April 10th, 2012 | Published in Interviews
By Jeffrey McClellan
Texas natives Fair to Midland don’t know how not to tour. Between now and the end of July, they have 54 dates planned, including about 20 as part of an Australian tour with brothers-in-arms Dead Letter Circus. It’s this relentless work ethic that has maintained their trajectory as a true “band’s band” since their first self-released albums, 2001’s Carbon Copy SIlver Lining and 2004’s inter.funda.stifle. Their stellar live act has landed them spots at such festivals as Coachella and Download, as well as tours with Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, 10 Years, Flyleaf, and Dir en Grey.
Their upcoming tour follows the release of FTM’s first live DVD, “Live at the Machine Shop” filmed in Flint, Michigan. The video captures a band bubbling with characteristic manic energy, whose fans match their enthusiasm at every turn throughout the evening. This performance should be considered required reading for any band looking to forge ahead into the world; this is, quite simply, how it is done.
The Cleveland Sound last covered FTM turning in a blistering set last December at Akron’s Musica venue; a stage barely able to contain such a riotous performance [http://www.theclevelandsound.com/?p=11006]. We caught up with guitarist Cliff Campbell on the eve of their East Coast headline tour, which will bring them to the Agora on April 22nd with Dead Letter Circus and Lionize. Affable and grounded, Cliff spoke for a band that displays a deep involvement with their fans and co-performers that can only come from years of weathering the ebb and flow of the music business.
The Cleveland Sound: Okay, so… I imagine you guys are getting ready to kick off your tour this Thursday…
Cliff Campbell: Yeah, we’re pretty excited.
TCS: Yeah, I can’t blame you. I hear you’re touring with Dead Letter Circus and Lionize. You getting excited to get back on the road again?
Cliff: Oh yeah, it’s been too long. Even just a couple months is too long, man. You drive yourself nuts.
TCS: You guys are definitely road dogs. This is your second time out with Dead Letter Circus recently, and from what I hear you guys are actually slated to go back to Australia with them for a few dates in May. You certainly seem to have built a camaraderie, what’s it been like touring with them?
Cliff: Ah, it’s amazing man, we really hit it off together. We just get along real well, we like a lot of the same things… It’s rare you actually stop on a tour with bands and go out and do stuff together That kind of happened, and we really wanted to give them the full tour because we did the Midwest and now we’re doing the East Coast and then we’re gonna switch off and do it with them over in Australia, so it was just the right thing to do. And we love the guys.
TCS: I can tell. It looked like it was one hell of a party last time you were in town.
Cliff: Yeah, it was great.
TCS: Any talk of any collaborative efforts? Anybody gonna’ be appearing on each others’ albums any time soon or anything like that?
Cliff: I think we’re going to try to do some live versions of some things, because we recorded some audio in Dallas and they were on one of the songs and I think we’re gonna try to get that out later for everybody. We’ve talked about collaborations, but they’re in the works of their album and we won’t be working on ours until the end of the year so we’ll have to figure something out.
TCS: Right on. You guys just released ‘Live at the Machine Shop’ on April 3rd. I caught you guys live before and it’s a pretty wild show, did you prepare anything special for the event or just go out and do what you do?
Cliff: The main special thing was just having everybody drive in and fly in – whoever wanted to come to that show – and we actually ended up playing a lot off our older albums, stuff we had never done so people could come out to that show and have a meet and greet ticket. It was kind of an intimate setting. We only wanted the actual friends of Fair to Midland to come to that so it would be an intimate thing because it was our first professional live DVD. Actually our fans made the show – through all of our songs they were bringing like, whales for when we say “I’m a Whale” on ‘Coppertank Island’ and they made this glowstick thing happen on “Dance of the Manatee” that looks freakin awesome on the video – that was all the fans, man.
TCS: That’s cool, i can’t wait to see it. I understand that show got you into the final four of Flint radio station Banana 101.5’s Machine Shop Madness contest [where local fans rate performances over the years at the Machine Shop in Flint, MIchigan]. You’ve beat out a lot of big name bands – I saw Sevendust, Clutch, and Mushroomhead on the bill among others who dropped off before you – you excited about that?
Cliff: Yeah, I think our fans really went nuts about that, it was awesome.
TCS: Now you guys are from Texas of course. You seem to take your Texas roots pretty seriously; in fact I understand you were recently asked to headline the Texas Independance Festival in Maxwell Texas. Is that as big a party as it sounds like to us here in the Midwest?
Cliff: Yeah, it was an awesome show. It’s just like any festival: it’s only been running two or three years, and it takes something like that years and years to build up. I think that’s going to be an awesome festival in the future.
TCS: I have to ask; the bill for that event mentions a Zombicross race. What the hell is that?
Cliff: [laughs] I wasn’t even there for that man, I don’t know. I remember seeing the same thing; I don’t know what the hell that was all about. Sorry, I don’t have any inside information!
TCS: No problem. Your last release Arrows and Anchors came out in July of last year. You mentioned you guys probably won’t be getting into the studio for a little bit. Any plans on the follow up, have you written anything?
Cliff: Yeah, we’ve been writing ever since we’ve been home. Darroh [Sudderth] writes all the freakin time; he can’t stop or he drives himself crazy. We’ve written quite a few songs, probably eight or ten songs, y’know? We also had three or four from the last album that didn’t quite meld with the whole mood of the album itself so those will probably come out later – either on an EP or on the actual new material, we’ll just have to see how it goes.
TCS: Can’t wait to hear them. Your last album was produced by Joe Barresi, who’s previously worked with Queens of the Stone Age, Coheed and Cambria, and the Melvins. How was it working with him?
Cliff: It was amazing, man. It really did a whole lot for me for my actual tone and getting across what Fair to Midland is on an album. There’s a whole lot more live appeal on Arrows and Anchors if you listen to it in comparison to Fables [2007’s Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True]. Although I love Fables too, it’s just two different albums. I think we really showed the progression of Fair to Midland on Arrows and Anchors and a lot of that’s due to Joe Barresi and him just knowing how to capture the band.
TCS: Well, that’s a sign of a truly great band when you can see that progression from album to album. Any plans on working with him on the follow up?
Cliff: We have talked about it. We’re not ready to go into the studio yet, but he drops us a line here and there and asks us. He’s definitely on the top of the list to work with for the next one; we love Joe.
TCS: Okay. Well, I understand you’re a busy guy, and I don’t want to keep you too long. I appreciate you talking to us here at The Cleveland Sound, and we’ll look forward to seeing you at the Agora on April 22nd. Thanks again, I appreciate your time, and you have a good one. Stay out of the heat.
Cliff: We will, man. Thanks brother.