Fake Problems doesn't have many problems, real or imagined. Instead of worrying, they focus on having a good time and touring often. Singer/guitarist Chris Farren taught the band how to play Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover" while lounging poolside before opening for Lucero in Phoenix a couple months ago.
We spoke to Farren about recording Daytrotter sessions, playing Radio City Music Hall, and collaborating with Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat and Mae Whitman.
Up On The Sun: What's the music scene like in Naples, Florida?
Chris Farren: The music scene in Naples, Florida...right now and lately it's been kind of dry. I know there's some shows going on, but since we're on tour so much, I'm a little bit disconnected from it, especially because there's no real venues or anything in Naples. But we have shows whenever we can. We have a show at the end of the headlining tour we're about to go on. There's kids here that want to see shows, it's just that they happen so scarcely and rarely. Sometimes they're just at bars. It's rare that there's a show here, and it's especially rare for any touring national acts to come down here because there's no venue, and because it's so far down in Florida, and there's really nowhere to go once you get here.
UOTS: How did you decide to start playing music?
CF: I think I was drawn to it when I was around 16 or 17. I was in a few whatever bands in high school. I think once all those bands started breaking up and everyone else was talking about going to college and stuff...and I went to college for a little bit. My main drive and passion was definitely still playing music, so I just decided to pursue it as hardcore as possible.
UOTS: How did you select the bands you're going on tour with?
CF: We're friends of a lot of them, friends of friends and all of that. When we were setting up this tour, we were tasked with figuring out who could support us. We made a list, a short list, and basically every band we wanted is on the tour, so it was pretty cool. It's a lot of bands we had been listening to, or we had a lot of friends that suggested something and we checked it out. It was really awesome. Mostly just mutual friends and mutual love of music.
UOTS: Who have been some of your all time favorite bands to tour with?
CF: We had a great time on tour with our friends in The Gaslight Anthem. We had a great time on tour with Against Me!. We love touring with our friends Murder By Death, that was really fun. We've done that twice now. We toured with Thursday, that was really cool. Frank Turner was amazing. We've toured with Frank Turner like three or four times now and it's better every time. He's doing so well right now, it's awesome.
UOTS: What was your experience like at South by Southwest?
CF: It was pretty fun. We've always enjoyed South by Southwest just because there's so many great bands playing, there's so many other musicians. I think if you get a little too introverted and start over-analyzing things, you can start to feel pretty insignificant in the sea of tens of thousands of bands. But if you just look at it as a fun way to meet people that you can potentially work with in the future, and gain new friends and fans, it's just awesome, it's a fun time.
If you go to South by Southwest and take it too seriously and think like you're going to make it or any crap like that, you're not going to have a good time. If you just go in to it with a fun, carefree attitude and just say let's play some shows, have some fun, and let's meet some new people. It's awesome.
UOTS: What was your Daytrotter session like?
CF: We've done two and they were both awesome. Those people are the best. For some reason we're always scheduled to do it in between a show, or we have a show that same night, so we always have to show up at 9 o'clock in the morning or something. It's always super fun, you go in there and play around with some songs and you can think of ways to change them. They have so many cool instruments and vintage amplifiers up there. You can just go crazy and have fun, it's such a fun thing.
We're hoping to get back there sometime later this year and record a ten-song session. Spend two days there and have a really fun thing. And also, the two Daytrotter sessions we've already released, I think we're going to release a ten inch of both of them. We've been talking a lot about that, I'd love to do it. The artwork is already done, they do the pictures.
UOTS: Over the past year, I've noticed that a lot more bands are using Tumblr for promotion, and you seem to have a lot of fun with it. What's that been like for you guys?
CF: I love Tumblr, it's fun, it's just another one of those things like Twitter. If you're a band that wants to connect with your fans, you have to have your finger on the pulse of this stuff. Which makes me sound like an old person sneaking in to hang out with little kids or something. I had a Tumblr before, and I knew how to navigate it and everything. I integrated it as much as I could to make it all band. I think it's just another fun, interactive way to talk with us and see what we're up to.
UOTS: That way you're not confined to 140 characters.
CF: Yeah, exactly, or have to have a Facebook or any of that stuff. It's just a really nice public way.
UOTS: I saw that you guys did a Bobby Darin cover. What was the motive behind that, and do you have any more covers up your sleeve?
CF: We're thinking about a few songs we can cover that we'll hopefully be breaking out on the headlining tour. The Bobby Darin thing, I just heard the song one day and thought this song sounds awesome, we should cover it. I learned it so quick because it's such an easy song to play. It's funny, because we learned it acoustically first. Derek has an acoustic bass and Casey was playing a banjo. We just learned it by the pool one day and the next day, without ever practicing it as a full band, we played a show opening for Lucero in Phoenix, actually. We played the song without practicing it and it went off really well. We were excited because we'd never done anything like that before, like learn a song that day and play it, so exciting. It just kinda stuck in our set for at least the next few months.
UOTS: Does Fake Problems have any real problems?
CF: I guess as much as anyone else does. Little stressful things every once in awhile, all that stuff. Nothing major to complain about.
UOTS: What have been some of your best and worst tour experiences?
CF: I can list pretty much the highlight of my career so far- playing Radio City Music Hall with The Gaslight Anthem. That was pretty amazing, that was such an epic venue to walk into. You have to get there at like 8 o'clock in the morning because of all the union stuff. You can only load in at this time and all this, so we walked in and walked through all this back area boiler room-esque kinda stuff. You turn a corner, and all of a sudden, you're on the stage of Radio City Music Hall. You look at all these seats and the house lights are on, and it's freaking crazy. It's nuts. That was a highlight.
A lowlight, let's see...I don't know. There's been some kind of bummer tours. Nothing really to complain about, though.
UOTS: I've seen The Gaslight Anthem a few times, and Brian Fallon always has these really crazy stories. Is he like that on tour too?
CF: Yeah, that's who he is. He's very much like the person he is on stage.
UOTS: How would you say your sound has evolved over the years?
CF: It goes record by record. It's really what we're...as people in the band into at the time when we're making a record and when we're writing a record. I personally listen to so much music all the time. I'm always illegally downloading music. I'm always trying to pull from something and get influences and new ideas. I think it's a natural progression based on that and whatever we're listening to. We don't ever try to recapture an idea. We don't like to make the same record twice, basically. We don't even like to make the same song twice. It's all about not repeating ourselves and going forward instead of staying in the same place and making the same kind of music for our career.
UOTS: What have you been listening to lately?
CF: I really like the new Cold Cave record, that's pretty cool. I like the new Destroyer record. What else do I like...I just got the new Kills record. Hmm...I don't know if I can say I like it yet, I still have to keep listening to it. I love Cheap Girls. I've been listening to Laura Stevenson and the Cans a lot in preparation for the tour. All the bands really are, on the tour, amazing. I've been listening to all of their records just so I can sing along.
UOTS: How did you get together with the Arrested Development girls?
CF: We've been friends with them for a long time. Casey, our guitar player used to live out in LA and is friends with Mae, and then Mae is best friends with Alia. Any time we're out there, they'll either come to a show or we'll just hang out. When we were recording, we met up with them at a bar one night, and we were doing vocals the next day. I said, hey you should come and lay down some vocals. It was just going to be for one song, but we ended up having them on three or four different songs.
UOTS: I didn't even know they could sing.
CF: Yeah, they're great. Mae is a professional voice actress, so she's got it down.
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UOTS: What are your plans for this year?
CF: We're about to go on the headline tour, which is going to end...it goes from April 14 to May 21. Then in the summer, we have a lot of things on the table. We're going to do a few more tours in the US during summer and [then] I'm not sure. I would really love to get over to the UK and Europe, but it's just about money and timing and all that kinda junk. It's so expensive to go there.
UOTS: Have you played abroad before?
CF: Yeah, we've done I think four UK or European tours. It's been almost two years since we've been back. It's all just a bunch of logistics we're trying to figure out.