Fractal Cat released one of our favorite songs when they put out “Lovingkind” as part of an album of the same name last year. On Saturday night, the Baltimore band will be playing at Cafe Nola along with CassiRaye. We recently caught up with the band’s leader, Miles Gannett, and he told us about what it’s like to play out in Western Maryland, his favorite song on “Lovingkind,” the band’s influences, and how a dream about John Lennon inspired Fractal Cat’s latest record.
You guys occasionally come up this way to play (Frederick and Hagerstown). What’s your perception of the Western Maryland music scene and Frederick, specifically, as a music town?
Keith knows more about Western Maryland than I do, since he lives out in Boonsboro (although I lived in Westminster for two years when I was a little kid). My impression of Frederick and Cafe Nola is that it is a pretty a young crowd, who are really enthusiastic about live music. We have had a good time playing out in Hagerstown and Frostburg, and over the state line in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, too. We met really friendly people and welcoming crowds in all of those towns, but Frederick has probably been the liveliest place we’ve played in Western Maryland. We’re really excited to hit the festival scene this summer when we play Blossoms Blooming!
I really loved “Lovingkind” – it’s a record that just has such a vibe to it. Can you talk a little about the recording of it? Did you have a specific thing you were looking for when you recorded it? Was it intentional to create the type of vibe that’s found on it?
Thanks! We recorded the album in my home studio. Our friend Mike Franklin engineered it, and I produced it with the help of our friend Nick Bertling. I wanted to create a cohesive psychedelic record about love and spiritual growth that would evoke classic ’60s psychedelia but still have a modern feel, so in that sense, the vibe was intentional. I think the vibe comes partly from the songs, partly from everyone’s playing and the textures from all the instruments, and partly from the treatments that we applied in production to make everything a little weird — the distortion, the field recordings, etc. Bob Olhsson, of classic Motown fame, mastered the album, and he really helped bring everything together and make it sound like one record.
What’s you’re favorite song on the record and why?
That’s hard to say! I think in terms of the song itself and how the realization of the song came out, I’d have to say “As You Fly.” That song came to me in a dream. Actually, I was dreaming that John Lennon was singing to me. I didn’t see him, but I heard his voice singing this song to me, and then I woke up and wrote it all down in one sitting. We were in a hurry to put that one out as the first single off the album, and I was feeling kind of stuck as to how to finish it, so we called in Nick Bertling and he helped us finish the recording, coached my vocal performance, and spent his whole birthday mixing it.
Conversely, are there moments that you listen back to and think, “Shoot, I wish we would have done this instead?” If so, which ones and why?
I wish I had had more time to play with some of the recordings, like “Yellow Sun” and “Tryptide.” We had already booked our CD release party because we were attached to the album coming out in the summer, so I had to get it over with. All in all, I’m very happy with the album. I just might have to remix it sometime.
What are some of your career’s favorite, most accomplished memories so far?
Well, we had a really successful cat-themed album release party at the 8×10. A lot of people’s efforts went into making it a really wonderful celebratory event. Our drummer, Jason, and his wife, Rebecca, planned everything, and Rebecca made us cat ears to wear. We had a magician and two amazing opening bands, and the place was packed! Another big moment was when WTMD’s Sam Sessa named our song “Tryptide” one of the best Baltimore songs of 2014. Of course it was a huge honor when you named “Lovingkind” one of your favorite songs of the year on Frederick Playlist!
Who were some of your biggest influences and why?
When Keith and I first met back in 2005, we really hit it off because we were both really into classic psychedelic music, and particularly Gong, Syd Barrett, and the Beatles. Those are still three of my biggest influences. Those artists are obviously psychedelic in style, but I think you could also use the modern term entheogenic, meaning “awakening the divine within,” to describe their music. Something about the way psychedelic sounds can disorient and alter perceptions, combined with silly-wise cosmic lyrics, makes that music very powerful. It is really inspired by an experience of standing outside of oneself, and it conveys that experience, if you can “tune in” to it, I guess. I really admire Gong in particular for the way they synthesized so many different styles and were virtuosic without taking themselves seriously.
Keith and I are also inspired by early rock-n-roll, especially Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Buddy Holly. We’re all into New Orleans funk, R&B, and jazz; our drummer Jason has really gotten us into that. Keith is a big fan of old-school country music. Andy is the band’s resident Dead Head. Josh probably listens to the most classical music out of any of us. Kim, being a flutist in a rock band, is influenced by Jethro Tull. As a soloist, John Coltrane is a continuing source of inspiration to me.
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt is a magical place with some really crazy and cool cats who come out to see us and seem to love us! We just had one of our most memorable shows there in March. In Baltimore, the 8×10 feels like home. That’s where most of our friends will come out to see us. The management and the staff are super friendly. We also love Cafe Nola, Dante’s in Frostburg, and Metropolitan in Annapolis.
Through all your travels so far, can you give us some names of some musicians/artists who we might not already know of, who we should keep an eye on?
Brooks Long, Rufus Roundtree and Da B’More Brass Factory, “F,” J-Pope and Funk Friday, Voodoo Pharmacology, CassiRaye.
What does 2015 hold for Fractal Cat?
We have all the songs written for our third album, and we’re currently tightening up the arrangements and rehearsing the material. We’re hoping to start recording early this fall, and maybe the album will be finished before the end of the year. That would be amazing, but I really don’t want to rush this one. We’ll also be playing some festivals this summer and fall, such as Blossoms Blooming in June in Western Maryland, and Floyd Yoga Jam in September.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at Cafe Nola?
We’ll be playing for about an hour — CassiRaye and Up the Chain are opening the show — so we’re going to play our best songs, including some brand new material, and we’ll be jamming more than what you hear on the record. Our newest band member Joshua Lilly will be on the keys, and we’ll be joined by Sean P. Finn on French horn, cornet and violin.