Eric Frederic

Brandon Canchola

Omar Cuellar

The Leaner and Meaner Facing New York

Story by Jonathan D’Auria

It’s always difficult for a band to lose a member—the roles are redefined, the music is rebuilt, and a layer of skin is stripped from the band’s identity. Some bands push through it and some bands succumb, but either way, the infrastructure and dynamic is shaken.

Then there’s Facing New York. In the last year, they’ve made the transition from a five-piece to a four-piece and finally down to a three-piece, and they’ve ascended from the ashes a stronger, happier band. Maybe it’s their lust for the music or maybe it’s their will to succeed, but the only thing certain is that four years after they first began playing together, Brandon Canchola (bass), Eric Frederic (guitar/vox), and Omar Cuellar (drums) have found their true identity as a trio.

Cutting fat off their sound like a boxer training for the fight of his life, the San Francisco-based trio is tighter than ever, and their soon-to-be released album, Get Hot (Five One INC, 2008) is evidence enough that Facing New York can adapt to even the most difficult of situations. The Grixer sat down to get a lesson in subtraction from a band that knows the subject all too well. 

Cutting My Hair-Video

The Messenger-Live

What has Facing New York been working on in recent months?

Well, we hit the rehearsal space about in 2006 to write new material, but five months ago, we lost [guitarist] Matt Fazzi, so we really had to reevaluate things before we could move on.

Was it a difficult thing losing Matt to Taking Back Sunday?

It was and it wasn’t. We were all happy for him, so it worked out in the end, but it sucked losing his presence. We had lost Rene Carranza a year earlier, so we went from a five-piece to a four-piece to a three-piece. I think we’re pretty good at adapting by now.

And how do you like being a three-piece?

We love it. Four- or five-piece bands create a wall of sound, which can be a good thing, but there is so much clarity to a trio. You can hear what everyone’s doing, and each instrument and member has much more of a voice.

So what can we expect from the next FNY album?

It’s a lot more focused than our last LP. We were 21 when we released the first record, and looking back, it was so indulgent. We wrote the new record with a lot of prog influences, so the odd-time signatures and song evolution is all there, but we can really control what we’re doing now, and I really think it comes through.

How do you go about writing your material?

It depends. Some of the songs are pre-compiled, and sometimes they just come out of different riffs we write. Eric writes most of the components of our songs, but we always work out the arrangements together. That’s when we can really put our stamp on the music.

And who’s producing the new record? 

Eric, our singer, is doing most of it. He’s a nut about it. We’re really happy with how it’s sounding so far.

Does the new album have a title?

Yeah, it’s called Get Hot. Eric was reading a book on jazz and it explained that the term came from people wanting to “get hot” on the dance floor. We loved the concept, and we want people to react like that to our music. 

Is it a tough going from the studio to the stage?

Oh, definitely. It’s completely different. The studio is such a focused environment—you have to zoom in to every little detail so much that you sometimes forget the big picture. In fact, our first show back while we were in the studio was complete garbage. Rehearsing and performing are way different than recording.

Describe your new music in your own words.

This record is definitely a hard rock record—we really brought it on this one. But we realize that nobody wants to bang their head for an entire album, so we made it dynamic, too. There are ups and downs, but the whole thing rocks; everything just vibes together thematically. A lot of times, songs are just bunched together because that’s what the band wrote at the time, but these songs really stack up as a cohesive album.

The Grixer staff has been loving the single “The Messenger.” How did that song come about?

That’s a funny story. Doug Messenger is the owner of the studio where we recorded this album, and one day he came up to us and said that he had a drumbeat he’d been saving for a long time. He laid it out for us, we really loved it, and we began writing to it immediately. It’s a crazy revolution; the riff turns around in like, 19 beats. It’s a fun song to play out.

What’s your ultimate goal in making music? 

To keep progressing and to keep pushing the boundaries of what we do. Touring is also a huge motivator. I’ve played on a lot of the stages that I watched my heroes play on earlier in my life, so that is huge motivation for me.

And do you consider yourself a natural performer?

Not at all—I’ve never been a showman until this band. Actually, this is the first band I’ve ever been in, so it all kinda came together for me when we formed. I quickly learned to just let is all out and perform with a swagger. It’s a really cathartic thing to play a live show—nothing really feels as good as being on stage.

What are your shows like now that you’re a three-piece?

They’re a lot more intense, but a lot more controlled. There’s more ground to cover and it’s more focused on the three of us, so we have to bring it even more. It’s the same as always though—sweaty, connected, and loud. Our music can’t be done any other way than loud. It just comes across better at high volumes.

What’s been your favorite show so far? 

The most fun I’ve ever had was at SXSW. We watched The Melvins play an insane set and we played a tiny bar after and just brought it. We tore the whole show up. It was definitely an experience.

And your favorite tour? 

Anytime we go out with RX Bandits it’s amazing. Those guys are like brothers to us. We fight and we bitch, but we love each other and always have an amazing time. Steve Choi of the Bandits is actually playing guitar for us this tour to hit the extra guitar parts from the record. We’re stoked. 

Who are your greatest musical influences?

Tool is a big influence for us. We’re also all huge fans of John Bonham of Zeppelin. If we had to name one influence for the whole band, it might just be Bonham.

Do you guys feel tied down to any particular genre, or do you feel your music stretches beyond that?

When it really comes down to it, we’re a rock band, but like any band we definitely bring in different elements. We add world music feels to a lot of parts, but the most important influence to our music is probably hip-hop. I think you can really hear that inflection in our music.

What is your ultimate goal for FNY?

These days, that’s a tough question. It’s so different being a band now, more than ever. Record labels are in a weird place and things like gas prices make touring hard. Morally, I think about how much gas we go through on the road and feel really guilty about it. Things are definitely changing for bands today, so it’s hard to say what my goal is through this group. The next few years will be really interesting for touring and records sales for bands though—no one knows what’s gonna happen.

Describe your band dynamic offstage.

We’re brothers and best friends. Our relationship extends way past music, which is really important to us. We’ve lived together for a long time and we act like old men most of the time—nothing too crazy on our ends.

And what do you do with your time away from music?

Well, we just moved into a new house, so we’ve been fixing it up in our spare time. My main gig aside from music is woodworking. I have a day job building cabinets, and I honestly think I’m just as passionate with wood as I am with music. I find that they are both similar in crafting and creativity. Give me wood or give me music and I’ll be a happy man.

That must be a big contrast—from the woodcutting room to the stage.

It really is. Playing on stage glorifies everything, and creating with wood is a very humble but rewarding process. Honestly, I need both in my life. They are a perfect balance to each other.

How did you get the name Facing New York?

Eric and Renee read a book called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, who was a philosopher who wrote fiction. Her main philosophy is based around the capitalist thought that if everyone looks out for themselves, society works in harmony. In the book there’s a character who is an architect in New York who goes about everything differently and is literally facing New York to change things. We really liked that concept.

And finally, what can we expect from FNY in the near future?

If all goes well, our album will drop on September 5th. We’re currently on the road with RX Bandits and Portugal. The Man for the time being, and we’ll be starting our first full national tour the middle of September. So go buy the record and come see us play!

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