AGL Live Session: Standby – “Feltzen South”
Posted: by The Editor
Progressive indie outfit, Standby, weaves colloquial lyricism with moody electric and acoustic guitar elements on “Feltzen South;” a song that is slated for release in the upcoming year. For our latest AGL live session, three members of the five piece execute an intimate version of the song outside in the grass, the breezy movement of the trees swaying with the bends of their shared melodies.
Garrett Rose and Brandon George caught up with us after the session to tell their story, talk about their upcoming release, and how they reimagined their latest music for a relaxed setting.
How did Standby form as a group? What’s your story?
Garrett: Standby initially started as my solo project in middle school, and I was too stubborn to change the name to anything better once the current band members joined. We all met through the arts programs at our high school and bonded over being a bunch of goofy buffoons. We’ve been playing music together for almost ten years.
Brandon: I’ve known John for eleven years now.
Garrett: Through that time our wants and expectations for the band as a musical project have changed dramatically. Through meeting new people, experiencing new scenes in the music community, and dealing with life together, we’ve all been pushed to create our upcoming record, which really feels like it’s taken the full (approximate) ten years to create.
Brandon: I still remember the first show we did. It was a school concert cover show. We did Comfortably Numb and Have a Cigar by Pink Floyd and I forgot the words to Have a Cigar halfway through.
Garrett: That’s right, hahaha.
Brandon: I think that’s when they knew just how much of a burden I would be. We really are just a group of friends who decided to attempt to utilize some of that inherent creative spirit to make something people can empathize with. Otherwise, we talk about movies, politics, books; we play Dungeons and Dragons, and board games, and video games together, we go on trips and cook stuff with each other. They’re kind of my second family, in the best way.
The dueling guitars on “Feltzen South” are delicately expressive, a perfect compliment to the controlled emotion from the vocal. What is this song working to convey?
Garrett: The way we write songs is a little counter-intuitive, seeing as our goal is to always end up with a wholistic result (a song where the words/melodies and instrumental carefully compliment one another). This being said, I wrote the instrumental to this song, while Brandon (as he always does) wrote the words. In the end, I feel like we got something that really feels like the lyrical concept and music are after the same goal.
Musically, the song is supposed to have feelings of a bittersweet coming-to-terms. The chords never really feel resolved and there’s a constant pulse that feels like a reminder that time is going to go on as it always does. The “dueling guitars” section is a break in this feeling and starts up a conversation that just ends in a more conclusive version of the previous ideas. With Brandon’s words, this totally makes sense. The two characters in his story are talking to one another as one consoles the other in regards to recent loss, while maintaining a positive outlook and promises of hope. The coolest thing about this concept too is that the guitar part played by the first guitar is the same thing played by the second guitar, but just out of sync by a measure. It sort of paints a subtle picture of “it’s all been said before”, while still pushing along the message and arriving at a small cathartic moment.
Brandon: Yes, definitely. If I can expand on that in my ever-present need to talk way too much: lyrically when I write, I use fictional, often fantastical, characters to personify emotions and ideals. Whether it’s my own, or I’m using it to explore and understand the philosophies of others. Much of this upcoming record is about loss, the effects it can have on people, and the ways people learn to cope with it. “Feltzen-South” is very much a conversational piece. It’s a debate, thematically and musically, of philosophies on loss and coping mechanisms. One side of this is the ghost, the personified sense of romanticized self-harm, and the other side is the living, the side that has to live with its ramifications, and knows how dangerous it is. This all manifests itself musically. There’s a real love inside of the debate; the instrumentation is gentle, the vocals restrained, but it’s strained and tense, with odd meter and syncopated hits creating turbulence in the serenity; and it presents the very real frustration wherein these people don’t want to hurt each other, and yet there’s this great disconnect between them and their philosophies.
You describe your music as “spooky indie / gritty prog.” How have your influences shaped your style?
Garrett: Our influences are a huge part of our sound and style. Because we grew up together, we were constantly exploring new music together and have so much mutual nostalgia rooted in certain records. When we write something as a group, we know how to play it because we know what we’re referencing.
Brandon: We can have conversations in the writing room completely in musical references.
Garrett: Yeah, and over time, the influences of each band member also have grown on everyone else considerably. Some of us are mostly into classic indie bands/records like Beirut, Andrew Bird, Sufjan Stevens, etc…
Brandon: Mitski, Julien Baker, Hey Rosetta.
Garrett: Others are more into classic prog bands/records like Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, etc and so these combined led us to bands like The Dear Hunter, Manchester Orchestra, tons of math rock, and some more punk-y math-y stuff.
Brandon: Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra and the late, great Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit are the foundations of where I come from as a lyricist. And I vibe really lyrically with a lot of hip-hop, too: Frank Ocean, Saba, Noname, Vince Staples.
Garrett: We’re also SUPER influenced by the people we play with.
Brandon: Mm. Ovlov, Quarrels, a bunch of people.
Garrett: A lot of bands at our relative level make music for much more intrinsic rewards, and that leaves us being exposed to an endless supply of amazing music with tons of personality. The descriptive words “spooky” and “gritty” we use were chosen because we also have a goal as a band to sound very realistic and relatable. I think without the word “spooky”, indie just sounds like the stuff played at Starbuck’s (which is also great! Just different). Without the word “gritty”, prog just sounds like the stuff you hear hairy people play on the guitars at Guitar Center (which is also cool, but still different).
This session allowed you to perform “Feltzen South” acoustically, a deviation from the music of your latest EP, The New Space. What was it like arranging version? Will there be a full band version in the future?
Garrett: This track’s full-band realization will be on our debut LP, planned to release next year. I’d say it’s one of my favorites from the record, but that’s not true because there are only 8 songs and they all fucking slap in their own way.
Brandon: They really do. It’s always fun to arrange songs for more intimate settings because we suddenly have to rethink some of the song’s evocation. On the record, the ending crescendos into these massive hits with these disgusting, sludgy guitars. It’s very Doom Folk, like Sunn O))) does a Sufjan Stevens cover. It’s cathartic and violent, an emotional outburst. But when we translate that into a live session, the hits become less like these massive pounds of a hammer and more like heartbeats: far gentler and more nuanced, but equally startling. The musicianship of some of the song, the canon, for example, is also laid far more bare, on display, reflecting how exposed the emotions are in the stripped-down setting.
Garrett: We’ve played shows in that area of New Jersey a few times now and always have the same experience with people being so ridiculously kind. This was also the last day of our 14-day tour over the summer so it was so so great to be in a familiar place playing a fun song outdoors with super nice people. One highlight, I’d say, was that Brandon is allergic to mosquito bites and got real bit up. While that sucked, it spawned this great parody we had of Frank Ocean’s “Biking” where we started singing “got me fucked up, got a million bug bites” and I really can’t wait to whip that one out at the next applicable moment.
Brandon: I got bit by five mosquitos! Once on each elbow, no less! It was a really comfortable space that had a lot of potential to mesh comfort and aesthetic. I had a good deal of fun just talking with them about music and the tour experience with them in between the setup and shooting. At one point they mentioned that Pool Kids had just done a session, and we all laughed because we had played with Pool Kids the night before and I was wearing their hat I bought at the show.
Mixing and Mastering: Doug Gallo
Video Production: Savan Sekhon, Anthony Comi
Videographers: Savan Sekhon, Ryan Hillsinger
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