a really bad review from The Silent Ballet of “Lighthouses” which i really took to heart (not that I think they were the endallbeall of post rock media) but because the reviewer actually provided some insight, in that he found the record very one dimensional. Once I read that, a light went on in my head. I had been lazy as a songwriter. so when I set to writing “Farthest” I was so aware of that.
FTY : I think that it is important to grow and develop as a musician/artist, do you think that ‘Can You Say It With One Word’ is a milestone in your career?
Time will tell if it is. After spending a year with it, and having just finished it, yes I think it may be. it’s the first record I can listen to and honestly feel that i have accomplished something with the music. and not surprisingly a major part of that is because i had help. People really do make a difference. It was when i demo’ing the record for my best friend a few months ago, and she started crying, that i had some inclination that i finally wrote a piece of music that means something to someone else. I bridged that divide between what’s in my head to another human being. That, to me, is a milestone.
FTY : How do you get the ideas for your music and what is the process to get them into the sound that you want?
I listen to a lot music for starters! but I also spend a lot of time with silence as well. and I really like that. Dave Grohl said something so awesome in his documentary, Sound City, describing how to gauge how good a room sounds for drums, it isn’t the drum strike, it’s the sound after the drum is hit determines how good a room is. I love resonant sounds, the sound after something happens. So I get a lot of ideas from indirect musical sounds. it’s why i play guitar with a cello bow (like a certain Icelandic guitarist genius) because that sound is all resonations and crazy over tones. That, and I also love mixing real with artificial sounds. Heh, here’s a little secret, there are a few songs that there are real drums mixed with drum samples. We just mixed them to be very natural sounding. I also love sounds in nature, especially incidental sounds, repetitive sounds. I’ll hear something like that out and about and that’ll feed a song idea. The process is pretty simple, I think. I usually will just sit down with the keyboard and start playing piano. I’ll write a phrase, and then layer on a guitar or a bass track. I never write a song “in sequence” meaning i don’t start writing the beginning, and then work my way through to the end. I usually start in the middle, and do the end then come back and do the beginning. I then edit like mad. Each of the songs on “Can You Say It” all started out being 15 or 20 minutes. In fact, the song “Welcome” is almost completely different than the version Rachael heard. I just chopped it to pieces! just did it in such a way that it came out completely natural.
FTY : How long would you say that you worked on this EP, from concept to release?
I wrote “Welcome” in January 2012, a week after “Farthest” came out. Rachael got the demo in February I believe. The whole record was worked on all throughout 2012. we finally got the songs to a point in November of 2012 where Ro could record the cello score. i then spent a good month or so editing all of the tracks and prepping it for mix. The mix took another 2 months or so. That was difficult in that Mark (Mark Leombruni) is in New York and so he’d work on the songs there and send me prints and i’d give notes and well with our schedules just being ridiculous it would take time to do the back and forth. Ultimately it worked out, it just wasn’t easy, especially for Mark. Not having immediate feedback is difficult for a producer. Mark is such a trooper though and he’s just so good at what he does. the record went to mastering at the end of April 2013. It’s been a very long road.
FTY : Are you thinking about the next release at all and if so do you think you will continue along your mellow/calmer sound or do you think that you will revert back to a more post-rock type sound?
Ah yes, i’m always thinking about the next record. I actually have a couple things i’m working on. the first is a 7inch single. which will be more ambient, with just guitars and some drums. Very spacey. but oddly enough i’ve been thinking of taking a couple of songs I have written that are actually very post-hardcore, very loud and doing another 7inch with that. Also there’s the next LP, which I want to do a full LP, 10-12 songs. As for the sound, I suppose it’ll be a continuation with what i started with “Can You Say It” but who knows. One of my favorite records is Jónsi’s “Go Do,” the solo record he made when Sigur Rós was on hiatus. I love that record, just how upbeat and happy that it is. I’d like to make something like that. Of course, through my filter, it’d be a little more dark.
FTY : Who or what influences you to do what you do?
So much influences me. Musically I grew up in the hardcore straight edge world (i am still very much straight edge, tattoos and all) but i was also really into the whole Eastbay emopunk thing as well as the DC thing that was going on and then the original emocore world (I cherished Rites Of Spring and then later Jawbreaker, and of course Samiam) and when Texas Is The Reason came out, my mind was blown and bands like Quicksand and Sunny Day Real Estate and then Jimmy Eat World and Sense Field etc. When I was a junior in college my friend introduced me to post-rock, In 1994, with Tortoise. when I heard that record my world changed. These guys were making emotionally charged music that wasn’t just straight ahead rock or anything, just sounds. And then I discovered Sigur Rós when Von came out well that was that. But i was also into stuff like Dead Can Dance and October Project and then back over to bands like Tsunami and Velocity Girl and back into bands like Rodan and June Of 44. Just all over the map. And honestly, people like my best friend and my sister influence me, i like to make music they would enjoy. My friends influence me, I want to make music they may like. my Dad, who really is responsible for introducing me to music as a child in the first place. My mother, she will always be an influence on me, she’s the one who without pressure got me practicing music. She just always supported me in everything I ever did. She’s been gone now for 14 years, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I often wish she could hear what i’m up to.
FTY : How do you promote yourself, are you using Social media and to what extent?
How? Poorly! I’m told more times than Icare to admit that I don’t do enough or that this project should be getting more attention. The ironic part? my undergrad degree is in public relations! funny, right? I use the facebook page a lot, and I try to pay attention to twitter. Facebook is a confusing thing to me. the engagement there is so rich and, um, engaging. but it’s really hard to compete with all of the other stuff that happens there. it’s really no different than anything else. facebook is just the internet in a nutshell. There’s so much noise out there competing for your attention and frankly something like SFB doesn’t command the eyeballs of a lot of folks. It’s ok, honestly, and I know this is cliche, Idon’t do this for the numbers. I do SFB because I have to. If someone else listens, well, that’s just icing on the cake. All i can do is continue to write, record and put things out there. and if someone finds it, and appreciates it, well then i’ve done my job. that isn’t to say i don’t think promotion isn’t important. It is, i’d be dishonest if i said that as an artist I don’t like the approval I get when someone says something nice about the thing i made.
FTY : What was the last piece of music that you listened to?
I was just listening to The Sundays, “Static and Silence.” such a great record. I had such a crush on Harriet Wheeler in college, her and the other band i was listening to earlier today, Velocity Girl, Sarah Shannon. such amazing talent.
FTY : If you had the chance to collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why? and that could be band/artist living/dead/present/past
Oh man. what a fun question! So, lets see… First up, I would kill to make a record with Jónsi and Alex Somers. The music they made on the Riceboy Sleeps record was, well, it was like they were in my head, they knew exactly how to make everything sound perfect to my ears. I have such enormous amount of respect for them and well Jónsi is an inspiration. I have this dream of making a record in their home studio, just to be around that much perfect creative energy would be life altering. That and they are just beautiful people. Dave Grohl. i’m not a huge Foo Fighters fan (I do love some of their music), and while i appreciate the significance of Nirvana, they weren’t at any of my top 10 lists (even though the intro to “Teen Spirit” still floors me). but I just respect and admire Dave Grohl so much and I think making a record with him would be a dream come true. I have no idea what it would sound like. I don’t think it matters, I just know it would be incredible. Dave Walters, of The Echelon Effect. I did a remix of one of his tracks and when i got into it, I just couldn’t help feeling I was reading his mind a little. I mean, maybe not, I don’t know. I just got it. That was one of the most effortless pieces of music I ever worked on. Well, mostly because he’s a genius and all I was doing was adding a thing here and there and then making loud banging noises with the drums. I’d love to work on another record with Rachael Boyd. She’s so bloody talented and i’m such a fan of her work, she just brings a lot to the table. Also, there’s Michel de Jong of Arafúra. that record was so brilliant, so perfect in every way. he’s a rather gifted musician and as a producer, i’d really like to be that good someday.
FTY : What does the future hold for SFB?
The immediate future is to get this EP released and let folks know about it. Also, a friend of mine, who is a rather talented filmmaker and I have been planning on shooting a video for “Irreplaceable.” we started talking about it this February and our schedules just haven’t been lining up, but I think we’ll get it done. He has some great ideas and his sense of aesthetics just line up so perfectly with mine, we kind of just have a shared vision for how things should look. so we’ll see. I want to get this 7inch done, I have one song in the can and part of the second. There are other projects on the radar as well, that are in various stages of conception. i’d really like to dip my toes into the licensing world and really contribute to independent film. I’ve had some material included in soundtracks, and that is just always so rewarding.