Making Music: Keeping the Band Together
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In 2007 two friends from Duluth, Corey Gice and Andrew Stern, decided it was time to make some music.
“I was going through a bit of a freak out and I decided that I was going to learn how to play instruments, and write songs,” Stern recalls. “And [Corey] was like ‘I have a guitar too!’”
Gice remembers the night their band was “formed,” saying that it happened at a house party:
“We…decided we needed to play ‘Carousel’ by Blink 182 in his bedroom in the middle of a party instead of going out to the party,” Gice recalls. “We probably had one guitar at the time but we were all singing it really loudly. And then, I don’t know; seven or eight years later here we are.”
The band that came after a few jam sessions on acoustic guitars is now called Fearless Moral Inventory, a name derived from the description of one of the steps in the 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous handbook.
While not ascribing to the tenets of AA, Stern says that he likes the name because it’s a wonderful phrase and that it “fits everything.”
Band members have a hard time describing their sound.
They’ll tell you it’s rock music; it’s honest; it sounds like Tom Petty.
They say it’s progressive; it’s “acid fusion;” jazz, funk, blues, the list goes on.
“I’ve never wanted to do, like, a specific genre,” explains Stern, who is the group’s main songwriter. “When a song actually hits me, I don’t want to say ‘Well that’s not gonna work for this band.’”
Stern and Gice got their start playing open mic nights at various bars, even scoring a spot at the Homegrown Festival at the Thirsty Pagan a few years back.
But when a few friends stepped up to play bass and drums, the band was fully formed.
“I think we’ve had like three or four drummers at this point. Five maybe with a couple people jumping in for a show. It’s very difficult because you have to learn everything again,” Stern said, explaining the difficult process of maintaining a steady band lineup.
The band is now a five piece – featuring one of those former drummers on the keyboards.
Jim Mattson is their newest member, having joined on drums just about a year ago.
“Whatever they say goes. I’m just the drummer. I sit down and I play,” Mattson said, in a very happy-just-be-here kind of manner. “It’s their band, not mine. And I’m okay with that.”
A band with five members has the potential for bigger sounds, better songs, and better jam sessions.
And as good as the jam sessions are, these guys are work full time jobs; they all have full time lives.
Music is simply a hobby for them.
“We try to sync our digital calendars, which is insanely impossible,” Stern explains.
If band practice is scheduled for 6:30pm on a given evening, their personal lives can sometimes mean practice doesn’t actually begin until sometime after 7:00.
Or sometimes not at all.
“We try to remember when we have shows. My favorite is we’re practicing for a show the day before; someone doesn’t know we have a show the next day. Yeah. That’s awesome.”
Stern is a little embarrassed by their rehearsal space.
It’s a tiny basement in their friend’s house, but it gets the job done.
“For a band as good as us, we can do better,” he mutters, while holding his guitar and preparing to play their next song.
Thus far Fearless Moral Inventory doesn’t have an album out. And they haven’t yet gotten rich on their music – they may never (members readily admit how nearly impossible that is).
But when the music flows – both at rehearsal and on stage – all the worries about scheduling, and finances, and crummy rehearsal space, float away in a flurry of notes and the voice of a humble rocker:
“That’s basically the only reason I work – is to feed myself,” Andrew Stern says. “Otherwise the band stuff is the music for the soul. Or whatever hippie crap you want to talk about…”
Then he laughs, and it’s onto the next song.