The bombardment and seduction of slick and glamorous illusory images and the mostly scripted “reality” tv, in our fame culture, almost make a person, especially a young person, feel as if fame is the only valuable measure of success. So it is refreshing and inspiring to hear of a group of musicians getting together to make music for the sheer joy and process of playing together, because they feel called to it, because they have something to say; oh yeah and their talented. Of course they wouldn’t mind if everyone in the world heard their music as well, but their focus is on the journey- and you hear it in their music. Drumfish is the name of the band and it subsists of Aaron Bertoglio on drums and percussion, James Hanford on base and vocals, Larry France on guitar, piano, and vocals, Alex Petty on guitar and vocals, and Margie on violin. This once broken up band has reunited with three of its original members and it looks as if time has allowed Drumfish to mature and to look inward questioning the illusions of fear and apathy, questioning oneself, and endlessly searching for the light. In the song Motion, from the CD Memoirs, Alex sings:
Nothing was ever in your hands
Nothing was ever in mine
Only love remains when the illusion falls away
Let your mind gently hover over the details of your life
Let your life arise by letting be what is
This is, for those of you who are familiar with the writings of David R. Hawkins, Power verses Force. A lifting of the veil and clearing of illusions to discover what truths dwell beneath. This is not “yes sir, no sir” or “roll over and play dead,” but a powerful call to look beyond what you are told, to look so far beyond that you look within, because that is where the small humble voice and feeling of truth lives.
In the process of interviewing Larry France from Drumfish it became clear that the purpose of the interview was to call forth the inspiration of doing something you love doing, for the simple joy and process of it, not just for an end result. I feel that a person, myself included, will sometimes, get so overwhelmed by achieving the goal, or by the fame image, that he or she forgets it is a daily, even playful, journey, and this fogetting will often stop us before we begin. So remember and begin!
How long have you been playing music and what instruments do you play? Each of us has been playing for most of our lives. We started young and some cases at 4-5 years old. Aaron plays drums and percussion. James plays bass and sings. Alex plays guitar and sings. I play guitar, piano and sing. Recent addition Margie plays violin.
Drumfish broke up in 1999 and then got back together in 2009; is this incarnation of the band running smoothly and if so why is that? This new incarnation is running very well. We did lose our original bass player Neil Richardson when he moved away last year, but after a long search we found James Hanford who has been amazing. He jumped into the group both musically and personally like he’s been here since day one. But the biggest reason that things are going well is that we all see the big picture now. This is going to sound cliché and/or boring but we’re playing now just because we love it. We don’t need to do this for money. We all have jobs. And we constantly say that if we’re not having fun then we’ll just stop. Many of our rehearsals end up being more about hanging out with friends than about playing music.
How has starting up the band again changed you on a personal level? I think all four of the members felt like there was a void in our lives. There was a time when we were all trying out various other projects, each of which seemed to fail. There was some kind of karmic experience one day when we all realized that we’d each been listening to our old CDs. And there was just a feeling that we needed to get back together. And it has just been a very natural thing. We all click so well musically, but even more so we click personally. We just love doing it. It wouldn’t matter if we never sold one CD. We enjoy the process so much that it doesn’t matter. However we of course, we do love it when people validate our efforts by coming to shows or joining our Facebook page or buying CDs, etc…
Who writes the songs? What are the pervading themes in your music? Songs are generally first initiated by Alex or me. Sometimes a musical idea is developed nearly to completion by one of us. Other times it’s only a snippet, but at some point that idea is brought to the band as a whole and it is then developed the rest of the way. However we think of songs as living things. They are never “finished” even if they are recorded. We view the recordings on the CDs as a memorialization of the songs at a particular moment in time. They will continue to evolve after that as we rehearse and play live concerts. There are some very profound themes in our latest CD. We noticed that many of our new songs carried a message about a spiritual awakening within oneself. A call to make a change within in order to effect a change in the world around you. And as we realized this we began to tailor the other songs to reflect the same message. For more on this, see Alex’s blog post about it….
Could you talk more about “No Hesitation” was it inspired by a specific experience or is it a more general quest for answers? In this particular song, a protagonist has gone through a series of internal questions and struggles before beginning to “see the light”. And in this song, he is finally beginning to understand. He is going for it with “No Hesitation”. You can hear the dueling vocal lines in the song. The lead line is the protagonist’s thoughts and the backup line is his conscious talking back to him. Even a third line is brought in during the third verse. And these are representations of that internal struggle. Musically the song was inspired by a guitar snippet that I had started playing. Without much more it was brought to Alex where the dueling vocals lines were first created and then brought to the entire band where it was developed to the point we hear on the CD.
You have said that the artwork, produced for Drumfish’s Cds, is a big part of the band’s overall experience, why is that? Who does the artwork and where does the inspiration come from? All of the art is done by Aaron Bertoglio, the drummer/percussionist. He is is a graphic designer by day and brings all of that talent into the band as well. He also does all the posters and logo designs as well. Aaron may not often come up with the actual lyrics used in the songs, but he is an integral part of the entire musical and lyrical process in terms of overall themes and ideas. And he represents those ideas behind each song and the overarching work in the artwork. A lot of time is spent making sure that not only the imagery is indicative of the lyrics but also it represents the back stories and hidden meanings. There are often messages or “clues” put in the artwork that relate to the songs which might not be at first transparent to a listener. In addition each of the CDs intertwine and that is represented in the artwork as well. You could say that Aaron is a modern day Leonardo da Vinci.
Who are Drumfish’s influences? The influences are pretty wide and eclectic. Originally the band met as music majors in college so there is a lot of classical, choral, jazz, Latin, orchestral stuff in there. You’ll hear it in the songs in various sections. But as a rock band there are also the influences of many of the “popular” genres as well…rock, pop, funk, etc… I think each member would give a pretty different set of artists if you asked them to make a list.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Historically our biggest challenge was always a struggle to get heard. We want the entire world to hear the music and that’s really hard to make happen if you’re not being backed by a monster record label. We do what we can on our own. I think the biggest challenge now is that we all have jobs and families which are important to us. We struggle to balance all of those things while still trying to put as much time and effort into the band as possible without jeopardizing the other parts of our lives.
How do you and your band mates define success for Drumfish? Are you happy with the current popularity or do you want to take that further? We would love to be the most popular band in the world; to be able to do music for a living and not have to worry about other jobs. And I think any band would have those kinds of goals. However we are also very happy with the other parts of our lives so if nothing else ever came from the band other then our enjoyment of playing, that would be fine. As said earlier, we enjoy the process. That’s all we need, but if any other things come out of that, then we would be very happy with those developments as well. We also have a goal to create a mountaintop studio called “Eagle’s Nest Studios” and are in the process of making that happen.
What advice do you have for people that want to form their own bands? Just do it. Jump right in and start playing and have fun. Work hard but get enjoyment out of that work. Find people that you enjoy being around and mesh with musically. Enjoy the process and everything else will fall into place. If it starts to feel like an obligation then stop.
Drumfish will be playing the 8×10 in Baltimore on Saturday Feb 5th. For more information call: (410) 625-2000.