Fly Golden Eagle, the Nashville psych-rock band behind last year’s epic 26-song release Quartz (and the more condensed Quartz Bijou) seem poised for an excellent 2015. They’ve collaborated with artists like Alabama Shakes and Benjamin Booker in the studio, and their own live show is earning accolades from critics in the Southeast and beyond. Get to know the band a little bit better by watching the video for “Stepping Stone” above. Paste caught up with Fly Golden Eagle’s Ben Trimble about the video and the work that went into Quartz.
Paste: Can you tell me a little bit about how the band first got together?
Ben Trimble: Fly Golden Eagle started somewhere around 2008 as more of an experiment. I vowed to only play in people’s houses accompanied by beat tracks on a cassette tape played through a boom box wearing only a golden spandex suit. I would jump around and really confuse people. The first venue show there was about 12 people there. One of those people was Mitch Jones, who was known in Nashville as being the crem dala crem of organ players. I had seen him play with several groups and was extremely excited when he offered to start playing keys after the show. As so many people experience, playing with pre-recorded tracks turned existentially lame, so Richard started playing the drums. Richard’s enthusiasm took the whole thing to a new level. Eventually Matt, who had just moved down to Nashville from the Big Apple, took over bass. With him on bass everything really came together, and we felt more of a presence than four instruments. This last summer we added our buddy Alejandro on percussion. Him being a seasoned percussionist gives all the songs bounce and more energy. So as it is now, the five of us have all evolved into Fly Golden Eagle.
Paste: Tell me a little bit about this song in particular, “Stepping Stone,” and what inspired the lyrics.
Trimble: We all know the Monkees’ hit ”(I ain’t your) Steppin’ Stone,” written by the duo Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Our song is a re-appropriation of their idea. Watching Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and gang perform “Steppin’ Stone” is funny cause they were someone’s stepping stone. The sentiment can apply to actors wearing customs with guitars just as much as us working our day jobs. No one is the sum of what they do for money or pleasure.
Paste: This music video has a really interesting feel to it. Why did you decide to have more of a live performance feel? Can you tell me a little bit about the aesthetic decisions?
Trimble: For that video we wanted to see what doing a live performance of that song in a very sterile, monochromatic environment would feel like. Curious if the performance would succumb to the space or visa virsa, we built a 20-foot white circular room. What was surprising, though, is that performing in a white circular room was wildly energizing. It felt as if we were performing inside a battery or power plant. The aesthetic could be called raw futurism.
Paste: You worked for a music supervisor before Fly Golden Eagle. What was that experience like? How did it affect your own music?
Trimble: I suppose it was like having spotify 7 years before everyone else. I will say that CD booklets have a ton of great information in them, especially reissues.
Paste: Nashville has a very distinct community of musicians. How has that affected Fly Golden Eagle as a band?
Trimble: Personally, I have to say Nashville has been a great place to call home the last 10 years or so. With more musicians than business men, it can feel stodgy sometimes. I’d compare it to living in a city where everyone was passionate about making sausage. Every block would have a sausage factory in the basement or garage, and everyone would be out socializing talking about sausage. What makes Nashville special though is all the kooks and creative people there that aren’t into sausage. Some of our favorite Nashville artists are chefs, engineers, painters and film makers. As a band we’ve benefitted greatly from this community as well as the community of musicians.
Paste: Tell me about the making of Quartz. What was the biggest challenge, particularly since the collection of songs is so large? What made you decide to include 26 songs on one album, rather than cutting it down or dividing it up?
Trimble: You hear that this is the ADD generation, and that the albums are dead and all this. However, movies are like 4 hrs long now and come in trilogies, kids books are longer, and podcast seems to be gaining more and more peoples attention for hours at a time. I kinda think people are into sample bites or hearty meals. Essentially Quartz originated with the question of, “What if we created something that in it’s form and function asked something of the listener?” That, and it seemed exciting to create something that people could immerse themselves into, walk away, come back, and it would still be there. What if they could do this multiple times? That’s one of the things I dig about great double disc albums, All Things Must Pass, Blonde on Blonde, Exile, Trout Mask Replica, it’s difficult to commoditize them. They seem to keep going more like a cathedral than a house.
Paste: How did Quartz Bijou come about? How did you settle on which songs to include?
Bijou’s songs was picked by people we trust. Pressing 26 songs wasn’t an option for us.
Paste: What are your goals for 2015?
Trimble: Personally my goal is to make all these videos I’ve been thinking of happen. As a band, our goal is to loose 30 pounds and to connect with Lovechild’s Double Smash.