Jason ZumBrunnen– Lead Vocals, Guitarist, and Morrissey Look-alike
Andy Baldwin – Drummer, Yodeler, still disgruntled that mullets are no longer “in” beyond towns like Fresno, and about having to cut off his lovely and curly red locks
Scott Weigel – Bass Player, Vocalist, and play Electric Pan Flute for another band – Potential Getaway Driver
Robbie Kalinowski – Guitarist, Vocalist, and plays defense for Denver’s Naked Twister team, The Fluffers
In 1994, four college buddies, Jason, Jeff, Scott, and Robbie got together to create the proverbial garage band, calling themselves The Fairlanes. Visiting www.thefairlanes.com, you’ll be able to view the complete History Channel timeline, various band facts, including a series of member changes that would rival Spinal Tap, especially in the drummer area.
Then the millennium came, bringing not only a new century, but also a renewed focus on the band with existing band members Jason, Andy, Robbie, and Scott. The Fairlanes switched gears, changing their band’s reason for existence (and of course, some band members as well) from just a fun thing to do in college, to a full-time career that has gotten them growing recognition in the music scene.
Finishing their second full release, “Welcome to Nowhere,” at the beginning of 2001 with a follow-up tour, they’ve been motoring down their evolutionary path by continuing to create new music and increase their fan base in the process – one that reaches from their home town of Boulder, Colorado, to Norway and Switzerland, where the hills are alive with the sound of the Fairlanes. But lately, they have been throwing some CD release parties around town for their EP release, “the monumento,” due out on June 20 on Asian Man Records.
Along with their busy tour schedule, Kaffeine Buzz got a chance to chat with three of the four members about their family history, new stuff, and how they’re also dealing with their telecommuting scenario, where their band members are scatter from Denver, to the Bay Area and down to Southern California.
KB: How are you guys dealing with that? Scott now lives in San Francisco and Jason lives in Long Beach.
JASON: It’s good because Scott and I write a lot of the songs. Andy’s new and he’s been writing songs, and we’ve been getting together ahead of time. We use the board track a lot. Plus, we go on long tours.
ANDY: We’ll be on tour for around two months. So our home is on the road.
JASON: Most bands that tour a lot take some time apart from each other. So it’s really not that different, with the exception of a plane ticket or two.
Scott gets curious about the notes on the band that I’m holding, wanting to see what I had already written about them.
SCOTT: What’s that? (Scott points to a spot on the page)
KB: That I thought you guys have had more drum member changes than Spinal Tap.
JASON: YEA! Speaking of that, we have a song that references Spinal Tap. On the new album, we have a song that’s called, “This Amp Goes to 11,” which is a whole scene in the movie where his guitar amp goes past 10, all the way to 11. So there is the correlation to Spinal Tap.
SCOTT (Still looking at my notes referencing the drummers): Look at this! She’s got Ben Griffith, Tim, Alex, and Scott. I don’t even know who Ben Griffith is!
JASON: How do you know all this?
KB: I’m a journalist. I’m supposed to do my research.
SCOTT: Look at what she’s got here, “Andy cuts his Cherry Curl!” It’s like someone in the band wrote this!
Um, yea. Someone in the band did write it, ’cause I got it from their web site. Why they didn’t pick up on this I’m not quite sure. But I didn’t reveal my source because I’m now able to somewhat redeem myself a little, after forgetting Jason’s name about five times and having him recite back to me, everything I’d said to him through the night. So we start discussing their new EP.
KB: How will this new release differ from what you’ve done before?
JASON: Andy won’t have his Cherry Curl
SCOTT: We’re influenced by a lot of stuff. So I think there’s going to be a lot more acoustic guitars and other stuff.
KB: What, like piano?
SCOTT: Well, yea. I can play piano.
JASON: Scott’s like the Liberace of the band.
ANDY: He’s very flamboyant. He likes to wear sequined shirts.
JASON: Kind of Neil Diamond meets Liberace.
ANDY: We call him Six Fingers Weigel because he plays like he has six fingers on each hand.
JASON: Okay – about the new music. Well, we’ve been spending a lot more time on writing songs even though we’ve been apart, which is kind of ironic. We have a new ingredient, which is Andy, which adds another songwriter to the band. This will be neat to incorporate into what we have. [The new songs], they’re the best stuff we’ve written so far. That’s my opinion. It might suck when it comes out, but I hope not.
KB: Your band’s been around for a while, since the beginning in 1994.
JASON: ’94? That’s giving away my age there.
SCOTT: Yea, we’ve been around since 1994 or 1995.
JASON: We started off in college, but we weren’t necessarily serious. We did it because it was a lot of fun, and we toured in the summers. We’ve gone full-time and serious with the band at the beginning of this year. And since then, we’ve been touring non-stop.
KB: What were you doing until now?
JASON: We were going to school.
KB: So did you do the band thing to get chicks?
JASON: No, it was kind of like a break from school. It was something to do besides study. Plus, school’s not a good place to meet woman.
ANDY: But I listened to them to get chicks.
JASON: Yea! That’s how good we were. That’s how much of the chick magnets we were.
ANDY: I had a really good car stereo at the time. All four windows were down in my Buick Skylark. The Fairlanes were blasting, and the women were running to me.
KB: Speaking of woman flocking, you guys have fans as far as Norway. How has that happened?
SCOTT: If you want to know something kind of weird. My girlfriend was living in Paris for about six months, and I went to visit her. We went down to Nice in the south of France. Some guy came up and handed me a flyer for a new compilation record that he put out. I looked down on the flyer and I saw the Fairlanes on it, and I noticed that the address was in Switzerland. So I told my girlfriend to run after him and tell him that I’m in the Fairlanes. We ended up exchanging email addresses. Then he ended up booking most of our European tour. It was a total random thing, the weirdest thing that ever happened.
KB: So…how was he able to put you guys on the compilation without you knowing?
SCOTT: Apparently he emailed us a long time ago, and we were like, ‘Yea, whatever man.’
JASON: We get on a lot of compilations that we don’t know about. Someone okays it, then we kind of forget. But it’s all good. Take whatever you want.
ANDY: My grandmother’s ok’d a few.
JASON: His grandmother ok’d a fly-fishing video. That’s going to be huge.
KB: One thing is for sure. You guys have a definite sense of humor about the whole thing.
JASON: It depends who you ask.
SCOTT: Because some people don’t think we’re that funny. But shit like this is supposed to be fun. I mean, we do take it seriously, but I can’t stand bands that take themselves way too seriously.
JASON: We take playing in a band very seriously, but in the end, music is entertainment. So you’ve got to enjoy it the way the crowd enjoys it too.
KB: Beyond humor, what inspires you when you’re writing songs?
JASON: On ‘Welcome to Nowhere,’ our last release, it was our own lives really.
SCOTT: It was very autobiographical, very introspective. It was kind of the lives we were leading before.
KB: So what kind of message resonates in those songs or in your new songs?
SCOTT: I think the big one is to do something that you enjoy in life. I think that’s a big decision we made. We were kind of on set paths with college and the careers we were going to choose. Then we realized that there is not a set path – that you can choose what you want to do and do it because it makes you happy – even if that means having a ‘regular’ job as an accountant.
JASON: And the new stuff will be autobiographical about what’s happened to us during the last six months of touring – 120 shows since March.
SCOTT: It’s been great. I’ve learned more about myself and about life in the last six months than I did in four years of college.
KB: What have you learned?
SCOTT: Just about what makes me happy and what’s important to me. How short life is. I mean, there’s been plenty of shitty shows. But music inspires me. It inspires all of us really. And it’s something that’s so important to our lives. We’re so lucky to have the opportunity to do this as a full-time gig. That’s a huge thing. Before I worked at a software company with people twice my age. They were friendly people and my boss wasn’t from “Office Space” or anything, but it just was not something that I wanted to do.
KB: What do you do now?
SCOTT: I’m a bass player. [Laughs erupt for the 100th time]. We all laugh, but that’s all I do.
JASON: We love traveling and meeting new friends. We did a tour in Europe in June and July. It was incredible, one of the most eye-opening experiences.
KB: How was the crowd?
JASON: In general, it was better than any U.S. tour we’ve ever had. It’s very open and they feed you everywhere you go, free drinks, a place to stay.
ANDY: There’s just this genuine appreciation for the music and the bands that perform.
JASON: It’s not like this scene where people show up to hang out and gossip. People actually go and listen to the music and dance. The hardcore people are doing these karate chop moves like Saturday Night Fever. They’re not there to look cool.
After our chat at H.W. Briggs, the fine Colorado Springs establishment, our next stop was the most popular restaurant at the hour of 1am, Denny’s. I then got a chance to shoot the breeze with Robbie, the missing link of the fab four. He was gracious enough to give me one of this team pictures, and through the bites of Eggs Over My Hammy, explained how his hand still hurts when it rains, thus impending his guitar techniques at random intervals. He claims he broke it while riding on this bike, but I think we all know better.
I would have to say our little chat was as entertaining as seeing the guys perform their blend of jolting and animated rockin’ punk, if not more so. Joking and sarcasm aside, the Fairlanes are truly talented, are true to themselves AND the crowds who come to dance the night away.
As they move forward on their road to self and musical discovery, they’ll definitely make more friends and have more stories for their web site. To get your hands on their new EP and previous releases, tour date info, hear some of their songs, and check out a picture of Scott taped to a urinal, go to www.thefairlanes.com. The monumento EP can also be had for only $5 on www.surburbanhomerecords.com, where you’ll also find other releases from The Gamits and others.