Pretending Greatness is Awaiting

Some bands happen. Friends get together and play, write some tunes and a band is born. Sometimes there is a career, other times the friends end up enemies. Other bands are the result of tireless effort, tweaked by a few cuts in the thread of fate. These musicians have earned everything they've gotten, and probably deserve even more. New Jersey's Fairmont ends 2002 with a lot of history behind them, and a bright future beckoning.

The four current members of Fairmont have performed in numerous bands, released albums and played to crowds around the country. They represent the romance, the hardship, the challenge and the rewards of indie rock; that magical concept of labels, venues, radio stations and publications that, at its best, is a pure desire to make good music for its own sake and, at its worst, leaves the unprepared bitter and forgotten.

The band was formed by Neil Sabatino, a former member of Stick Figure Suicide and Pencey Prep. He recorded the first Fairmont album, "Pretending Greatness is Awaiting," essentially a solo project, and began to assemble a proper band around him. Building the band has been an ongoing project, which the band hopes has finally come to completion with the recent addition of Matt Martino on drums, to complement Bruno Rocha on on bass and Scott Kivowitz on keyboard. A final touch, a second guitarist, will be added soon to help the band tour in support of their newest release, a four-way split CD on Reinforcement Records.

All of these topics were recently covered when Chorus and Verse spoke to Scott Kivowitz shortly after the band finished recording the tracks for the upcoming EP. Kivowitz went into detail about the band's history and, more importantly, where they hope it will lead.

The big news with Fairmont these days is your new drummer. How did you meet Matt and what made the band pick him as your newest member. How are you all preparing for your first live show as a unit, and what do you think his drumming will add to your sound?

After auditioning many drummers and talking to even more we just weren't satisfied because we felt as if we rushed into the last two drummers. We kept waiting and our friend Dave, of The Multi-Purpose Solution, and our friend Justin, of The Product of Control, helped us out on drums. Usually we wouldn't even consider talking to anyone off thenjscene.com webpage because it's full of kids with narrow views of music; a/k/a if it doesn't sound like Thursday it isn't good. But when I saw what Matt posted I had to email him. So I did, and fairly quickly he responded with a lot more about him. He sounded way too perfect! Neil and I went over his house to jam a little and see what he can do with our songs and were finally impressed. A week later he came to practice and had the complete set down. So now we are working with him to get older songs and all the new songs down as well. We recently recorded our third album with Dave, of TheMPS, so we have a lot of work to do to get Matt caught up.

Your history with drummers seems to be a little Spinal Tap. Can you give us the history of the drummers that you've played with, and what's happened to each of them? Who are some of the people who've been sitting in with you on a temporary basis?

Our first Drummer was Dave from The Multi Purpose Solution. He played on the first album which is actually Neil solo. Once the album was recorded, Bruno started playing in the band. Dave played most of the early Fairmont shows. He couldn't keep doing it due to his main band being TheMPS. Neil searched a bit and found [our next drummer]. Not knowing what he was getting into, he accepted [him] in the band. It turned out [he] was a huge dirty druggy and he couldn't keep the beat. This kind of ruined things, and also made the music not fun. After dealing with huge outbursts and gross habits of his we decided it was time to move on and find someone that can play, and is not as disgusting. Neil was talking to a guy he works with who happens to be a rap producer. This guy actually knew a drummer who moved up from North Carolina who was 20 and playing for 12 years. He didn't have a drum set, but he was freakin' incredible. Unfortunately, he got very unreliable and actually disappeared. That is not a joke, he seriously did. So after that, we searched and found Matt.

Take a few moments to introduce the rest of the band to our readers, and how everyone knows each other. How long has the band been together and where did you first start playing together?

Neil was originally in Stick Figure Suicide which is how Bruno and I both met him. I didn't know Bruno at the time but things changed, obviously. When Neil quit Stick Figure Suicide he started working with me at a Staples Copy Center. I was in a band called Sever the Stars at the time. Bruno was in a band called Pencey Prep, and when he heard that Stick Figure Suicide broke up he asked Neil to join Pencey Prep. When Neil joined, the music was really horrible, so he took all the music and rewrote everything. They got signed to Eyeball Records. I'm getting a little off topic but I feel the need to address this anyway, sorry. (Laughs.) So Neil wrote the Pencey Prep album that came out on Eyeball and actually did the painting which is the cover of the album. Behind Bruno's back, the members of Pencey Prep, not including Neil, kicked Bruno out of the band. That was sort of dick of them to do. In Fairmont, Minnesota, while on tour with Pencey Prep, Neil decided he hated the guys in the band and wanted to quit. So when he got back to New Jersey he did just that. He soon recorded the first Fairmont album. After my band Sever the Stars broke up, I asked Neil if I could join playing keyboard. Bruno went from keyboard to bass. As for Matt, he has been in many bands since he was young. His biggest band was The Rash, who was actually on the same record label as US Chaos. I'm not too familiar with the whole punk rock thing, but I heard of both bands.

Now that you've picked your new drummer, what is the schedule for the release of a new album? You were scheduled to record at Hinchkraft Studios in early November. How did those sessions go, and how far are you along in putting something together?

We actually just finished the recording this past Sunday, and have it scheduled to be a promo release, 500 copies, as a four-way split with Standing Idly By from North Dakota, October 32nd from South Dakota, and Vintage Dreams from Massachusetts. The album is coming out on Reinforcement Records and will be our third release since the band officially formed a year ago. Getting a little off topic; our friend Pete, who screams for the band Standing Idly By, is actually moving to New Jersey and is joining Fairmont as a second guitarist.

How much material did you have written towards the new album before entering the studio? Were you pretty much set on what you wanted to record, and just needed to actually get it on tape, or did you just work out material once you all got together?

All together between the whole band we have enough songs to release a box set. (Laughs.) Think about it this way: the complete first album took Neil about two weeks to write. I write at the same pace as him. So, actually, between Neil and I we have about 100 songs we could record at any time. Of course we want to try to perfect the songs as much as we can with the band before even considering [them]. For this album we pretty much knew what we wanted and what songs we wanted. This album is very dark and experimental.

Who's the primary songwriter in the band, and how do songs usually get developed within the group? How often are you able you able to get together and kick around new material?

Neil is the main songwriter in the band because he has this strange originality that just rocks. That, and the fact that he is the one who started the band in the first place. Next to him, I write most the songs. We practice 2/3 times a week, depending. Basically, how it works is [that Neil and I] will get to practice with a song and we will play it for the band. If the band likes it then we will work on it all together and let each other person write their own parts. It's more composing than writing. I don't know if that makes sense.

Who do you have working with you on the album? Do you have anyone handling the production, mixing or other technical aspects of recording, or are you handling everything yourself?

Antonio Valenti, who owns Hinchkraft Studios, has an amazing ear. We produce our own albums, but for technical aspects, Antonio takes care of it. If he hears something out of tune, or just sounding crappy, he will stop the recording and force us to fix it. He is good like that. Antonio has been in bands all his life and his ear has [grown] tremendously. He also plays in a Jersey band called Copperpot.

One of the songs off your "3 Way Split" CD with Multi-Purpose Solution and American Degenerate was in the top 10 on MP3.com's Indie Chart. How important are digital music sites like MP3.com to a band trying to get established and build an audience? Do you think the advantages of getting your music out there outweigh the fact that it's easier for so many bands to be out there competing for a limited amount of attention?

I personally have been a member of Mp3.com since the beginning, six years ago. I've had my acoustic stuff up there that long, at www.mp3.com/satellitedown. I have seen bands who went from nothing to something. I'll give you an example. A band everyone may be familiar with is called Ultimate Fakebook. They were on a semi-large label from their home state, called Noisome. One day, the Getup Kids were on mp3.com, I guess listening or surfing or something. Next thing you know the Getup Kids asked Ultimate Fakebook to tour with them. By the way, that was an amazing tour! So, as a band, we do love having our music online. We don't really care where we hit on the charts. Just the fact that anyone can listen and have our music is so nice. It is a pretty sight seeing us at the top 10 in the Indie charts, though.

Want to take a few minutes to give props to your label, Reinforcements Records? How have they been to work with, and who are some of the other bands on the label that you think fans should give a listen to?

Reinforcement Records has been really great to us. They press the albums all out and send to major distro's and whatnot. We actually sell many albums worldwide which is very strange to think about. Stick Figure Suicide actually had a release on Reinforcement Records way back when, which is how Neil met Dave, the owner. There aren't many bands on Reinforcement Records due to the fact that they usually do one-offs. A lot of the bands they did releases with broke up. Us, and The John Stamos Project, are [two] of the few bands still doing things. But, we are the band really doing a lot of work and hauling ass to make it in the industry. Although these bands aren't officially signed to the label, everyone should check out all the bands we do splits with. We do these splits because we love our friends, and we love their music. The Multi-Purpose Solution, American Degenerate, Standing Idly By, October 32nd, and Vintage Dreams.

You guys are based in Clifton, New Jersey. While a lot of attention is given to the Jersey shore scene, and the Hoboken/New York area, central and northern New Jersey don't get as much attention. Where are some of the best places that you've been able to play at, and have would you described the crowds and fans who've been coming to see you perform?

Maxwell's in Hoboken was my favorite place in Jersey to play. The show sold out and it was so much fun. I love that club, and always have. We play Hamilton St Café and Bloomfield Ave Café a lot. Unfortunately the scene in New Jersey is really horrible so no one really goes to see good rock music anymore. They only go see bands like Saves the Day and Thursday. When we play out-of-state, the crowds love us and show it. When we play in Jersey the crowds just stand there like we are the Insane Clown Posse.

What do you expect for the band in 2003? Any places that you'd like to tour where you haven't played before, or other goals that you're working towards?

Well, this summer we have a tour planned to California and back. Not sure if we are going alone, or what, but it sure will be amazing. We have a bunch of major labels who have been asking for music. And we have management who have made offers, so we are hoping for the best. Either way, we won't stop playing until we all lose our arms and hands. Most likely we will have another album ready to record in the next four months. The new album should be up online at mp3.com now. So go check it out [at] http://www.mp3.com/fairmont.

[ Website: www.fairmontmusic.com ]

Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing. www.imprtech.com