The Popdose Interview: Fallen Riviera
Will Parry and Steve Ornest from Fallen Riviera are two guys who met as students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where they forged a friendship borne out of a deep love of classic rock music — well, one half of the duo had a deep love, the other was sort of lured into it. More on that later.
Will Parry is originally from England, and Steve Ornest comes from the Golden State, but despite their disparate geographical origins, they became musical brothers in arms and formed Fallen Riviera. They relocated to Los Angeles after leaving Berklee where they quickly grew their following by consistently playing the club circuit.
The band’s blend of pop with alt rock flourishes caught the ear of producer Ken Scott after the group was recording at Total Access Studios — owned by Wyn Davis. Scott agreed to produce their latest single,“Those Times Are Gone,” and the result is a wonderful mix of carefree pop with lyrics that are more forlorn at times. Wyn Davis produced the rest of the album, Another World, which dropped on March 5th, and Fallen Riviera will be heading out on the road to promote the record later this spring.
Popdose writer, Ted Asregadoo, had a chance to talk to Parry and Ornest about their music, working with Ken Scott and Wyn Davis, their partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and there was even time for some lightning round questions.
Ted: When you tell people you’re in a band, probably the most common question you get goes something like: what kind of music do you play? Now that your new album is out, describe what kind of music people are going to hear.
Steve: I would say we’re a modern rock band, with classic rock influences. We basically grew up listening to a lot of classic rock…Beatles, Led Zeppelin, early Aerosmith..things like that. And it just so happens that working with producers like Ken Scott and Wyn Davis we have this sound…that sort of pays homage to what we grew up listening to.
Ted: What about you Will? Same influences?
Will: I grew up listening to jazz music. And I originally wanted to go to film school, but then I went to Berklee, got in to the contemporary music scene and started singing. Steve had saturated my brain with classic rock.
Steve: I was taking him over to the dark side (laughs)
Ted: [Will] was jazz purist, and he had more nobel intentions maybe, more complex arrangements in his head…
Will: He was being honest, Ted
Ted: (Laughs) And then [Steve] said “Have a listen to Aerosmith.”
Will: (Hands over ears) Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
Ted: You were probably like, “Screw [Charles] Mingus, I’m down with Aerosmith now.” I noticed on your press release that your single “Somebody Take Me” is getting airplay on a number of radio stations. Because radio is a tough medium to break into — and you see many artist using YouTube or Vevo to promote their music — how difficult was it to get radio stations to play your single?
Will: We spent a lot of time while we were recording going out and doing radio interviews up and down the [west] coast. And we were at a party when someone came up to us and said, “Hey, I heard your song in San Jose [California].” It seems tough [at first], but hope that it will get a little easier.
Steve: It seems that once you actually get the ball rolling then everything is good. But just getting the ball rolling — especially with radio — is tough.
Ted: Yeah, that first single — especially from a band that is so new…and you’re unsigned, right? You’re not with a record label are you?
Steve: That’s right.
Ted: So that’s even a tougher hurdle to jump. When I was working on the programming side in radio, we’d get inundated with requests from people who maybe slapped something together using Garageband or ProTools, and asked “Will you play this song on your station?” It kind of breaks my heart because people still think that if you just send a song to a local radio station, they’ll play it. But how did you convince a program director to pick up the single?
Steve: Well, “Somebody Take Me” was one of the songs that we worked with Ken Scott on. And fortunately — with his track record … and the book he wrote last year (From Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust)… he was doing a radio campaign and would mention that he was working with this new young band, Fallen Riviera, and it sort of opened some doors for us. We started getting on stations that had already interviewed Ken…tied [the connection] together and started playing the song. And then they started getting some requests and it went from there.
Ted: It’s certainly a great song and very catchy. Circling back to Ken Scott for a moment. He was one of the engineers who worked with George Martin and the Beatles. But Ken also produced some very impressive albums with Bowie, Supertramp, Devo, The Tubes, and Missing Persons. In the age of ProTools — which makes recording songs a lot less expensive and easier — what do you think Ken Scott brought to your new album, Another World?
Will: Ken is an incredible enabler. When he comes into the studio, he’s so relaxed. He’s English, obviously, so I got on with him very well. He’s such a great guy. He came in with a couple of arrangement ideas that he wanted to change around and then just took the song and said, “Guys, play it for me. Go out there and kill it.”
Ted: I’m fascinated by the whole production of an album. The bar to get into recording is pretty affordable. ProTools isn’t that expensive for a band. But having an actual seasoned producer who has an ear and has helped so many artists achieve a certain sound…it’s almost a luxury to have someone like that these days. Having someone like Ken Scott must bring something to the recording process that other newer bands just don’t have. Can you talk a little about how that recording process went?
Will: I wouldn’t say it [working with a seasoned producer] is a luxury at all. I would say it’s essential.
Steve: Absolutely. Guys like Ken and Wyn, who produced the rest of the album, grew up in a generation where it was all about the song. And back then, of course, they weren’t using ProTools, they were using tape, so the song had to be great before you started adding layers to it. I mean you had to be able to actually play the song with either a piano or an acoustic guitar and have it speak for itself. And having guys from that realm come in and help us make sure that our songs stand on their own, adds so much to what we’re doing.
Ted: Yeah, I listened to your songs through my computer from a stream, and I can even hear the separation of the instruments. From a listener’s standpoint, that’s incredibly important to me. And I think when the mastering happens for a lot of music these days, they push the loudness level up so high that you really can’t differentiate much…everything is sort of a sonic blast. But on your record, I could hear things that I don’t hear on most records these days.
Steve: Yeah, thank you for that.
Will: That’s a huge compliment to the guys.
Steve: Yeah, that’s one of those pet peeve things that really frustrates me. You put on a new record and you really want to like it because the song you heard is really cool, and the band is doing something different. But the recording is so compressed and so small sounding because they mastered in such a way to make it as loud as humanly possible. You lose everything cool about it.
Ted: It comes out of that jukebox mentality. You know, you’re in a bar or other social place with a jukebox and [the attitude is] you want your song to be the loudest one coming out of those speakers so people will pay attention.
Will: (laughs) Yeah…
Ted: So what’s the origin of your band’s name?
Will: I’m a from a town called Torquay in the south coast of England, and that is the English Riviera. Steve is from Redondo Riviera …just south of LA and the Fallen Riviera is a riviera where our songs exist. It’s a mythical town.
Ted: For your debut album, you guys did something novel: you donated 50% of your album sales at your debut party to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Will: A couple of years ago, the band lost a family member to mental illness when he took his life. And we believe in the cause and just wanted to help NAMI to continue fighting for cures and to help people improve their mental health and fight depression.
Ted: I don’t think I’ve heard of a band doing something like this so early in their career. Kudos to you guys for doing this and helping an organization like NAMI.
Will: Well thanks, Ted. It means a lot to us.
Ted: You did a mini-tour to promote the release of the album. What’s next for you guys?
Steve: We’re currently in the process [of booking] a much larger tour. We’re looking to stay out for most of the spring and summer. So we’ll have those dates as soon as they are available on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Ted: Shifting gears here. I want to do some lightning round questions, so people get to know you better as individuals. Here goes: The last book you read was_____
Steve: Moon Palace by Paul Auster.
Ted: Musical artist most admired?
Will: Frank Sinatra.
Steve: Most recent is Ray LaMontagne.
Ted: Favorite movie so far?
Will: Tin Cup …with Kevin Costner.
Ted: Your nickname?
Will: Willy P…or Willy P.P.
Ted: Depending how much you had to drink, right?
Will: (Laughs) Um…no comment.
Steve: Mine is Steve O.
Ted: Worst job you’ve had?
Will: Telemarketer for a soccer sports job.
Steve: Doing steel construction.
Ted: Best part about being a touring musician?
Will: The camaraderie between band members.
Steve: All the driving.
Ted: That’s the best part? You love driving?
Steve: Love driving.
Ted: Worst part about being a touring musician?
Will: The smell of socks.
Steve: Driving down mountains.
Will: Ted…Ted…let’s pause for just a second. Steve can drive level and up hill. Anything with a 6% downgrade or more, he won’t drive…we have to swap drivers.
Ted: Do you white-knuckle it down a hill?
Will: White-knuckle it? He’s bone-knuckle. (laughs)
Ted: Finish this sentence: “People should listen to Fallen Riviera’s music because______”
Will: They haven’t heard it yet…and it’s awesome.
Steve: Yes, because the songs are awesome.
Ted: Thanks guys for talking to me. Best of luck with the album. I’ve really enjoyed the music I’ve heard.
Will: Thank you.
Steve: Yeah, thanks so much.