Musician Michael Signorelli is a man on a performing mission. As frontman of New York rock outfit Fathom Blue, his band has seen more line-up changeovers than costumes at a Britney Spears concert. With Fathom Blue's sophomore (second) album due for completion in March 2015, Spear's has actually inspired Signorelli's current songwriting process. Surprised? Alarmed? Don't be. There's method in the technique.
Signorelli explains, "The biggest goal I've had for this album is to again, gain a broader audience by mastering pop song structures." A foray into Jason Blume's book '6 Steps to Songwriting Success' provided much needed answers. After all, he's the guy behind the 90's era mega-pop stars NSYNC and Britney Spears. He adds, "I want to really figure out what it is in a song that can click with millions of people across cultures, and Jason Blume has done that."
He took time over the last year, "to go on this personal journey as an artist to learn more about the craft of songwriting. I think my biggest concern is that I've grown so much since our 2012 debut that we might have needed to change our name for the second full-length!" For Australian audiences who may not have heard of Fathom Blue, they are an NYC Rock and Soul band, who pack a whole lot of passion.
Established only two years ago, Signorelli laughingly advises, the band "is a rare bird. We've played every major venue in Chicago from Congress Theater to House of Blues." They've also impressively played "Buzzfeed.com's top ten venue in New York City, The Knitting Factory." And of course, as every great musician will attest to, "we've also played basements, bars, living rooms, and coffee houses." The band was simply born from his love of composing songs as a singer-songwriter.
Their first release 'Brave Anything' (2012) saw the rock band eager to embrace digital elements in their mixes. One of the original band members Luke Tipton "had a big part in the programming of synths and drum patterns for the record." Signorelli describes being reluctant "to get into that territory back then, but have really grown to love it as much as "rocking out on the guitar". Speaking of rocking out, the band has incarnated in these various forms:
Original line-up: Michael Signorelli, Luke Tipton, Christian Alexander, John Hamlin, Nathan Ramsey (2012) Second line-up: John Hamlin out, Matthew Marco in. Third line-up: Nathan Ramsey out, Dave Reed in. Ethan Grove addition on guitar and vocals. Fourth line-up: Relocation to New York City based: Michael Signorelli and Tim Mahabir. Chicago: Michael Signorelli, Rocky Garibay, and Christian Alexander Current: cross country studio collaboration consisting of: Shaun Milby, Taylor Trent, Dalton Bibb, Michael Erdelac, Javier Padilla, Tim Mahabir, Christian Alexander, Michael Signorelli, Julie Signorelli, Tucker Robinson, Rocky Garibay.
Signorelli jokingly adds, "and more to come as we get through the process!" It's significant for the charismatic lead singer to acknowledge the past and present members, as the band "really formed out of the idea of creating an artist collective." The focus was on local collaboration and organically grew from there. He reveals, "over the last three years the line-up has changed many times. The reality is, gigging, touring, recording, relocating across country and somehow being able to afford it, and keep some semblance of a personal and professional life with long term goals isn't realistic for bands today." It's an inherently valid point and would no doubt strike a chord with many Australian musicians as well.
Signorelli kindly took five from his recording schedule, and sat down to share the latest with the band, where they are headed and the importance of pushing boundaries as a musician. He defines the band as an entity, saying it's "interesting how many hands have a part in shaping it." With the second full-length album, "artists from all across the United States are contributing … from Louisville, Kentucky to New York. New York musicians are coming under the vision of Fathom Blue. It's so exciting to break new ground and simultaneously break the barriers of a traditional "line-up" scenario."
Question: Your video clips and music show you are all very passionate individuals. There's a picture on your Facebook page at Westville prison (Indiana). I'd love to know more about that, and the type of gigs you play, including the audience feedback.
We recently had the opportunity to perform in Westville Prison in Northwest Indiana. It was a personal dream come true, because I've had these fantasies of being a "Johnny Cash style Christian" that plays Folsom Prison blues [laughs]. When we arrived to the prison, we had to go through an incredible amount of red tape, as you would imagine. All of our gear was run through scanners and multiple security guards. When we got into the prison grounds, we were shuttled to the "venue," which was basically a huge, old, haunted looking auditorium.
As the prisoners filled in, the guards asked me not to say anything from the mic that would cause the prisoners to leave their seats, or become too animated. As I looked out into the crowd of men, I had this overwhelming sense of grace and humility come over me … almost as if I was starting to realize, that the only difference between us and them, was the fact that they got caught. There was a unique form of energy coming from them.
Fathom Blue's lyrical content deals a lot with the struggles to find out if there's more to existence than the mundane, more than the routine. I can imagine they were connecting with that sentiment. Interestingly, an entirely new line-up came with me to perform in Westville Prison: Jillian O'Neil, Julie Signorelli, Dan Santana, Josiah Sherrow, and Martin Law. It was a three-day event, and I will forever be changed by the response of the prisoners.
Last year, we travelled from the United States to Latin America to perform for thousands of young people in Colombia. I think the lowest common denominator for our live shows is, "hope". There's an element of darkness to our songs, like an acknowledgment that life is hard … but there's a pervading message of light that shines through that darkness. I think you can feel it in our songs. When we played for thousands of people, many of whom didn't speak English, they could feel what words couldn't convey.
Question: How is the recording\writing\production going for the second album? What are some of the themes & intent behind the new set of tracks?
I remember when Skrillex first hit, reading about how he was a rock band front man before crafting dubstep, and about how he used Protools 9 to hone that sound. When Protools 11 debuted, I immediately bought it and started to race against the clock to use all of its' features in a non-typical way. Because Protools 11 is 64 bit, a lot of major studios refuse to upgrade.
I took this as an opportunity to create something new before they crossed over. The results we are getting are insane. Also, I think all of the artists collaborating with me represent the "working class artist" – people who aren't being cut huge industry checks to write and record. This is raw passion, and a love for the craft of songwriting on display.
As far as themes go, our debut full-length 'Brave Anything' was a ten-track narrative about a man and a woman who meet, fall in love, go through hell, and eventually find a deeper understanding of love through each other. I used the ten tracks as an extended metaphor about the metaphysical love our creator has for us. It was a very multi-layered approach to storytelling … almost in the way the Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings. What I want to do with this sophomore release is to continue the story of these lovers, but actually reveal their names and more details about their lives. As always, I have an autobiographical way of songwriting, so expect to hear me singing about a number of things that have happened in my personal life within the past three years through these two characters!
Question: What is the scene in New York like for the kind of music you produce, and is this the bands full-time gig or do you moonlight in other incarnations as well? I'm keen to understand what other projects you may be working on.
I absolutely love the NYC music scene. Coming from the Midwest, when you say you're an artist, peoples' first response is, "So, what do you really do for a living?" But in NYC, people treat musicians like they treat plumbers or carpenters, or any other tradesman. I think the history of NYC as a cultural epicentre loans itself to your credibility. Another thing I noticed is that there's a lot more appreciation than competition. Bands and artists have a very healthy respect for each other, considering how hard it is to get around the city to gig and promote. We've played gigs with people from the Late Night band who are exploring their own artistic pursuits apart form their musical "day job," so it's a wild experience!
Question: Where haven't you been on tour that you would like to go to and why?
We track the data from album sales and streaming services around the world, and several months ago we started to see a ton of activity coming from Hiroshima, Japan. We started seeing tweets pop up from the area and had a blast translating them with Google Translator. One actually said, "I have no idea what he's singing about but I love his voice!" [laughs]. I would love to take Fathom Blue that region to connect with them! Special shout out to @sugar_lies !!