Beyond the Record
Music news, album reviews & interviews
Beyond the Record: Welcome! Tell us a little bit about who you are, where you're from, and when you started making music together. We're currently recording our third studio album to follow our 2016 EP Telephone Philosophies. Keeping true to our folk roots, this past spring we hosted a benefit concert that raised over
$20,000 for the ACLU of Southern California and Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles.
Faultlines consists of members Todd McCool, Ashley Morgan, and John Flanagan - each
bringing their collective years of experience from touring, backing up major label artists, and songwriting to the table. We aspire to make music that brings to life human emotion with tight folk harmonies that warm like the California sun and lyrics that speak to the gritty, universal inter-human experience.
BtR: Faultlines is growing a dedicated fan base. Tell us a little bit about how that formed and came to be.
JOHN — Our LA/OC/San Diego following has been with us since day one. In fact, we formed playing a house party for our fans. It was when we decided to record and release our first EP, Hearts (And Other Things That Break), that Faultlines truly came to be and the fans only grew from there. Our first public Orange County gig was in a little coffee shop in Santa Ana. The
place was so packed that nobody could move, and gauging from the fire code violation we
created that evening, we never got invited back, but the fans wanted more, and because of
them, we moved from that small coffee shop, to bigger coffee shops, to a weekly residency in no time at all.
BtR: The compositions are very heartfelt and meaningful. Which song do you hold the closest to you and why?
JOHN — Everyone’s answer in the band would probably be different - it’s like asking a parent which of their children they like best. As the songwriter of 8 out of the 9 songs we released on our first two EPs, it’s impossible to say. I like “Me & New York City” because I consider it to be one of the best songs I’ve every co-penned (written with Ryan Calhoun and Melany Watson), but it doesn’t have the signature harmonic elements of songs like “Starting At The Finish Line” (written with Dan Sundquist and Fredrik Holt) or the vocal breakdown of a song like “February” (written with Jared Mitchell). They’re all my favorites really. The band makes them more than the demos I lay down on my iPhone recorder. The sound we make together makes them all special.
BtR: What is the songwriting process like for you exactly? How does the "magic" happen?
TODD — I can only speak for the song I've written for the band — "The Long Run" (Or "Todd's song", as our fans have nicknamed it) — which I wrote intending for the others to sing so that it wouldn't stand out as such but simply be part of an expanding collective palate. For me that song was 99% written within about an hour. I often write little bits and pieces of things and this just happened to be the one night that a lot of ideas coagulated into one focused thought. It was a subject very near and dear to my heart, so almost written as a meditation to myself to remember when times get tough.
BtR: Paint a picture of a typical concert of Faultlines. What could a fan expect to see as their first time attending a show?
TODD — A party, and the true origins of music in a public setting — people singing together, that means, not just the 3 of us but the crowd getting into the act as well. An observer's going to hear a big sound from just 3 people to start with. But the true harmony of Faultlines expands beyond the stage and melts the barrier between artist and fan and that's what music is all about...within the span of 3-5 minutes our goal is to have a shared emotional experience and over the course of an entire night, a bond.
BtR: What are some artists that inspire you to create? Who are the people that you know
personally that also inspire you?
TODD — Within the scope of music and art I would say David Byrne is one such person for me. He's an artist that has reinvented himself many times over the years and has put a lot of thought into being original, making statements and keeping in mind what making music for the masses is all about. read up on the creation of the song "Once in a Lifetime" - what he and Brian Eno did to create that song is very inspiring. Having different band members count and start on
different beats for a unique intersection of feels and the way David used evangelists as
inspiration for the call and response style vocals. He's such a proponent of trying odd
approaches, which I really dig because to not get bored and stuck in music sometimes you've got to be willing to do strange and scary things. When we are in the studio I usually pick up instruments that are foreign to me because I don't want to be limited to habit of what I know on one particular instrument. I'll fool around at home with shifting the timing of certain parts around so that I can hear and be inspired by something new. I like to play around with the way different musical parts intersect with one another. I think something that has brought me to this band is that we all like trying new things and all enjoy the way different parts, whether they be vocal or musical, work together to create something really unique.
BtR: What difficult situations and hardships have you overcome to get where you are today?
TODD — As a band we went through a period of being overwhelmed with left brain tasks and in order to have a successful working band there are a lot of non-artistic elements — we'd have to jump back and forth from trying to be a performer/artist vs. a business manager — and its quite jolting and oftentimes counterproductive. We're a very busy bunch both inside and outside of the band, being artists that like to explore and learn. Last winter we expanded "Team Faultlines" and brought on someone to handle some of the business and publicity elements for us which has given us the chance to focus on being creative. As individuals I think we've all struggled to learn, grow, and balance the day to day aspects of life. I push myself to limits where I fall flat on my face and then I get up stronger. That's really the most efficient way I know how. they say you never know until you try. So I do, time after time. and to do it when no one else cares and when no one else is cheering you on or even
believing in you, that's the way people blaze their own trails and to be a successful artist you've got to do that.
BtR: Tell us about "Starting At The Finish Line" and how that song/video was born. Give us all of the details and don't hold back.
JOHN — “Starting At The Finish Line” was written with Swedish songwriters Dan Sundquist and Fredrik Holt. I went into the studio that day fully expecting to write a 4-on-the-floor pop hit a la Max Martin or Tove Lo; however, that wasn’t the song in the room. The best songs aren’t
cranial, they are felt, and I was on the other side of a breakup looking back in. The title just
popped out of my mouth, and the song began to take shape from there. We made demo at the end of the session and Dan Sundquist sent it to our e-mails that night with the title “Starting At The Finnish Line.” I told him the joke was borderline at best.
The video was an idea of mine - an easier and more affordable concept than some of the higher budget, higher quality videos we did in the past. After all, we are a touring band and our band's funds largely go into travel expenses and recording costs. So what does a touring band do?
We make a tour video. Shot between our shows in New York City, Boston, and a college coffee shop in New Hampshire, the “Starting At The Finish Line” video is perhaps most intimate in what it captures. Ashley looking out of a bus window - the hopeful glint of a state she’s never before seen caught for a moment in her eye. Todd unshowered and uncaring crossing the Brooklyn
Bridge in a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers. It’s raw, it’s intimate, and thought it’s part music video part shaky travel vlog, it’s us.
BtR: What is next for Faultlines? Records, touring, etc.
JOHN — We’re in the studio - or rather our songs are - in the hands of producer, David Kidd. In the cracks between performances - sometimes 9am or sometimes midnight, we go in and plug a vocal or guitar into the mix. The rest we leave to trust, e-mail and phone calls. Our first two records were largely engineered by me (and I'm not a sound engineer). This next project is intended to elevate our sound and expand our awesome fan base from Southern California to as far as our sound waves will travel.