Interview by Rich Messmer
Photo Courtesy of Fruition
Last summer, local folk-rockers Fruition pulled the veil off of their highly anticipated studio release titled, “Just One of Them Nights.” The new album—their fourth release and most ambitious to date—comes at a very exciting time for the group. They seem more confident than ever with their evolving sound, and around every turn the group finds themselves playing bigger stages in bigger cities from coast to coast. I was lucky enough to catch up with Jay Cobb Anderson, a vocalist, lead guitarist, and songwriter for the group on a recent afternoon. We had a fun conversation chatting it up about the new album, the evolution of Fruition’s sound, the group’s love for the Rose City, as well as future plans for the group, among other things. Here is some of what we got to talk about:
Portland Metronome: You recently released your newest album, “Just One of them Nights.” There has been a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding this album. How are you guys feeling about it?
Jay Cobb Anderson: Oh man, I feel so good about the record. You know, we’ve kind struggled for a while trying to get an accurate sound of what we sound like live now. The selection of songs and everything I’m really happy with. We worked really hard on it and it turned out really fantastic.
PM: How was this experience different from your previous efforts in the studio?
JCA: A lot of our previous stuff had been very “DIY,” and to get inside a full on professional studio was great. We got to do a lot more experimenting with all of our instruments and experimented with a lot more arranging than we had in the past. Being able to work with a great engineer who’s recorded a million different people was very helpful. We learned a lot, you know, with different studio tricks. I had a million different ideas in my head that I was able to try out. A lot of them worked out great but some of them didn’t. But just getting to try out so many things was really a learning experience.
PM: I found it pretty interesting that you guys funded the album through a very successful Kickstarter campaign. How did it feel going into the studio with that type of financial backing?
JCA: It was amazing. Nowadays the music industry is so topsy-turvy and being an artist it’s hard to keep up with it all. So when we found out about Kickstarter and some of our friends were doing it and being successful, we thought, what a great idea. You just cut out all the middle men and it’s just straight from the fans. Our fans have really been such an inspiration to us and have kept us going. They really believe in us and we believe in them, and Kickstarter really helped show us that.
PM: Would you say it allowed the group more freedom to just write and record the type of songs you love?
JCA: Totally, it really does. There’s no kind of pressure from any kind of label person trying to tell us what sound to shoot for or look for a single. We do have a great management team, and they are really fantastic about giving us leeway and just letting us do our thing. It’s really nice to have that kind of freedom.
PM: You guys have never lost your string band roots, but with “Just One of Them Nights,” it seems like you guys are heading towards more of a “folk rock” or “Americana” direction. Is this a self-conscious evolution ?
JCA: Yeah, it definitely is. You know we started as a string band and we all really love to play folksy, bluegrassy type stuff. Although, I personally must say I’ve never really been a true bluegrass player myself. A lot of bands I’ve played in have been rock and roll bands and I started with playing the blues so almost everything I play has a blues tinge. I have another band around town called the Rose City Thorns. It’s a rock and roll band that I write the songs for and everything. But ever since I started focusing more on Fruition and pushing Fruition I started to feel like I wasn’t getting as much of a chance to rock out as much as I would like to. So once we really started focusing on Fruition I really wanted to start pushing more rock type stuff. Especially once we got the drums—once you get drums you can start to rock out a little more. And everyone in the band feels that way too. We’re definitely moving towards more of a folk-rock “Americana” type of genre. We’re slipping slightly away from the bluegrass scene, but we still love that stuff so there’s always gonna be some of that there. It is a self-conscious thing, but mainly just because of the way we’ve been writing.
PM: Were the songs for the album already written, or did you go into the studio with a type of sound in mind that you wanted to create ?
JCA: All of the songs had already been written. We have three songwriters in the band: myself, Mimi [Naja], and Kellen [Asebroek]. We’re all constantly working on songs and writing songs. And for instance I myself probably have like two hundred songs written. So there’s always this large bank of songs to pull from and try them out as Fruition songs. So what we did was everybody brought as many songs as they felt would be good to the table and we had about thirty songs to start with. We narrowed that down to about twenty five and went out to a friend’s farm out in Eastern Oregon and stayed out there for like a week and a half just recording demos and trying all these songs out together, and seeing how they sounded together. So at that point we listened to the demos a bunch and narrowed down the songs that would fit together congruently and have a nice flow. It was a lot of chopping down to create a great album. We didn’t really write anything new for the album, but we definitely tried out a lot of totally different arrangements.
PM: Fruition has primarily earned its reputation and fan base through its live performances. You guys are known for touring and putting on really great shows and it’s helped you guys get to where you are today. So I’m curious, has getting in the studio and making records been a goal for the group since the beginning?
JCA: I guess it always kind of has been a goal to make a record. But more than anything— the thing I’m always focused on and constantly doing is writing. I usually try to write anywhere from four to ten songs a month, you know just pop them out. So I’m constantly thinking about that. But making a good record is a whole different thing, especially with three different songwriters. Just trying to get it to fit. I don’t think we’ve really focused on it too hard until now. Definitely the more we go on the more we want to make albums. But more than anything we just wanna write good songs that people like.
PM: One song off of the album “Portland Bound,” is a nice shout-out to the group’s hometown. How much influence has Portland had on Fruition ?
JCA: Oh, so much, man. You know, the group formed right on Hawthorne. It was the first time we ever played together. When we started we were just street performing and everyone has been so encouraging. And when we started playing gigs people were just so supportive. We were like, wow, holy shit. It gave us a little more confirmation of what we felt already, which is that we had a sound and that people wanted to hear it. Portland has been just amazing. It’s just the perfect place to be an artist right now. Its cheap, there’s a lot of young people—most of the population is between twenty and forty. It’s just more open to artists. And it’s cheap. You can get a shot of whiskey and a tallboy of PBR for five bucks. You can get anything for five bucks, like a burrito the size of your head. Portland has definitely inspired our writing and really just to believe in people. On our first tour we only had five gigs booked in a month down in California. But we ended up playing something like twenty six. We would be playing out on the street and someone would us ask us to come play a house party or something. We would sell enough CD’s to feed ourselves and get back on the road. But Portland kind of taught us that. Just to get out there and do it.
PM: This past year or so you guys have started to show up at much bigger venues and festivals in bigger cities all around the country. Any specific highlights from touring the past year?
JCA: Oh boy. Yeah, there’s so many. Playing Brighton Hall in Boston with ALO was a fantastic experience. High Sierra we got to play on one of the stages. And it was at the same time that Robert Plant was playing…story of our lives. But we still had a great crowd and it was amazing! It blew my mind how many people came out to our set and skipped out on Robert Plant of all people! I was like, what are you people doing here? High Sierra is always amazing; we got to sit in a bunch of different workshops. We got to play with some members of ALO, some members of the California Honeydrops, I got to play with Luke Nelson, Willie Nelson’s son who’s a fantastic guitarist and songwriter. That was a highlight, but god, there were so many of them.
PM: How was your first experience going places like the East Coast for the first time on your national tour? How did that go? Did you find a following out there at all?
JCA: You know we did, in some spots. Another great thing about Portland is that everyone here is from somewhere else. So in some markets where we thought nobody would come out, we had friends out here that were from there that had told all of their friends, and some of these people had been listening to our music for years and were just super stoked to see us. And also things like festivals help with that. People will drive long distances and fly out to get there. But we still had some tiny shows here and there. The smallest show we played on tour was in Cleveland, Ohio, where there were something like five people in the crowd. What was great about this tour, though, was we’ve been getting played on Sirius radio on the JamOn station, and every single gig we played there was someone in the crowd that said, “Hey man, I heard you guys on Sirius and I had to come to the show.” And there were some shows like New York City where there were a hundred people lined up at the door to see us. That was amazing to go to a city that you’ve never been to and hear people singing your words.