Eternal Fair is Andrew Vait (vocals, guitar, keyboard) , Chris Jones (bass) and Daniel Nash (drums, vocals). This Friday they hit the Tractor Tavern in Ballard with Daniel Kirkpatrick and the Bayonets and it’s the very last time they play live before their debut album release show in April at the Columbia City Theatre. Andrew is a natural story teller and I really enjoyed learning more about this band’s perspecetive on making art in Seattle and what’s next for this talented trio.
How did Eternal Fair come to be?
Eternal Fair stemmed from my first solo recording in Seattle, The Pros & Cons of Drowning I put a band together to play those songs live, and that band turned into Andrew Vait & The Eternal Fair. That project eventually split into two; one being my more alt. folk solo project under my name, and then the rock band Eternal Fair. We’ve been playing as a trio since July 2012 when we were asked to open for Allen Stone at the Crocodile.
Can you tell me a little bit about your band mates?
I’ve been playing with Daniel since my solo project and Eternal Fair split, almost exactly 2 years ago. Chris joined the band in November of 2012. Those guys have a serious history of working together; they met playing music on a cruise ship, Chris convinced Daniel to move to Seattle, and they played together in a few projects (M. Bison, Bad Dream Good Breakfast) before joining Eternal Fair. I’ve worked with some great rhythm sections, but never with two guys who have so much experience playing together.
Your sound has an unmistakable feel of rock nostalgia while remaining fresh. How do you feel about getting comparisons to older rad rockers like Tom Petty.
We wear our influences on our sleeve. We all love that music, and have studied it, but we also love what’s happening today with bands like Tame Impala, Sigur Ros, Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket. You’ll likely hear traces of classic rock in each of these bands as well, which says to me that we’re all listening to the same music.
What’s your musical background?
I studied jazz saxophone and voice at University of Miami, Florida. I kept myself really busy, taking saxophone, flute, piano and clarinet lessons, voice lessons, singing in jazz vocal ensembles and acting in theater productions, but it all contributed to a very rich learning experience, although I can’t speak as highly about my living experience in Miami. Chris and Daniel also studied music in school and are well-trained on their instruments. We each individually came to the same fork in the road; play jazz for a living, or do something else. We chose “something else.”
Did you have access to music and art as a youth? If so, how did having that access impact you as an artist today?
I’m from Homer, Alaska, and even for it being a town of less than 6,000 year-round residents, it was a great place to grow up playing music. My mentor in high school, Howard Hedges, played bass trombone with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and The Temptations, to name a few. Jewel’s father, Atz Kilcher, taught my elementary school music classes and first encouraged me to pick up guitar in 5th grade. My teachers in high school were also very encouraging, and made themselves constantly available to help me develop the skills I would need to make it out of Homer. Now, after all these years away, I’m in the process of planning a summer music camp for young Homer-area musicians who are looking for the same learning opportunities that I was looking for when I was their age.
Have you guys ever volunteered in the youth arts community?
I teach private lessons for the Seattle School of Music, which has set up a volunteer tent at the Fremont Solstice Fair for the last three years or so. I’ve been in charge of organizing student performances, which is a lot of work but also very gratifying. Chris and Daniel have both worked for DayJams, which was essentially a week-long summer camp for young musicians.
What can you tell me a about your debut album The Horse That Carries The Wheel?
We decided to record again after a summer of touring together — we had worked up enough material to warrant going back into the studio, and we were eager to present something new. In fact, we had worked up a lot of material; some old material that we hadn’t had the opportunity to record yet, and a lot of new songs that were still coming together. We were initially planning on only recording an EP, until we met our engineer, Chris Mathews Jr. His style meshed so well with ours, and I got to thinking about all the previous material that we hadn’t recorded yet. We ultimately decided that we had enough material to record a full-length album. The title of the album, The Horse That Carries The Wheel, is a song that we split into two parts that act as bookends for the album. The rest of the songs that we chose for the record all tell a story about the passage of time, about our linear travels through life and beyond, and about the relationships we have with ourselves and the relationships we’re going to have with our children when we’re old. Brightest Star, one of my personal favorites, tells the story of a man who fears that he will be forgotten, and so he paints a series of self-portraits and hangs them all over his town. A line from the song goes, “Funny how time falls away; what will we remember?” I think that’s a good question.
How long did this album take to create between the three of you?
The writing spans a few years’ worth of work. Chris joined the band a year ago, and it’s pretty much taken us that amount of time to workshop them into their current state.
What’s your most memorable moment from the process?
The one that I remember most clearly is the day that I finished a song that’s going to be on the record called Donny’s Impossible Dream. We had decided collectively that we liked it, but that it was missing something. It was a Friday, and I had the whole day off (which meant sweatpants and a lot of coffee). I tackled what became the chorus that day, and sent a rough recording to Chris Jones. His response confirmed my suspicion that the record was done and waiting to be recorded. I couldn’t sleep that night, going through every possible scenario of what songs would be on the record, in what order, and who would play on them if we invited guest musicians. The whole time, a melody that Daniel had sung to a new section of The Horse That Carries The Wheel, Pt. II was on repeat in my head. Eventually, I wrote lyrics to that melody, and Horse, Pt. II became our first collaborative songwriting effort. The lyrics happened to be the last words you hear on the record:
Out with the things that we never said
And on with the things that we never did
And when we arrive, maybe time will tell
What heaven; what hell have we here?
What did you learn from making this album in particular?
I learned more things about myself and my relationship with my bandmates than I could ever possibly translate into syllables. Maybe most importantly, I learned that a little humility goes a long way, and that you can get some really great sounds out of a mellotron keyboard.
What are some things you think are special about creating music in this city?
I want to say that it’s the fact that it’s rainy 90% of the time in Seattle that makes it easy to buckle down and get things done, but then I’ll find myself inside working on music or sending emails on one of our elusive perfectly sunny days. There are many strong music communities in Seattle, and it can be very exciting to see how those different communities intersect. You’ll have some cats who are gigging all the time but don’t necessarily play a lot of their own music, and then you have others who work desk jobs in Bellevue and are being played on KEXP and touring with national acts. It’s wildly diverse; I would be curious to know what other cities offer up the array of musical styles that Seattle boasts.
Are there any local artists who were mentors? If so how did they help and what did they teach you?
I have a long-running email chain with Pickwick’s Galen Disston. He and I worked together for the first time at the Seattle Rock Orchestra tribute to Queen in May of 2012. I’m a huge fan of his unbridled approach to singing, and his lyrics are as beautiful and well-thought out as they come. He sent me some lyrics to a new song he was working on, and then I sent him some of my new lyrics, and he wrote back with some very insightful feedback. I’ve learned a lot from Allen Stone about how to deliver an exciting performance. I try to take notes every time I see any great artist, local or not.
Who are your favorite local artists?
Lemolo is the reason I got turned on to your blog. They convey a sense of adventure in their sound and lyrics that are totally captivating to me. We just played with Motopony and Hot Bodies in Motion on Saturday, and I caught myself howling a few times as Daniel Blue would hit one of those bright golden belt notes, or when Scott Paul Johnson would show off his seering tone in a really understated and tasty guitar solo. I’m loving Reignwolf and The Grizzled Mighty these days, and The Comettes sound really interesting. There are some bands on the local R&B scene who are doing really cool things; Thaddillac and Richie Aldente are two of our favorites. Just last night I saw Funky 2 Death and Haiku Chi for the first time, and I was totally blown away.
Being a local independent artist is hard. Artists have to balance paying the bills with their creative forces. How do you manage this balance?
Work hard, all the time and try to stay as organized as possible. Keep up with my Google calendar, answer the phone and return emails. I get really stressed out when I get disorganized or feel like I’m falling behin in my work, so I try not to do that.
How do feel about the role of social media in art promotion?
Social media can be a real chore, but it can also be a lot of fun. I try to keep a conversational line of communication going with our Facebook and Twitter updates, blog posts and newsletters. Our recent Kickstarter campaign and tour to Alaska brought us a good amount of attention. The real trick is turning that attention into a dialogue.
If you could give your youth artist self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Calm down, practice more, tell the truth, the rest will follow.
Eternal Fair is a great example of how hard you have to work at both creating your art and getting out in the world to get people to experience your art. You can check out their musical storytelling over on their bandcamp where their EP Eternal Fair Vol. 1 is available for free download. Friday looks like a great time. The Tractor is a great venue and I hear tickets are going fast!