Episode 4 is live! I Talk with Reid Anderson of Faces Turned Ashen about his journey as a musician and the local music scene. Also, the podcast is now up on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud so you can now subscribe!
Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. On this episode, I’m speaking with Reid Anderson of Cedar Rapids band Faces Turned Ashen. We talk about his start in music and his various projects before he joined FTA. We also talk about the ever-changing Cedar Rapids music scene and the things we think could make it better. I hope you enjoy.
Okay, Reid Anderson, welcome to 319 Creates.
Reid Anderson: Yo, what up.
Mike Weber: So we all know that you’re part of Faces Turned Ashen. Why don’t you talk a little bit about how you got involved with those guys and what did you do before that?
Reid Anderson: Well, I got asked to be in it, five or six years ago now, somewhere about there.
Their old bass player was moving and they needed a new bass player. I worked with Ethan at Guitar Center, so he knew I could play bass and they asked me to join. And that’s the story of that.
I’d only been living here in Cedar Rapids for a couple of years when they asked me. Before that I lived up in Minneapolis and played in a few bands up there and played/saw a bunch of shows up there. Went to a bunch of stuff up there because it’s just a vibrant, crazy city. And then before that, I grew up in Omaha and played in bands there and did a bunch of stuff there too.
Mike Weber: So it really sounds like you’ve been all over?
Reid Anderson: A little bit. Yeah.
Mike Weber: Yeah. Let’s start with how did you actually get into playing music?
Reid Anderson: Playing… I was about 11 or 12. My uncle, Uncle Miguel, played in a mariachi band growing up. So I would see that all the time. And I just really liked guitar – thought it was cool. I thought the way he played it and they played it was fucking sweet. Originally I wanted to do that and play classical flamenco style guitar.
So that’s how I started doing that. Around the same time too my buddies were starting to get into punk rock and stuff. We were getting into Pink Floyd and all the good stuff. So, we would jam out together in high school. Then they kind of started a band on their own and kept pushing me off and not letting me join for a while.
So finally I got a “fuck you” attitude towards them. I started learning how to play everything I could get my hands on. During that period is when I originally wrote under a name called Alive and 45. I wrote electronica-y bullshit. It’s terrible. I believe it’s still on Last FM. If you really want to pursue it, I think it’s still all up there. But it was a lot of really poppy, really fun synthy stuff. Through that I learned how to play piano and drums, and that opened a bunch of avenues up as well.
Mike Weber: So then you know how to play pretty much all of the instruments in a band at this point?
Reid Anderson: Pretty much. Yeah.
Mike Weber: So, in the bands that you’ve been in previously – currently you play bass – have you always leaned more towards bass or is that a newer thing?
Reid Anderson: This is the first band I’ve played bass in. I learned it back in high school because that was one of the instruments they told me, “If you learn this, you can join.” And then they found a different bass player who admittedly was a way better bass player. They were way smarter to get him. It still kinda, you know, felt like a knife in the kidney there. That was the “fuck you moment.” Fuck you, I’m going to learn everything and do it on my own. I don’t need you guys.
Before this I had never actually played a guitar in a band. Before this I had played drums. Mainly drums just because up in Minneapolis everyone would find out I played drums and were like, “Well, I’m looking for a drummer.” And I was like, “Oh boy, let me play!” And I would play with anyone at any time. It was a lot of fun.
Mike Weber: So I know there are at least a handful of Faces Turned Ashen songs that Dustin typically will call out during shows that were written by you.
Reid Anderson: Yup.
Mike Weber: Two questions. What percentage of the music at this point in FTA have you written and how is that recording process?
Reid Anderson: Well, those couple songs, “Cranston, Why Are You Crying” and “Shut Up, Baby (I Know It)”. “Cranston, Why Are You Crying”, I had written years ago. Then “Shut Up, Baby (I Know It)” I had been working on for a while and they both just sorta meshed with what we were doing.
But, as far as the rest of the music goes, we all generally write it pretty much together. Certain parts I’ll come up with. All the bass parts I obviously come up with – except for a couple Jake’s come up with. But I would have to say at least a quarter just because of how, I mean, the only one who could maybe write basslines like me is Jacob. Otherwise, you know, that’s my domain. Just like how the drum part is definitely Jacob’s. We generally share it pretty well.
Mike Weber: I find it interesting – I don’t know Dustin that well, but I know Jacob Willenborg pretty well – that at least two members of this band are musicians that are fluent in every instrument possible.
Reid Anderson: Pretty much.
Mike Weber: How does that work? Because you mentioned that sometimes Jacob will write some basslines. Do you find it interesting recording with other musicians who are able to cross that line?
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s nice just because we can bounce ideas back and forth across one another. Especially arranging. The actual writing of the notes themselves, typically it’ll be: Dustin will handle most of the rhythm. Ethan will handle most of the lead and sometimes rhythm. I’ll do the bass part and me and Jacob will do the main rhythm section of it. But, the arranging of a song – this part should go here, this part should go here, we should do this and do that – we can all just throw out ideas.
While writing the songs, it’s interesting for us because we record throughout the process – making demos and all sorts of stuff so we can practice on our own if we need or have to. With that, it’s interesting to go back to those early demos of songs and listen to them and just think, “I play this whole part completely fucking differently now because we have changed it so much.” That part is definitely interesting because we all have different areas of music that we’ve all come from, so we can throw in different ways to mix it up.
Mike Weber: How frequently do arguments come up?
Reid Anderson: Not too often.
Mike Weber: Really?
Reid Anderson: Yeah.
Mike Weber: That’s really good.
Reid Anderson: We’re all pretty mellow laid back guys. Plus we also know how to handle it, we’ve all played in different bands. We’ve all played with musicians at least now for over 10 years, individually. So you just get used to learning how to deal with people.
Mike Weber: Also at this point – I know Ethan had gone, but he’s come back – this iteration of Faces Turned Ashen all of you guys have been in the band for… at least three years? I think that was when Jacob joined, or maybe my timeline is off.
Reid Anderson: Two and a half, I think. Let’s round it up. Pretty much three. Yeah.
Mike Weber: I think it was a little bit after that when Ethan left and Jeremy Jacobs came in, but that was only… was that even a year?
Reid Anderson: Yeah, a little over a year.
Mike Weber: So, the point I’m getting at is that this composition of the band has been around for a while and you guys have been working together for awhile. Especially in the Cedar Rapids music scene, having a band that has been in one form for an extended period of time is not something that we have a lot of. Really, with the exception of Faces Turned Ashen and Knubby who has been around since…
Reid Anderson: They’re gonna outlive us all.
Mike Weber: They are.
But having that dynamic and being able to work with the same people over the years, over multiple albums or EPs, you’re able to get comfortable with each other and understand the way the other members think and work. Do you feel that has moved the creative needle a little bit further out than it was in the past?
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. Because at a certain point we have to think amongst ourselves. We can’t just fall into the routine of how we write songs. We have to keep changing it up. If, for nothing else, like you said, where we all are so comfortable with each other that we can throw out crazy ideas and not have to worry about like, “Oh, well, what if they don’t like it?” We’ve had fucking way more bad ideas than we’ve had good ones. And that’s okay because that’s how you weed out the good ones. You know? It’s every fucking art form. You gotta just throw shit at the wall and go with what sticks. It’s helped that we’re just so much more comfortable with each other.
Also because we just wanna keep surprising one another. It’s always nice to have Ethan write something where I’m just like, “Motherfucker, you still got it. God damn.” You know, it helps with that.
Mike Weber: So going back to talking about Faces Turned Ashen and their time in the Iowa music scene, specifically here in Cedar Rapids. We’ve talked about a couple of members coming and going and the current composition of it. How do you feel that Cedar Rapids has changed in that time? You mentioned that you’ve been with the band for about five or six years now, and as far as a music scene goes, that’s a long time.
Reid Anderson: Fair amount. Yeah. It’s like high school – freshman to senior? I’m a freshman in college right now.
Mike Weber: Yeah, that’s exactly what you are.
Reid Anderson: Yeah. Or in kindergarten or whichever.
Mike Weber: Yeah. What have you seen in the last five or so years in the Cedar Rapids music scene? Do you think we’re moving in the right direction, or what would you want to see differently?
Reid Anderson: More, not necessarily more venues – but more venues. That would be a start. But really for a city our size, we have great venues for where we are and how many of us there are. You figure we got Tailgators, Red’s just started up in downtown.
Mike Weber: I haven’t been there. Have you actually been to a show yet?
Reid Anderson: Not yet.
Mike Weber: I haven’t seen any pictures from it yet. I’ve been in Red’s once or twice.
Reid Anderson: Sure.
Mike Weber: And I’m just trying to visualize how they laid that place out to accommodate a show.
Reid Anderson: I’ve been to some shows in some weird places, and they kicked ass so…
Mike Weber: Well, this is true.
Reid Anderson: If they got it, they can pull it off. Plus they’ve gotten a bunch of really creme de la creme of the local area bands play there. They’re doing right things. Then, you know, Hive Collective – I love what they’re doing. What we got going is good. I remember five years ago, it felt like it was very difficult to get shows for a period there. I’ve been in the band long enough to think back, of droughts that we’ve had where we just couldn’t get shows. And not because we weren’t looking, but because we just could not get shows. No one was playing anywhere, nowhere wanted to have bands basically.
Mike Weber: Yeah. I tend to see an ebb and flow, especially in Cedar Rapids.
Reid Anderson: Yeah.
Mike Weber: There are certain venues that I feel like kind of go through this period of – like a surge where I’m there every weekend. They are not just booking shows, but they’re booking really good shows every weekend. And then it just stops. The one venue that I really noticed, and I’m not trying to put anyone on blast here, but, Cocktails and Company.
Reid Anderson: I love Cocktails.
Mike Weber: Cool venue. I like shooting there. It seems like they will get into a spurt where for a month or two they will have good shows every weekend.
And then… I can’t remember the last time that a show came across my plate that was at Cocktails.
Reid Anderson: Last one I remember, I believe it was Coolio. That was the last one I can think of.
Mike Weber: I think the last one that I went to there was a Heavycraft show, so that would be, that’s at least a year and a half ago.
I see a lot of venues will go through these phases. I think a lot of it with venues like Cocktails and Tailgators is that they’re more conscience about putting together shows that their regulars aren’t going to hate with every fiber of their being, right?
Reid Anderson: Oh, yeah. Just Jules, by the way. They do that as well. Yep.
Mike Weber: I don’t want to sit here and say that I think music should be curated to, you know, fit the masses. But at the same time, I think, if nothing else, sometimes it’s hard when bands break up and go away, having enough similar bands that you can put a bill together that is complimentary.
In my time in the music scene, which I’ve been active from like 2009 to present. It really wasn’t until 2015 that I started getting really active, especially from a photography front. 2015 and 2016 were, at least from my perspective, really good years.
Reid Anderson: Pretty good years. Oh yeah.
Mike Weber: I think in 2015 I shot nearly a hundred shows.
Reid Anderson: I can believe it. That was around the time we were playing, and especially during the summer, almost every weekend, if not a couple every weekend. It was nice.
Mike Weber: Yeah, there was one point, I think it was about two or three weeks, that I had gotten burned out because I was averaging… There was one month that I shot something obscene. I think it was almost 20 shows inside of a month.
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah.
Mike Weber: And to be fair, some of those were open mics. But you know, I’m still out. I’m still being active.
Reid Anderson: Absolutely.
Mike Weber: And I just remember thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t know how I’m going to keep this up.” And then I think I took two or three weekends off just to kind of decompress. But now, there are weeks that I struggle to get one show in. The open mic that I used to shoot weekly isn’t really a thing anymore.
Reid Anderson: That will happen.
Mike Weber: And a lot of the bands that I used to work with – you know, Leviathans, Milk Duct Tape, Heavycraft. A lot of the bands that I would shoot virtually every time they played aren’t here anymore.
Reid Anderson: Yeah. It’s a shame they’re not here anymore. That’ll happen though. It’s nice to see what’s come from all of those bands and everything nowadays though. I miss playing with Leviathans. But also, I’m not going to lie. I don’t mind having their drummer now.
Mike Weber: You’re not biased at all.
Reid Anderson: No, not at all.
But no, back in that time, like you said, with all of those bands playing around here, it was great. Pretty much anytime you wanted to put together a show or anyone wanted to put together a show, you could get something going down pretty quickly.
That was back into the Undisclosed days because that’s when they broke up. With them in the mix, there was just a ton of really good bands around at that time.
Mike Weber: Yeah. I remember in 2015, when I actually made a conscious decision – I think my goal was one show a week.
Reid Anderson: Right.
Mike Weber: I’m going to do one a week. Then I started doing the open mic thing and decided I’m going to do the open mic plus one actual show. I remember in late 2014, early 2015, in Cedar Rapids there was Undisclosed, there was Miner, there was Leviathans. There was Knubby. There was, what was it, item 9?
Reid Anderson: Yup. Item 9.
Mike Weber: Then there was The Sound Thoughts?
Reid Anderson: Yep. God, I’m trying to think. There was a bunch of really good bands at the time. Plus we always had Knubby in the mix, because like we said, they’re going to outlive us all. At the end of the world, they’re basically cockroaches in the best way, in the best way.
Mike Weber: They are cute, cuddly, cockroaches. We love them to death.
Reid Anderson: I would describe their music as nuclear fallout. It is radiated nuclear fallout in the best way. It’s amazing.
Mike Weber: We’ll take this opportunity since we’re kinda being all downers about how the music scene was really good a couple of years ago.
Reid Anderson: It’s still really good right now.
Mike Weber: It is. And because we were talking about Knubby, we’ll just give them a plug and say that they sound freaking awesome with their new guitarist.
Reid Anderson: Nadge. Hell yeah.
Mike Weber: I was skeptical going into it.
Reid Anderson: It’s a great blend.
Mike Weber: When you take a band like Knubby, who has been around for a while.
Reid Anderson: A while, yup.
Mike Weber: And has been the exact same member composition. You can go back to their first album and listen to it and listen to their last release. Then you’re like, yep, yep.
Reid Anderson: That’s the same band.
Mike Weber: The same band. They’ve definitely evolved, but there hasn’t been anything like really drastic with their sound over that time. So I was going into it being kinda skeptical how they would sound as a four piece. But it sounds really, really good.
Reid Anderson: It sounds pretty bitching. I loved what they did as a three piece, but it’s the type of stuff that they just have a lot more breathing room with four people to do what they wanna do. Great. I love Nadge. It’s a great addition.
Mike Weber: Especially with the older material that they rehashed for the four piece. It sounds good. But the new stuff, I think it was “Sand Dune” (actually it’s “Dune Buggy”). It sounds bad ass.
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. It’s always different adding in someone to a song when they weren’t originally written to be in the song. But when you’re writing with the four parts in mind, especially with those four dudes. Yeah, they got a lot of room to breathe. I’m very excited to hear what they’re going to do. I can’t wait.
Mike Weber: So bringing this back around to the music scene as a whole.
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah.
Mike Weber: I want to pose a question to you. What do you think that Cedar Rapids is lacking right now? Or what do you think that we need?
Reid Anderson: Dedicated… This is going to ruffle feathers, so I hope it doesn’t, but –
Mike Weber: I’m okay with ruffling feathers.
Reid Anderson: Let’s ruffle some feathers. Dedicated sound systems. If you’re going to have live music, have live music. That’s a thing I’ve noticed in most major cities. Places that have music, have music. As much as I love the fact that we have an amazing wealth of sound people around town who are running their own mini production companies that are amazing. They need to partner with different venues and do that. Instead of like floating around, which I get in this area of the country is more the way it needs to go. But that’s what I would want. Down in Iowa City, the venues down there – they are venues, they have incredible sound systems, so that even when you have a shit sound person – which I have only maybe a handful of times – you still sound pretty good. Whereas up here – we got great ones, but you never know. And sometimes I’m surprised to play bars in podunk towns that have better sound systems than bars here in Cedar Rapids. In that, they own the gear, they have people coming to specifically do it. You know?
Mike Weber: Yeah. And that does bug me a lot in town here because I look at as an example, Trumpet Blossom in Iowa City. It is considered a venue, but it’s a cafe.
Reid Anderson: Yes.
Mike Weber: It is a restaurant first and foremost, and it’s always weird going to shows on Friday and Saturday nights when there are people in there finishing their late dinner while people are doing soundcheck. It just feels weird, but they don’t rent their gear. They don’t have a sound company come in and set up. They’re dedicated to it, and it’s something that they only do one or two nights a week, if that. I think there are some weeks that they don’t even do music.
Reid Anderson: Yeah, yeah.
Mike Weber: But then we look at Cedar Rapids, and we have venues – again, I’m not trying to put anyone on blast – but a venue like Tailgators who reliably does shows every single week but doesn’t have a dedicated sound system?
Reid Anderson: It’s one of those things where I get why, because of this part of the country. It’s an incredible risk from the point of view of the venue owner. I get it. You know, it’s a lot of sound system. It’s a lot of money to invest into a good sound system, a good board, and someone who actually knows what the fuck they’re doing and how to run it all. Set it all up, tear it all down. I mean, shit. Most places that have actual sound – they don’t have to tear it down. They just leave that shit up. Like I said, shit or get off the pot. It’s the one thing I wish we had in Cedar Rapids was dedicated venues that had a dedicated sound person. Like when you go here, this person is working. You know who you’re dealing with. You know what you’re going to sound like. I can’t think of the number of shows I’ve played in this area, and it’s better now, thankfully, because a lot of the sound people in the area are able to kind of anticipate. Like my song, I don’t sing in most of our songs, but there’s a couple that I’ve written that I obviously do. So most of the time my mic is obviously mixed way out of the mix. I can’t think of the number of times I can’t hear myself at a show, which is fucking terrible.
But then go into play at shows in the middle of nowhere where they have a dedicated sound guy and I can hear myself singing. Why the fuck can’t this happen in goddamn Cedar Rapids? I don’t need to drive two hours to be able to hear myself through a fucking monitor.
It’s one of those things where that’s what you see in places that want to have a dedicated, consistent, thriving music scene. You need to have thriving sound people as well, you know? Instead of just this crab bucket pulling each other down.
Mike Weber: Well, in an ideal world, yes, I would like to see everybody who’s trying to be a venue. If you’re going to be a venue, yes.
Reid Anderson: Like I was saying, I get it. I absolutely get it. It makes perfect sense. And I don’t mean to besmirch any of the sound companies in the area, anybody. Because, especially in the last three years, fucking everyone’s been great. It’s been fantastic. But five years ago? Oh, those were the dark times. Those were the lean times. Swear you had no idea what the fuck you were getting into anytime you played a show.
Mike Weber: I think there is an in between, in my mind at least, because part of the issue that you run into with the production companies that do sound is that when you’re mixing in this venue once a month maybe.
Reid Anderson: Exactly.
Mike Weber: You know, you don’t have the time to really get –
Reid Anderson: You will eventually get the feel for it.
Mike Weber: Right. But I think that the kind of in between steps some of these venues could take is instead of putting all the responsibility of the sound onto the musicians they say, you know what, we want people to come to our venue and we want our venue to sound good.
So we can’t afford to buy the board and the speakers and all that. But what we can do is reach out to Production Company A.
Reid Anderson: Exactly.
Mike Weber: And say, you know what? Every time you’re here, it sounds pretty good. How about –
Reid Anderson: you just do all of it?
Mike Weber: Yeah. Let’s work something out that’s mutually beneficial.
Reid Anderson: Agreed.
Mike Weber: You will have more time in here to perfect the sound, and then we don’t have to worry about sourcing a sound production company. We can tell bands that Person A is going to do sound, and they sound good and they know what they’re doing and they know what they’re doing in our venue.
Reid Anderson: Exactly. It’s just one of those – I mean, with anything, consistency is going to get better results. You don’t buy a fucking Twinkie because you think it’s gonna taste like, you know, a Snowball. It’s going to taste like a fucking Twinkie. That’s why you get it.
At the same time, I don’t think we need to have a Twinkie-fied music scene or anything. It’s just that it also shows – I don’t want to say anyone in this scene doesn’t give a fuck about music – but like you said, it’s almost like this is our name on the line, so we want to make sure when people come in, they are hearing great stuff, which is great.
In Cedar Rapids right now, like you said, we have these great sound production teams that are doing good things. We have enough. Let’s solidify and make a bunch of good venues for a bunch of good shit, you know?
That would be my wish. That would be my one wish.
Mike Weber: And I totally agree with that. A lot of times those production companies are also the ones that are doing lighting.
Reid Anderson: Yup. Exactly.
Mike Weber: So for me, as a photographer, in Cedar Rapids it’s very hit and miss. If I go to Iowa City and I shoot at like Yacht Club or Gabe’s –
Reid Anderson: You know what the lighting’s going to be?
Mike Weber: I know exactly what I’m getting into and I’ve shot in those venues enough that I don’t need to take test shots. I don’t need to check my metering. I walk in and I know, okay, I’m shooting upstairs at Gabe’s. I’m shooting at ISO 3,200 1/25th of a second, 1.8 done. One shot. Oh yeah, look, it’s exactly the way it should look, because I’ve shot here so much. I know where to throw it. If we have that relationship built with those production companies, I think that puts a little bit more on their end. Like there’s more of an incentive to come in and do a really good job.
If you think about, and I’m not saying that anyone out there goes out of their way to like not give a fuck.
Reid Anderson: Right. No, yeah. Absolutely.
Mike Weber: But it does happen. And if that was in the context of, I’m working with the venue. It’s not, well, this was a crappy show that some kid put together. I really don’t care if I impressed them.
But if you’re coming in at the request of the venue, you want to maintain that relationship.
Reid Anderson: Right. It’s one of those things where it’s like right now in Cedar Rapids, you can tell, especially with like the Go Cedar Rapids Fest in the fall.
Mike Weber: New Bo Evolve!
Reid Anderson: Cedar Rapids, whatever it’s called. I can’t remember. Whatever that thing is though. Clearly, wheels are turning, where people in Cedar Rapids want to start having good bands coming to this area to play good shows. That’s what they want. But that doesn’t necessarily mean bands that are gonna play in the U.S. Cellular Center. I mean, there’s plenty of bands in this country or that are touring this country from fucking everywhere that will play here that are fucking amazing. It’s one of those things where our city needs to invest in that idea. If we want to have this scene, we need to have venues for people to come to.
We got great ones. We got great sound guys. I just, I would love them to all meld into an incestuous mix of bodies and spit out great venues. That’s what I want. That’s my wish. I haven’t rubbed that genie.
Mike Weber: Let’s keep rubbing that genie.
I’m going to toss something on. Just kinda to piggyback.
We’ll have an open debate on the state of music in Cedar Rapids. But I think all of these problems kind of intertwine. And we need to figure out a good way to bridge all the gaps. I think it’s a chicken and the egg problem. A lot of times we will talk about either venues aren’t as good as they could be.
Reid Anderson: Exactly.
Mike Weber: This isn’t as good as this or that.
Reid Anderson: You go to war with the army you have and not the army you want.
Mike Weber: Right. And, I think the number one thing that we can do is focus on promoting our stuff and promoting our friend’s stuff.
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah.
Mike Weber: And the number one thing that we should be focusing on right now is the scene is only as strong as the people that support it.
Reid Anderson: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Mike Weber: And if we have attendance start to trend downward at shows. That’s just the beginning of the end.
Reid Anderson: Yeah…
Mike Weber: And if we want to make the scene better, if we want to fix a lot of those problems, the first step is get more people to shows. When more people are coming to shows the scene will grow.
Reid Anderson: Yeah. Obviously, like you said, that’s the chicken and the egg situation, but also at the same time, if you build it, they will come.
Mike Weber: Right, right.
Reid Anderson: To use an Iowa metaphor.
Mike Weber: I’m not a native, so…
Reid Anderson: Neither am I.
Mike Weber: Yeah. It’s one of those things, and I see it from both sides.
Reid Anderson: Absolutely. It’s like any good problem, it’s not an easy solution. Even us, you know, we’ve been around in the town long enough that we understand there’s kind of a Faces Turned Ashen saturation where we have to be like, “Okay guys, we need to play outside of Cedar Rapids for like a month or two because we’ve played here a bunch.” Like, we need to stop. That just happens. But at the same time, a lot of bands need to start playing more. You know? I feel like it’s been great right now because for like a month and a half, there’s been at least one good show every weekend, which for Cedar Rapids is a good streak. That’s a great streak. And especially during a period of time where winter only ended like three weeks ago. It is not long since we’ve been in the dark times in this area. And for people to actually want to go out to shows during this time period is amazing.
Let’s face it, it’s the Midwest. The Midwest tends to dry up during the winter – it’s what happens for shows. And throughout the winter there were great shows. It’s a good momentum that we need to keep going. And I feel like there are enough people in the area that are keeping it going.
Mike Weber: And that’s what I want to see. And I’m glad that we have the momentum that we have. I’m always nervous, perpetually, when it comes to the music scene, because I always want to see it grow. And I’m always scared that – I always feel like we’re one misstep away from things starting to dry up again.
Reid Anderson: Well, yeah.
Mike Weber: And, I think that we’re definitely on a path that we can make this so much better than it ever has been. And, I think that’s important for us to stay focused on.
Reid Anderson: We’ve got a lot of heads in the right places, you know. Everyone’s thinking the same direction and that’s a good thing.
Mike Weber: Yeah. I really feel like right now, to a certain extent, we have less bands in play and fewer musicians. But the ones that we do have are really conscious about the scene itself and what needs to happen to kind of keep it growing.
And I almost think that’s more important to a certain extent. We could have a bunch of really good bands, but if nobody’s doing anything aside from playing shows, who cares? Good bands are important, but if we don’t have people who are being advocates for the scene, nothing’s going to happen.
As somebody that that has been active in one way or another in the local scene for almost 10 years, when I go to a show and somebody doesn’t know who I am… That’s really cool because that means that we’re getting new blood.
Reid Anderson: I love introducing myself.
Mike Weber: It’s so weird. The weird experience for me though, is since I’m not really big on putting my face out there on the internet…
Reid Anderson: Says the person who has posted on Facebook twice in 11 months. I understand where you’re coming from. Don’t worry.
Mike Weber: It’s always really interesting when I run into somebody at a show who will look at me and see that I’m a photographer. You can tell by the cameras hanging off my side.
Reid Anderson: Naw, that’s a bowling ball.
Mike Weber: Yeah, it’s a bowling ball. But it’s really interesting when someone will walk up to me and say, “Oh, you’re into photographing bands?”
And then they’re like, “You know, there’s this guy around here that does a lot of really cool photography of bands. I think it’s called like Shadow Fox or something like that. Have you heard of him?”
“Hi, nice to meet you.”
“Wait a minute, that’s you?”
That’s a really interesting experience.
Reid Anderson: Speaking of face melting.
Mike Weber: I will tie this up by saying the same thing that I’ve been hounding on for the last few years:
I think one of the most important things in keeping a scene growing is bands coming out to shows they’re not playing.
Reid Anderson: Yeah. How’s the old expression go? Don’t judge the twig in someone else’s eye with the log in your own.
That is one of the bad things about having a scene that is the way we are because let’s face it, we’re a pretty working class scene.
Mike Weber: This is very, very true.
Reid Anderson: You know, everyone in every single band is working their ass off outside of both the band and their full time jobs. And probably trying to provide for kids and trying to provide for houses and blah, blah, blah.
We’re all not lazy is the problem. You know, in big cities you can have people where all they do is fucking just play in a band and do drugs. And then let people jerk them off. That’s what happens. Out here, no.
Mike Weber: I don’t understand how that works.
Reid Anderson: I don’t either. It makes no sense to me. Out here in Iowa, you know, you can’t. You really can’t and that’s part of the problem. But it’s also one of the fucking most kick ass things about our scene. God knows, like I said, no fucking log in my own eye.
I need to start getting out to more shows. I can admit it, it’s one of those things. I’m sorry. Let’s just all say “Okay, I’m going to try to go out to more shows.”
Mike Weber: I wasn’t trying to poke fun at you.
Reid Anderson: Oh, no, no, no. You’re good. But you’re right. You know, you don’t want to say, “Oh, they didn’t come to my show.” But sometimes it’s like, what the fuck else was going on in Cedar Rapids this night? At the same token, I totally get it. It’s someone’s birthday, someone’s fucking anniversary. Someone’s third shift. They just worked back to back and they’re getting home and just want to get high and play some fucking video games and pass out.
Mike Weber: And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Reid Anderson: No, there isn’t. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with none of these things. That’s going to happen in every music city. You know, any city that wants to have a music scene – this is a thing that happens. I haven’t complained about crowd sizes in awhile, you know?
Mike Weber: I think that we are doing better in that regard.
Reid Anderson: Absolutely.
Mike Weber: I always bring up that point just because I think my perspective’s a little shifted. I’ve been involved in the scene for a while and I’m not looking at it as a pure observer or a fan. I’m looking at it as somebody who wants to see it get better, right? And I’m like, okay, what do I think? In this little brain of mine, what do I think would improve the live music scene?
Reid Anderson: If you could rub the genie, what would be your wish?
Mike Weber: I mean, if I could rub the genie and have my wish – there are some times that I feel like the bands don’t work together as much as they should.
One of the things that I think, I mean, it’s a good problem to have, but it also kinda sucks is when I’m going through my calendar and I’m like, all right. This Friday or Saturday or whatever, I’m going to go out and I’m going to shoot a show.
Reid Anderson: Oh, I know exactly when to keep going to.
Mike Weber: Well, all of the bands that I love to photograph are all playing shows.
Reid Anderson: Right now.
Mike Weber: In different cities. Well, actually no, let me take that back. The worst ones, and it doesn’t typically happen in Cedar Rapids, it’s more of an Iowa City problem, but I look at my calendar and there is a good show upstairs at Gabe’s, there’s a good show downstairs at Gabe’s. There’s a good show at the Yacht Club and also one at Trumpet Blossom. And these are all bands that typically play together, headlining different smaller shows.
Reid Anderson: Yep.
Mike Weber: I want everyone to play as much as they can. Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I wish that there was just more communication. Because I always think like –
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. Speaking as a band in the area, we’ve run into that or run into like fuck, they’re playing this show. But at the same time, I want to play a fucking show. I totally get where you’re coming from, but at the same time – I lived in Minneapolis and there was never a question of having only one band to see tonight. Typically when there were bands to see, there were three or four playing on the same night and you had to choose. Like, I’m going to this one. And yeah, sometimes you fucking struck out and a sound guy was terrible, something like one dude was drunk as shit and it just sounded like fuck. You know, like that happened and other times it worked out. That is an amazing problem to have in a scene that wants to have a thriving music scene. You know, an area that wants to have a thriving music scene and it’s a dual edged sword. It is.
Mike Weber: Why that always bugs me is that it always seems to happen where it’s like drought.
Reid Anderson: Yup.
Mike Weber: Three shows, same night. Then drought.
Reid Anderson: It’s like Bangladesh, you know, no rain, and then suddenly a fucking typhoon.
Mike Weber: Especially when it’s bands that I perceive as being relatively close – if there was just a little bit more coordination, we could have had: Friday one awesome show. Friday two awesome show. Friday three awesome show. Instead of three pretty awesome shows on the same night, fucking pick one.
Reid Anderson: Or even Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Mike Weber: Oh man. I would love that.
Reid Anderson: Yeah. You know.
Mike Weber: It’s one of those weird things. I really like when I have weeks where I’m shooting multiple shows.
Reid Anderson: Of course.
Mike Weber: Like that is something that. It is…
Reid Anderson: A great problem to have. I’ve said that three times Mike.
Mike Weber: It’s a great problem to have. It’s a psychological thing for me too. It makes me feel like what I’m doing is a bit more real. When it’s like, alright, for the last three days straight, I have shot music. Hey, maybe I’m actually doing something here. I want to see more shows. I want to see more good shows. I want to see more bands kind of crossing over and working with other bands. More diversity in the bills. I mean, you can only go so far.
Reid Anderson: Yeah.
Mike Weber: I don’t know if we have an original country band in Cedar Rapids, but I don’t want to see country with Faces Turned Ashen.
Reid Anderson: It would depend on the country. Sorry, it would. I wouldn’t mind playing with one. Give me some old, you know, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., even fucking Hank Williams III. That’s not really country, but you know, there’s definitely some we could play with, but it would have to be how you arranged the evening.
Mike Weber: I think it was more – I don’t think we have any original country bands in Cedar Rapids.
Reid Anderson: We really don’t, and not like that style. I guess I’m thinking of like Okkervil River. When they first came out, they were way more country than fucking shit that was around at that time. And it’s great. I would love to play with a band like that. But then also I don’t want to play with a band like Florida Georgia Line. That’s for goddamn sure. And you’re right, you know? It’s just genres of music, you know?
Mike Weber: Yeah. There’s this one band I’ve shot, I think twice, and I cannot remember for the life of me their name. But they, I wouldn’t say country – they’re folk music. It’s all improvised instruments, like washboards and things like that. And spoons. And saws – like they were playing a saw.
Reid Anderson: Yeah, I know how to play the saw. Yeah.
Mike Weber: But it wasn’t, it wasn’t the musical saw. It was just a regular saw.
Reid Anderson: It’s a rhythm instrument. Even the singing saw is considered a rhythm instrument because they hit it. Were they’re hitting it, I’m assuming?
Mike Weber: Yeah, I think they were like bending it and tapping it with a little mallet.
Reid Anderson: Depending on how you bend it, it’ll change the pitch. And then the singing saw is where, instead of hitting it with a mallet, you just play it with a violin bow – or technically a viola bow. Those are the best ones. Back in my day, I don’t know how it’s changed since then.
Mike Weber: Today I learned.
Reid Anderson: Amen brother.
Mike Weber: I would say that’s my list. Let me backtrack just a little bit. The one thing, more than anything and this is coming purely from the standpoint of being a photographer, if I could just be endowed with the ability to
Reid Anderson: Control lighting?
Mike Weber: Yes. For the love of Christ. There is nothing that annoys me more.
Reid Anderson: Consistency?
Mike Weber: Consistency and also understanding color theory. I mean, I understand that not everybody’s sitting here doing lighting and being like, “I wonder how this is going to photograph?”
Reid Anderson: Right.
Mike Weber: But ultimately, I think that bands want to be photographed well.
Reid Anderson: It’s the worst. It is.
Mike Weber: There are typically two or three problems with lighting at shows. It is consistency – like having some type of cycle, like lights that change periodically throughout the show. Especially if it’s on a short cycle. Having to plan around what’s happening can be annoying, but that’s fine. Then there is just overall light level, like how much light is on the stage. There’s a certain threshold where as long as we’re above this, you’re fine. Don’t care. But when we start dropping below that, that’s where things start getting really dicey.
And then the last one, and this – everybody’s an offender. Every venue I’ve ever shot in, everybody who brings their own lights. Please, for the love of god, solid colors don’t look good. They don’t photograph well. I’m biased so it’s hard for me to like completely detach, but I’ve never seen a band play and thought, “Man, with that red light on them… God, that looks so sweet.”
Reid Anderson: It depends. I’ve seen a few where, yeah.
Mike Weber: There’s a trick though.
Reid Anderson: Yeah. Well, and it also helps with strobe lights because the juxtaposition of the white with like solid color is amazing.
Mike Weber: I’ve read online in photography forums and also venue forums who’ve employed photographers – the trick is, if you like the idea of being able to throw a solid color on somebody, the trick is to have what they typically refer to as base lighting.
Reid Anderson: Yes.
Mike Weber: So there is a neutral lighting that illuminates the stage. And then you have your accent lights that are your solid colors or your strobes or whatever craziness you want to do. If we can get better lighting – because better lighting means my job is easier – it also means the bands look better.
Reid Anderson: I was going to say, I would look better. Yeah, I’m okay with that. I’m all right with that.
Mike Weber: And also control your fog machine, for the love of God. I’ve had to exit venues because I couldn’t fucking breathe because of fog machines.
Reid Anderson: Yeah… Yeah.
Mike Weber: Yeah. Fog looks cool. But again
Reid Anderson: Less is more.
Mike Weber: Less is more. That’s the other thing – if there’s too much fog on stage, it doesn’t look good from the crowd. I’m coughing and it doesn’t photograph well. Like it just doesn’t. Little bit of fog, especially when you have the right kind of lights and you get what almost looked like laser beams going through.
Reid Anderson: Fuck yeah.
Mike Weber: Or if you have the laser thing-a-thing and you have the actual beams going through. I had this one shot in the gallery show I did. I shot at Lefty’s in Des Moines and it was a touring band. They had a hazer foggy thing and they had one of those little laser projectors and the guy was up on the monitor with his guitar and he was kinda looking down and playing his guitar with all these laser lines coming out of him. It looked really fricking cool. But they were smart in how they were running the fog machine. There was just enough to catch the light.
Reid Anderson: Fog is supposed to be used for moments, not for entire songs.
Mike Weber: Yeah. Unless you don’t want people to see on stage. I mean, if that’s your thing.
Reid Anderson: But if that’s what you’re going for, it should be because people are smoking pot, not because of fog. Let’s face it. Come on. Granted, fucking A, I’m an old man. I’m old enough to remember when you could still smoke in venues. Oh boy. Which was amazing because no one had to worry about fog because it just was provided. There was a fucking mild yellow cloud hanging over everyone. It was a simpler time.
Mike Weber: It’s funny because, we established earlier that Reid and I are the same age.
Reid Anderson: 1988 baby.
Mike Weber: Good year.
Reid Anderson: Great year to be born.
Mike Weber: There was still the Soviet Union.
Reid Anderson: Amen. God damn right. Fucking Gorbachev.
Mike Weber: Oh man. But the point I was getting to was that so I was able to go into bars when smoking was still a thing, but I did not get into music until after. That wasn’t a thing anymore. So I don’t have memories of going to shows in a smoke-filled bar.
Reid Anderson: My first concert was a Neil Diamond concert, which was fucking amazing. That goddamn man is fucking – he can put on a show. I could still believe today he could put on a show. It was great. My first show though that I can remember going to was Cursive because I grew up in Omaha. It was Cursive. It was the release party for their EP they did after The Ugly Organ. Burst and Bloom, I think. Music nerding out for a second, but it was fucking amazing. It was incredible. And it was fantastic.
In Omaha, there was this venue, the Sokol Auditorium, and then there was the Sokol Underground. And the Underground was fantastic because it’s in the basement of the Yacht Club that has the pole in the middle of it?
Mike Weber: There’s a lot of pole-type venues.
The Go! Team was fucking amazing, and there was like 150 people in this venue. I mean, it was roughly the size of the room we’re in right now, and it was fucking packed. Everyone was smoking, so like I said, you didn’t have to worry about lighting a venue. Anything that they could send out looked fucking cool because there was just this haze of smoke. And it made smoking pot in venues way easier too. Just throwing that out there.
Mike Weber: I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Yacht Club, but it’s pretty easy to smoke in there. Every show I shoot from the Yacht Club, I walk downstairs, I’m like…
Reid Anderson: Woo!
Mike Weber: I’m hungry. What’s going on?
Reid Anderson: Thank God I’m near the ped mall. Oh fuck.
Mike Weber: Man. So we’ll tie this up, but I want to toss one more thing on wishes for Cedar Rapids. The one thing that would be really cool… Just to get a cool venue.
Reid Anderson: Amen.
Mike Weber: And, I don’t mean that as –
Reid Anderson: I love everywhere we play, but like I said, a dedicated fucking venue.
Mike Weber: But more than that. A cool venue – there’s something interesting about it. We go to Iowa City like Gabe’s is cool, but it’s –
Reid Anderson: Like look at Spicoli’s.
Mike Weber: Spicoli’s is cool.
Reid Anderson: I love playing Spicoli’s just because I can say I’ve played the same stage that multiple of my favorite artists have played. You know, and that’s fucking cool to say to me. That’s really fucking cool.
Mike Weber: I like venues that have character.
Reid Anderson: Exactly.
Mike Weber: Yacht Club I think is really cool because like the downstairs is interesting. And in case you were unaware, it used to be a morgue. So, there’s that.
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah.
Mike Weber: Spicoli’s is cool because it’s basically an arcade and then there’s a stage in the back. I hadn’t been to Spicoli’s until this year, and I was not sure what I was getting into when I went. But when I shot a show there, it was actually the first show that Knubby was playing with Nadge.
Reid Anderson: Oh, nice.
Mike Weber: I was like, this is actually laid out pretty well. It sounds pretty good. Their lighting’s pretty decent. They’ve got all of these arcade and pinball machines. And one of my other favorite venues… I don’t know if you get out to Dubuque? The Lift.
Reid Anderson: Oh. I’ve heard, I’ve heard. I would love to play there, but we’ve never played. But we’ve heard.
Mike Weber: It’s really cool. I shot Knubby there once or twice already. Nicole and I went down there, and we saw, what was the band, Whores.
All right, Reid. Well, before we take off here, I think we’ve talked as much as we can about the scene.
Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. I’ve made an ass of myself enough.
Mike Weber: We both did.
Reid Anderson: No, I can never do enough of that. Let’s face it.
Mike Weber: All right. Well before we go, why don’t you talk a little bit about what you have going on, what FTA has going on, that sort of thing.
Reid Anderson: What do we got going on? We’re just, I believe, sending off to get the physical copies. This week or next week? Very soon. Within the next month.
We’re trying to find a date to have our release party for the album. So this is May 21st, by the way. So if you’re listening in the future, welcome from the past. As of now, we are still looking. You may not hear it at that point. But, knock on wood. Yeah, we’re still looking for a date. We’re trying to figure it out because we’re getting the physical copies and we want to release our new album. It’s going to be dope. We spent a lot of time working on it.
Next month, we’re going to be filming a video for it, which is going to be sweet. I’m excited. It’s a couple songs – Portals and Hideous Reaches. Spoiler alert: sasquatch is involved and it’s going to be ridiculous. Our previous two were ridiculous, but this is going to take it to like. We’re going to have a PhD in ridiculosity here in a second. It’s going to be ridiculous.
So yeah, that’s what we got going on. We’re really excited. And then just in the words of Brook Hoover, playing ’em straight, keeping ’em great, you know. Keeping ’em great, playing ’em straight.
Mike Weber: One of these days I’ll have Brook Hoover on.
Reid Anderson: Oh my God. Fucking A dude. Do it. I love Brook. Prepare for a trip.
Mike Weber: Yeah, I’ll need a lasso or something like that.
Reid Anderson: No, just let him go. Just let him go. You’re going to have to edit the fuck out of it and that’s fine because you’re going to just keep diving. You may have to send a canary down in that mine. And once you get to the point where the canary’s dead – come back up. But just fucking, just keep diving in. You’ll get gold baby, you’ll get gold.
Mike Weber: Well. All right, Reid, thank you very much for coming on talking about art and stuff.
Reid Anderson: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Mike. It was a pleasure.