Stewart from Bad Owl Presents had a chat with Fly On Byrd, Fly On guitarist, Ari, in the lead up to their StrangeForms performance.
BAD OWL PRESENTS: You released your debut EP, Lost Lands, in January - can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the songs on it and the recording process?
ARI: Lost Lands happened by accident. We'd been practicing in a pay-by-the-hour room since we first formed, and we didn't tend to get much done in the three hours we practiced a week. The first night we practiced at our new place (Bedford Guitars) we were there until 2am, Ryon banged out this bass line and Hyperborea was born - in fact Ryon's pretty much the driving force behind most of the song writing!
The influence comes from a tonne of places; I was introduced to Sigur Ròs and Radiohead from a fairly early age. I used to hang around with the older kids. When I was 14 this dude lent me Ágætis Byrjun he said to me "you probably won't get it, but have a listen..." it blew me away. I gave up with guitar music when I first moved to Sheffield around 2003 and got into producing minimal techno for a little while - I had discovered drugs. I fell back in love with guitar music after hearing 'Earth is not a Cold Dead Place' by Explosions...holy moly, I'd never heard music like that! I had to find more like this.
I think James (drums) and I share the most in common musically, we've both been to see Slint together and we often watch music documentaries round at mine. James is influenced by the heavier stuff, things like Kylesa, Converge and Baroness. The band first started out as a three piece, I'd borrow heavily from Explosions, James would borrow drums from Baroness and Adam would just riff over the top. Our very early stuff was hugely minimal, almost techno-like. I think we discovered our sound when we wrote '/0' which still had that driving repetition, we'll still bang it out at a gig every so often.
I moved from bass to guitar, and Ryon joined on bass. This is when things started to massively take shape. Having mainly played in hardcore bands Ryon hadn't really heard much post rock. When Ryon joined the band we all gave him some homework, mostly stuff of a heavier ilk, Red Sparowes and Maybeshewill. He took to Maybeshewill and ran with it. Ryon loves Thrice, and tried to get me into it, I shrugged it off at first!
Song writing started to become a lot easier, and we began to sound a lot more like Fly on Byrd, fly on once Adam left and Kingy (keys) and Damo (guitar) joined. Kingy shares a lot of music in common with me, being a huge Radiohead fan and enjoying the softer stuff; we often share music between us that the others really wouldn't get on with.
Damo brought a lot to the table, mostly thick heavy riffs. If you'd ask Damo who his influence is, his first response would be Russian Circles, no doubt about it. Though it would have to be said, Damo is an even bigger fan of Thrice than Ryon (he has the tattoo to prove it) - I still shrugged off Thrice. Kingy also hounded me to listen to 'Vheissu', and I didn't for ages, probably longer than year. I eventually buckled and listened to Thrice on the tram on my commute to work once. I listened to Vheissu. "Holy fuck" I thought, "They sound a little like us, without all the flowery gubbins...ohhh, right. OK. Thrice are pretty damn good aren't they?!"
With Lost Lands we really set out to better the stuff we'd written previously. I think we managed that.
The recording again happened by accident. We came runner up in Derbyshire Times' Band of the Year competition (we just love playing the Real Time stage in Chesterfield, so any excuse to get on it!) We were noticed by one of the chaps in another band, Andy Dawson from Blakshine, he owns The Old Library recording studios in Mansfield. He was really keen on getting us to come and record at his place. Ryon met with Joff, the recording engineer, and told him what we wanted; it seemed whatever was said in that meeting was absolutely spot on. When we got round to recording at The Old Library everything was perfect; from doing trigonometry to work out the optimal positioning for the drum mics to the choice of equipment, experimenting with different pedals and amp combinations. We managed to record Lost Lands within two days.
BOP: You're currently doing great things for the post-rock and math scene in Sheffield with your MADE shows, having recently showcased some of our favourite bands like Lost In The Riots, Polymath, UpcDownc and Vasa, amongst others - how hard is it to refrain from sticking Fly On Byrd on every line-up?
ARI: Incredibly! The amount of grief I get from the guys if we're not on the line-up is unreal!
Truthfully, as we run MADE every quarter, with such a high frequency of events we often run out of local bands to put on. We will usually repeat acts Mike and I enjoy. That said Fly on Byrd, fly on have only played three out of seven that we've put on. We're booked up until next year now too, so I can now use that excuse not to put us on. At least not until 2016!
BOP: We're putting on your fellow Steel City dwellers, Awooga, in Leeds in May - what other Sheffield bands should we be looking out for and how do you find the general DIY music scene in your home town?
ARI: Oh man, Sheffield has a lot of gifts to give. Our "sister band" Gilmore Trail for one: imagine Fly on Byrd, fly on's beautiful, more elegant sister with a look that could break hearts. They are due to release their second album 'Floating World' on the 16th May, look out for that. In fact, I'm sat writing this interview whilst listening to their incredible debut album 'Sailing Stones', so, SO good.
If you were to ask in Sheffield which bands to look out for on the post rock scene, they'd mention us, Gilmore Trail...and Skyligers. Wowee, you should REALLY listen to Skyligers. They've only just jumped into the studio to start recording their debut. They have a few demos on Soundcloud, but nothing (so far) can match seeing them live. If Fly on Byrd, fly on are the ugly sister, Gilmore Trail is the beautiful sister, then Skyligers would be the extroverted, hippy, drug-taking, weird sister; hot in preying-mantis kinda way. Imagine a groove driven, PJ Harvey-esque psychedelic post-rock mesh of beautiful, delicious thick soup that warms the ears like porridge.
There's a tonne of heavier and weirder stuff that Mike and I have put on and would like to put on at MADE. Kurokuma, Mangabros, The Rubber Sound Experiment, Lunar Maria, Bonetti, Che Ga Zebra, Blood Sport, Unicorn Hunters, Little Mono to mention a few.
MADE works closely with The Audacious Art Experiment - one of three DIY venues in Sheffield. TAAE will deal with the weird stuff, Tye Die Tapes (now unfortunately shut) would deal with the beard-rock stuff and Lughole is mostly punk stuff. There's a lot bubbling under the surface in Sheffield at the minute, it's like a pot on the boil and the lid's about to be blown clean off. The DIY scene in Sheffield is something we're incredibly proud to be a part of, especially with the bands and venues we're blessed with.
BOP: Fly On Byrd, Fly On will be playing on the Sunday at StrangeForms - are you planning on sticking around for the day or weekend and, if so, who are you looking forward to seeing?
ARI: I wish we could there on the Saturday, we will however be sticking around all day Sunday. Absolutely gutted I won't catch half the bands on the bill, unless I can find a way to Leeds somehow. We've played with Envoys before a couple of times, and we love 'em, those cuddly, sweet little bastards. &U&I were incredible at ArcTanGent last year. Also, gutted about potentially missing fellow Leicesterfarians 'Her Name is Calla', in fact the more I type the more I'm trying to find a way up on the Saturday too! Alright the Captain are always mad good. We have Waking Aida, Civil Protection and Kusnagi playing MADE in the near future so can't wait to finally catch a glimpse of them live. I watched a video of Falls too, well good. In fact Bad Owl, you've done a bloody good job with this line-up, it's ace. All of it!
BOP: Fly On Byrd, Fly On are asked to curate their own gig - what four bands, past or present, would you have on the bill?
ARI: Relatively easy question, I think. I'm thinking that even before I've written anything. I'd have to try and be fair to everyone.
- Russian Circles
BOP: And finally, other than StrangeForms, what are Fly On Byrd, Fly On's plans for the rest of 2015?
ARI: We're going on a mini-hiatus from the end of May for a couple of months or so. Damo is due to become a daddy in June. We're continuing to focus on our first full-length record and finish writing an album. We will be playing two of the tracks we hope to stick on that album at Strangeforms.
Fly On Byrd, Fly On play StrangeForms at 3pm on Sunday 5th of April.
Weekend tickets cost £15 and can be purchased from Jumbo Records, Wharf Chambers or online at https://badowlpresents.bandcamp.com/merch
Day tickets cost £9 and can be purchased online at https://www.wegottickets.com/f/8765