Groove to the sounds of Fletcher’s Grove
Fletcher’s Grove is a Primus-inflected, “Garcia-approved” jam band of Marshall students. Biding their time till graduation, they released their debut album, “All the Way Home,” last year and are plotting out a punishing tour schedule to kick off in the summer. I shot off a few questions to percussionist Matt Marion and guitarist Ryan Krofcheck to pick the brains behind one of West Virginia’s best new bands.
Graffiti: Do you think it’s possible today for bands to stay in their hometowns and still achieve national success like bands that sign with corporate music labels?
Marion: No. We love our hometown and state, but we are going to have to travel to get attention. We have a solid fan base from our hometowns and other cities throughout the state and are constantly gaining new fans, but in order for us to accomplish what we want, we are going to have to tour nationally. Unless we have some viral video that blows up on YouTube, but I think we’d need a laughing baby or something in the band to do that.
Krofcheck: While new promotional tools are helping bands like us stay grounded at home and still market ourselves to the World Wide Web, it is pretty tough to achieve national attention. I don’t think we’ve crossed over fully to an internet-based band yet. A lot of bands today are still constantly traveling around the country and making an impact on the people they play for. Even if we have got to the point of complete Internet “touring,” it is the live performances that hit people the hardest and make you feel human again. That’s the point of art, right?
Graffiti: You’re proud of your influences and seem to have learned some good lessons from them. But where do the Grateful Dead and Phish stop and Fletcher’s Grove begin?
Marion: In regards to how we sound compared to the two, I believe we have our own thing going. I don’t want people to come and see us because they think we’ll sound like Grateful Dead or Phish, I want them to come to hear the sounds of Fletcher’s Grove. It’s hard to explain your own music; it’s just easier to say what your influences are. We improvise and jam like Phish and the Dead, but we are Fletcher’s Grove from West Virginia. Every band has their own timbre, and ours is different from Phish or the Dead. “All the Way Home” has many different sounding songs, and it’s hard to pick one that exemplifies our total sound. We’ve got funk, soul, folk, techno, rock, and jazz mixed throughout the album, with every song containing more or less of each. But I want to leave it up to the audience to make up their minds of whom or what we sound like.
Krofcheck: Phish is coming back stronger than ever. It gives us a chance to keep learning from them, now we can go to their shows and study. It is always a struggle seeing these bands or hearing them; you’re always comparing yourself and even getting a little discouraged, especially with Trey [Anastasio] being so good. The point is to make whatever they are doing better. These guys aren’t playing the hometown bars and clubs so much anymore; they are selling out stadiums. This is where we begin, filling their footsteps in the bars that they once played at.
Graffiti: You recorded, “All the Way Home,” mostly live in the studio. What challenges come with being a band committing an intricate jam to tape?
Krofcheck: For us, a lot of what we play is improvised. We have a structure, but everything that lies in-between that is open playing field. We have tried recording each instrument separate, but often times it just didn’t sound fresh or like us at all. A lot of bands will write their songs in the studio and the music won’t come alive until the stage lights hit.
Graffiti: Fletcher’s Grove has two guys on percussion and someone else on flute now and then. What else do you do to bust up the standard rock sound? Where do you see your music going?
Marion: As the percussion player, I want all the toys in the world to ornament our sound, but it’s taking a lot of time to get everything I want.
Wes’ synth pedal has all kinds of different sounds that have a lot to do with each song having its own style and flavor. For instance, you may hear a marimba or a spaceship, but you won’t see one on stage, because it’s coming from Wes’ guitar. I think the synth pedal alone was a major influence on our intergalactic songs like “Alien Opera” and “Satellite Party.” It sets us apart from other bands and our influences.
Krofcheck: Standard rock is exactly what you said — standard. Most of our material wouldn’t be classified as mainstream, but in our own subculture of festivals and such it could be. With a lot of our songs we kind of veer off the path and let whatever it is take control of the music. Some songs might be the standard verse/chorus, but a lot of our songs will have so many parts in-between that it makes it a little hard to classify as standard. Like Matt has said, it is tough describing what we are. I don’t consider us much of a rock band — when I think of modern rock, I think of those awful songs about dirty “chicks” and “the way she grabbed my ass.” I want us to be our own genre, original and not so much contracted into a specific sound. Our songs do have that cretin sound that can classify us, but as far as where we are going, we have the world to explore.
Graffiti: In western West Virginia there are bands like you guys, and then in the Eastern Panhandle there are the Demon Beat and so on. You tend to overlap in Morgantown a lot, but there’s not much of a scene in Charleston. Why is that, do you think?
Krofcheck: Actually, we have only played in Morgantown three times. We are working on playing more in Morgantown this semester. I would say that the Morgantown area is more into the scene because of the students. Here there are 30,000 students. Marshall has half of that, and Charleston is less than that. I don’t think Charleston has much of a younger population. The young masses are closer to Morgantown. I would say that Charleston also has a working population, so kids up here who are into the college party scene are more likely to come out and party.
Graffiti: Social networking can make niche superstars out of any band, but it changes the way they relate to their fans. How does all this influence how Fletcher’s Grove does business?
Krofcheck: Promoting is a lot easier. Now with these social networking tools we can promote and advertise for free. Everyone is becoming connected with Facebook and other sites, so it allows us to be able to send those people direct promotions. It shows people that we are still alive and are always working. I am in advertising, Matt is in public relations, Taylor is in marketing, Adam is in broadcast, and Wes is in music. So you can see that we are all gearing our degrees towards media. This will help us be able to do a lot of the jobs that we would normally pay someone else to do.
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