Friday, March 26, 2010

Battin' Lashes: The Fruit Bats

“You don’t happen to be from the Northern suburbs of Chicago, do you?” It was with this immediate, intimate connection surrounding the strip-mall-scattered suburbia of the greater Chicagoland area that Eric Johnson, lead singer and chief songwriter of Fruit Bats, answered my phone call. Area codes can be so telling.

Click through to read more and hear the full interview!

The Fruit Bats are by no means a well known act, but they are veterans in the indie pop circle. Johnson is over ten years and four successful albums deep, and besides Fruit Bats is a member of the hiatus-but-still-a-band Shins (Johnson corrected me and cleared up some rumors: The Shins are still a band. Everyone’s busy. I probably shouldn’t have asked). The music industry, though, still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to him. The Fruit Bats where the biggest little band of the past year, claiming the top spot on the college charts but not seeing it translate into a lot attention or (probably) money. Though, I didn’t get the impression that it bothered Johnson too much. “We’ve always had a real strong cult who are really serious about [our music]…and college radio has always loved us…those are the people who you want to like you.”

The show on Saturday had a crowd that seemed to resemble Johnson’s assessment of the band’s listenership. There was a tightly wound three rows staring up at the stage, dutifully mouthing the words to a well-varied set, and the rest was a scattered amalgamation of young professionals and awkward couples, talking a lot louder than the intimacy of the set allowed for. His performance was solid; his comfort with the band and with the songs that he had cultivated for years translated into a coherent playfulness. “It’s always been subtle, what I do…I’ve never attempted at bashing you over the head”

Despite Johnson’s seemingly high level of comfort with his songs and his own personal success as a musician, even he feels that sometimes he doesn’t get the cred he deserves: “Well, most of my songs are pretty sad…people have latched on to the happy aspect; if it makes people happy that’s great…but I think people sort of equate that with lacking gravity.” His complaint is pretty understandable; what could be worse than writing a sad song and having everyone write it off as a happy, pop number? He suffers the classical plight of the pop musician.

Listen to the interview:
  Fruit Bats Interview Final by igorgerman

- Igor German
Host: Is This Thing On (Sun 12-1, Wed 9-10)

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