Noise rock has come back in a big way in recent years. The genre never really went anywhere, but lately it’s seemed like there has been the same number of bands and level of quantity that allowed noise rock to thrive in the 90s. Philadelphia’s Faking is one of the newer groups that’s able to channel some of the best of noise rock’s glory days while adding in some elements of their own. Though they only formed a few years back, Faking’s members have been playing music for quite some time and that experience shows on their debut full length ‘Goddamned Cowards’. Released on Reptilian Records at the end of May, this album has those jagged edges and abrasive tonality one would expect from noise rock, but these guys inject a healthy dose of melody and melody into the mix that give their material a bit more hooks than some of the others out there.
‘Goddamned Cowards’ may have snuck under your radar, but if you are a fan of anything noise rock this release is a must have. To find out more about Faking’s writing process and what went into the creation of the album, I had the chance to ask guitarist/vocalist Jeff Bowne some questions.
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): How’s it going guys? What have you been up to lately?
Faking (Jeff Bowne): Nuthin…
TO: You’ve been a band for a little over three years now. How long have the songs on ‘Goddamned Cowards’ been in the works for?
Faking: Well since we recorded the album in late 2014 we had been playing together for not even 2 years at that point. It’s about what you’d expect. There’s a song on there that’s the 3rd song we wrote and there’s a song that we finished like a week before recording.
TO: Where did you record the material at, and how was this experience compared to anything you’ve recorded before either with Faking or previous bands?
Faking: We recorded at Creep Recording Studio with Arik Victor behind the console. Arik is someone who’s been involved in Philly’s music scene in multiple ways for a long time, so he’s someone we definitely had respect for. He had already been a fan of us so he brought an encouraging level of excitement to the project. Thanks to Reptilian Records we were able to just focus on making the record and not worry about time running short. It was about 6 or 7 days total between live tracking, vocals, and very hands-on mixing. Personally speaking it was the longest amount of time I had spent in the studio and I loved it.
TO: You’ve described the lyrical themes as “shitty people doing shitty things”, which seems appropriate given the narratives throughout the record. Personal experiences are certainly important, but I’ve always liked bands that write storylines that aren’t directly about them. Are you planning on continuing this approach with new material?
Faking: Oh, definitely. I’ve always been a fan of songwriters who are story tellers. Besides that I just don’t feel entirely comfortable writing songs about “me me me”. I do draw heavily from my experiences in life or the experiences of people in my life that I’ve witnessed, so there are aspects of these songs that hit close to home on a personal level. But I guess that’s what most story tellers do. In the end I just want the lyrics to be interesting and fit the tone of the music.
TO: The reverb heavy leads throughout the album are fantastic, and work perfectly with the noisier elements of the sound. I feel like sometimes modern noise rock bands forget that some of the classic acts had just as much reverb/melody to them as abrasiveness and sometimes focus a little too much on being as loud and heavy as possible. What are your thoughts on this?
Faking: Thanks. Yeah, a lot of bands that under the noise-rock umbrella right now are doing the sludge thing, which is great because I love feedback and filth, but we didn’t want that to go that route. I wanted to be sharper and hit hard but have interesting melodies and other catchy elements. I like the idea of creating heaviness with rhythm and dynamics rather than distortion and more distortion. At the beginning I started using a fast slap-back delay to thicken up the guitar on lead parts, but I still felt like I wasn’t finding the sound in my head. At the time I was using a Vox amp that had reverb built in, I just wasn’t using it. I tried it and I was hooked, I just wanted more, so I built myself a killer reverb pedal and it’s been an integral part of our sound since.
TO: I’m sure you could name a wide range of musical influences, but what are five albums that you feel have had a significant impact on making you the musician you are today?
Faking: Man, it’s hard to narrow down, but I appreciate the specificity of the question. Okay right off the bat I gotta say Nine Inch Nails – ‘The Downward Spiral’ changed my life. I remember when that came out playing it over and over again with my face next to the speaker just trying to understand it. Let’s see… Hoover’s self titled EP is just overwhelming and deeply impacted me. Every note and every tone on that short record… I just want to drown in it. Botch – ‘We Are the Romans’ had a big impact on how I thought about “heaviness”. I feel like Tom Waits – ‘Bone Machine’ is an album that has carried me on its back through most of my life. And look, The Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison and David Wm. Sims have each influenced me musically as much as, or more than, any other musician has. Any one of their records could make this list. I’ll leave it at that.
TO: I’m always a fan of bands that include unexpected covers on their albums. ‘Goddamn Cowards’ has a very cool take on Gladys Knight & The Pips’ If I Were Your Woman. Who in the band came up with the idea and why this particular song? Will we see Faking do any more soul covers in the years to come?
Faking: I just love that song. I wanted to do a cover of a sad Motown song, preferably one originally sung by a woman, and make it creepy and ugly. I think that was the first songs that came to mind. I definitely twisted it into a new beast but every note is there in the original. I pulled up the sheet music, I think it was the arrangement for piano, and just decided which notes would be played by guitar or by bass. I’d definitely like to do another unexpected cover at some point, and we’ve tossed around a few ideas, but nothing has really screamed at us yet.
TO: The video for Not Fine reminds me quite a bit of a 90s live video, particularly with the way it was shot. Where was it shot at and who is behind it?
Faking: We shot the Not Fine video in a small room of warehouse in South West Philly. It was shot by our buddy Steve Arnold. The basis of the idea came from me, we did some brain storming, and then Steve helped us bring it to light with his own ideas and expertise. He built the a simple camera rig out of PVC pipe to get us the movement we wanted and he filmed it all on an old Hi8 camcorder that broke at least 2 times through the day. If you’re gonna use a cheap old camera to film a video that involves intentionally dropping that camera repeatedly… you should bring a backup camera. We didn’t, and we barely got all the footage we needed before that thing shit the bed once and for all.
I wanted to do a cover of a sad Motown song, preferably one originally sung by a woman, and make it creepy and ugly
TO: ‘Goddamn Cowards’ is your second release for Reptilian Records, following the ‘Vices’ 7”. How did you get connected with the label?
Faking: Phil and I have known Chris from Reptilian Records for a long time. Phil played drums in a noise rock band called Midiron Blast Shaft in the late 90’s that released an album on Reptilian and in the mid 2000’s Phil and I had a noise rock band called Gunna Vahm, Phil on drums and me on bass/vocals, that had a couple releases on Reptilian. So when we started Faking it just felt like home to return to Reptilian.
TO: What are your thoughts on the Philly music scene right now? I’ve found there seems to be a bit more of a noise rock presence than some of the other cities on the East Coast and wanted to get your thoughts.
Faking: There’s definitely a noise rock thing happening in Philly, it’s been going strong for the past 5 years or so, and I say it’s about goddamn time. Back when Phil and I were in Gunna Vahm there weren’t really any other noise rock bands in Philly and we seemed to fit in better in Baltimore, to the point where non-locals doing write ups about us would sometimes put us down as a Baltimore band. Vahm started in Philly around the same time that Fight Amp started in Jersey, and we played shows together constantly and did a split 7” together on Reptilian, but back then they were more of a thrashy stoner hardcore band. So I love that there’s resurrection of that sound, as broad and eclectic as it is, happening here and we’ve got a lot of great bands.
TO: Recently you’ve done a short tour, what else do you have planned on the live front in the coming months?
Faking: Right now we’re working on writing,
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Goddamn Cowards’ or Faking?