Fialta Dish on Droughts, Travel and More

Photo Credit: Jered Scott
Photo Credit: Jered Scott

When it comes time for Fialta to hit the road with Sherwood this week, don’t be surprised when you think you’re seeing double. Members of Fialta are in Sherwood and well, vice-versa. With that, they say Fialta “started as a Sherwood spinoff” after David Provenzano and Mike Leibovich met Beth Clements and Sarah Shotwell while touring with Sherwood back in the day. So they say of this tour, “It’s like a big old, crazy family reunion, and in short, we can’t wait to hit the road with some of our best friends again.”

Just mere days after Fialta and Sherwood hit the road for a week-long run on the west coast, they’ll be dropping their second full length record, Shadow of a Drought this Friday. So before you head out and see this grand tour of indie pop goodness.

Kendra: Your music does a balancing act between indie and pop, but on a personal level – where does your musical preference stand when you’re listening to tunes on your own time?

Fialta: We each would have a different answer for that, but all in all, we took this new direction with our second album, playing with more synth tones and pop-inspired vocals, because we wanted to write an album that we would want to listen to. We absorbed a lot of music driving back and forth between San Luis Obispo and the Bay Area for recording this last year. If you were in the car with us, you would have had your fill of Rhye, Haim, Taylor Swift, Vampire Weekend, Foster the People, Tame Impala, Natalie Prass, and JR JR.

Kendra: Your new album, Shadow of a Drought, will drop while you’re out on tour with Sherwood – actually on July 15. Was that just a fun play on words for the title, or are you guys really into the environment?

Fialta: As residents of California, we are extremely concerned about the drought. Every person in California should be extremely concerned about the drought. It isn’t an environmentalist’s battle. It’s everyone’s battle. California has one of the most complicated and poorly regulated water systems of any society in the developed world. We are the last state in the U.S. to regulate groundwater. We have (largely unverified) water rights claims on up to five times our average annual supply. As a dry, Western state, where our demand for water constantly outstrips our supply, we are in dire need of real reform, civic interest, and renewed, energetic governance over our water. We also need to be creative and passionate about conservation as individuals.

However, currently in California we have a class war on our hands. There is a lot of cultural shaming surrounding the drought, and a lot of bickering, litigation, corruption, and greed surrounding water appropriation. This worries us just as much as the water deficit because we need to work together if we want to solve this problem. But the economics of water is inciting hatred and anger, primarily between rural and city dwellers, farmers and environmentalists. There is a lot of scapegoating happening. It’s very emotional and reactive at a time when we need to become logical and strategic. With this in mind, we are constantly seeking more ways to get involved. Right now, we are learning as much as we can, reading everything we can get our hands on. Sarah, who is a high school teacher, is looking for ways to contribute to public education on the issue. We also recently did a benefit release – a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” to support a sustainable wine growing organization called SIP, who does a wonderful job of educating about, evaluating, and monitoring sustainable best practices in farming. We’re also partnering with a filmmaker named Brittany App, a water activist directing a documentary on the drought called Where There Once Was Water. She is an amazing wealth of knowledge, and we are honored to be a part of it. Her movie will be doing the festival circuit in 2017. So yeah, I guess you could say we’re really into the environment. It’s our home, after all.

Kendra; No matter where the title came from, it features “Do the Best We Can,” which made me think of something Mr. Feeny would say. Growing up, even now, was there a mentor in your life on a musical level that has motivated you do continue to do better?

Fialta: We love Mr. Feeny! We’ve had some great mentors and teachers, but hands down, our parents win that award. Parents are the first access point to music lessons, resources, instruments, and encouragement for budding musicians. That started for all of us when we were really young. Our parents have been with us since day one, and now, even though we are grown up, they are still our main supporters and cheerleaders. While we are self-managed, we totally understand the “momager” business model. Mikey’s parents are huge supporters of what we do. They were performers, and nudged him onto the stage from a young age. His dad even participated in our new music video, as our Spanish narrator. David’s mom is the ultimate generous, caring, nurturing person — she encourages us with so much unconditional love and support. Beth’s mom used to urge her to sing in public as a child, whether at church or in musicals. We have this great video of Beth in church when she was 13, singing “God Bless the USA” to a group of veterans. It made the local news, and in the video, you can see Beth’s mom, weeping in the front row. Sarah’s mom is no longer with us, sadly, but she was Sarah’s musical mentor. A violinist, singer, and guitar player, she had big dreams of cutting an album with an all-girl band. She finally fulfilled that at the age of 50. She recorded a full length record with her friends while fighting cancer! You can’t underestimate the impact of seeing this modeled. Our parents have shown us that it’s never too late to follow our dreams. As cheesy as that sounds, everyone needs that irrationally hopeful, fiercely loving support system in place, just to keep going every day. No one can do that better than a mom or dad.

Kendra: Another song they’ll find on there is “Art Talk,” and with that – if you had to pick a museum in LA to perform at, which do you think would best fit your style and why?

Fialta: Art talk isn’t really about art, but about the way we use art to distract ourselves from reality — in that case, loss. Escapism can be seen in a negative light, but we see its function, too. With this in mind, if we had to choose a museum, we’d head north instead of south and host a concert at the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon – William Randolph Hearst’s coastal escape. Not only would that be completely bizarre and amazing, but something about the theatrical, West Coast gauche-iness of it all really appeals to our sunshiney and mildly ironic taste. Hearst’s beautiful, freakish monstrosity is no bastion of high culture, but that makes it the perfect pop object. It’s full of both incredible old art and crappy kitsch. So in that way, it raises interesting philosophical questions that connect perfectly with California culture and with pop music. What is real? What is fake? What is new? What is old? What is stolen? What is original? What is gimmick? What is authentic? Hearst Castle violently confronts visitors with these questions. Plus, it has an epic view of the pacific and a herd of zebras. And Lady Gaga filmed a music video there.

Kendra: When it comes to touring, do you guys pack as a group or just hope that everyone has their own personal checklist and gets it done?

Fialta: Wow! That is a great question. We are going to have to work together this time! We’re going to have 10 people in a van for this tour, so there will be quite an exciting game of tetris going on each day with gear and luggage and merch. We’re usually pretty streamlined with our packing. We’ve had a lot of practice. But really, Beth is the queen of lists and spreadsheets. There will probably be a google doc involved.

Kendra: After that run in July, what are you guys up to?

Fialta: We’re currently adding more show dates to our calendar around California for the end of July and August, and we’ll be playing some local shows in early fall in the Central Coast. We had an amazing kickstarter in the spring, so we will also be fulfilling all of those rewards. That will include some new recording projects, including some covers and originals. Then, in fall, before the holidays, we’re gearing up to release a follow-up EP. Mostly, though, we’ll be focused on promoting the album release, playing live shows, and applying for spots on next year’s festival circuit.

Kendra: Say you were babysitting a kid that just could not sleep, what five songs would you put on the best lullaby mixtape?

Fialta: We don’t have kids, and we definitely don’t babysit, but if we had to have a mixtape like that, a bunch of our favorite artists would show up on it. How about:

Lullabye” by Billy Joel
Lullabye” by Ben Folds Five
Lullaby” by The Cure
Insomniac’s Lullaby” by Paul Simon
And of course, “Lullaby” by Fialta

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