New bands, be careful while considering your name. As JT may laugh about it now, you may be answering repetitive questions about it forever.
JT (vocals), Craig Simons (drums), Tyler Myklebust (guitar), Mathew Bell (bass), Evan Foley (guitar) make up the outfit otherwise known as Famous Last Words. While the band has been around since 2005 and hailing from the sleepy area of Petoskey, MI, the guys are hard at work. Change is not always bad and if correctly handled can be a great source for new inspiration and creation. We managed to hold JT down for a few minutes to answer questions about new material, plans for the new year, and what his drink of choice is.
NRR: Thanks for taking some time out fellas to answer some questions for National Rock Review. What’s been going on with the band, Famous Last Words, in 2015?
JT: Well, we parted ways with both Outerloop Management and InVogue Records. We are currently rebuilding our team and working on a new concept album. I canâ€™t divulge too much information just yet, but announcements should be coming very soon!
NRR: Okay, so the rumor that you might be getting ready to make some new music happen is a good one. What can you say about that effort?
JT: YES! We are currently working on some music. Itâ€™s coming along very nicely. Itâ€™s more mature, and fresh, but still very much FLW.
NRR: For the vibe of the band, how would you describe it to new listeners, say seeing you on stage live for the first time?
JT: I say we have a lot of energy, but are still well put together. Kind of like our music Iâ€™d say itâ€™s a kind of â€œControlled Chaosâ€. If someone comes out to an FLW show, they are going to have a great time as long as they arrive with the attitude for it!
NRR: For those that haven’t heard of you before this piece, will you give us a little abridged history of the band?
JT: We are a band based out of Petoskey, MI. All of the members moved from all over the country except for our bass player and me. Weâ€™ve been professionally active since 2009. The band has toured all over the country several times and several times in Canada as well. We have released an EP, Pick Your Poison and two concept LPs, Two-Faced Charade and Council Of The Dead.
NRR: It seems like in the age of social media and online music sites, views are more important then say being certified gold on a release. I hear that one video of yours has hit over two million views. Is that surreal for you as a band and why do you think that song has done so well?
JT: It is incredibly surreal. Itâ€™s a great song, but whatâ€™s more surreal is our music video for â€œThe Show Must Go Onâ€ which has hit almost eight million views. Itâ€™s very gratifying to see those numbers, but what really counts is the personal interactions on the road, face to face, playing in front of a crowd and feeling their energy. Thatâ€™s more surreal than anything.
NRR: There’s a little party happening soon in Detroit land at the Crofoot Ballroom. How did you guys get on the bill and what kind of madness should we expect, (laughing)?
JT: Jason Putnam, the one putting together the entire event, invited us to play the show when he saw us at Hatchyâ€™s on the Tours From The Crypt tour. The Crofoot is an awesome venue and he told us about the success the event has had in the past. We are really excited for the show.
NRR: You guys have a great merch line up. And I dig that you’ve pressed at least one album in vinyl. How important is the merchandise sales for the band and who comes up with the ideas like a green vinyl record?
JT: Merch is incredibly important, itâ€™s where we make most of our income. We try to keep our merch fresh and unique at the same time. As far as the vinyl goes the green was InVogueâ€™s idea. We had an original blue marbled one that I personally liked way more, but that unfortunately fell through.
NRR: What has been one or two of the more difficult lessons you’ve had to learn since you started out to make your mark in music in 2009 out of one of the prettier locations in the lower peninsula of Michigan?
JT: Sacrifice. If you want to do this professionally you have to accept that you are going to be making many, MANY, sacrifices. Not just sacrificing your own money and time, but your loved ones time (and usually money as well). Being in a band is not just demanding for the band member, but the memberâ€™s family, and friends. You end up missing a lot of moments in life that you wouldnâ€™t normally miss. Your kidâ€™s first steps, your grandmaâ€™s, or friendâ€™s funerals, anything really, so that makes it really hard. But you also have to realize that you are gaining some pretty incredible experiences that you wouldnâ€™t get if you werenâ€™t in the band. So itâ€™s all really about perspective, and it helps to have a positive one.
NRR: Is there a moment, that thinking back on it now, in the your career that you can’t help but still feel a tad bit embarrassed about, makes you laugh about despite yourself, or just still makes you shake your head in disbelief? A Spinal Tap moment if you will, that you’d be willing to share with me?
JT: There was this one festival we played in Texas. It was a few years back and the band was much smaller. The festival was made up of mostly hardcore bands, so we didnâ€™t really fit the bill. Earlier that day I got news that my grandma had passed, so it wasnâ€™t the best day ever. When we played, it was just a little floor show, but all the kids who were too â€œhardcoreâ€ to enjoy our set were yelling shit at us, sitting down, and just being overall incredibly rude. By the end of the set I had had it. We packed up all of our merch and I walked through the room flipping everyone off telling each and everyone of them to go fuck themselves. Looking back I know that was incredibly immature of me and I know I didnâ€™t handle the situation properly. But the past is the past and I donâ€™t plan on doing that again any time soon.
NRR: As a band, you shot a thirty minute short film in and about your Two-Faced Charade album. How did that come about and what has the response been to it since it was released earlier this year?
JT: It started when we shot the music video for “The Show Must Go On.” Charlie Anderson was the director. He has also directed all of our music videos. This was our first concept album and I told him while we were shooting the video, semi-jokingly, that if the music video hit 1,000,000 views, we would have to shoot a short film for the album. A month or two after the video came out I got a text saying, â€œAlright, lets get a script together.â€
So far, it has gotten a very good response.
NRR: How does the group go through the writing process, is it all one person with help or is it a group effort from start to finish and has the way you write changed from the first EP to what you might be working on now?
JT: The process has evolved over the years as the band has evolved. Iâ€™ve always written some of the music and all of the vocals. Our old bass player, Jesse Maddy, mostly wrote Two-Faced Charade and Council Of The Deadâ€™s music. With this new album though, Iâ€™ve written the majority of the records music and Evan has written a couple of songs too.
NRR: Tell me about the name, Famous Last Words. Is there a story behind the name or was it more like someone was a Literature Major that had a flash of the Muse?
JT: I think I will be answering this question for the rest of my life, (laughing). Famous Last Words is a very well know phrase so people would already be familiar with it. It represents the final ideas of a human. Itâ€™s the final reflection of someoneâ€™s self in their last moments which we all think is dark and beautiful at the same time.
NRR: How is/was the experience with InVogue Records? Is it still better to have a label behind you even in this day of DIY and are you working with them again once you’re ready to hit the studio again?
JT: InVogue Records was a good label to start our career on. We had all the creative freedom to do what we really wanted to do, which is what is most important to me. They definitely helped us get on our feet and we wouldnâ€™t be where we are today without them. But as the band evolves, so does the team behind the band. So we will be at a new home for the next record.
NRR: If you had an adult beverage maker wanting to throw money and free product at you to sponsor a tour, is there a brewer or drink you’d happily welcome aboard? And would you need the truck following the tour bus?
JT: Fireball [Whiskey] and YES!
Famous Last Words
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