Friday, February 6, 2009

Fiction Family talks with Signon San Diego


Pretty awesome story. Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins talk about they're beginnings at that infamous show, Street Scene. You know? The one with Wilco, R.E.M., Nickel Creek, and Switchfoot on the bill? Well, anyways, without further ado, here is the article, full and reproduced. I didn't write it. Sign on San Diego did:

HAPPY REALITY: Fiction Family debuts here tonight

Nearly 1,000 bands have performed at Street Scene since its inception in 1984, but Fiction Family may be the only one whose very existence can be traced back (or, at the very least, backstage) to the annual music festival.

In 2003, two of San Diego's most nationally successful bands -- the multimillion-selling Switchfoot, led by Jon Foreman ( shown at right, standing), and the multi-Grammy-winning Nickel Creek, featuring Sean Watkins (seated, with guitar) -- were booked to play at what turned out to be the --final Street Scene held in downtown's then-rapidly expanding Gaslamp Quarter.

In between performing with their respective bands and checking out the headlining gigs by Wilco and R.E.M., Watkins and Foreman met backstage.

"Living in the same town, we'd heard about each other," guitarist-singer Watkins recalled, speaking from a recent Fiction Family tour stop in Atlanta. "So, my sister, (Nickel Creek violinist-singer) Sara, and I were like: `Let's go introduce ourselves.' And we did, and Jon and I exchanged e-mail addresses."

"That's correct," said singer-guitarist Foreman, who -- given the benefit of hindsight -- now thinks the acknowledgments in the liner notes to Fiction Family's impressive new debut album should be amended.

"We didn't thank Street Scene. We should have, though," he said. "That was such a great day of music. And it brought us together."

Their brief encounter soon led to a chance meeting at the Encinitas Pannikin. It is about equidistant from the North County homes of Watkins and Foreman, who are both avid surfers.

Additional get-togethers at the Pannikin followed and the two began talking more seriously about collaborating on a musical project. Before long, they had co-written "Betrayal," a lilting ballad from Fiction Family's self-titled debut album. The duo, augmented by bassist-keyboardist Tyler Chester and drummer Aaron Redfield, performs here tonight at downtown's plush, all-ages Anthology.

Apart from a few cameos on violin by Sean's sister, Sara, and the use of a heavily processed drum track by Chad Butler from an unreleased Switchfoot song, all of the instruments on "Fiction Family" are played by Watkins and Foreman, who even breaks out his junior high marching band trumpet. ("My level of proficiency has only decreased since then," Foreman said with a laugh.)

What results is an invitingly organic melange that draws from folk, rock, blues, psychedelia, swing and more, including a whisper-soft version of jazz vocal great Abbey
Lincoln's "Throw It Away." There are also reverent nods to The Beatles, circa 1965 (on the gently infectious opening cut, "When She's Near"), and Bob Dylan, also circa 1965 (on the album-closing "Look for My Baby"), as well as nods to Radiohead (on "Out of Order" and the moody "We Ride").

"There are common elements Jon and I share musically and those are definitely two of them," Watkins, 31, said. "So we're happy to have people say it reminds them of The Beatles or Dylan, rather than Linkin Park."

Foreman, 32, agreed, adding: "For me, a lot of the songs on this record were influenced by that era, without trying to be a throwback record. And I think you'll find very few people making music today that aren't respectful of what Radiohead's been doing the past 10 years, with the places they've taken chord progressions and production."

Twelve songs strong, "Fiction Family" was released late last month
on ATO, the record label owned by the Dave Matthews Band's namesake. Yet, except for a few recent tweaks and the addition of a new song or two, the album was essentially finished and ready to go by 2006.

"It was funny," Watkins said. "We started to make the record (in late 2003), had it done two years later and thought it would come out then. But there was stuff to do with Nickel Creek and it kept getting pushed back. It was supposed to come out last spring, then last fall."

"Pretty much all the songs were done back then," Foreman agreed. "I mixed them all in the corner of this room at my folks' house a few summers ago. Because of the nature of the project, it didn't matter. We weren't on any timeline.

"From the moment we said, `Let's write a song,' we were making a record. Obviously, it was at an incredibly slow pace, since we were both doing other things, then coming back to it and enjoying each other's company --. and the process -- with no intent of doing a tour. I've always thought the best music is made when you're not hoping for any sort of anticipated result, and that's certainly been the case with this."

Fiction Family's debut U.S. concert tour kicked off last month in Michigan. It concludes tomorrow night at Largo in Los Angeles.

After that, well, nothing, at least for now.

"Part of me wishes we were completely free, schedule-wise, after this," Foreman said. "Because most of what has gone on so far on this tour has felt really natural, with Tyler and Aaron backing us. It feels like, `Wow! What if we made a record with this lineup?' It would be very cohesive, whereas the album Sean and I made is all over the place.

"Right after this tour, I go down to Latin America with Switchfoot and then we finish our next (album) project with Switchfoot. So, maybe after that, we could come together and record a few sings with Fiction Family. It's a great fit, musically. It really feels like a fictional family."

Nickel Creek is on indefinite hiatus, but Watkins is also keeping busy.

In addition to the possibility of doing some show with sister Sara in support of her upcoming debut solo album, the Watkins siblings hope to mount a summer tour with WPA, a new eight-piece band that teams the two with former Toad the Wet Sprocket leader Glen Phillips, Elvis Costello's rhythm section, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' keyboardist Benmont Tench (who also plays on Sara's upcoming album), pedal-steel guitar master Greg Leisz and Nashville fiddle sensation Luke Bulla.

Despite all this activity, Watkins shares Foreman's enthusiasm for reconvening Fiction Family as soon as their schedules allow. Meanwhile, what about directly competing -- at least in name -- with hip-hop mogul Puffy's Sean John clothing line?

"Initially, we thought we'd call ourselves `The Real Sean Jon' and try to get sued by Puffy," said Foreman, who used that stage monicker when he performed with Sean and Sara Watkins at the 2007 San Diego Music Awards at Viejas.

"That would have been our in -- we were the band that got sued by Puffy! But when things got close to the record being released, we talked to people close to Puffy's camp, who said, `Yeah, it probably would happen. You'd get sued and you wouldn't want to be there when it went down.' So, the reality of it didn't sound very funny."

Union-Tribune photos by Charlie Neuman.

Hope you enjoyed that. Happy Friday! :)

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