Looking to the Future of Funk Pop-Rock Fusion: An Interview with Fortune’s Folly
New Year’s Eve should be about recognizing the familiar—and introducing some optimism. If all done to the rhythm of a booty-shaking sound band and out on the dance floor, all the better!
Cue: Eugene’s own fearsome four-piece, Fortune’s Folly: an alternative “make party with me” rock band made up of Calysta Cheyenne (vocals), Ira Mazie (guitar), Jesse Sanchez (bass), and Alex Koleber (drums). (Jay Castle is their current live drummer).
This year the band released a couple of choice singles that tease what their New Year’s Eve show at Grants Pass’ Sound Lounge promises: “Go Go Go,” in which a throaty sigh from Calysta solidifies that things are calming down a bit at the bridge, right before they kick back up five notches again! And, “Into the Wind,” where the soft yet slightly husky backing vocals of “Oh my my my” are juxtaposed nicely with Calysta’s full volume crystal clear tone.
In our interview, Fortune’s Folly talks about everything that is brand spanking new! New singles, new year, and a new approach to making a new full-length album!
Rogue Valley Messenger: Is there something that you’re determined to see get better in 2022, whether it’s the music scene, something else in our communities, or even something in your personal lives (like a New Year’s resolution)?
Alex: If there’s one thing we’ve learned from being forced into a concert hiatus, it’s how important live music is to people. For a lot of people, it’s a real need; people need to get together in a crowded venue to dance and sing together to music they love. That sense of community and the electric atmosphere that’s created when folks are all dialed-in together just can’t be recreated without live music. And especially given how divisive and polarized people seem to be these days, it’s even more important to have something we can participate in that removes those negative feelings and imagined differences with each other. So, in 2022, we hope we can get back to creating that space for people who need it (because we need it too!) on a more regular basis.
RVM: Because the last full length was a ten-track black and white combo of the Black EP and the White EP, is the coming full length going to be a ten-track with a swirl of robin’s egg blue and peach on the cover since those are the colors of the latest singles?
Alex: We don’t actually know what the full-length cover will be yet, but I can say that it won’t be the blue/peach swirl. The two singles we put out recently (Go, Go, Go and Into the Wind) likely won’t be on the album, those songs were mostly recorded in 2019 but not completed until recently. This new album is a departure for us from the way we have made music in the past; all of the upcoming album songs are self-produced in that we recorded nearly all of it ourselves and we didn’t feature any guest musicians. That is our plan going forward, to be even more DIY in the creation process, so the album will likely have a new look from the releases in the past to represent this new approach. We’re waiting until we hear the album in its entirety when it’s finished before we decide what the artwork will look like.
RVM: Your band does a great job of adding “nice touches” to already good songs that enhance their unique flavor. For example the trumpet part, rampant tempo increase, and old fashioned radio sound of some of the vocals in “Through the Floor.” What specialized sound candy on the yet to be released songs can the Folly Fam look forward to on the new full length?
Alex: The new songs have a familiar Folly vibe to them, but with a lot more diverse instrumentation added than in previous releases. We spent most of the last two years working on our production skills so we could add many new layers and textures to the songs without outsourcing any of the performances on the recordings. So expect a lot of new sounds than we’ve had in the past! It’s part of our effort to grow beyond the four-piece rock band we started as and push some creative boundaries.
RVM: Some of your songs have a hint of a particular genre, like “Kiss Me” with its slight reggae vibe. Some musicians that fuse various genres together think that if they temporarily strayed from that a little and did a purely one-genre album or song that’s not their typical sound, they might be pressured to start marketing themselves to that narrower target audience. What are your thoughts on that and would you ever consider a temporary departure in the form of a purely punk, reggae, or ska track or EP?
Alex: This is something we’ve spent a lot of time pondering and discussing. We’ve been around long enough that I think people expect a certain sound from us and it’s every artist’s struggle to try and branch out creatively without alienating their fanbase. Luckily, we truly have some of the greatest fans in music; folks have been incredibly supportive of everything we’ve tried to do and that’s inspired us to step outside of our comfort zone and push genre boundaries with our newer material. I think a lot of artists fear going too far outside the box because of the ‘rules’ of commercially successful music; it’s incredibly limiting. But with the new album and beyond, I think all of us understand that in order to grow we need to explore new sounds and genres, and I think our fans will be accepting of it when we do.
RVM: Calysta has so much versatility with her voice. From sustaining notes a long time, to recently the more raspy, menacing quality blending up to that wicked laugh on “Go Go Go”, and then her crystal clear quality on “Into the Wind.” Calysta, what is the extent of your vocal training and do you ever teach aspiring vocalists?
Calysta: I have been studying Seth Riggs’ Speech Level Singing Technique for 17 years with Ken Orsow in Ashland, Oregon. After graduating high school I went to Berklee College of Music and studied jazz vocals with NYC vocalist Alison Wedding. Vocal practice has been a consistent part of my life since childhood. I recently took a class with the award-winning jazz vocalist and educator Alexis Cole. I have had the privilege of learning from vocal masters and feel I still have a lot to learn before teaching others.
RVM: From the two recent singles, the guitar sound that stands out to me right now is the finger muted jagged effect in “Go Go Go” that’s like a much more subtle version of the sonic crunch Radiohead did on “Creep.” Ira, what are a couple of your favorite effects and what percentage of the time would you say you use the whammy bar?
Ira: Nailed the “Creep” inspired influence on that song! The mxr carbon copy delay pedal is by far my favorite effect. I use it on almost every tune in some capacity. Whether it is prominent with a long delay tale or just a quick little accent to fatten up the guitar sound. My second favorite effect pedal I have is the Xotic wah pedal which I use on occasion. It is much more expressive than the standard cry baby wah pedals. I also always leave a bit of the fender deluxe spring reverb on from my guitar amp at all times to give the tone some space and body to it. As for the whammy bar… I never use it. I have a custom built guitar based on Fender Strat specs with some warmer woods used in the construction of it and some other variations to it. Such as a P90 pick up in the neck position which I use for nearly every tune and a fatter more baseball bat like neck which fits my hand better than the usual wide strat necks. By not using the whammy bar the guitar has much better tone and sustains with the bridge being in a fixed state by removing the whammy function. Also helps keep the guitar to stay in tune with how aggressively I play when performing.
RVM: Question for Jesse, Jay, and Alex: Which Folly song do you think really shows off your role best and is the one you get the best rush playing every single time?
Jesse: I’m not sure if it shows off my talents the best but I love the role I play in the song “Wouldn’t Make You Mine” and that is one of my absolute favorite songs to play, always get a rush from that song!
Alex: I’ve always considered it my job to get feet tapping and bodies moving. If I can do that, I get a rush from it, no matter the song.
Jay Castle (current live drummer): “Freak Flag.” I always loved that song even before I joined the band. It’s super catchy and seems to be a crowd favorite.
RVM: What is “Go Go Go” about exactly? What inspired it?
Calysta: I prefer leaving the interpretation of my lyrics up to the listener, but I will reveal that the inspiration behind this song is the feeling of rage and how one reacts when it comes knocking.
RVM: What local Eugene band or solo act would you secretly love to kidnap and make your pet music minions and why?
Alex: I don’t know about kidnap, but we’d adopt our buddy Rorton. He’s opened for us many times now and he always brings great energy as a DJ. The music scene has changed so much over the past two years and it’s nice to have retained relationships with other artists who we can depend on. Folly shows are always a dance party and Rortron brings that same dance party energy. We encourage anyone who enjoys our music to check out what he’s doing.
Fortune’s Folly will be playing New Year’s Eve at The Sound Lounge in Grants Pass.