CATSKILL CHILL ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: FiKus
Catskill Chill Sept. 18-20, 2015, Hancock, NY
by Elise Olmstead
The sixth annual Catskill Chill, taking place September 18-20, 2015, will be saying farewell to their Camp Minglewood venue this year. The Hancock, NY, festival is not only host to some of the friendliest vibes, but also big name bands combined with hot local and up-and-coming talent. Appalachian Jamwich wanted to highlight a talented band on the lineup, FiKus, that is synonymous with the Chillfam name and vibe, lending not only their music to the festival but also working as staff. This year being such a special one, we wanted to pick their brains about year’s past and looking forward!
How would you describe your sound, and who are your biggest musical influences?
We have never been able to fit our music into any specific genre, as our music tends to vary greatly over a fairly large spectrum from song to song. This has to do a great deal with our songwriting process and the fact that each of us are individually influenced by such different things – anything from Sonic Youth to Chopin to Louis Armstrong. It’s the beauty of being in a band and collaborating with other people and having the end result be a unique combination of each of us. Ultimately, it’s for the listener to tell us what we sound like, in their own experience.
I loved listening to your album, Living Life Through Multicolored Scenery, but I know that most of your performances are largely improvisational. How did like the studio experience?
The majority of our performances are actually not mostly improvisational. There are spots in many songs where we can open it up and many of the transitions from song to song rely on improvisation, but the structure of the songs themselves often remain intact. As for the studio experience, with LLTMCS we tried to create a record that was very true to our live sound – without too much production and something that we could easily recreate live. It is always a long process, but it’s fun to work on a project together and with this record we were very happy with the end result.
Were a lot of these songs already being played live, and did you write some new ones specifically for the album?
LLTMCS was a culmination of many of the songs we had yet to record, so many of them had already been played out in our regular rotation. We had experimented with “Moving Pictures”, playing it out sparingly, but we saved the title track, “Living Life Through Multicolored Scenery (Parts 1 & 2)” and “Cloudburst” as new tracks until after the record was released.
Do you prefer “jamming” out rather than playing a structured set?
I think FiKus as a whole prefers a balance between the two. All of us love to improvise and throw musical ideas around in a live setting, but we also find much joy in the compositional aspects of music. As songwriters, we like to develop each of our songs and allow them to speak for themselves as they were written before we put any spin on them, but as musicians, it’s always fun to open it up during a set and take it for a ride.
I often see you play with Shwizz at Catskill Chill for “ShwiKus” set. How did your relationship with this band start? Why do you think you perform so well together?
We were introduced through a mutual friend years ago and ended up on a few bills together, which formed an almost immediate camaraderie – and ultimately “ShwiKus”. They are our friends in music for life, who have shared some really great times with us, and are all phenomenal musicians and a great band. There is a mutual respect between us and we support each other wherever we can, so it makes for a really solid relationship, both on and off the stage.
Do you perform or sit-in with any other band at Catskill Chill? Who is a band that you haven’t played with on this year’s lineup that you would love to perform with?
One of the really special things about Catskill Chill is that many of the bands know each other very well and many are really close friends. We have played with many of these bands before, at Catskill Chill and elsewhere, especially in the cabin where so many people have come down to jam at all hours of the night. There are definitely some acts we are not so familiar with on this year’s bill, which is really exciting as it always is to hear new music.
You’ve played Catskill Chill every year since 2011, how did your relationship with this festival start? Why do you like returning every year?
Our relationship started after a few of the guys from the Chill came to see a show we had with Shwizz in Nyack and since then, we’ve gotten very close with Josh, Dave, Larry and all the rest of the Chill Fam. Shwizz and FiKus both work at the festival every year in addition to playing because we like to help out in every way we can – they have become our family and we are very appreciative to be a part of this every year. For us, like so many other people, it has become the official end of the summer, and there is no better way to send it off.
What do you think of the festival’s farewell to Camp Minglewood this year? What are you excited for at Catskill Chill 2015?
Knowing the guys from the Chill so well, we know what these grounds have meant to all of them, and what they have come to mean to all of us. For so many reasons, they are almost sacred and allow for the magic that is Catskill Chill to ensue. Just like so many things in life, the farewell to Camp Minglewood is a bittersweet experience for everyone, but we know that this will be the most special year because it is the last and we are looking forward to all that will come with that.
Tickets for Catskill Chill 2015 are on sale here: http://www.catskillchill.com/buy-tickets/