The Felix Culpa

author DR date 27/12/10

Before 2010, the name The Felix Culpa probably wouldn't have meant all that much to many people, but with their second full-length "Sever Your Roots" earning universal rave reviews, 'Culpa have become one of the 'breakout' bands of the year; subsequently they signed to up-and-coming label No Sleep Records, and will re-release "Sever Your Roots" with the "Bury Your Axe" EP on January 25th 2011. I had the chance to send a few questions their way to learn a bit more about them.

RF.net: Hello, thank you for doing this interview. Could you start by introducing yourselves?
Tristan: Hello! I'm Tristan and I play bass, sing backing vocals, and occasionally make random percussive for glockenspiel related noises.

RF.net: Could you give an overview of the band - where you got started, where your name came from and what you have been up to pre-"Sever Your Roots"?
Tristan: The band really started with Mark and Joel and long time ago. This is still (technically) their first band, but the music, members and processes have drastically changed over the years. The name comes from John Milton's Paradise Lost; it loosely translates to "the fortunate fault," "the happy mistake," etc.

A lot of the time leading up to the Sever Your Roots re-release was/has been spent getting back into the swing of things (touring), trying to plan the next steps for us, obviously ironing out label and re-release details, etc. It's been a really, really busy year for us.

RF.net: According to your Facebook you have been in the studio recently; what do you have planned for us? I've heard there's a split with The Dear Hunter in the works?

Tristan: We went into the studio to track 3 songs as part of a bonus EP disc that will be included in the SYR re-release. They are three songs that, for one reason or another, never made the album cut. We thought it would be a fun idea to give some bonus content along with this new stage of life for the album. I'm intentionally not answering that second question *cough*.

RF.net: Any hints as to how your sound is going to progress?
Tristan: I'm going to be honest: I don't think that's really something we plan on. I think our music evolves within the context of our own evolutions as people. When we change, our mood changes, our music listening habits change, our perspectives can change; I think we are a band that will always allow those changes and growths to be reflected within the music we create together, so there's no real way to plan for that evolution, you know?

RF.net: You recently signed to No Sleep Records - how did that come about and what attracted you to the label?
Tristan: I'm actually not sure how it initially came about. I think most or all of us were aware of their existence and were watching what they were accomplishing as a label. I believe Marky shot a half-joking tweet at them about signing us, but legitimate talks surfaced from that ping. We all very quickly agreed that these guys had a place we could feel at home and were people who knew how to get things done maturely to handle the business side of what they do. There was a mutual respect for each other and it made it remarkably easy to move talks forward in a way that was beneficial for both parties.

RF.net: "Sever Your Roots" has received an overwhelming critical response, how has this affected you as a band?
Tristan: I think it has really rejuvenated us. There was a very, very long, dark period while we were making SYR and gearing up to release it ourselves. Questions were constantly surfacing like, "is it worth it?" "are people going to like what we've become musically?" etc. The incredible critical response that SYR has received has really been one main contender to push us forward. It's like... yeah, people are still interested; let's keep going because we're certainly still interested.

RF.net: "or allow us the words to respond for the years that this song has taken"; how long did "Sever Your Roots" take to perfect?
Tristan: To say that this album is perfect is a compliment that I'm not comfortable taking, on behalf of myself or anyone else in the band. Haha. I will say that it took a long, long time to get to a point where we were all happy and excited. To be clear, that's not to say we were ever unhappy with the material or anything like that... we simply had a long, hard road that was braved together to get this album tracked, mixed, mastered and released. There will always be things people would do differently in hindsight, but I think we're all certainly comfortable enough with this album, as well as remarkably proud of it and everything it seems to be accomplishing for us and the people listening to it.

RF.net: What is The Felix Culpa's song-writing process?
Tristan: It certainly varies. Sometimes Marky will write entire structures that we all get together and modify, add/subtract material from, etc. Sometimes Joel will write a beat, or I'll write a bass line, or Dustin will write a part on keys or something and we'll all just vibe off of that and play with it. One song will have lyrics written at the time of song assembly, other songs will have lyrics tailor made for a song structure we've all written together. What works for one song won't necessarily work for another, you know? It's obviously not chaos or anything, but I think we pride ourselves on not having some magic formula we try to follow while writing.

RF.net: Including everything you've ever created together, which song are you most proud of?
Tristan: Yikes! I think this is a nearly impossible question to answer. For me, it really depends on my mood - lots of things factor in. One night I may not like a song very much because we've played it into the ground on tour and I've lost a little appreciation for it, while other times I may love it to death. I think "An Instrument" is one that sticks out in my mind a lot. I don't think we play that song as much as any of us would like to, but with a handful of songs that have a running time of roughly six or seven minutes, you have to be choosey when you write set lists as a direct support band; you don't want to play a 4 song, 35 minute set. Haha.

RF.net: Everybody has an opinion on the downloading of music: what are yours'? Does it bother you that something you've worked hard on is being shared for free, or are you just grateful that people are listening?
Tristan: I could honestly rant and rave about this for hours. Rather than go on some tirade about the subject, I'll simply direct any curious minds to an extremely informative and well written post from 2007 by Rob at demonbaby.com. The post stemmed from the shutdown of OiNK.cd and touches on a lot of incredibly relevant issues that continue to dangle within the music industry. Even if you're unfamiliar with OiNK, I highly suggest reading it. (warning: it's long)

RF.net: Which bands are you most inspired by?
Tristan: I think bands with personality strike a chord with me the most. A band doesn't have to be perfect for me to fall in love with them, they just need some combination of promise, talent and genuine personality. I may hear your band and fall in love with your music, but the second I find out you're a contrived, fictitious asshole, I'm going to stop caring about anything you do. Bands or songwriters like The Notwist, IIOI, Shiner, The Books, Django Reinhardt and the Police have personality (and a boat-load of talent). My draw from inspiration is really weird, though. When I hear music that inspires me, it's more of a drive to write or perform music, but never necessarily a clarity on what to write.

RF.net: What music is currently dominating your playlist?
Tristan: I'm going through 52 Weeks by Into It. Over It. for the 8 millionth time right now. The new No Star EP by The Velvet Teen has been in rotation a lot lately as well. Uhm... Oh, the OST for Inception is intense; I'm a soundtrack fan, so that's been in my headphones a lot lately. I've also had the Helen Earth Band debut, Our Own Ghost City playing through my speakers at least once a week for about a year straight.

RF.net: If you could tour with any band who would it be?
Tristan: The Police. Maybe Thrice or Circa Survive. Those last two seem a little more realistic because of that whole thing where they're still touring bands.

RF.net: Do you have plans to tour Europe, more specifically England and/or Denmark?
Tristan: We've been getting questions like this a LOT lately (which is awesome). To be dead honest with you, the only reasons we haven't had our agent work with overseas agents and book something like this are super simple:

1) Plane tickets for 5 people to Europe and back would cost a lot of money that we probably wouldn't make back in show payments.

2) Gear and vehicle rental out there would be astronomical for what our requirements are. (we're picky about our instrument sounds, etc)

That said, you have absolutely no idea how much we would do this in a heartbeat, given the above criteria were solved/met. I have a lot of family in England and I miss them terribly; it would be great to show them such a large part of what I do with my life in a setting other than cd player speakers.

RF.net: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything you'd like to add?
Tristan: I ate too much pizza for lunch today and I'm pissed off that the special features for Inception are only on the BluRay release. Also, I haven't eaten any Koala Yummies in something close to 4 or 5 years.

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