(Photo Credit: Sonya Kitchell)
We had the opportunity to talk with Howard Feibusch, of the group Howard, about the group's musical inspirations and their upcoming album, Together Alone, which drops 9/14 on Fashion People.
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it as a profession?
I started playing guitar when I was 12. You know, I just kind of had like, some small school bands that weren't too formal. Then, when I was in college, through a series of circumstances, I was able to start my first band. It was called Orange Television and I was actually studying art and medicine at the time. My plan was to go to medical school.
But, you know, I started to feel that magic of just being in the room with other players and writing songs, and kind of a new way with new influences, and just kind of exploring a lot of writing, and starting to get a taste of what it is to play live. It just all coalesced, and I almost didn't even know. I didn't feel like doing it. But even in college already, it sort of became like, a full-time operation. I had part-time jobs, but it has basically been full-time since I was 22. This was [while attending the] University of Massachusetts.
2. Could you elaborate on your writing process? Do you have a set process for writing music?
I wouldn't say there's a stright process because I really seem to enjoy coming at it from multiple approaches, and I think, for me, that's how it keeps it fresh. I'm thinking of some that came from just playing guitar outside—finding the right melody and chords, and building it in a pretty traditional way.
Some of it weirdly develops, not originally from a computer, but in more of an editing format. There's one song in particular. I'm picking up where we were just kind of jamming and something really interesting was happening around the beat, and I just kind of chopped it all up and made it sound like a human drum machine. And then, the challenge was getting a melody and lyrics to feel right after that.
Some will just be inspired by a beat or something I'm listening to at the time, or I do a fair amount of TV composing that only really started towards the end of the record, but that definitely inspired me in some way.
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
Radiohead are definitely a huge, huge one. I would say they were my religion for like five years. But, it's weird. On our first record, there was definitely a clear body of influence that I was listening to. And I know, it's been a really hard climate for me for digesting music the last couple years. I think one of the things that made making this record so hard was not having a North Star influence. I was always trying to force myself to be inspired.
I think with Spotify, there's just so much music at my fingertips that I never had the chance to settle into anything musically that I was listening to, and there were a couple of records that I just kept coming back to. I used to be mesmerized by production. But, everything has cool sounds now. Production isn't even that impressive to me anymore. It was almost like scaled back production started to be more influential.
I fell in love with a Sparklehorse record that I kind of overlooked when I was younger -- Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain. There was just something about the feeling of that record that I really related to.
This one Everly Brothers’ record that my wife had from her father's collection just had a big impact on me. Just thinking about the silkiness and rawness of their voices.
The Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up was a big one for me over the course of writing this record.
I don't know; it was just like a couple of random things that I would keep coming back to. But, I can't really say anything in particular. I think the challenge was just finding things that felt right in a climate that was just totally over inflated with music.
4. Do you have any favorite gear? And if so, do you have any stories behind them?
I got this Guild; I forgot what model it is. It's like a Bluesbird. It's like one of their Les Paul ones that I found in this vintage guitar shop in Portland a couple years ago when I was starting to make the record. It's funny, actually, that one trip to Portland really inspired a lot of gear. I hadn't spent money in a long time and then I dropped like three grand. So, I bought this vintage Guild Les Paul style guitar, and I'm sure a lot of readers will kind of relate to this feeling. It doesn't come often, but sometimes, you're just walking into a guitar shop and pick something up that's just like there and it has a desire for your hands and your ears. I was just like, “Holy shit. This is the tone.” It was just gritty enough and had a bite that it works at the same time.
On the same trip, I was starting to get really in a modular sense, so I kind of built this kind of guitar effect rig through modular synth with this patch box this company makes that basically brings your guitar to modular level so that you can run through it. So, a lot of the guitar tones were through these kind of weird modular effects, and then, I kind of decided to play with it more just as an effect like on the overall recording and mixing. You know, I just kind of fooled around with some weird filters, reverbs, and gates.
I have an amp that's pretty cool. It’s one of those Fender Pawn Shop Excelsiors that I got modded a couple years ago with this fat eminence speaker. That is pretty much, my Guild through that, is my tone.