First off, congratulations on the release of your excellent new EP 'In a Case of Fire' and thank you for agreeing to take the time out to do this. The first question that comes to mind is: Where did the name Submarine Fleet and the band logo come from?
AS: I dreamt up the name while sitting on the back porch of my brother’s house in Arcata, in September of 2001. I was inspired, in part, by an article I read about a submarine builder in South Carolina who built his own ships for the express purpose of chasing down the Loch Ness Monster. As I recall, his latest one was powered by a locomotive engine, and he said “It’s gonna’ sound like a train a’comin’ !”
LM: Better look out, Nessie!
ML: The symbol is our interpretation of a wwII sonar man’s insignia. It seemed appropriate.
AR: I found the wwII sonar man’s symbol and took it to Mark. He and I basically turned it into our current symbol.
DC: At some point, one of us had an aquamarine dream/vision, or if we didn't, we meant to.
For those not
familiar with Submarine Fleet, who is currently in the band and outside of
their obvious individual musical contributions what other talents or
contributions do each of them bring to the project?
Mark Linder (vocals) : Also handles the website. And comic relief.
Lauren McKenzie (guitar): Creates the illustrations which appear on our promotional materials.
Ash Sain (baritone guitar) : Recording engineer.
Ashe Ruppe (bass) : Publicity, Creates the electronic flyers, Handles all the web stuff aside from the main site, Does the video production, Drinks lots of Guinness and Newcastle.
Dan Canty (drums) : Contract rider for Mark? (Around the time that I met Ash in a taxicab, Mark was moving from Arkansas to Oregon, on the condition that a good drummer was procured. That never happened, but apparently I still sealed the deal for The Vocalist.)
One of the things
that impresses me about Submarine Fleet is that while it's a collaboration of
several talented musicians who have been in other bands (and some who
currently are still involved in other projects), it isn't a copy of anything
from past or present projects. Have there been any problems with fans
wanting to attach it to past or present projects or not being able to realize
that it is a separate identity?
AS: If this is going on at all, then I guess I’m oblivious to it. I really don’t know what the audience is thinking. I just play shows and hope that people show up. We made a good record, and we hope that people will discover it. I’m looking to make music that will enthrall and challenge new listeners, whoever they might be.
ML: I’m not sure I’d specify it as a ‘problem’, but it is mildly apparent. We gently bring them to listen to us, as we are, not as we were.
AS: Is that really what you think, Mark?
LM: I agree with Mark pretty much, actually.
AS: I guess then when it comes to audience perception, I’m out of the loop.
ML: Possibly, Ash, but not as much as that may sound. It doesn't take much coaxing to get people to realize, and appreciate, what we are, as Submarine Fleet. The quality of the music we make, in my opinion, makes us an easy sell to people who have been, or are, fans of previous enterprises.
AR: I don’t think fans of any of our previous bands try to attach our current music to our past projects. Sure they may have a preconceived notion of what they think it may sound like, and they may even hear bits that remind them of our past bands, but I believe anyone that knows any of us from previous or current bands can hear this band is a totally new feel and has its own identity.
AS: I feel like that was a really weird question.
DC: Absolutely...it reminds me of a question I heard Last December.
Speaking of past and
present projects, would you like to take the opportunity to plug any other
projects that any of you are involved in?
AS: For a while, when I was in between bands, I felt that maybe I should redirect my efforts toward being a producer. And I produced an album for Cinema Strange called “The Astonished Eyes of Evening”. It’s available from the German label ‘Trisol’. Anybody who’s interested in my work should check that out. It’s a masterpiece in every respect.
AR: I have an “electronic industrial” project called disekt. It’s a project I started a little over a year ago with JM from Carfax Files but its just now getting off the ground. We’ll be releasing our first album in the near future. I also have a dark ambient project that I’ve been doing for quite a while called The Elysium Façade.
If you weren't
currently involved in Submarine Fleet (or any other music project) what might
we find you doing with your lives?
ML: Raising Nubian goats in the Appalachians
LM: Drawing and reading. Those are my two main activities. And promoting my art career. So, basically I would be doing all the stuff I do now minus the band.
AS: Producing records for other artists.
AR: Doing video, spending time with my fiancé. I’ve been involved in bands for so long its kind of hard to even imagine what I would do if I didn’t have any sort of music project at all.
Being (hypothetically) not involved with any music project, I would most
likely be coping with the mental and emotional trauma associated with not
being involved with any music project.
Typically, how does a new Submarine Fleet song come about?
Is there a primary songwriter within the band or are those duties shared by
Songs are approached differently, but there are methods.
LM: I don’t hardly write nothin’!
AS: I work up a great deal of the structures and the instrumentation. Lauren and I play the guitars as a team. As you can probably hear on the record, I write intensively interlocking guitar parts for us. But I think that as a group we have yet to alight upon a single songwriting method. Particularly with respect to the songs we’ve written since “In a Case of Fire”, there’s a lot of songwriting methods being attempted recently, yielding a variety of results. You’ll get a better perspective on this, I think, once we finish our next record.
AR: Typically, a couple members will have an idea, which they will develop, then later bring to the rest of the band to finish working out.
ML: Ash is a spectacular composer and arranger.
DC: Lauren writes everything (I mean Lauren in a broad and abstract sense.)
Do you aim to create a specific mood or ambience or is the
band's sound more a byproduct of everyone's individual mood and state of mind
at the time of each song's creation?
AS: I definitely strive to create a ‘certain mood or ambience’ every time I write. It’s not as though those moods could be articulated in words, but I think those atmospheres are an important source of inspiration that can’t be overrated. What makes it interesting, though, is that the mood I initially aim for is not always the mood that the song ends up conveying when Mark & I are done with the demo. And certainly the mood and character transform again once the rest of the band puts their spin on it. So long as this represents a series of improvements (and it usually does) then I’m happy.
AR: When I write personally, sometimes a certain mood or state of mind can inspire me to write a song. I cant recall ever sitting down and saying….I think I’m gunna write a sad song…or I’m gunna write an angry song or whatever.
How does the band measure success? Is it by records sold, feedback from others or is it more a case of personal satisfaction and being able to create on your own terms?
Depends on what you consider ‘success’. We are successful at writing songs we
like to hear.
LM: As long as we are constantly working on new stuff that we like, having new experiences, playing shows, disseminating our art, moving forward, and enjoying the process, I don’t really obsess over whether or not we are “successful”.
AS: I’m undecided as to my definition of success.
AR: Yah. My ideas of success have changed since I first started playing music. I always set goals for myself and when I reach them I set them higher and higher each time. I’m not quite sure where I stand on that issue now.
ML: Ultimately, I would love to be 'successful' in the sense that our music allows us to concentrate exclusively on making music. That would mean it would have to bring in enough money to support us. Will I stop making music simply because it cannot support us financially? Absolutely not. When using the word 'success', these two facets of the definition, in my mind, share nothing other than the word 'success' itself.
DC: see AS.
Your ep "in a Case of Fire" was entirely self-produced and self-released. Although by looking at the artwork, layout, design as well as by listening to it you wouldn't know it since it's so well done. With advances in recording, printing technology and independent music being more readily available on internet radio stations and on websites such as Myspace.com, have record labels become outdated and do you see any need or have any desire to sign to a label?
AS: As far as your reaction to the look and feel of the finished work, thank you. A great deal of effort went into that. As far as the rest of your question is concerned, yes, I’d like to see us sign with a record label. I think that having a sort of ‘dissemination apparatus network’ would greatly help us to multiply our audience and make touring feasible. You’ll note that on the CD we made no indication of there being a label. It’s a distinction that we wanted the audience to be aware of at this point. But you’re right to bring this up, because the music industry is in an unprecedented flux. In the eighties, the major labels made a fortune by introducing the compact disc format and jacking up the price of recorded music, only to have it backfire by a) bringing the price point for recorded music high enough that a thousand independent labels could afford to launch, and by b) delivering music in an insecure medium which can be so easily replicated. I’ll bet the RIAA wishes to god now that they’d never introduced the CD. But I don’t think record labels are outdated. When represented well, record labels can add a great deal of relevance to the experience of collecting music.
ML: Ash makes really good points here. If handled properly by a record label, the sky is the limit (or at least the zenith of your ability to make compelling music is the limit. We make our own sky...), and I would love to have a record company take care of the things that can help make a band successful. We are professionals at making music. Let the professionals at disseminating our music do just that.
The question isn't whether we can make and release professional quality music and packaging on our own. We can. The question is whether we should. There's a lot more to making a 'good release' than good music and professional packaging, and record companies are much, much better equipped to tackle all of those other things than we are.
According to the Submarine Fleet Myspace page, the band "is presently refining new material for a follow-up release, whilst performing shows in and about their home city." Do you have a tentative release date for the new material at this point?
LM: We have a bunch of songs ready to be recorded, so, soon.
AS: There’s an ambitious project brewing here. But we would risk making asses of ourselves if we gave you a date just now.
ML: I think the new stuff is really good. I also think people may be a bit surprised by it. But that's all I'm going to say on the subject for the time being.
Have you had any unusual touring experiences or shows that
really stand out up to this point that you would be willing to tell us about?
LM: We played a show during the daytime, in broad daylight, in a parking lot of a strip club in Salem, where our audience consisted of a garden gnome and two deflated Sumo wrestling outfits. It was good. No, it was AMAZING.
AS: We played really well that day.
ML: We really did, it was incredibly surreal. How well we played, the intensity of the music, and the environment we played in was such a strange situation. At a few points during the set, I was actually shaking from the intensity of the music, but to have, literally, no one there, just made it bizarre.
AR: That was totally surreal. It was like a scene right out of a David Lynch movie. I’ve tried to explain it to people before…but it’s just so strange you cant really grasp it unless you were there. That was the single weirdest show I’ve ever played…anywhere.
DC: I had baked beans and curly fries for breakfast that day...but I hope to recover eventually.
From it's early beginnings as the solo ambient improvisational project of Ash Sain to the 5 piece band that it is now, Submarine Fleet has taken an unconventional path and has evolved over time to become the cohesive band that it is today. What can fans expect from the band in the future?
AS: I think we’re getting moodier, and less conventional.
AR: Honestly…I’ve never really thought of Ash’s ambient Submarine Fleet and the current Submarine Fleet as one project that just transformed. We actually started as Electromagnet, a totally separate project, and after rearranging the lineup eventually decided to use the name Submarine Fleet. As for what to expect from us in the future? I’d say lots of shows and quality albums and some cool videos.
ML: Agreed. It will be very interesting to see where this music takes itself over the next couple of years.
DC: Future Shows = Quality Music and/or Geisha costumes.
Thanks once again for all of your time and agreeing to do this. Any final thoughts?
AR: Thanks for taking the time to interview us. Keep up the excellent work with your station….I listen to it fairly often and certainly before every show we play….its kind of a ritual I have.
Submarine Fleet Homepage : http://www.submarinefleet.com
Yahoo Page : http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/submarinefleet
(Click on the cover to hear samples or to order)