iNTERViEWS FACE TiME POLiCE
BRiAN SERRA OF FACE TiME POLiCE
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THE DEFiNiTiON OF DEViATiON
WORKiNG WiTH HiS BROTHER JAMES
AND THE BAND'S D.i.Y. MENTALiTY
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
As much as people love to applaud the D.I.Y mentality, it really isn’t something that people can stick to. When was the last time anyone saw punk clothes that weren’t purchased at HOT TOPIC? To most people, the notion of ‘doing it yourself’ is a cute little three-letter acronym, but for a band like the Illinois-based FACE TIME POLICE, it is how they approach music and life. Comprised of brothers BRIAN and JAMES SERRA, FACE TIME POLICE has its heart in the right place when it comes to combating any sort of cynicism there may be with regard to surviving with your integrity intact in the music business. It will be interesting to see if the brothers SERRA can maintain this sort of muscle grip on their burgeoning careers but in the meantime we have their EP THE DEFINITION OF DEVIATION which does what most LP’s fail to do – take the listener on a musical journey. The genre hop kicks off with the thrashing opener NONE OF THE BELOW and eases its way to the epic electro pop number SEASHELLS. Also included is the lilting acoustic ballad NOTHING LEFT TO BREAK, the positively thumping hip-hop of MINUTE MADE and the manic punk slam-dunk - OF MAN AND MONSTER.
ROCKWIRED spoke with BRIAN SERRA over the phone. Here is how it went.
The name of the band is puzzling. What does it mean?
The name is about art versus image. This is our art and it’s not a gimmick. It’s not something that has been set up by a label to try to appeal to the latest trend. It is solely and completely our art and our vision. I don’t want to name any names, but there are some so-called artists out there who use songwriters and have access to producers and all that they are is an image. It is just a face to help sell the music. We’re the opposite of that. We are the real thing.
Now that the EP is out there for everyone to hear, how do you feel about the finished product?
We’re really happy with it. We’ve been doing home recording for a few years now. In the beginning, we actually had a collection of songs that we considered to be a pre-demo. While the songs were strong we were hesitant to put it out. This was a chance to see what we could do with our own home recording equipment and to get our feet wet with seriously writing songs. As a result of all of these recordings, we had this demo, which was an improvement from our initial pre-demo, but we still weren’t comfortable with it being the complete finished product. With DEFINITION OF DEVIATION we are proud with what we were able to accomplish considering that we recorded everything from home and not in some five million dollar studio. We’re very happy with how it turned out.
What do you attribute your band’s diversity to?
It’s all a reflection of how we grew up. When I was a kid, the first two albums that I bought were GUNS AND ROSES ‘APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION’ and PRINCE’S BATMAN SOUNDTRACK. Right off the bat, I was into various types of different music. The people that I hung out with back then listened to things like DEF LEPPARD and MOTLEY CRUE while my cousins would listen to things like NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK and DEBBIE GIBSON. I was exposed to so many different types of music. My brother - who is ten years younger than me – is more into things like GREEN DAY and KANYE WEST. That’s our background pretty much. I grew up with a lot of eighties hair metal and he grew up with more hip-hop oriented stuff.
How easy is it to attain some sort of synergism given the fact that you have ten years between the two and the fact that he’s your brother.
I don’t really think of it as a complication. It’s funny how that question is brought up whenever we are interviewed. My brother and I have always gotten along very well. Just like any other two people, we are totally different but we are also similar in a lot of ways. Coming together for this music project was really natural. Everything just flows very smoothly. There are absolutely no roadblocks that get in the way. We just do what needs to be done for the song. There are compromises but we’ve gotten along our whole lives. There is no conflict within this project whatsoever.
Describe how the creative process works between the two of you in terms of songwriting.
It happens in a lot of different ways. We always want everything to happen naturally. We don’t want to sit down and go ‘We’re gonna write a rock song’ or “we’re gonna write a pop song’. When an idea pops into our heads, we will record a rough track of what we think it should sound like. With me - playing all of the instruments on the album – I tend to have a more melodic influence while my brother will play around on the drum machine and come up with ideas that way. Sometimes he’ll record some drum tracks with his vocals on it and I’ll come in with everything else. All of our songs are basically written with me having a melody in mind on guitar or piano or whatever I have handy. Usually when I write a song on bass and I come up with a bass line, then the song becomes a bass-driven song and if I have a keyboard part in mind first then the song is built around that keyboard melody.
Did the two of you grow up in Illinois?
We grew up in a lot of places actually. Mostly, we grew up in Los Angeles and then around ’97 we moved to Illinois. We’ve lived here ever since.
What kind of music scene are you guys surrounded by?
I don’t know if I’m the right person to ask about the scene up here. To put it bluntly I’m like an anti-social hermit. I don’t get out much.
How does the band’s sound in the studio get transferred onto the stage? It’s only you and your brother in the studio. Do you hire other players for live shows?
We do. So far, we have two other live musicians – a drummer and a guitarist. That usually leaves me on bass and JAMES on keyboards. For the last show we played, we actually had to switch instruments a few times depending on the song. It keeps things interesting for us as well as the audience.
From this EP, what moments stand out for you the most and why?
For me SEASHELLS stands out the most. I think that JAMES would agree with me. It’s the track that we are the most proud of. The song actually comes from our pre-demo. It was one of the songs on that initial mix. The original mix was so flat-sounding and we had envisioned the track as this big pop, dance type song and the first version didn’t quite make it there. For the EP we were able to bring out all of the elements that we wanted to bring out in that song. It had that melancholy piano intro and outro and in the middle there is this pop/dance songs with these strings. It’s just a big epic song! It took us a while to get there.
You guys pride yourselves on being D.I.Y. Do you envision the band being able to maintain that sense of autonomy with future releases?
We’d like to hold onto that ethic as much as possible and do everything on our own. You only get better at something the more you do it. We can only get better from here and we do want to keep thing under our control as much as possible. We’re not naïve. We can only go so far with our home set up. We’d like to put the best possible product out there and so far so good.
I love how E.Ps are in vogue again! Is this release the hint of an LP that may be on the way?
Right now I’m going to say no. We like these short albums because they are more to the point.
Basically. Most people who buy full albums these days usually end up skipping over five songs until they get to a song that they actually like.
What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve heard THE DEFINITION OF DEVIATION?
We’re definitely in this for a reason. It’s not about popularity or money. It’s not a gimmick. This is our art. When someone listens to THE DEFINITION OF DEVIATION, I want people to feel as if their eyes have been opened. I’d like for people to know that when it comes to music, you don’t have to chase a trend or be stuck with one sound. There are artists out there that do want to push the boundaries and play any kind of music. There is definitely an audience out there for it and that is what I’d like for people to be opened to. Just because things are done a certain way in the industry doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to go. Look at the music industry today. It’s falling apart. There are musicians that are true artists who are responsible for every aspect of their presentation as opposed to these faces that are just given to people in lieu of artistry.