Tell us a bit about the band. How did Flash Fiction start out?
We started when a flash of lightning struck the Fiction section in the Waterstones bookstore downtown. Okay, that’s a lie. The real story isn’t quite that exciting. When I moved to Exeter from the US, I had wanted to get involved in the local music scene, especially in a folk band. It kind of formed quite organically around the songs we were working on. I had been writing a variety of acoustic-oriented material, and had been collaborating with Georgia Rae (the female vocalist on Good Morning, Appalachia) and Will Finnigan (guitarist and saxophonist). Josie Paris was a friend that came on board when we realized how insanely brilliant she was at violin. So, it was a very organic process; the band has evolved as our songs have evolved. We’re still evolving. This certainly isn’t a static project.
So far, you’ve released three singles and are putting the finishing touches to your debut LP. What’s the recording process been like?
In comparison to other bands I’ve been in, and other bands I’ve produced, this project has felt very natural. In fact, the process of making this record has been such an incredible pleasure. I’ve been in such a creative groove, and that’s showing through with the material we’re making as a band. The debut LP, The Murmurs of Morning (released November 11th), has come together in a matter of months, from composition to final recordings. That’s fast, but it hasn’t felt rushed at all. We’ve recorded all the material in my flat in Exeter, and that laid-back, rough-around-the-edges living room feel is very much the driving aesthetic quality of the album.
Who and what inspires the music you make?
I think everyone involved in Flash Fiction would probably give a different answer. For me, this project was very much inspired by my roots; the simplicity of Appalachian folk tunes and Americana. Also, folk-rock music was an obvious influence in the sort of music we’re making – Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and Bruce Springsteen, for sure. Simon & Garfunkel are probably the foundation for me, as a songwriter. However, we’re not trying to be a ‘folk band’, per se, or even reproduce the sounds of singer-songwriters we admire.
Without pigeon-holing, the folky roots sound that you guys have created is pretty fresh to Exeter. Do you think growing up in the US has influenced you in a different way?
Certainly. I separate the politics of America from America as a place. It’s America the place that has been a constant mystery to me. The very mythology and legend of the place is a constant source of poetry and song; the endless roads, the vast expanse between two oceans, the gritty urbanness of the cities, and the untamed wild of the wilderness. This has certainly been one of my primary sources of inspiration. It’s not always America itself, either. Sometimes it’s even being away from America and being aware of the distance from home and the longing for future destinations that spurs me on as a songwriter.
What’s the music scene like in Exeter in comparison to Western Maryland?
Quite different. Western Maryland, where I grew up, is in the Appalachian Mountains and is dotted with old mining towns and farms. I think the historic isolation of the place has created a certain culture. Most of the music I heard growing up (other than the gospel music my parents played) was mostly old country, bluegrass, and the new Nashville pop on the radio. The local music scene is pretty varied, but not nearly as rich as Exeter’s, in terms of the diversity and quantity of music being made. Also, Exeter has been a really supportive environment creatively. BBC Devon and Xpression FM have been really supportive, and most locals have been really open to the sound we’re making.
Good Morning Appalachia is about the threat caused by fracking. Fewer bands seem to be writing politcally minded songs these days. Do you see music as a good medium for protest?
This is a fascinating question, particularly considering my MA dissertation focused on celebrity political activism. I think music can be an incredibly powerful tool for political expression. I would be naïve to believe that writing a song could change the world. And I would be lazy to only write a song. However, music can be an incredible tool for raising dialogue and focusing the political conversation around important and disregarded issues. I think musicians have to be particularly reflexive in their activism, however. That was the idea with Good Morning, Appalachia. The song isn’t saying “fracking is bad”. I really didn’t want to write a song about why I don’t like fracking. That would be boring, and I don’t think it would make a very good song. That song is really a story about community action (hence the multiple voices on the verses) and the important questions we need to ask about how we coexist with the land. So, it isn’t really a simple song in that regard.
What’s next for Flash Fiction?
Lots! We’re just getting started. We’ll have our debut record out this Autumn. Also, we’ve recently filmed a music video with a young local filmmaker from Devon, Scott Stevens. We’ve got a lot up our sleeves, and my goal is to take Flash Fiction as far as I can take it. This project is like a highway – you follow it until you’ve reached wherever it is you’re going; right now, all we can see ahead is horizon.