Interview Series: Fierce Creatures

Hailing from Fresno California, the seven members of the Fierce Creatures are an indie orchestra that’s been able to carefully create a playful landscape of imaginative sounds. Having come together in the early 2000s, bassist Nathaniel Stiers met guitarist and vocalist Mathr DeLeón through a mutual friend. From there, the two began putting up flyers looking for a drummer. Tomas Galvan was the only one to audition. However, this was only due in part to him taking down a majority of the flyers in order to eliminate competition. Things continued in similar fashion: DeLeón knew guitarist Joel Melton, Melton knew singer Amanda Valdez, and Mike Adame on keys and guitarist/mandolin Jon Rulloda rounded out the lineup.

Abandoning past musical undertakings that never seemed to fit quite right, the band came together to build a fresh identity, free of limitations, focused on the joy of undiluted music. They drew inspiration from the melodic heritage of classic rock and pop, as well as the grandeur and spirit of its inventive successors by reinterpreting musical conventions and pursuing a song wherever it leads.

After a series of misadventures on the road, the Fierce Creatures went into a recording studio on Mission and Fifth in San Francisco. These sessions gave rise to their acclaimed 2010 EP I Mostri Feroci. Armed with Glockenspiels, mandolins, tambourines and maracas, the album is full of layered sounds, pop driven lyrics, and melodic explorations into sunny days and mountains. It’s a lively texture that romantically encapsulates the California dream. Tracks like “Satan is a Vampire” and “Harpooning” come over the senses like an electric orgy. Full of whoa-oh-oh-oh-ing, the band comes together in awe-inspiring wall of sound.

Their most recent release Catacomb Party  is the band’s first full length LP and thus far has solidified their place in the indie rock scene. Named after the catacomb tombs in Paris, the album is a mix between the Beach Boys, Radiohead, and Flaming lips. At the center of its pop heartbeat lies a less conventional and more spirited sound. The opening pair of “Ask For Lightning” and “Babbity Abbot” are gleeful in their enthusiasm and when the pace drops for “Lover’s Vice” things are still melodiously joyful and bursting with passion.

If anything, Catacomb Party is organized chaos. Its chalked full of instrumental breakdowns, modern psych-pop and heart pounding changes. By the time your done with it, you’ll either want to take a nap from the sonic workout, or better yet…listen to it again.

Q&A

LF:  Who are the Fierce Creatures? Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

FC:  We are a seven piece band out of Fresno California, made up of many musicians from our local scene. We came together after several other projects ended.

LF:  Who are your main musical influences? I noticed some similarities to both the Beach Boys and Flaming Lips.

FC:  Definitely the Beach Boys and many of us listen to the Flaming Lips as well. Broadcast, Radiohead and pretty much any other group/artist worth listening to. We all have varying influences individually.

LF:  Can you tells us a little bit about the recording process of your new album Catacomb Party. How was it different from your last album?

FC:  The biggest difference between this album and the last album was the writing process. The last album we really wrote as a group, this album had more defined writers and we all contributed during the recording process. Some songs were a group effort while others really started with one or two members. This is also the first time we’ve worked with different individuals for engineering, mixing and mastering.

LF:  Is there an overall theme running throughout the album?

FC:  Not really, it’s not a concept album. There are themes of light and dark, playfulness yet something not quite nice lurking beneath. Mainly we just wrote songs we enjoyed.

LF:  What does the title of the new record mean?

FC:  It’s a reference to the catacombs in Paris. It was pretty big in the 90s, people would go down there in groups or by themselves. That was the inspiration for Joel when he wrote the song. We like the name and thought we’d use it for the album as well.

LF:  How do you think “big concepts” play out in your music? Your sound is a complexity of layers that seem to further enrich the lyrical content. Where does one end and the other begin?

FC:  There really isn’t an end and a beginning. Sometimes the words and music are written together, other times separately. A lot of the lyrical content is developed around the cadence of the words and the music. You can give each song your own meaning. We tend not to write in “concepts”, I suppose when a song is done there is an idea there but it doesn’t always start that way. I think the layers happen out of the fact that we have so many members, it gives us the chance to experiment with different ideas of what an instrument is supposed to do in a song. A guitar doesn’t have to be lead or rhythm, a bass doesn’t always have to lay down the groove.

LF:  You guys are lucky enough to have moved past the up-and-coming stage of your career and become an established band, which seems like a comfortable position to be in. What motivates you now?

FC:  Ha, I wouldn’t say we’re past the up-and-coming stage. We’re still a working band, writing new music, touring and just trying to sell our albums and shirts so we can make it to the next gig. I think there is an illusion about the music business that leads people to believe that if you’re on iTunes and they read about you on their favorite blog then you must be living the good life. Its not that glamorous! We’re motivated by the same thing we were when we started, we want to be able to do this for a living, we’re not there yet so we keep pushing ahead.

LF:  What are your thoughts about the current state of independent music?

FC:  I’d say see the above answer for my ideas on the music industry. I think digital distribution has allowed musicians to take their careers back into their own hands. It’s made it cheaper to get your music out there which has always been a huge obstacle for musicians who want to get their album into a store. The internet allows you to get more people to listen and know about you so they’ll come to your show and hopefully buy something. Spotify and the like do let newer bands compete with more established acts but they don’t really provide the artist with much compensation. Being in a band has a certain romantic quality about it but at the end of the day, unless you are a superstar with a huge team marketing you and selling you to everyone who wants a piece, it’s just a 9-5 job that you drink while doing.

LF:  Whats been the biggest highlight for you guys this year?

FC:  I’d say getting the album out, it’s been a long road and a hard one. It’s nice to finally have the project finished so we can start concentrating on the future and new music.


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