Recently, I took some time to sit down with Rob Batke, musician and member of Faunts, a Canadian based band that’s much more than your average indie pop ensemble. I (along with much of their international fan base) stumbled across their music thanks to the Xbox 360 game ‘Mass Effect’ which features their track M4 pt. II as the credits roll at the end of the game. From their I downloaded there debut album ‘High Expectations/Low Results, which completely blew me away. The band mixes gentle vocals and dreamy melodies with lucid noise and space-age thematics. Make sense? Maybe not, which is why words really don’t do the band justice. Faunts takes the listener on a dramatic auditory journey through the mind and is able to weave together an entire canvas of emotions; bringing something new, unique, and refreshing to the music scene.
Rob at I sat down and discussed the band, their past, their creative process and inspiration, the industry, their future, and most importantly, the music.
LWP: Rob, thanks for taking the time to do this man, I know Nashville, TN is a long way from where you call home, but your impact has reached out to this good ol’ Southern boy. And it is a pleasure to have you sit down and discuss your thoughts on the band, music, and life in general.
Rob: No Problem. I appreciate the support.
LWP: A lot of folks down here have yet to come into contact with the ‘Faunts’ experience. Talk a little bit about yourself, the band, and how things came to be.
Rob: Well the band started around 2000. Tim, Steven, and Paul spent the better part of a year recording the debut record on their own in a converted office space. High Expectations/Low Results was released independently in 2003, and some Canadian tours followed while building up the band within Edmonton’s growing music scene. A few different members have helped along the way, Dave Swanson was a big part for the first number of years, Nathan Seatter, and finally Joel Hitchcock was a large part in writing the M4 ep. Joel had moved away to Vancouver island after the recording of M4, and the guys needed some permanent members. I joined in the spring of 2006 to gear up for an American tour (which subsequently got cancelled 2 weeks prior), and around that time became a full time member. Scott joined around fall of 2006 and finalized the current line up.
LWP: So do you guys have day jobs? Or is the band a full-time thing for you all? And what is it like being in a band with your brothers?
Rob: We are all working or in school. The band is especially busy these days around the time of our album release, but we all have commitments. Currently half of us are finishing our Education degrees and half of us work in the construction industry. We’re waiting for Paul to either finish his Ed degree or pick up a hammer so we can decide who wins. Playing music with my brothers is nice when I can relate to a direction they are moving in either musically or business wise, but it’s still the familiarity of growing up together. We have our moments like any siblings do.
LWP: A little bit of a random question – but how did the name ‘Faunts’ come about? Is there some significance in the meaning?
Rob: The name doesn’t really mean anything. Tim noticed it in a publication years back, and I think he liked how it sounded. There’s no meaning behind it.
LWP: When I try to explain Faunts to people who haven’t heard your music, I am kind of at a loss for words. How would you describe what you do? Help some of the readers visualize the musical atmosphere Faunts creates.
LWP: It’s always interesting to learn about a band’s creative process. Your music leaves a lot out there for listeners to interpret and experience in different ways. For me personally, I listen to your music with an introspective state of mind, attaching some of my own meanings and emotions. What influences you guys? What other stuff are you listening to? And what do you want people who listen to your music to get out of it?
Rob: I have been listening to the new Junior Boys album, and a bit of Animal Collective. Tim and Paul are really into the new Loney, Dear record. It sounds great from the bits that I have heard. There are definitely the standouts like Junior Boys or The Radio Dept. that most of us all agree on. I think that we like finding pop/electro stuff that is well written and well produced, and most of all artists that are not afraid to try something new. I like when artists are not afraid to go past the confines of the latest bands whose names start with “Wolf” or “Tokyo”.
The last thing I listened to was Michael W. Smith singing “My Place In This World” with the Jonas brothers. I think Michael should stick to himself; the JoBros just bring him down.
I hope that people hear the dynamic in our music. We are very picky when we write and record. Some songs have been reworked three different ways. We try to spend as much time as we can on the little details of the album, and I hope people can pick up where we are taking the music.
LWP: Talk about the details from a songwriting perspective. Do you guys have a specific process when coming up with a new song? Is one person responsible for most of the writing or is there a culmination of effort from all of you? And how does your music translate from the way it sounds on the album to a live set?
Rob: Steven does the majority of the writing, but Tim, Paul and I make our contributions. Tim actually writes with Steven quite a bit, they work well together. Usually someone will have a decent amount of material for a song, and most of it is either worked out in demos, or some in the studio. We’ll add parts to other people’s songs, but usually most of the song is done by the sole writer and then other members will add their own touches.
LWP: So for me, personally (and most likely for a lot of folks here in the states) the first experience I had with Faunts was after saving the universe from annihilation in Mass Effect on the Xbox 360. As the credits rolled and the song came on, I immediately grabbed my laptop and Googled ‘Mass Effect Credits Song’ only to stumble across you guys and M4 (Pt II) – downloaded the EP, and the rest is history. Talk a little bit about how you ended up on a video game soundtrack, and how that exposure has had a ‘mass effect’ on the band.
Rob: I have a few friends that work at BioWare here in Edmonton. My friend Chris submitted a song from our first album to be considered for the credit track for Mass Effect. Casey, they project lead, was looking for something a little more 80’s Sci-Fi, so Chris showed him our ep, M4, that had just been released. Casey liked the track, and they decided to put it in the game. The response from it has been quite overwhelming. We are getting comments and adds on our MySpace page from all over the world. I think the placement of the song has worked to our advantage being at the end of the game. People work hard to beat this game, and we are constantly hearing from fans that there is a real positive association of our song with completing Mass Effect
Rob: We purposely decided to move in a more pop oriented direction. High Expectations/ Low Results had some major post rock and dream pop influences. M4 had a very electronic feel. We felt that our challenge was to write the best pop album we could, meanwhile keeping the feel of the previous Faunts efforts. We all think this is our best work, and are very excited for people to be able to see where we are at musically. I think we are all excited for the last track, Explain.
LWP: I know that here in Nashville, independent record stores are still a big thing, and there is something to be said for owning a physical copy of a record, but I also understand that overall it is a dying trend. You guys have chosen to release most of your work digitally on the web, so where do you see the music industry taking digital album releases as we head into the future? Will physical albums ever become obsolete? What do you see as both the advantages and disadvantages of releasing music online rather than distributing physical copies.
Rob: I think physical cd’s are already obsolete in a way, yet not entirely. I think the last 15 or 20 albums I have purchased have been digital. I do like to own the physical record, but it comes down to money. I’d rather spend $9.99 than between $20-$25 at the store. For Faunts, releasing digitally is a good business decision for us. The first album is released as a hard copy, along with FLTO. M4 and Faunts Remixed were released digitally because it is so much cheaper for us to do so. Start up costs for printing albums can be pretty big, so for releases like M4 and Remixed, it’s easier for us to release digitally. The great thing is that the Internet is not confined. It has allowed people from all over the world to find our music, and that is really amazing.
LWP: So now that you have been internationally recognized, you just released your second full length album, Feel.Love.Thinking.Of, what’s next for Faunts? Where do you guys see yourself as you look into the crystal ball of the future? Is the sky the limit?
Rob: I have no idea to be quite honest. There are some opportunities coming are way in the near future, but we all are working on careers and some of us have families. A few of us are working on some side projects, that’s always fun.
LWP: For us folks down here in the states, with the recent release of your new record, can we expect a tour from you guys in the not-too-distant future? And not just in LA and NYC, we folks down south need some love too!
Rob: There’s no huge tour plans for the next while, things in our lives in Edmonton keep us quite busy. There’s lots going on that keeps us here. Sometimes it makes more sense for us to do a trip down to LA or NYC because we can cram lots in a short trip. Edmonton is pretty far to tour from, even within Canada. Who knows, maybe MWS can book us a show at Rocketown.
LWP: Call it a gimmick, but towards the end of each interview here at Life Without Pants, I ask the guest what they think life would be like if no one wore any pants: Your thoughts?
Rob: Either we would all be far too self-conscious or not self-conscious at all. It’s a toss up. Nothing to hide…
LWP: And lastly, for the people who might have skimmed all the way to the end, as a closing piece, describe Faunts in 10 words or less.
Rob: We like to make well-crafted Indie pop albums. Thanks.
I want to again thank Rob for taking the time to sit down with me. It was a privilege and I encourage all of you to go check out Faunts; buy their records, show them some support, and spread the word. They exemplify what it means to develop musically with each new release. This is only the first of many interviews on deck for the future of Life Without Pants. So keep us bookmarked. And for reference, you can always head over the the INTERVIEWS page to view past interrogations.