Interview: The Fagettes

A guitar string stuck in an electrical outlet, a tampon popping out from singing too hard, equipment meltdowns during shows, getting a band set up for a show in a month—the Fagettes tell us about some harrowing stuff they’ve gone through. They certainly know how to put on a good show despite it all—I quite enjoyed them when I saw them play O’Brien’s in Allston a few weeks back. They’re a great, energetic, garagey, classic-sounding band with lots of male-female vocal harmonies and call-and-response. They’re playing October 13 at the Rosebud and they have a bunch of stuff online you are politely requested to buy, or else. They were good enough to answer some questions for us about their experiences putting music together and performing—lots of practical advice for people getting started out in bands, or thinking about it, some great stories, and a pile of recommendations, particularly of local acts. They make for a great interview!

How’d you get into playing music?

Mel (vocals and saxophone): Church choir at St. Patrick’s when I was a little girl. I have some really embarrassing home video – me with my long scraggly hair and unibrow trying to sing praises for the lord. Things ‘tween me and the church changed pretty soon after.

Peaches (drums and vocals): I started playing violin when I was 4 years old.  I picked up drums when these cats needed someone to lay down the skins

Ryan (guitar, vocals, and harmonica): I picked up guitar sometime in my young manhood and nothing’s really changed since then.

What would you recommend for a newbie trying to get into playing music? 

Peaches: JUST DO IT.  Find people who play music and ask to play music with ‘em.

Mel: Agreed. Talent and instruments – the less you have of both, the more inventive you’re forced to be. You just need a simple reason to play, like enjoyment, lust, boredom. Ryan and I got thrown on a bill somehow, we had a month to find a full band and learn a set, and that’s how The Fagettes started. We had a deadline and really wanted to be OK for it.

How do you go about writing songs?

Ryan: Sometimes I’ll start with music, and we’ll write the lyrics to the music, or Mel will have some lyrics and we’ll write the music to that. Other times, I’ll just get a phrase stuck in my head, like “I’ll kill him if I see him again”, and it’ll come together from there. There’s no single method, and we like it like that. Makes the results harder to predict.

Can you think of any problems with song writing people usually don’t hear about?

Ryan: A lot of people don’t treat the songs they create with the proper respect, and pay for their arrogance when the songs escape and start terrorizing and eating people.

How’d you get your band together? 

Ryan: Just got lucky, I suppose. Like Mel said, we only had a month to find a band and put together a set. I work best under the gun, and having only a month certainly lit a fire under our collective asses.

If someone were trying to get into starting a band, what advice would you give them?

Peaches: Get some beers and some friends and start a band.

Mel: Think up a good band name and then talk about it until someone eventually agrees to be in it. Write some lyrics and share them with a friend who plays an instrument.

Ryan: I find beer did wonders to kill my nerves playing in front of people before I was used to it.

Did you experience anything forming up a band that was a complete surprise to you, or something that people starting a band would find surprising?

Mel: I was supposed to “play” guitar in a new band I’m in, a two-piece. We practiced for like three seconds until I remembered how much I hate playing string. So I went to drums, she went to guitar and eventually scrapped that for bass. Now we have a rock n’ roll band with zero guitar, two drums, and a splash cymbal. It can be done!

How often do you practice?

Mel: Ideally, once a week. Twice if something crazy is happening, like we’re trying out a bassist or adding a keyboard player.

Peaches: Willy-nilly, Whenever. Once a week… if we’re lucky.

Ryan: Not enough. It’s tough when everyone has jobs and has to pay rent and we’re playing out a lot. Plus, before pretty much every show lately, we’ve had to teach the songs to whoever is playing bass. We’ve had about ten people play bass with us onstage at this point!

Any horror stories or funny things happen during practice?

Peaches: Nope, but horror stories seem to happen to us everywhere else…. like on tour.

Mel: At my last house, we were practicing in the basement, and a rogue guitar string got stuck in the outlet of a power strip. It burned to a bright red, in the basement of an ancient home built with horse-hair, surrounded by alcohol-soaked rug. Someone eventually noticed it.

Ryan: I once drank a Steel Reserve at practice. Gross.

Is there anything that was a surprise to you about the experience of practicing for gigs?

Mel: You make a song, practice until it’s tight, then it becomes second nature. After that, it feels good to play with it a bit. Even a little. Otherwise over time, a song can feel stale.

Ryan: The moment when a song comes together and I hear it and think, Wow, I genuinely enjoy this song is incredibly rewarding.

Any practical advice for people who are starting to practice for gigs?

Mel: Playing with the gear you plan to use onstage will identify any equipment problems that need fixing. We have more shows with technical problems than not. Be prepared.

Any horror stories or funny things happen up on stage?

Ryan: We’ve had every variety of catastrophic equipment failure imaginable. We’ve been on a lucky streak for about a month– knock on wood.

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who hasn’t played out yet and is trying to get over stage fright or just the overwhelmingness of playing live?

Peaches: Get a beer.  Drink it.  Get another beer.  Drink it.  Get two more beers.  Drink one. Take the other on stage.  Drink it on stage.  You will feel reaaaalllll goood.

Ryan: SUNGLASSES

Are there any experiences you’ve had playing live that people who don’t play would be completely surprised happens?

Mel: I sang too hard and my tampon kinda popped out. I don’t think anyone else noticed.

How do you record?

Ryan: We record at Mystic Steamship Co. in Arlington, with our dear friends Ian and Evan, two of the most talented, lovely people we know. Ian plays keys with us live sometimes and plays in Spirit Kid, and Evan drums for surf ghouls Beware the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion. Their studio is full of great vintage equipment, and everyone contributes ideas. We don’t let ourselves get caught up too much in recreating our live sound in the studio. Live, everything is going to be a little harder and faster, so it’s fun to experiment a little more in the studio if we have the time.

Any advice for a newbie trying to get into recording his or her stuff, either professionally or as an amateur?

Ryan: In general, I’m not big on computers, but home recording has never been easier with them. Ian and I working on a Tascam 424-based home studio where we can make cassette demos, and those are fairly easy to use.

Any bands you’d recommend that are from the Boston area?

Peaches: Hands and Knees, Dirty Virgins, Thick Shakes, Radio Control.

Mel: Rotten Apples, Nice Guys, Mmoss, Electric Street Queens!

Ryan: Fat Creeps, White Pages, Earthquake Party. I’ll miss Bozmo.

What are your impressions of the Boston scene as you’ve experienced it?

Mel: Very loving! Supportive! Productive! We are blessed.

Ryan: All of those things, but I think occasionally the community is a little too divided by musical styles.

Could you recommend one album by some other artist? 

Ryan: One of my favorite records from last year is Dinner in the Dark by Austin psych-garage band Shapes Have Fangs.

Mel: From last year, Unlearn by Fergus and Geronimo and Play it Strange by the Fresh & Onlys. From forever in time: any Simon and Garfunkel

What’s most important to you about playing music?

Mel: Being part of a community. Wearing stage outfits.

Ryan: Expression. The thrill of being on stage, the freedom of being in the studio.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Peaches: We have a new 7″ that everyone should go buy at our Bandcamp. Help, we need money.

Finally, is there anything we can do as writers to help you out?

Mel: Getting our music on a new website is great, thanks for asking us to do this!

Peaches: We could always use some money money money.

(Photos provided by Mel Bernier).

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