(This interview is reprinted from the Indiana Daily Student, April 10, 2002. The IDS is Indiana University’s student publication, with a daily circulation of 20,000. Jonathan Sanders is a music correspondent for the paper.) Flickerstick has proved during the past several years that it knows how to draw crowds. The band of musicians have been performing their brand of rock music for Texas audiences who always seemed to know they’d make it big someday. But it was “Bands on the Run,” the innovative VH1 reality show, that gave the men of Flickerstick their big push. Now they’re touring nationwide and selling records to crowds that believe they have something to offer. Flickerstick will perform Tuesday (April 16) as the opening act of the Little 500 concert at the IU Auditorium. The Weekend had the opportunity to interview lead vocalist and guitarist Brandin Lea. Here’s what he had to say.
GOM: If you were speaking to someone who hadn’t heard of Flickerstick, how would you describe your music?
Brandon Lea: Well, lately we’ve been using the phrase “psychedelic pop rock,” which seems to work fairly well. So I should probably stick with that.
GOM: Do you think winning “Bands on the Run” legitimized your musical hopes? You’d already been big in Texas, but did this make you think you really could succeed?
Brandon Lea: I think what it proved was that we’re a solid live band. The rest is usually left up to record labels and radio, whatever they think will succeed. We’ve had the confidence, but what really proves we’re succeeding is our track record since the VH1 show. We’ve proved we can keep our heads above water.
GOM: What makes music so worthwhile to you?
Brandon Lea: I think of music as an outlet, for releasing trauma, love, emotion, whatever you need to write down. Music gives you that chance, so that makes it more than just worthwhile.
GOM: Flickerstick has become known as the kind of band you just have to see live. So I have to ask, which do you prefer, touring or recording?
Brandon Lea: Well… (laughs) I prefer touring; recording can be a pain in the ass. When you’re playing live, you have the crowd to work for — all the energy is out there. When you’re in the studio, you’re just perfecting. That’s not as much fun.
GOM: What about lifestyle? Do you ever worry about your personal image?
Brandon Lea: Not at all. Image? We just behave how we behave, just five guys out here having fun. Some people want us to think we shouldn’t be who we are, but we’re just out here writing good rock and roll. Image shouldn’t come into it.
GOM: When did you decide that music was going to be your life?
Brandon Lea: Well, when I was in high school, I learned to play instruments and some friends and me were playing a party. You know “playing,” meaning we just got together and did whatever worked. And that is what made me say, “Whoa! This is what I want to do.”
GOM: I like to think of your album as eclectic, since every song seems to be totally different from what you just heard. Is that something you consciously try to do?
Brandon Lea: Well, some of it is that, but also it comes naturally to write that way. We don’t want all our songs to sound like carbon copies, we need differences in there. The rest comes from influences. Mine come from artists like Pink Floyd on one end of things and artists like the Beatles in their later years. So it comes down to consciously thinking about it, but also naturally by using what influenced you.
GOM: When you write songs for Flickerstick, do you each do something separately or is it a group effort?
Brandon Lea: Well, I write the basis of most of the songs with Cory (Kreig). Then we get together as a band, and we each get to put our own stamp on it. So I’d definitely call it a group effort.
GOM: What was it like working with producer Tom Lord-Alge on Welcoming Home the Astronauts?
Brandon Lea: He was great. He’d mix these tracks that we’d all have worked so hard on, and we’d listen to them and know how much of a difference he made. He took what we had that was good and made it so much better.
GOM: I first heard of Flickerstick when I found your page on mp3.com. Have you always supported music online?
Brandon Lea: Yeah, we’ve been involved with that arena before, though I don’t always have as much time to do that kind of thing anymore. Mp3.com helped us a lot in getting our music out there for people to hear.
GOM: Why do you think online music has so much appeal today?
Brandon Lea: Well, people can experiment, sampling from a large group of artists that they wouldn’t have heard of otherwise, without having to buy all the CDs up front. Of course that creates a lot more competition. I think that’s why bands today seem to have such a short life, compared with bands in the past.