I Fight Dragons on completing The Near Future

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At the end of my interview about starting the Kickstarter project, Brian Mazzaferri of I Fight Dragons opened the door to speaking with him about the process when it was all done. It was, as is the case with many Kickstarter projects, very exhausting and we only recently had time to actually do the interview. In the interview I briefly mention the delays in the vinyl album. This actually a pretty big problem in the music industry at the moment. Demand for vinyl has increased to a point where the record pressing plants can’t keep up with demand, but not yet to the point where it makes sense to open a new factory (with all the upfront costs involved). Even The Protomen’s new album The Cover Up has had its vinyl release delayed due to production delays. Of course, the new old tech is cassette tapes, so perhaps vinyl demand will fall a little. Time will tell. Without further ado, the interview:

I Fight Dragons Warped Tour 2014
I Fight Dragons Warped Tour 2014

It’s a Binary World: Man, that was quite a rollercoaster ride! From nearly breaking up to discarding the studio version to delays in creating the records – it’s been a crazy year and a half. How do you guys feel now that the record is out there?

Brian Mazzaferri: You can say that again!  It was so crazy that I basically collapsed in a heap at the beginning of the new year, got really sick, and didn’t get back caught up with the world until early February.  We’re honestly so psyched at the way the record’s been received, we felt like it was a gigantic risk to scrap everything and start over, and it added a full year to the process in the end, but creatively we felt like it absolutely paid off, and based on the responses it feels to us like the backers agree.

IaBW: So what do you feel is the biggest lesson you learned during this process? Was it something about how to structure crowdfunding efforts? Or something about what makes I Fight Dragons a band or the type of music you prefer? Or none of the above?

Brian Mazzaferri: Oh man, ALL of the above.  We learned so much about crowdfunding, especially what a painful experience it can be if there’s still creative work to be done.  When we first started I was like, “why does everyone only do a Kickstarter once the album’s done?” and now I understand. There’s just so much uncertainty involved in the creation of anything as large as an album, and creating it with the added pressure of the Kickstarter and backers’ expectations can be maddening.  That said, the backers were all so supportive that it ended up being sort of wonderful.  As far as the band itself, it was absolutely a bit of a crucible that burned off the remains of the traditional music industry off of us, and left us in a new form that I feel like is exactly what we want to be right now.

IaBW: THE main product of the Kickstarter was the beautiful vinyl album. I’ve read that some artists say that it is only through the creation of art (like vinyl) that an artist can guarantee their songs will be purchased. After all, you can’t torrent a physical record. Then again, there’s also Spotify money. Going forward, do you see IFD producing physical artifacts for future albums or going all digital?

Brian Mazzaferri: I think we’ll always make something physical.  I don’t know if it will be vinyl specifically, but I love holding the album in my hands, and I love that it’s not just a run-of-the-mill thing.  It doesn’t feel disposable to me, and yet there’s always the digital version as well.  I like that both versions can be true to what they are.

IaBW: In our original interview you said you’d do a Kickstarter again in a heartbeat to get an album out vice the traditional record deal. Having now gone through a complete cycle, has it changed your mind? Of course we can expand this to include any kind of crowdfunding like Indiegogo. Would you prefer to do it the way you did the early albums instead?

Brian Mazzaferri: I’m still in a very similar spot.  It was a crazy journey to say the least, but in a weird way I feel like lots of the backers feel like this is THEIR album in a way that they would never have had they not been along for the whole roller coaster ride of its creation.  While the ride had its ups and downs, it was something that never could have happened 5 years ago.  I would definitely do some things differently, but the experience overall was still a really positive one.

I Fight Dragons Warped Tour 2014
I Fight Dragons Warped Tour 2014

IaBW: Moving on to the content of the album, as a backer I got The Future Imperfect which contains the demos, B sides, and acoustic songs. I think it was pretty neat to see how sometimes the melody or song survives in another form – such as Burnadette appearing on Jimmy and Sally. It was weird (in a good way) to experience that. How is it for you guys, having created it?

Brian Mazzaferri: I’m glad you caught that and that you like it!  I feel like I do that all the time, especially with songs that don’t make a proper record, I’ll take the parts that I like and often they’ll find a home in the bridge of another song.  Honestly in the first recording sessions, Burnadette was the opening track on Side 2 of the record, so it was more of a through line, but in Jimmy & Sally it’s exactly what I wanted to say in that moment of the song.  If I remember correctly there’s at least one of those stealing-from-my-own-unreleased-songs moments on KABOOM! too, from a song on DEMOlition.

IaBW: With those songs it’s pretty clear that, while they weren’t chosen for the main album, it wasn’t because they were of any less quality than the songs that WERE chosen. At some point in the past it was decided that the average rock album would have 12 or so songs and would last about half an hour. On the one hand, you can do whatever you want if you’re self-publishing. On the other hand, thanks to Amazon and iTunes people expect to pay no more than $9.99 for an album no matter how many tracks it has. (Unless it has like 3-4 times as many tracks) Going forward do you see IFD creating larger albums? Putting out one main album and one B-sides album in the interim between main albums?

Brian Mazzaferri: Thank you again!  I’m glad you feel that way, although to be perfectly honest I don’t fully agree.  I know that I’m really hard on myself sometimes, but I think the songs that made the record are all a cut above the ones that didn’t for one reason or another.  On this album, we did have the limiting factor of the physical vinyl itself, which kept us to about 20 minutes or so of music on each side (we went a bit over, but you physically can’t go too much over or the record will be super quiet and skip a lot).  Truthfully, I actually really like those types of restrictions, I think they breed creativity in a cool way, and while I’d definitely consider making a longer work, I think it’s awesome to make works that are digestible in one sitting too.  I think that’s why you see a lot of EPs these days, they’re super digestible, and they leave you wanting more instead of some 1.5-hour albums which can leave you exhausted if you actually make it to the end.

I Fight Dragons Warped Tour 2014
I Fight Dragons Warped Tour 2014

IaBW: Somewhat related to the question above, having now created a concept album more akin to what your tour-mates The Protomen usually do, what do you hope for IFD’s future albums? More song cycles? A typical IFD album? Or are albums dead and do you just release singles from now on like Weird Al has decided to do?

Brian Mazzaferri: I don’t necessarily know!  I definitely don’t think albums are dead, in fact I think in some ways we’re entering a golden age for long-form content, with the rise of the podcast and on-demand media in general.  If you give people something that’s actually worth spending 30-60 minutes will, I think they will spend the time and really enjoy it.  As fas as what’s next for us, all I can say is we’ll keep doing what inspires us, wherever that ends up leading 🙂

IaBW: I saw you guys at Warped Tour when it came to Maryland. It was great, but it was too short as you were just on the Ernie Ball statge. I have to ask the question on everyone’s mind – when is the Kickstarter tour?

Brian Mazzaferri: coming!  High up on my list of priorities is figuring out our touring schedule for this year and figuring out how we can get out there and play some fun shows.

I meet I Fight Dragons in person at Warped Tour 2014
I meet I Fight Dragons in person at Warped Tour 2014