It’s a story contained in an album brought forth with the fusion of poetic verse and experimental rock. It’s called Fangs and it’s the latest album from BEC Recording artist Falling Up. Based on a story written by lead singer Jessy Ribordy, each song on Fangs is an observation of our hero’s journeys on a strange planet called Neptuenne. Eerily beautiful, strange, and ambient, Fangs captivates listeners with its many creative layers. Besides giving me the pleasure of an audio interview for The Christian Manifesto’s Podcast, Jessy also graced Backseat Writer with a “Take 5.”
*Fangs is a very different album in that it tells a story written by Falling Up’s own Jessy Ribordy (you!) How did the concept for your tale “Neptunne’s Cavern” come to life?
Well, as hippie as it sounds, I spend a lot of time in the woods out here in Oregon. There is a place that is pretty close by and it’s one of my favorite hiking areas up in the mountains. Casey Crescenzo, the producer, and I had been talking about the new record and what we wanted it to sound like. Casey’s idea of the songs I had written, sounded, to him, very mythological. Vaguely familiar to our Greek myths, yet remaining mysteriously foreign.
While I was on the hike I was imagining how crazy it would be to come across some ancient fortress or statues, that looked like Greek gods, but weren’t any that we were familiar with according to our history. I figured, for that to actually happen, I would have to be on another planet. And then the idea of the story just kind of came to me. Over the next few weeks, I developed the story more and more and slowly turned it into what it is now. Casey offered a lot of suggestions and I reworked it to fit the songs I had already wrote (which was about half ) and then continued to write the remaining songs exactly off the plot line.
*I have to admit that Fangs is a difficult album to talk about because it’s so complex. It’s got a plot line, characters, and articulate lyrics. What were some of the challenges in crafting an album with so many layers?
It’s difficult to create a group of songs based off a story. There are certain rules in songs that I believe I need to follow. A song has a miniature version of a story within it, but it doesn’t necessarily need to have dramatic irony, climax, or conclude. So to follow a story with songs, I had to manipulate both the lyrics and the plot summary of the story to fit one another. I had to bend the rules on each and compromise in some areas so that they molded together fairly well.
Even more intense is trying to create dramatic irony from song one and then paying it off in song four. That’s when it gets difficult to make things work because then you have three elements all working at the same time to produce a similar result. One of the ways we were able to keep an eye on the plot throughout each song was to record the songs part by part from one to twelve. As long as we were in order, we were always reminded of where the story was heading, and if changes needed to be made, they would be in the correct chronology.
*People are going to ask—why on earth are Christian rockers making an album that doesn’t even have a reference to God or Jesus or anything? How do you respond to those questions? (Let’s assume the people are just asking the question curiously, not in a harsh judgmental fashion. Basically, “How are you glorifying God with this album?”)
I have always been a believer in the idea that music can create all kinds of emotions, memories, and feelings that aren’t always based off the creator’s original intentions. For instance, when I was 16 I dated a girl and our favorite song together was “Come Home” by Matchbox 20 ( I know, I know, make fun all you want, I was young ). That song had a very romantic meaning between us. Come to find out, that song’s meaning is exactly opposite anything romantic- it’s about a guy basically getting suffocated by the presence of his overbearing and intrusive lover. It was written very beautifully and so it’s hard to realize that it has a pretty negative meaning. But you see now, whenever I hear that song on the radio, I can’t help but remembering the innocent days of young love, and that’s opposing from the intentions of the writer.
With all that being said, music creates emotions that are relative to the situation. One may listen to a record of a punk band on a road trip with friends and remember that fun, amazing summer. Yet the writer was pouring out his heart about capitalism, corporate folly, and igniting anarchy. There are spiritual ideals that bleed through the fiction in some points, and I hope those get recognized by the listener. I have always been a big fan of encouraging people, but sometimes it’s okay to have music that is just music and allow our relationships with one another to be the true encouragement.
*Additionally, this album doesn’t necessarily fit “industry standards.” How do you hope to challenge the Christian music industry in general with Fangs?
Most of the standards, in which I hope to challenge, are in radio. Essentially, there aren’t any “singles” on Fangs. Of course, that is “singles” according to how the standard is set, not actually how it should be; based off the favorite. Standard makes sure the song is within a certain time bracket, structure, sound, lyrical content, catchiness, and marketability. The problem is that a lot of people have favorite songs on a band’s record that would never make it to radio because of those rules.
Mainstream radio has always bent and broken rules to give the listener what they want. Christian hasn’t. They have played it too safe and that is the reason why it’s suffering right now. The industry should take the advice that John Steinbeck gave us in The Grapes of Wrath. The risk taker will loose everything, yet survive. For example, one of the songs on Fangs called “Golden Arrows” could easily be a radio single. But the problem is that it doesn’t follow one important rule: structure.
The Christian radio structure is as follows: Heavy hitting intro, toned down into the first verse, short pre chorus, chorus. Then verse two, no second pre chorus ( that’s supposed to be tricky ), more intense second chorus. Then this is always my favorite- The bridge that’s “supposed to take you to a different place for a brief moment.” ( which really is just a slight key change and, for most of the listeners, their least favorite part of the song ) and then a musical pause with just the singer beginning the last chorus and into…the pay off chorus at the end, usually played twice, in which the climax then concludes with a ring out of feedback or a small drum loop.
“Golden Arrows” doesn’t follow that and that’s why I realize radio would never pick it up. I would hope that I could really challenge the structure approach so that bands, musicians, and artist can allow their beautiful songs to breathe, without having to stuff it in the industry standard so that it’s accepted.
*What are a few of your favorite epic tales? And, of course, what do you like about them?
Watership Down, although not considered to be an epic tale, is my absolute favorite. I picked up the book and didn’t set it down until I finished it. I had never laughed out loud, paced in expectation, or cried over a book that much before. It’s just a beautiful story and I think every human being needs to read it. I am also a big fan of Greek mythology, especially anything with the sirens or mermaids cause I have always been fascinated with that idea.
*I’m curious—what further plans do you have with Fangs and “Neptunne’s Cavern”? A book or a musical or play?
I think a book would probably be next. I have a few other screenplays I am writing,so I am hoping to not generate too many ideas without allowing any of them to flourish. I think Fangs needs to have its own separate interpretation, and a book would be the right outlet.