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Q & A with On Fillmore’s Darin Gray and Glenn Kotche

Q & A with On Fillmore’s Darin Gray and Glenn Kotche (photo)

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I went about arranging an interview with Darin Gray and Glenn Kotche, aka On Fillmore, after their November release Extended Vacation to talk about it and these films they’ve been scoring, which was covered here yesterday. They both thought I should take the leap and “grab the monkey.” As soon as I finish decorating this fake plastic Christmas tree to the sounds of Extended Vacation, I’m going to do just that.

[Darin Gray and Glenn Kotche of On Fillmore. Photo by Nathan Kaye]

Your sound lends itself well to the scoring horror films it seems, though I doubt one would exclaim that just from listening to one of your records. What is it about On Fillmore and horror? Are you particularly inclined to the mood, or the challenge of scoring suspense? Just really into New Jersey style S&M?

DG: Well, the funny thing is, outside of working with our friend J.T. Petty, I would say that neither Glenn nor I have a relationship with horror films at all. I think this is something that might set us apart from most composers working in the genre. We probably don’t take the well-worn path or write something that might be obvious (out of ignorance, really). We are going with our guts, following our own path and, hopefully, at the end of the day, creating something that is lasting for us, the director, and the viewer/listener. I don’t think we are inclined to any particular mood, but I do think we enjoy scoring suspense. I think we enjoy scoring anything really. That specific moment where you line up the music you just made with the image and crank up the volume through the speakers…magic.

GK: I completely agree. I think one aspect of our music thus far is patient repetition with very careful development – something that naturally lends itself to suspense. Also, since a big part of our sound is actually creating sounds – Foley style – in the studio, we use non-traditional, extra-musical sounds and combine them to create sounds that aren’t loaded – sounds that people can’t instantly recognize that are free of any emotional attachments or cliché’s. That can be unsettling for a lot of people. Film music can really give a lot away subconsciously to the viewer and that’s one aspect of our band/music that doesn’t do that. It’s also an interesting phenomenon that really pretty instruments – like vibes – sound scary to many people for some reason. And no, we are not in any way into NJ style S&M.

How did you come to work on these films with director J.T. Petty?

DG: Our work with J.T. really came about as a fluke, or at least it seemed that way. JT. was doing some editing at Quakebasket in NYC which was run at that time by our longtime friend and early On Fillmore supporter, Tim Barnes. I believe Tim was either playing one of our albums in his office or directly said to J.T., “Hey, check these guys out.” Regardless, the outcome was JT asking us to do the soundtrack for “S&Man.” Since that time we have also done the soundtrack for his short film, “Blood Red Earth” and a trailer for his wife’s book called “Audrey’s Door.” It’s funny really. J.T. heard/hears something in our music that I don’t think ever really occurred to Glenn or me – that there might be something sort of creepy or sinister at work. It’s not intentional, but I am happy that different listeners can draw their own conclusions of what it is we are doing.

I’ve been listening to Extended Vacation while pacing about my apartment. There are a lot of insane bird sounds on it. I feel like I’m losing my goddamn mind.

DG: First question I would ask back to you is “Are you ok?” Pacing… Bird sounds… sounds like you are indeed losing it. I think I would either keep this to myself or, better yet, and probably the best advice I could give you or anyone, is to just jump right in – take the leap of faith. Sometimes you just have to jump in the pit and grab the monkey, or in this case, the cuckoo bird. It involves trust that you will land on your feet and that you will come out the other side sane, but I have every confidence in you. We are going to get through this together and be all the better for it. Keep me posted on your progress.

GK: Some of the most rewarding experiences in my life began with a little bit of terror – take Darin’s advice and just jump in and go on the vacation that we made for you.

Don’t mind if I do! I imagine you bring a degree of your other band experiences into this project, but clearly On Fillmore is in its own world. Where is that world exactly?

DG: It makes me happy that you think that On Fillmore is in its own world. It’s probably the same world you live in actually, but maybe it seems a little strange because things previously not noticed or cared about have now been brought into extreme focus. Maybe they are even going in and out of focus? At least that is one of our wishes. I would hope that this world (we call it a place) would not be a specific one, but a place you could visit as a listener and one that, hopefully changes a bit with each visit or listen if you will. It is possible that the spark that created this world might have begun somewhere during the 5 hour stretch between our houses. Again, not specific, but the mental drifting that comes during this drive is at least a starting point.

GK: We want that place to be somewhere seemingly familiar on the surface but as you invest, you realize how far down the rabbit hole you’ve gone. By upsetting the balance of familiar sounds, the roles of those sounds suddenly change – you process them differently. Also, by taking sounds out of context you allow them to simply be sound – and sometimes that can be really powerful.

What kind of influences do you draw from when you get together?

DG: Most times I think the tendency here is to just list some bands. But with On Fillmore, it is a little more complicated or maybe even simple. Working together, talking through things, bouncing ideas off each other, being close friends, sharing likes and dislikes, sharing great meals, trial and error, curiosity, a willingness to experiment, a willingness to fail, trusting each other enough to throw it all away and start over again, our families and friends, people that we work with on a regular basis, etc… These are the real nuts and bolts that make us tick. These things probably affect and influence us more than any specific band, composer, artist, etc. Glenn and I both have a love for that ‘what would happen if we tried this’ moment. Both of us have somehow remained curious and maybe even, at times, childlike when it comes to making music. Not an easy task let me tell you.

GK: I’d like to add that we both have heard a lot of music. When we make something and look at each other wondering “what the hell is this?” we know we’ve gotten it right – at least for us and the reason for this band in the first place.

What film would you like to live inside of, if you could?

DG: There are a few big ones from my childhood that I certainly would not mind living in: “Mary Poppins,” “Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” “Chittie Chittie Bang Bang,” “Herbie the Love Bug,” and “Doctor Doolittle.”

GK: “King of Hearts,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “The Point.”

What film would you liked to have done the soundtrack or score for?

DG: Off the top of my head I will give you three, again, I could go on for hours:
Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” (or” Solaris” for that matter) even though I think the soundtrack is [already] amazing. Werner Herzog’s “Fata Morgana” or any thing Werner has touched – again, his soundtracks are always amazing. Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s “Akarui Mirai” (Bright Future) – I love most everything he has done, but for some reason this one has really stuck with me.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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