Frankie And The Witch Fingers interview with Dylan Sizemore, Alex Bulli and Glenn Brigman
I really don’t like to make comparisons when it comes to bands that I enjoy, there’s always something different and unique, at least in my eyes, about what I’m listening to. I do not enjoy derivative bands much. So, while Frankie And The Witch Fingers may sound like Ty Segall started a new band with Jay Reatard and they got Charlie Mootheart to join in on the fun, they’re really just a ridiculously talented lo-fi garage rock outfit in my eyes and I couldn’t mean that as a greater compliment.
From the moment you start the titular title track on their debut album, Sidewalk, you can hear a deep appreciation for late 60’s and early 70’s psychedelia, refined and captured in the same emphatic and impulsive way, while dragging tricks and sounds from the last fifty years along for the ride. While Frankie And The Witch Fingers seem to incorporate a few more dissonant sounds and breaks, think 13th Floor Elevators or The Velvet Underground, to really spice up the sound and add a level of dissonance to the tightly crafted garage pop melodies, that just seem to melt out of your speakers. Reverberation and fuzz dosed guitars shimmer and undulate in the songs, while echoed vocals float above the instruments, blending in and out of fits of distortion and rave-ups. The bass and drums are like calm pounding waves, powerful enough to chip away at a mountain with out raising an un-needed racket while doing so. Tracks slowly build moment and break into amazing walls of sound and distortion, before fading back into the shadows to reveal the skeletal melody of the song again to let you take it all back in one more time before you’re done. My favorite tracks are when they just hit the gas though, pounding riffs and thundering bass twisting together like a Porsche hitting a lamp post at a hundred and eighty miles an hour, taking your mind along for the ride! Sidewalk has only been released as an extremely limited cassette tape at this point, but word is that might be changing sometime soon but either Frankie And The Witch Fingers is prepping for the release of their second full-length album before the end of the year. I would usually have held off talking to them until the album release but I have to admit, these tunes really got into my head! I couldn’t find a way to buy a tape, hell, I couldn’t even find out who put it out, and I was hoping to score a copy. While I was chatting with these guys though, I just couldn’t help but do an interview; listen to Sidewalk and tell me you wouldn’t have done the same! What follows is a glimpse at a band that in my opinion is on the brink of really bringing the heat. These dudes are just serious enough about what they do to make amazing music and they have enough fun making it, you can hear it through your speakers on every track. After a recent relocation from Indiana to California, I have no doubt you’re gonna be hearing a lot about Frankie And The Witch Fingers before long. In the meantime, get a head start and check out the story so far below, and for the love of all that’s holy – click the Bandcamp link and take in some of the best garage rock you’re gonna hear this side of 1969!
Listen while you read: http://frankieandthewitchfingers.bandcamp.com/
I don’t know how long you all have been around or anything but I just heard about you guys not long ago at all. What’s the lineup in the band at this point? Is this the original lineup or have there been any changes since the band started in those regards?
Glenn: The current lineup is Dylan Sizemore on guitar and vocals, Josh Menashe on lead guitar, Alex Bulli on bass and me (Glenn Brigman) on drums. The band started as a two-piece of Dylan and myself but that was a pretty short phase, we decided to switch to the full band setup pretty quickly.
Are any of you in any other active bands or do you have any side projects going on at this point? Have you released any music with anyone else in the past? If so, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dylan: Glenn, Josh and I also play in the band Triptides, but on different instruments. We’ve put out a lot of releases on various labels over the years. The first Frankie album was put out on tape by Nice Legs records out of Washington.
How old are you and where are you originally from?
Dylan: We’re all in our early twenties. Glenn’s from Atlanta, Josh is from San Diego, Bulli is from Springfield, Illinois and I’m from Lexington, Kentucky.
What was the local music scene like where you grew up? Did you see a lot of shows or where you very involved in the scene or anything? Do you feel like that scene played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or in the way that you perform at this point?
Glenn: We all came from pretty different scenes. All of them we’re rock and roll based, but each with its own version. I think the fact that we all saw music growing up gave us the opportunity to understand music performance and how to be an active member of a musical community, going to shows, playing shows, collecting records and all that good stuff.
What about your home when you were growing up? Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or maybe just extremely interested or involved in music when you were a kid?
Glenn: My dad played the piano and made me take piano lessons, which got me into music pretty early. Alex Bulli’s dad was a guitarist in several different groups and is an authority on the Gibson SG. Dylan’s dad played him Black Sabbath in the crib.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
Dylan: When I was a kid a camp counselor gave me In Utero by Nirvana and I got pretty obsessed with it.
Glenn: My friend’s dad took us to see Lynyrd Skynyrd at a race track in South Carolina.
Alex: Apparently, I hated music for the first year or so of my life, until I heard my parents listening to the Rolling Stones “Prodigal Son” and it totally changed everything.
If you were to pick a moment that changed everything for you and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of music, what would it be?
Dylan: Seeing the OBN III’s at Magnetic South. I was in an enlightened mood that night.
Glenn: I got my first multi-track recorder in high school and I’ve never looked at music the same way since.
Alex: Seeing a band called The Gunga Dins play a local VFW hall when I was in seventh grade. I’d never seen a crowd of people that stoked about anything, let alone hearing four people play in a dimly lit room.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about for you?
Dylan: I started making up my own songs as soon as I figured out how to make noise on a guitar.
Glenn: At the end of high school, I stopped trying to learn covers and started making up my own songs. When I was younger I was a bit of a classic rock purist, but when I started getting into newer music was when I decided to take a shot at songwriting; kind of realized that good music was still happening and got excited about making my own stuff.
Alex: The first day that I ever picked up a guitar, my sister, best friend and I recorded a five-song tape straight onto this crappy old boombox I had laying around. We had a song about this cold war era poster in my basement that said “Russians Are Coming”. Luckily things have gone uphill from there.
What was your first instrument? When and how did you originally get it?
Dylan: I got a drum set for Christmas when I was nine.
Glenn: My family always had a piano in the house, so I grew up on that. I eventually got a knock off Stratocaster when I was around thirteen.
Alex: Luckily, my parents were always in bands, so we had a room full of guitars and amps when I was growing up. They would show me instruments throughout my childhood, but I finally picked up his old Strat and seriously tried to play it one afternoon when I was about eleven.
How did you all meet and when would that have been?
Glenn: I met Josh Menashe in 2009 when we were both freshmen at Indiana University. Alex Bulli lived with this dude Alex Barrett, who had lived in the same dorm as Josh. From 2011 to 2013 we played together in a band called Prince Moondog, formed with Barrett on guitar and vocals until he moved to New York City. A few months before he moved I began jamming and recording with Dylan, so when we wanted to expand to a full band it was pretty easy to get Josh and Bulli on board in basically the same arrangement with Dylan instead of Barrett.
When and what led to the formation of Frankie and the Witch Fingers?
Dylan: I was playing guitar and singing for a group called Dead Beach, but we had different schedules and I was writing a lot of new material faster than we could keep up with it as a band. Glenn moves at a quick pace, both in recording and writing, so it worked out a bit better.
Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
Dylan: “Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to” – Spacemen 3.
The name is great, man. Seriously memorable, and yet like somehow exotic or something. What does the name Frankie and the Witch Fingers mean or refer to? Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it? Were there any close seconds that you almost went with you can recall at this point?
Dylan: The name refers to my cat, Frankie. I was hanging out with my old roommate Josh Wold, staring at a wall, and in the room we had both a green and red light on. Josh and Frankie were both playing with shadows and it appeared to look like the fingers of a witch. It was weird and it stuck with me.
Where’s Frankie and the Witch Fingers located at right now?
Glenn: We’ve been in Bloomington, Indiana for our entire existence up until this point. In a month or so Josh, Bulli and I will be moving to Los Angeles and Dylan is going to make it out there soon after.
How would you describe the local music scene where you’re currently located?
Alex: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy how many people with totally different musical tastes can be in this super tightly knit local scene. Bloomington is tight.
Do you feel very involved in the local scene? Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?
Glenn: We all go out to shows pretty frequently. A lot of our friends are musicians, so there’s been no shortage of musical events, whether it’s a house show or a bar show or a pagan music festival. Dylan, Bulli and I are going to see Apache Dropout tonight for their album release.
Are you involved in recording or releasing any music? If so, can you tell us a little bit about that here?
Glenn: I’ve been recording different bands in my room over the last three years including Triptides, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Prince Moondog, Stephen Burns, Ivory Wave, Bloody Mess and Jerome and the Psychics.
Alex: Yeah, we all kind of bring our own talents to the recording/mixing table. Glenn has a portable studio we call Sun Pavilion, and a lot of our hangout sessions revolve around checking out the tracks we’ve been working on lately.
In your opinion, has the local scene played an integral role in the formation, history, sound or evolution of Frankie and the Witch Fingers or do you think that you all could be doing what you’re doing and sound like you do regardless of where you were at or what you were surrounded by?
Dylan: I think our influences have nothing to do with Bloomington, but the fact that we’ve been able to play awesome shows with our friends is definitely cool.
Glenn: I think it’s cool just being surrounded by people making music on a regular basis.
Alex: Bloomington is definitely a place that lets us be ourselves and make the music we want to, but I think we all have our own ideas about music that would come out wherever we lived.
I can hear a lot of different influences rumbling around in the belly of the sound but it’s hard to put my finger on all of them. Who are some of your major musical influences? What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
Dylan: Chocolate Watchband, 13th Floor Elevators, Velvet Underground, July, Os Mutantes, The Beatles, David Bowie, Morgen, The Misunderstood, Thee Oh Sees and anything that expands your hearing.
Glenn: The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Troggs, Syd Barrett, Can, The Zombies, The Kinks, Tomorrow, Cleaners From Venus, Marc Bolan, Spacemen 3, Ariel Pink, Gene Clark, Hawkwind, Love, Strawberry Alarm Clock, White Fence, Neil Young, and Clear Light.
Alex: I’m really into Chad VanGaalen, Protomartyr, Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett, and Radioactivity right now. I also dig a lot of Simon and Garfunkel and Armede Ardoin stuff. I think we all come together in terms of 60’s/70’s stuff, but we’re always down to listen to whatever the rest of us have dug out of the crates that week.
Speaking of sounds, how would you describe your sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before in your own words?
Dylan: Inter-dimensional Cat Traveling.
What’s the songwriting process with Frankie and the Witch Fingers like? Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out with the rest of you? Or do you all get together for practice and just kind of kick ideas back and forth and toss stuff out until you find something that works and then polish it from there?
Glenn: Dylan comes up with the tracks and brings them over to jam. Usually, we end up playing drums and guitar for a while, and then record it and the let Josh and Alex overdub their parts. More recently, we’ve all been jamming out the songs together for a bit and then recording them live as a full band, though. Dylan always writes the lyrics but everyone helps with the arrangements, harmonies and other production elements. I usually overdub some organ if a song calls for it.
What about recording? I think most musicians can appreciate the end result of all the time and effort that goes into the recording of the stuff when you’re holding that finished product in your hands, but getting to that point, getting stuff recorded and especially sounding the way that you want it to as a band, can be extremely difficult to say the least. What’s it like recording for Frankie and the Witch Fingers?
Dylan: I usually just go over to Glenn and Josh’s house and a few hours later there’s a cassette tape full of eight tracks of music.
In 2013 you all released your first material that I’m aware of, the eleven track Sidewalk. I know that’s available on your Bandcamp digitally but was that ever physically released at all? If so, can you tell us about that? What was the recording of the material for Sidewalk like? When was that material recorded and who recorded it? Where was that at? What kind of equipment was used? Was the recording of that material a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?
Dylan: So far there are only 40 Sidewalk cassettes floating around, but we’re supposed to have a new batch soon. The tape came along in a very organic way. I saw Glenn at a show and he said, “You should come over and record some tracks”. The next day we had the title track “Sidewalk” fully recorded. A couple of weeks later we had the whole tape. They were just supposed to be demos we dumped off of the Tascam 488. It was super fun, and I haven’t stopped hanging and recording with them since.
You all followed up the Sidewalk release by contributing a track, “Revival”, to the Stroll-On Records 4-Way Split 7”. Was that written and recorded specifically for the single or was it left over from the earlier session(s) for Sidewalk? If it was recorded for the single, can you tell us about that? When and where was it recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
Glenn: “Revival” is part of a new record that will be coming out on Permanent Records later this year. I recorded it with help from Josh Menashe in my bedroom onto a Tascam 488 last fall. It features a 12-string electric that’s actually a knock-off Rickenbacker and a Farfisa Compact Duo.
When I was talking with you all not long ago you happened to mention that you have an upcoming full-length. Do you all have a tentative title or anything at this point? Is the material recorded and do you have any idea who’s going to be putting it out or when that will be? What can our readers expect from the debut full-length? Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for the upcoming album?
Dylan: The new album is called Frankie and the Witch Fingers, coming soon on Permanent Records. Expect to ebb, flow and connect with the fuzzy liquid tissues of non-reality.
Does Frankie and the Witch Fingers have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a single, a song on a compilation or a demo that I don’t know about?
Dylan: We have a track called “Diamonds” out on a Headdress Records compilation tape.
With the completely insane international postage rate increases that just don’t seem to be letting up, where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up your stuff?
Dylan: Until we’ve released our new stuff domestically, Stroll On Records’ shop is the place to go.
What about our international and overseas readers?
Dylan: Stroll On ships worldwide!
And where would the best place for keep up on the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases from Frankie and the Witch Fingers at?
Alex: Eventually, we’ll get something a little more cohesive together.
Are there any major plans or goals that you all are looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or in 2015?
Dylan: We’re hoping to do a west coast tour to support the release of our upcoming LP.
Alex: Yeah, should be announcing a lot of stuff in the coming months!
Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring? Do you enjoy touring? What’s life like on the road for Frankie and the Witch Fingers?
Dylan: Glenn, Josh and I have gone on tour as Triptides, so we know what to expect and Bulli was actually the Triptides tour manager for a while. We listen to a lot of music and enjoy seeing new things together.
What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of 2014?
Glenn: Tryin’ to get a West Coast tour rolling, stay tuned for updates.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
Dylan: We got to play with Night Beats last year and Holy Wave recently, they’re killer!
Glenn: We got to meet Temples when Triptides played with them last fall, really good dudes and amazing musicians.
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Dylan: Thee Oh Sees, they seem like cool people.
Alex: Ty Segall Band or Thee Oh Sees, definitely.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Dylan: We played a pagan music festival in the woods of southern Indiana. It got pretty weird; in a good way.
Alex: Yeah, that was a wild night! We ended up having this crazy bonding experience with some of our best friends in a tent weathering the Central Indiana storm of the century, and then playing around 1AM; very good vibes.
Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, covers and that kind of thing? Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your art? Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing?
Glenn: Dylan does a lot of the artwork for the flyers, posters and cover art.
Dylan: We would love to collaborate with some visual artists soon.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the mediums that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music? If you do have a preference, can you talk a little bit about why?
Dylan: Gatefold double LP 180g vinyl, ‘cuz they’re tight.
Glenn: LPs are just more rewarding on a sensory level, tactile, aural, visual and sometimes they even smell weird.
Alex: LP, definitely. There’s something so personal about literally holding the sound waves that a group of people made together. There’s something to be said for digital music in terms of convenience, or streaming for checking out a ton of new bands every day, but if I want to actually experience a piece of music I always spring for the vinyl.
Do you have a music collection at all? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
Dylan: I buy tapes and records.
Glenn: I have a pretty large record collection with a focus on 60’s psych and Brazilian music.
Alex: I have a decent collection of more modern LPs, and my parents have an insane catalogue of 50’s to 70’s discs that I break into/borrow from whenever I’m at home. I dig on punk and vintage cassettes too.
I grew up around an awesome collection of music, I was encouraged to enjoy it and on top of that my dad would always pick me up random music that I was interested in from the local shops. I would kick back with a set of headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the cover and just let the whole thing carry me off on this trip. It was magical and I gained a pretty deep appreciation for physically released music from a young age. Having something physical to hold in my hands and experience along with the music always made fro a more complete listening experience for me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music and if so, can you talk a little bit about it?
Glenn: Right there with you dude! I remember bringing home Revolver and getting lost in the revolutions.
Alex: I love how natural listening to a physical release is. You can just sit back with a living room full of your best friends and get lost in a record. No one gets up to search for something on Spotify, or skips a track. You get to have a real experience with the people around you, which is kind of hard to do anymore.
Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way right now. Digital music is just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion though. When you combine it with the internet, that’s when you have something really crazy on your hands. Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by, it’s allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans and it’s eradicated geographic boundaries and limitations that have crippled bands in the past. On the other hand though, illegal download is running rampant and while people may hear more music these days they’re not always interested in paying for it. As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Glenn + Dylan: Download whatever you can get your hands on. Fuck it.
Alex: Definitely. I wouldn’t be nearly as in to music if I hadn’t downloaded thousands of records over the years. I’ve also noticed that I buy a lot more records when I’m downloading and streaming a lot more. Digital music is great for expanding your sonic palette, but makes it easier for listeners to become apathetic about artists. People really just need to become more analytical about their consumption patterns, and support the art that they enjoy.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s not enough time to listen to all the sweet stuff that’s out there right now. Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of?
Dylan: Full Sun, Harpooner, Pnature Walk, and The Sands.
Alex: Mike Adams.
Glenn: Apache Dropout.
What about nationally and internationally?
Glenn: Nationally, Stephen Burns, Kuroma, Prince Moondog, and The Mutations. Internationally, Boogarins, Proto Idiot, Jerome and the Psychics, Aline, Zen Mantra, Orval Carlos Sibelius, and Klaus Johann Grobe.
Alex: Nationally, Frankie Cosmos and Joanna Gruesome.
Thanks so much fro doing this interview! It was awesome learning so much about the band and while I image this took a while to get done; hopefully it was cool thinking about everything you’ve managed to accomplish and everything you’ve got planned for the future! I’m done with the questions but before we call it a day I’d like to open the floor up to you all for a second. Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?
Glenn + Dylan + Alex: Thanks for hitting us up for the interview and keep your eyes out for our new record later this year!
– Roman Rathert
(2013) Frankie and the Witch Fingers – Sidewalk – Digital, ? – Self-Released (?)
(2014) Frankie and the Witch Fingers/Triptides/The See See/The Young Sinclairs – Stroll On 4-Way Split – 7” – Stroll On Records (Limited to 100 Tricolor and 150 Psychotic-Purple Vinyl copies
(2014) Frankie and the Witch Fingers – TBA – (full-length) – Permanent Records