Skip to content

Drop the Fear – Jumping Off the Edge of the Universe

It’s a sleepy Sunday morning and I’m watching “The Actor’s Studio” on Bravo…you know, the show Will Farrell from Saturday Night Live portrayals so well. At the end of the interview, pompous James Lipton broke out his set of questions for Richard Gere, asking him what was his least favorite word. The word that popped in my mind was fear. For centuries we’ve seen it lead to hate, greed, racism, and jealousy, and it has been used to control, and even destroy lives. It’s what keeps many from realizing their dreams and even themselves.

When the three individuals from electronic act Drop The Fear came together, it was like puzzle pieces falling into place. From the first meeting between Ryan Policky (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, programming), Sarah Marcogliese (vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming), and Gabriel Ratliff (drums, keys, programming, vocals), they instinctively knew that this unity was going to be different from any they’d ever experienced. It would be the musical vehicle for understanding their own fears and the fears of those around them.

Sarah had been in the band Look Eye, which she deemed to have a very “Colorado” rock sound, something she wasn’t content with. “I’d contemplated moving back to San Francisco,” she explains, “because the types of music that I was more into were the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, something a little more sonic like Bjork…a little Ween, just something a little more obscure.”

Ryan and Gabriel had both been in Pure Drama, and like Sarah, were moving in a different direction. “We wanted to do something we’ve always wanted to do without trying to meld into something else. We wanted to just write music, and were just going to do it ourselves. It was weird…when I got that email from Sarah, all the influences were there, and it just sounded so perfect,” Ryan reveals.

As a last ditch effort before packing for S.F. Sarah sent out emails to every local electronic type of band she could find on the web and within 24 hours all three were together, exchanging ideas for hours and playing off each other’s thoughts and desires. What they discovered was a musical synchronicity and a shared level of passion and the dedication it takes to make it all happen. “We all wanted to treat it like our job, not a crappy job we didn’t want to do, but something you could get into and be excited about until all hours of the night. Then at dawn, sitting back and saying, ‘Wow, I really like that,’ instead of just slapping something together that’s half-assed,” says Sarah.

After just one month of knowing each other the Drop The Fear clan were on a road trip to Sarah’s old stomping grounds in San Francisco where her brother, Daved, also lived. Ryan goes into their experience of discovery along the road, “We all have our own little things, and we learned that mainly by asking people we didn’t even know something where they had no idea what we were talking about. We were breaking our own boundaries.”

Through their video camera they wanted to find out what dropping the fear meant to total strangers. Ryan recalls, “But every single time they would react, ‘Drop the what? Drop the fear?’ It was really interesting to find out what they were going through, what’s going on in their lives.”

Their investigative efforts led them through Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and onto California, approaching people in truck stops and parks, old and young, and of all races. By traveling the country and approaching people, they were really able to reverse the divide that has become so prevalent within our society in the last four years. “It’s good for them to be able to express their feelings,” Ryan conveys, “It did what we were hoping it would do, and break the barriers just a little bit by somebody they didn’t know, and ours in the process.”

It turned out to be a great beginning and an intense experience for each of them. “There were two sides to the spectrum,” Gabriel explains, one being the fun, adventurous side. Then there was the area of spiritual discovery, “What was so amazing about that trip, we all went through these introspective type…soul searching things, reliving past experiences. It was like the beginning of a journey.”

The next step was in the area of producing, where they realized that they were all on par with each other. During songwriting or a performance, there’s no one person running the show at any given time, and because of this, they’ve tripled the complexity and unity of what comes out of the speakers. That level of chemistry comes across loud and lush, which has also been the result of spending many, many hours together as a group. “And we haven’t killed each other yet,” Sarah says laughing.

By listening to just a few seconds of Drop The Fear’s debut release, that free falling feeling lets you know they’ve accomplished what they’ve set out to do: disregarding the expected structures and boundaries of songwriting while taking you on a unified journey through sonic explorations. Each song seamlessly floats from one to another, whirling your senses and allowing you to let go and get lost in the many synthesized layers, organic galaxies, and solar powered vocals.

“It was awesome that not only did we have this kinship right off the bat,” Gabriel adds, “but we had this personal mesh. We all had something similar, like childhood experiences. There were all these things that overlapped where it all fit like a cog.”

It isn’t until you see Drop The Fear live and on stage you don’t realize the ambidextrous quality they utilize to play musical chairs with their instruments, defying the sheer magnitude of what three people are physically able to exude. This unique mix enables them to parlay that personal mesh into a sound that has no beginning or end, where the harmonies of Ryan and Sarah’s voices overflow into one being. Ryan laughs, recalling how some people react to this unison sound, “Sometimes they can’t tell when it’s me or Sarah, and vice versa,” while others have asked if Sarah’s used special affects on her voice when in actually it’s been Ryan singing all along.

Sarah adds, “Ryan and I have done up to eight-part harmonies. But it’s all layered in there where you don’t necessarily hear all eight parts,” where some parts are almost used as white sound.

In this way the trio uses those unique vocal tones as additional instruments in addition to using this as a medium to express a specific message. This brings an added level of both intensity and tranquility to their song’s landscape. On “Natural Law,” the harmonies are the beating heart to Daved, a recording taking during filming where he reveals his own concepts on fear. They intentionally mixed it so you can only pick up bits of pieces of what he’s saying, but as Gabriel points out, “It makes you work just enough to where you want to pay attention.”

The filmmakers have used footage from their trip to San Francisco as a cinematic backdrop to their live performance and will be releasing a DVD at the same time their CD is released. Ryan explains the concept, “I think of music as a visual that comes through where I can actually see something happening. To go back and do songs with that actual footage, it’s so weird because it’s almost like how you build what a band looks like. We’re doing that with ourselves where we built these little scenarios through all these layers that we’ve used.”

Gabe adds with a serious tone, “I always have visions of like, midget wrestling in a different place like the desert.”

“We have a reminder on our fridge to watch Big Hairy Guy Jello wrestling…is that a bad thing to like that?” Ryan asks, veering the conversation even further.

While the rest of us are laughing, with a straight face Gabriel goes on to reveal how they choose to use their music as their sole identity, trying to avoiding the typical band shots and putting a face with a name. “Not to be cliché, but have this anti-ego viewpoint. We write for the song,” he says. “Like on ‘When Memory Fails’ with the weird sound, people think it’s a bagpipe, or this or that. But they’re like, ‘It sticks in my friggin’ head.’ And there’s bigger steps where we take a song like that and go back to break it down, make it shorter or longer, take a breath in the song where people can mull it over.”

Unbeknownst to Daved, who has 12 years on his younger sister Sarah, played a key role in the making of both the album and DVD, providing inspiration gathered during their visit to San Francisco and the time they spent with him. Even Sarah’s nephew is a part of the CD artwork. “He’s my godfather, he changed my diapers, and he’s always been my biggest supporters,” she says, beaming.

The three in DTF feel like family themselves and have experienced the trials and tribulations any family goes through. “There is one song that represents a pinnacle moment, I won’t share which one it is, [where] things were going so great and all of the sudden we were angry at each other. But that’s part of evolution, when you get to know people.”

Gabriel believes that’s when they themselves dropped their fears individually and as a group. “That was the night were it was, ‘Alright, we’re committed.’ Only family are the people where you can say shit to and know that you’re gonna hurt, but in the long run it’s all done out of love and it’ll be fine.”

The majority of the time the threesome acts more like big kids, goofing on each other and using humor within their music. “Sometimes it’s really, really deep and sometimes it’s really, really funny. We’ll be in the middle of shit and we’ll just do whatever on the fly, whatever we’re thinking at the moment,” she recalls. There’s a part on “Murnau” where you’ll hear her brother playing a little kiddie keyboard part and revealing to listeners, ‘This is an old sailing song,’ which throws a whoopee cushion into the complexity of the moment.

Then there is a random watch alarm sample that tweaked me out, only because I have a watch that sounds exactly the same and goes off every night at 11:34 but for the life of me I can’t turn it off. Now it was going off at 3:23pm? What the hell? I then realized it wasn’t the watch but something within “Edge of the Universe.”

They found this to be particularly funny, and Sarah pops up that this is her favorite song on the album. “That was the first song we really jammed out to. And it is almost identical to the way we wrote it on the fly. It just happened and was such a release. It did feel like you’re at the edge of the universe, watching shit fly by, you’re involved in it and you’re not, and then you get to the end and you’re like, ‘God, was that a dream?’ And then the alarm goes off.”

To this Gabriel remembered a line from an all-time favorite movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Grinning, he recites, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around every once in a while, you can miss it.”

So don’t miss Drop the Fear who will have an in-store performance on Friday, November 5 at Independent Records on Colfax. They go on at 6pm and will have CDs for sale. Their CD release party will be held at Hi-Dive on November 6, where The Heavenly States from San Francisco and milehighhouse’s founder, DJ Tom Hoch, will also be in the house. In the future there there will also be a limited edition double-disc DVD/CD available that “portrays the essence of the name and message behind the music.”


Sign up to our newsletter and get updates to your mailbox