Photo by Lindsey Scheer
Interview with vocalist Jay Littleton and guitarist Ben Green | By John B. Moore
It’s been just over 10 years since the short-lived, but widely followed Fairweather put down the guitars and walked away from the band. There were no hard feelings – in fact the guys still hung out regularly – they just ceased playing together. A reunion in 2011 proved the band still had some things left to say musically, so they started working on a new eponymous record. Jay Littleton and Ben Green speak about the breakup, the reunion, and why they decided to give Fairweather another shot.
Can you talk a bit about why the band initially took so much time off? Were you broken up or was there always the assumption that you would eventually get back to recording?
JL: We formally announced our breakup in late September of 2003 and, at that time, we didn’t have any plans of reuniting. We had just come off of the longest tour of our career earlier that summer and I think some of us were feeling a lot of pressure, both in terms of personal relationships outside of the band and from the high level of effort it takes to seek even modest monetary success as a full-time touring band. We weren’t looking to own yachts or anything, but having money to buy new shoes when we needed them would have been nice. Also, I don’t think that a lot of people, including some people who worked with the band, knew what to do with our [at that time] new record Lusitania. For us, the record seemed like a natural progression and we were all really happy with it. Unfortunately, when it dropped, we were left feeling as though we had alienated a decent portion of our audience and that the “next level of success” for us seemed even farther in the distance. When I look back now, I’m glad we wrote the record that we did and I also realize now that, as the creator of something, you have the luxury of being able to define what success means to you. With so many of our contemporaries breaking out and gaining much larger audiences at that time, we were caught up in someone else’s definition, and we broke up instead of resting and regrouping. The way we saw it back then, we had two options: to keep going hard like we were, or nothing.
What was that reunion show 2011 like? Was it odd or awkward at first to be back on the stage with everyone?
JL: Man, it was awesome. Nothing about it was odd or awkward. It was definitely the largest crowd of dedicated Fairweather fans we’d ever had the opportunity to play for. The craziest part was how many people were singing along with Lusitania songs. It was amazingly affirming. The only negative I can think of is that I had maybe the worst “bangover” of my life the next day. Though, minor neck ache is a small price to pay for one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
When did you guys decide to start working on a new record?
JL: We’re all still best friends, so we’d always hang out after Fairweather broke up. Here and there over the years, one member or another would bring up how fun it might be to write another record. I don’t remember when the decision was finally made and I think some of us remember it differently. I can tell you that when we started practicing for the reunion show, we had a hard time focusing on learning the old material because we were having so much fun writing new songs. As soon as that happened, I was pretty confident that we’d actually pull off a new record.
What was the writing process like for this one?
JL: The writing process for this new record was a little different than past records because when we were in our early 20s, we all had a lot more time to make the band a priority. These days, there are tons of other things to focus on, including our families and our career responsibilities. We tried to write together once a week when we could, but it was often more like once or twice a month. Otherwise, the process was pretty much the same as it was before, which is to say, it was still heavily collaborative and time-consuming.
Musically, has the band changed a lot since the last record?
JL: If you were to listen to Lusitania and Fairweather (the new self-titled record) back to back, you might think that we’ve actually changed a lot musically. I don’t really see it that way though. I think we still have music like the slower, nuanced, and layered songs on Lusitania in us. This new record just isn’t really like that. This one is faster and a lot more straightforward. My take is that once we all were back in the practice space and writing together after so many years, we were reminded just how much fun it can be to play fast and loud. So that’s what we did.
Is there a general theme that ties these songs together?
BG: Lyrically and conceptually, the record is about acceptance – about one’s place in life, about how you exist and live, and coming to grips with certain aspects of your functioning as a person, for better or for worse. There’s reflection in the record for sure, looking back on choices and habits, taking stock of what’s behind you, and thinking about how it informs you of what’s ahead.
You recorded this in Ben’s own studio. Did that give you the freedom to take your time on this one?
JL: Well, I’ll say yes, but maybe not in the same way you might expect. Because we all have a lot of commitments outside of Fairweather these days, it would have been nearly impossible to record for several weeks or a month straight like we were previously able to do. Because we were recording at a band member’s studio, it allowed us to have the flexibility to schedule tracking around all of our conflicts, which is really what helped to make this record happen. If you were to add up all of the tracking time we spent on this project, I don’t think it would actually be all that much. Green was pretty good about keeping us on track and steering us out of the minutia.
Are you working on anything else right now?
JL: I think with the new Fairweather record out, it’s possible that people might start working on other projects they’ve put off for a while. I’m hoping that we get the chance to hear a new Seas record come out from the other dudes in the near future. If you haven’t heard them you should definitely do yourself the favor and check out Now My Home is a Beech Tree. But don’t be confused, there’s another Seas band out there now from Canada. That’s not the band I’m referring to.
Purchase Fairweather here: http://equalvision.merchnow.com/catalogs/Fairweather