The Fontaines Series No.1
By CA Marshall
Photos courtesy of: Hank Fontaine
This feature has been strategically a long time in the making. California based (referred to as ‘New-Wop’ band – but we shall get into that later….) ‘The Fontaines’ have been on the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) radar since being introduced to their music genius in our December 2015 Artist of the Month competition and I felt that there was no better time than the present to showcase the Brother and Sister duo (Hank and Charlotte) than the present: Spring. Here’s why:
The first song I ever listened to by the band that had me at hello was ‘Paul Newman’, which automatically had me envisioning a retro soda shop with couples doing the swing by the jukebox. It was fresh, hip, happening and extremely addictive: everything ‘Spring Fever’ represents. For a lover of fifties/sixties retro tunes this was right up my alley and to be completely honest, there are only two other bands that I have spent more than two consecutive days researching and they are Palaye Royale and New Mayans and here I found myself completely immersed in everything ‘The Fontaines’ for the two day minimum.
After listening and observing, I had a sneaking hunch that I was just scratching the surface of ‘The Fontaines’ and it wasn’t until after my interview with Hank that I discovered that this band is on an even deeper level than I had first been impressed upon. Much to my excitement (and original instinct), I am learning that they are never ever going to be predictable……right up my alley.
There is no ‘Real Description’ on the planet that fits them. No, really, there isn’t! This is because this band is completely ‘original’ in everything they do from their look to social media campaigns, branding, and, of course: music. Even popular and world renowned Radio Shows/Stations such as such as Rodney Bingenheimer’s Rodney On The Roq KROQ 106.7 FM radio show in Los Angeles, California and Japan’s What The Funday (WTF?) interFM897 radio just to name a few have them on high rotation. It only made sense to add them to our list of High Calibre Artists in The (SMC) Spotlight.
I recently had an exclusive interview with Hank Fontaine to dig a little deeper into the roots of this happening band and here’s what we chatted about:
Interview: Friday, March 18th, 2016
SMC – Hi Hank! So let’s get right into it right away, I have lots to ask! What do you feel about (music) competitions in general? What are your thoughts on that?
Hank – I think that when bands get caught up in them, they lose sight on focusing on creating something for themselves….you have to make music for you and if other people like it, that’s great but if you try and chase attention or affection chances are pretty good you are going to end up losing what your original ideas are. I think that’s kind of the danger in a competitive environment in music or anything else really. You really mainly competing with yourself so it’s hard to say who’s ‘best’ or who’s ‘worse’.
SMC- Right….now with that being said, there are thousands and thousands of Indie Artists in the world. How do you feel in your industry with what I would label as a ‘silent competition’?
Hank – Well, What I would say is that really, perseverance to be the only factor that matters – I mean, I know a lot of Musicians who are brilliant and don’t pursue it as a profession (and have no intention to) because they don’t necessarily like the idea of the ‘careerism’ behind it but I think that most of the acts that I know who work hard on their music and do want to get bigger, well, they make progress. It’s a pretty uplifting thing to observe. I mean, I can’t say that there’s no horror stories out there, of course, I love the Wilco Documentary ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” (Click here to view) that covers this topic but…horror stories aside, I think that if you stick with it, you find your own voice eventually.
SMC – Yeah, that’s true. I am interviewing more and more artists who really pay attention to their and an eccentricity as opposed to Artists who just want to get to the top of the charts. The Fontaines are really unique: we love your look, your sound, everything. I feel personally even looking at some of our past competitions there were just some Artists that weren’t competing as much as they really could. I mean, I know that you were competing against your friends from ‘Swerve’ that month. Was there a lot of subconscious thought process related to that there for The Fontaines (as far as not wanting to compete against friends)?
Hank – Well, competing with your friends is never a good feeling but that being said, we do try to stay out of anything competitive just because it tends to create bad blood that unnecessarily benefits no one. That’s what I think the danger in making music into a competition is that it forces you to think: ‘How am I better than Swerve?’ or ‘How am I worse than Swerve?’ or ‘How am I going to beat Greg (Swerve) at what her does? How am I going to be the ‘better’ person than him?’ and….I literally just had coffee with him the other day (laughs), so it’s kind of…something that I think is sad when I see it in the music industry when there’s some who do learn to treat it as a competition and not as a situation where we are all equally screwed by the streaming industry. So, therefore, we need to help each other out. (support). But yes, of course we are always honored when we get nominated for something too so it’s all relative as well.
SMC – So this interview is going to be placed in our Spotlight on the SMC website. I personally really like the vibe The Fontaines have going on and it’s truly unique. You’ve been referred to as a ‘New Wop Band’….can you tell me a little bit about how that came about?
Hank – Well, you work in publishing so you know how you need to categorize someone – especially in print so that you can describe their music before it’s been heard because obviously you can’t stream a link that’s in a magazine. I think that with the first recordings we did we were caught up with a fascination with Retro and Vintage sounds and that’s something which I feel was a creative weakness that we had: that we weren’t really finding what was helping us to push forward musically. So, what I am really looking forward to is breaking away from that mold in the future and trying to really create something new that the world has never heard before. We want to create an iconic new guitar band that sounds distinctly modern. Not like something of the past….
SMC – Okay, so what we are hearing now is going to be something totally different coming up?
Hank – Yeah, I can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on.
(*Note above photo: Still of Charlotte Fontaine during the upcoming music video by The Fontaines releasing any day now – photo courtesy of Charlotte Fontaine)
SMC – Really? Are The Fontaines going to release the music as singles or an EP?
Hank – Well, We are hoping to have our first single out by the time we plat at Canadian Music Week (CMW) in May. Fingers crossed, but that is the goal is to have the next single out by then.
SMC – Can you release the title or anything of which single that will be as of yet?
Hank – I really can’t yet because we are still figuring things out but I can tell you that it’s one that’s somewhere on the internet if you look for it hard enough.
**I did follow up with some checking on the band’s facebook page and found this post which included a photo and Song titles dated December 8th, 2015:
please, say something
i love you
SMC – Are you going to be changing your ‘Look’ too?
Hank – Someday, but not yet. I like when a band has a look though. I am unashamed to say that….to quote my friend Niel (Wogensen) from the band ‘Valley Queen’: ‘They see you before they hear you’. I like the idea of presentation. I like to think of music as an experience that is visual in some ways as well as auditory in others.
**Side note: In my astute observation, The Fontaines have already displayed an impeccable look with that is fresh, clean, and truly earns the classy ‘Hepburn’ stamp of approval from me.
SMC – In terms of the band, primarily it is you and Charlotte, correct?
Hank – It’s funny you should ask, because we are currently in the process of getting some new band members. We are a four piece band and have a drummer and bass player but we are getting new drummers and bass players (laughs).
SMC – Okay, is that by choice or is it because of the change in sound?
Hank – I think we are changing direction a bit and starting to tour more so…we love Jason DeMayo and Scott Zimmerman and it was a very mutually beneficial decision that we made that we would find new members who we could both perform and record with.
SMC – What time frame are we looking at for the turnover?
Hank – In about 2 weeks we will be starting to perform with our new line up so that should be fun.
SMC – Where are you originally from?
Hank – We are originally from Texas. That’s where we kind of grew our music identity. We kind of grew up all over the place but…
SMC – Now you are based out of LA correct?
Hank – That’s right.
SMC – How Long were you in Texas for?
Hank – Not long enough to get to know it well, but long enough to gain a specific taste in types of music. I think it’s part of why we love Buddy Holly so much is because of the time we’ve spent there. We left as kids though so…
SMC – Who would you say you contribute your musical tastes to?
Hank – Personally, I had a cool friend in high school and he was always that cool friend who gave you good music (to listen to). He’s the guy who helped me to really develop my music tastes. Beyond that, I would say that Charlotte and I Love to spend time on the internet searching for new stuff, scouring SoundCloud, and that’s really how we find new music. We try to explore music from every side of the music industry.
SMC – In terms of mainstream, who would be your favorites?
Hank – I have been really listening a lot to Random Access Memories by Daft Punk the last couple weeks. That is an album that is very mainstream but yet so unique, ground breaking, and creative. They have a really good job of reinvigorating old genres of music – making them sound new again.
SMC – Do you feel that is what The Fontaines is heading towards as well? I feel personally that has already been achieved but are you going a step further than that or….?
Hank – I don’t want us to feel boxed in by conventions that already exist. I think where I see us going is a place where we don’t have to resort back to a specific time and place but instead to exist in this time and place in 2016. That is our goal.
SMC – Ok. So you said first release by CMW, is there an EP that will also be eventually releasing?
Hank – We will be putting out an EP later this summer with a few new songs on it.
SMC – You have been played by KROQ and What The Funday (WTF) – how do you feel about hearing your songs being played on a major FM radio stations?
Hank – I can’t really enjoy listening to our music to be honest. The whole time I am listening, I am evaluating what I like and don’t like about it. It’s completely impossible to remain impartial when I hear our music on radio (laughs).
SMC – I have heard that consistently from bands that are very particular about their music. So it just shows me that you are very humble, no arrogance…
Hank – Oh, there’s some arrogance in there….(laughs)
SMC – In what way?
Hank – Well, I wouldn’t be making music if I didn’t think I had a natural aptitude for it.
SMC – Well that’s true…
Hank – and….I think that I’ve heard what modesty creates in music and it’s not pretty. (laughs) Fortunately, I have a very thick skin but a very weak ego underneath so they kind of balance each other out.
SMC – (laughs) Well that’s good, it is the music industry right?
Hank – Yep, that’s right….
SMC – How do you feel about social media presentation and branding prior to an album release?
Hank – I think it is fun to make a part of who you are and terrible if you can’t do that. Everyone I know who uses social media a lot either in an attempt to convey who they are, or it’s an attempt to get attention from other people. It is the ones who show their true selves in their posts that seem to get the most out of it. I never want to feel like I am posting something that is not true to who I am just because it will get a bunch of retweets.
SMC – Right…what’s your favorite? Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook?
Hank – Twitter, because you can have a conversation with anyone in the world so instantaneously. I am so amazed by it every time I see a tweet or a retweet from someone like Kim Gordon so it’s really a good feeling.
SMC – What is Charlotte’s?
Hank – I think she likes to go on Snapchat a lot. She likes those weird balloon faces…(laughs)
SMC – I think that with your new EP coming in this summer…congrats by the way…
Hank – Thank you…
SMC – Is it all complete or is it still in the process of production as we speak?
Hank – It’s all ready to go. The weirdest thing about being an Indie Artist is this hurry up and wait situation you constantly find yourself in….where you’re rushed with something and then you are sitting on it for months or even a year and that is a terrible terrible feeling that I would not wish on my worst enemy but it’s the only way that I know of that things get done (laughs).
SMC – Well I understand, because in that time your music is evolving and you are evolving and again, even your look so that by the time that get’s released, you’re look and sound has already evolved. Will you be recording more new music in congruence with that ‘new sound’ you are talking about or will the new stuff already present on that new music?
Hank – I think that when people hear our new EP, they are going to stop and think to themselves: This doesn’t sound like anybody else I can name. You know, someone might say, ‘This is terrible’ or, ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘Nobody is going to buy this because it isn’t ‘marketable’’, but they can’t say that it sounds just like everybody else that is on the radio. So I think that’s why we really rushed to make a second EP the same week that we released our first one. (The first was self-titled and released on April 28th, 2015 – see below)
SMC – Wow! Ambitious! Very cool. The first EP is going to sound totally different than the second one…how easy is it to just flip like that in such a short time period?
Hank – It’s easy in that there is no other choice. To quote Woody Allen: ‘A relationship has to keep moving like a shark’. So we are always looking for a way to make something that we would even find ‘unlistenable’ and figure out what’s new and different about that.
SMC – Very cool.
Hank – Thank you.
SMC – Well this has been great! We would love to follow up with you in June for our July 1st issue of the magazine to talk with you about your new release.
Hank – Yeah, that would be great!
SMC – Yeah, I think we’d like to continue following your journey and see where this goes because I think The Fontaines is doing really well.
Hank – Well thank you! As long as you keep saying nice things, you can interview me all day long. (we both laugh)
SMC – There you go! A few more questions though….what has been the fan response so far?
Hank – We have a very very very very very supportive fan base out there. That’s really the thing that makes me want to keep doing this publicly because there’s days where you think to yourself, ‘Maybe I would be better off just recording and keeping all of the recordings to myself and never putting them out in public but when people tell you that they are listening to your songs and they like them that really gives you a sense of validation for all of the ‘not so fun parts’ of being in the music industry of which there are many (laughs)
SMC – Where do you find primarily your fan base is?
Hank – Instagram, Twitter primarily but they do come to our shows which is great to see. It’s great to meet someone where the main reason you are meeting them is because of your music. That’s a really cool feeling.
SMC – Are they global mainly or based in the USA?
Hank- Most of the fan base is in the USA because that is where we perform, but I think that in the next two years we will be going more international and I can’t wait to see what that brings us.
SMC – Well we would love to see you in Canada more.
Hank – Yeah for sure. We would love to play every city in the world.
SMC – What is your dream stage you would like to play on?
Hank – Well, I’d tell you, but, I’d have to kill ya (jokes)…
SMC – Super!
Hank – I try not to visualize anything because by keeping neutral expectations, when things go well I can feel that sense of accomplishment.
SMC – Just have to add….you both have a great sense of humor. Is that intentional or is that just who you really are?
Hank – I think that anytime you are using the internet to say something, you have to be intentional in that there’s a lot of unnecessary fluff that’s out there. I think that we try to put thought into everything that we do post. I think there’s actually a photo of me picking my nose on our twitter right now…..(I laugh)….
SMC – Well Hank, this has been very insightful and we thank you for your time today for this feature. We are looking forward to hearing more form you and I think we are pretty good here! We have some great content here.
Hank – Great! Thank you too.
The Fontaines’ Social Media (click to be directed: