A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to talk to The Fair Attempts and Starwing about the bands origins, their new album, 'Dream Engine', the StarwingDigital website, and what's coming in the near future.
THE FAIR ATTEMPTS
Chris: You started The Fair Attempts back in 2018 with 'Indoctrination' followed by 'arisTotal' and 'Carnal Insect'. What's the origin story for the band name?
Friendly Timo: As you know, I used to do music before The Fair Attempts until all what happened with our lives that led me having to withdraw from music production, my studio work and all. It was only after 10 years until we formed TFA and thinking of a name for the band, first thing that popped into my mind was about giving it another go. Another attempt. Let's call it The Fair Attempts.
I further developed the concept of The Fair Attempts of not simply being about just me but also telling a larger story behind of what we are doing here. All of us. The Fair Attempts is about all of us and our struggle forward.
I think that in future we will develop the concept even further to envelope around our brand and the bigger picture we are building here, but this should be a good starting point to enable one to wrap their head around the concept.
Starwing: It's not quite as pessimistic as some people might think at first, but I think it will grow to be something much deeper.
Friendly Timo: Attempts. It is like we know we are going to fail but we at least try and pick up the pieces again and go from there despite that. I think we all can relate to that – it’s such a part of the human condition.
In a way I like it that it also signals about us being humble about it.
Chris: So, it's about having an honest opportunity, for everyone, to grow and progress. That's a more positive perspective than I had originally interpreted it; like Starwing said, I had come to interpret it as a possibly jaded, bitter, tongue in cheek interpretation of life.
Starwing: I'm glad we were able to shed some light on it, even if unintentionally.
Friendly Timo: It is very interesting how you can think of the concept of the name from multiple angles like that. This is what I love about art.
Chris: That ambiguity is pretty cool as it allows the listener to interpret tracks in multiple ways, even if it may not have been the way you originally meant it.
Starwing: Indeed. I think the best art invites the onlooker or listener to inject their own meaning as well.
Friendly Timo: Yes, as in this case, not even the name of the project imposes upon the onlooker or the listener.
And this is a very important quality of our art that we do here. I don't like to impose a message and dictate it to the listener, but rather invite them to have a more personal relationship with the songs. Usually our songs can have at least two meanings to them; sometimes even more.
Like, with each song and album we build our imaginary world but not in a way it would be exclusive to anything else. I like to think that each song can be in a way be thought to reflect on our everyday life, the world what we experience, but the world of TFA is like macrocosm of that, if that makes sense to you.
Chris: Is this where TFA Guy comes into play?
Starwing: The TFA Guy does relate, as he is a visual representation of the brand and of a dark world that was revealed to us through the song ‘Catwalk’; the TFA Guy is both a metaphor and a character in his own world.
Friendly Timo: TFA guy is like some kind of artistic messenger to me that feeds me inspiration from that world of TFA.
Anytime I do music and start to feel that thing... where you feel you're in the zone; it feels as if these are not your own ideas and something else takes hold of you.
Chris: And that's TFA Guy sharing details of his existence and you telling his story.
Friendly Timo: Basically! This is almost a mystery to us that we get more and more familiar with and unravel the story as we go.
Starwing: It has been revealed in many surprising ways this past year!
Friendly Timo: I think I mentioned I once saw a dream where I met myself in a dream and my dream version was accusing myself of plagiarism.
Chris: I saw that! It made me laugh that your dream self would do that. I don't know how you even respond to that.
Friendly Timo: I responded with confusion at first because he (me) was really angry about it, but then my confusion turned into amusement of how bizarre this situation is.
Chris: Essentially you sound too much like yourself. I like it.
Friendly Timo: *laughs*
Starwing: I think that creative minds tend to operate in more than one dimension.
Friendly Timo: We have some strange dreams, that's for sure, but I think there is something to that world as it connects to each of our creativity. Very mysterious.
Chris: And that inspiration/creativity can come from anywhere.
The music has this dirty, industrial rock swagger, but it’s also got just enough EBM and pop flourishes to get people to dance. What bands would you say influenced your sound? Or perhaps its more than just bands. Maybe other types of art or other sources?
Friendly Timo: I like to think my sound is inspired by multiple bands and evolved into this chimera of sounds and levels of expression because of them. I wouldn't pay as much attention to what each band sounds like but more of the feel or the spirit of their music.
There is a certain expressive spirit, that feel that each artist has that’s impacted me in profound ways. Artists like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson for sure, but also Velcra, Pain, Ministry, and some gothic classics like Theatre of Tragedy, Type O Negative and even Siouxsie and the Banshees. Throw in inspiration from Portishead, Radiohead... even Metric. I think all of these influenced me a lot with how I think musically speaking.
Chris: Some of those I can totally hear in the music (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson) but Type O Negative and Theatre of Tragedy are a little surprising, but they make sense though, in hindsight.
Friendly Timo: As I said, they may not be in sound, but in spirit. Furthermore, I wouldn't aim to sound like any of these regardless.
Chris: Which I think you accomplished; your sound is distinct. When I hear a track or remix, I can almost always say with certainty "that has to be TFA”.
Friendly Timo: That is very nice to hear! Thank you.
I believe our sound lives and evolves over time, but some certain elements and fundamentals always remain.
Chris: I agree with that... everyone has a way they play guitar, write lyrics, or sequence drums/synths. We can only hope we evolve, otherwise we turn into AC/DC, but to be fair, they're pretty damn good at what they do *laughs*
Friendly Timo: Well, you know what they say… If it isn't broken, don't fix it.
Chris: Starwing, you were officially brought into The Fair Attempts as a full time member this past year, but you've always been involved behind the scenes, running the website http://starwingdigital.com and helping to engage with people online. Can you tell us a bit about the website and your role within TFA?
Starwing: The website began in 2014 with a different purpose in mind, but we were both enjoying our creative hobbies at that time. Friendly Timo was composing royalty free music and I was writing little stories based on my favourite games, like XCOM, Skyrim and Kingdom Come: Deliverance. So anyways, I decided we could host our creative hobby sites on the company site as well. When we went further into the music and Friendly Timo was inspired to get back to making his style of music to express himself, I was thrilled to jump in and help wherever I could!
I participate in TFA in many ways – mostly behind the scenes, although now and then I will collaborate on lyrics or give a voice sample. Of course, I also sang in Blue Rose Park, but I usually am a kind of sounding board for Friendly Timo, to refine the songs as he makes them by sharing my feedback and ideas.
Friendly Timo: Even with the initial first singles that we did back in 2018, I randomly gave her the microphone and told her what to say and we went from there. So, I kind of used her as a voicebox; then later as we got further into what we are doing, Starwing got more and more involved with the art side of the brand, directing some of the art, being co-producer for me and helping with a lot of things that we need to keep things running. Now we even did a single together where we both sing, and it was a very nice experience for both of us. I think this just keeps going more and more involved from here.
Starwing: I think so, for sure.
Chris: So, you two were together from the very beginning of TFA and we have heard you on previous releases without maybe knowing it. I'll have to see if I can notice these, now that I know.
Starwing: Some are not on Spotify anymore, the ‘Indoctrination’ collection, but you can find me on a popular track *laughs*
Friendly Timo: We have some very rare downloads that some people have managed to acquire. I like those songs, but they are mere baby steps of the project that don't reflect what we have evolved into.
Besides, I like these kinds of secrets; the ones that are not really secret.
Chris: I was going to ask about 'Indoctrination' earlier... is that something that could see a re-release at some point? I think those kinds of progressions are fascinating.
Friendly Timo: OH YES! We’ve got to do high definition versions at some point. Those songs have potential but need proper production.
Chris: Would it be a re-master or a re-imagining, bringing them into the present sound?
Starwing: That's not a bad idea; maybe a re-release of ‘Eau de Narrative’, such a great song. We had a very fun spirit then and played with ideas until the strong one was found.
Friendly Timo: We will revisit this idea and do it when we feel time is right. It would be complete overhaul. Back then the main idea was to make a lot of noise back to our noisy neighbours anyway.
Starwing: Oh, that's right! I tried to forget *laughs*
Chris: Same neighbor we can hear stomping around in some of the vlogs? *laughs*
Starwing: Nope, those are little pitter patters in comparison to what we endured for a year...
Friendly Timo: Yeah, the other ones gave up and moved out.
Chris: I always talk to my neighbors when they move in and give them warning that I do music and from time to time, make a bit of noise.
Starwing: I think TFA's third album might drive out the new neighbours.
Chris: And you beat me to a question earlier. You contributed vocals on Blue Rose Park, which is a lovely track and was well received. Is this something we can expect to hear more of on the new album?
Starwing: Thank you so much! I haven't sung on any other songs on the upcoming album, but I'm interested to do it again and I'm glad you enjoyed Blue Rose Park. I was nervous, but it was a wonderful experience.
Friendly Timo: Blue Rose Park was received so well, indeed. I am very happy that Starwing got such a warm reception.
As much as I love to have her sing and she would want to, it is challenging due to her MS. Even those parts of 'Blue Rose Park' took a lot of preparation as the disease takes a heavy toll on even the muscles needed in singing. This is our burden with it.
Starwing: Yes, I had to work to prepare my throat to sing for two weeks before recording the song. The memories draw me back to the desire to try again, and we'll see what may come of it.
Friendly Timo: I love how this whole project has lit a spark to both of us to push the boundaries further and further… like you picking up the mic and singing.
Chris: I've found that the nervousness never entirely passes; the stage it appears just changes. I'm no longer nervous with the recording process; now it’s all shifted to week of release.
Friendly Timo: I used to have that nervous energy with releases too. You get used to it, I guess, or it has shifted to interviews *laughs*
Chris: I think you said it in a vlog, it’s not really about validation, but I still don't want people to hate the art that I've spent so much time on; I’m okay with it not being to everyone's taste though.
I think that's where the nervousness comes from, the music is still really personal, and it can be tough to put it out there.
Friendly Timo: No one prefers to receive hate. That's right. What I said in the vlog was that I don't really need validation from others in order to be comfortable with who I am. It doesn't mean that I don't care if you hate what I do or not.
Stage fright is a thing that bugs even some of the most experienced musicians. I know this discussing it with some of the most experienced performers in Finland. Privately they cursed about it to me at the backstage just before their turn... it just won't go away for some.
I think if you can control it, it can be a good thing to keep you focused and be the thing that makes you give that 110% when you perform.
Nervousness and the whole range of accompanying emotions that can be perceived as negative, can actually also signal that you still care.
Chris: I don't think any of us would be creating what we do, if we didn't care.
Friendly Timo: I think you're right!
THE NEW ALBUM
Chris: You mentioned the new album in passing earlier. Let's talk about your upcoming album ‘Dream Engine’, the follow up to 2019’s ‘Carnal Insect’; 'Dial Out' and ‘Blue Rose Park’ were recently released and I know you've been busy putting the final touches on the album. What else can you tell us about the album?
Friendly Timo: 'Dream Engine' has been an album we've been working on manically. We've put our hearts into it and with such intensive care to every damn second of it. This will be the album that builds and brings the brand of TFA to its fruition.
Starwing: We have another single coming in June called ‘Trials of Celeste’. It's heavy and fun at the same time. Intense and playful.
Friendly Timo: That one is going to kick some ass.
Starwing: And there are nine songs and one auditory experience on the ‘Dream Engine’ album, and Jessi Frey is featured in one song too! It is on the album though, so I cannot say more about it. It's a huge surprise.
Friendly Timo: I may even consider it as my magnum opus. It is something so grand to us.
Starwing: Yes! That is exactly how I feel about it. It's a work of two lifetimes, really.
Chris: That sounds awesome and I'm excited to hear that Jessi Frey will be appearing on it. I loved the work you did with her recently.
And no pressure on the magnum opus *laughs*
Starwing: We love Jessi Frey, so it was a true honour to be able to have her participate on the album. I also loved how he worked with her vocals in 'Addict Nation Remix' and her appearance on ‘Dream Engine’.
Friendly Timo: Jessi did such awesome work with her parts and I’m incredibly grateful that she wanted to be part of this and how well she pulled it off. She is a super talented lady.
And there’s no pressure. I just steal it from the other me, remember? *laughs*
Chris: What sets this album apart from previous TFA material? ‘Carnal Insect’ seemed to be theme based on a broad level and felt consistent. What pushes 'Dream Engine' to the next level?
Friendly Timo: That's right. Thing is that as 'arisTotal’ EP introduced the world of TFA in brief, 'Carnal Insect' was more like a prequel to it, the themes and concepts that led the world to the state where the world of TFA is.
'Dream Engine' defines that world. This is what sets it apart in the theme, but I really feel I managed to top 'Carnal Insect' with the production quality of 'Dream Engine'. I am just so damn satisfied of it in all manners, technical and artistic.
Starwing: From my perspective, the wide range of musical expression truly sets ‘Dream Engine’ above ‘Carnal Insect’ musically.
There is a soft side, with songs like 'Blue Rose Park', and there is even some industrial blues, and of course, very hard hitting and energetic songs to support the whole theme and balance the sounds.
Friendly Timo: Think of it this way – we are building a house, we prepared the ground, dug a great hole in it. 'Dream Engine' is the foundation and we can build upon it from here.
I really like the term "Industrial Blues".
Chris: That all sounds exciting, so we'll get to see some other aspects of TFA World.
Starwing: Yes, now it will be a more complete picture coming into view.
Friendly Timo: I feel like we have embarked on an epic adventure and over time we discover more and more about this world; like it would be an interaction between us defining it and it defining us.
Chris: That sounds like it could come from Sartre's "existence precedes essence", where we shape our identities.
Starwing: That could be! It's the journey that creates the destination sometimes.
Chris: Will these singles that are coming out beforehand be on the album? 'Dial Out', 'Blue Rose Park', 'Trials of Celeste' – like we saw with the lead up to 'Carnal Insect'?
Starwing: Yes, 'Blue Rose Park', 'Dial Out', 'Trials of Celeste' are all on the album. There will be one more single as well, but we'll keep that in the shadows for now.
Friendly Timo: I love to have singles that way that when they have their place in the album, as part of the overall arch of the album, they can initially be enjoyed in a different light and appreciated as stand-alone pieces.
Chris: When did the writing for 'Dream Engine' begin? It feels like it had to have started almost right immediately after the release of 'Carnal Insect'.
Starwing: He actually started writing the title song before I even got to hype the release of the 'Carnal Insect' album. We had just released the ‘Little Light’ single and he says, "Uh-oh, I accidentally started making more music."
He meant to take a vacation.
Friendly Timo: Yeah, it was last summer when I did the title song and I remember saying something like "oh honey I accidentally started writing a new album".
Starwing: Yeah, that's what he said. *laughs*
Chris: That's unreal. I don't know how you can have one wrapping up, not even out the door, and already have the next one underway. I get so focused on the material at hand that I can't think about what's next.
And that sounds very much like "oops, I have a new album".
Starwing: There's a third one in the works already, no joke.
Chris: I can't fathom that.
Friendly Timo: Uh huh, I’m doing some initial background work with it. I like to stay ahead of the curve, but I am not working hard on it either, just casually pop in for some time and so on…
Outlining the big concepts takes time. I like to give the songs a lot of time to marinade in the back of my mind, get some life experience to reflect on, something extraordinary to make them really shine.
Chris: Where is 'Dream Engine' at currently? I know it’s written and being fine-tuned. Is the artwork completed? Is there a release date (general or specific) in mind?
Starwing: The album art is in the planning stage and the date isn't sealed just yet, but we’re aiming for a September release.
The album is fully finished though.
Friendly Timo: Down to the master, I'd say, but I will give it some time still.
Chris: That's great news, means we have a summer of singles and teasers.
Friendly Timo: A summer of surprises.
Starwing: These are fun songs for summertime also.
Chris: Are there any other guest appearances in addition to Jessi Frey or is that a surprise too?
Starwing: Just a voice actor for the auditory experience, no other guest artists.
Chris: I'd love to see a video for a behind the scenes of the production stuff like you did for 'Carnal Insect'. Maybe talk us through one track from beginning to end, see where the song idea came from... maybe talk about a wild guitar tone or synth you created for a track, challenges in the track’s creation, that kind of thing.
Friendly Timo: That is a good idea. I just need to figure out how to make heads and tails out of it. My process can be quite chaotic.
I think a story behind a track and its creation might work
Chris: Could be cool to see a similar video for album artwork selection and its process or the alternatives that weren't chosen.
Are there any planned official videos for 'Dream Engine'?
Starwing: "Album artwork selection" would be like showing you where the bodies are buried!
Chris: *laughs* You could talk about the one that was chosen though!
Friendly Timo: We are planning on making lyric videos for ALL songs with some awesome graphics and we might do live action video too. Who knows?
Chris: What are the future plans for The Fair Attempts and for Starwing Digital? Anything you'd like to promote or share for the coming future?
Starwing: We're focused on ‘Trials of Celeste’ right now and trying to nail down the dates for the other single and the album's release. Then we'll try to take that long-awaited brief vacation.
Chris: I bet it feels long overdue at this point; got to keep Timo from digging into the next album.
Starwing: We will be offering a music mastering service through Starwing Digital as well. I simply haven't been able to make time to add the details to the website yet.
Friendly Timo: I think I will be busy enough with related art projects, like the lyric videos during our vacation. Sorry.
Chris: That would be very cool, I know we spoke about that a little while back. Your production always sounds great.
Friendly Timo: Thank you so much!
Chris: And finally, what are you currently reading, watching, playing or listening to lately?
Friendly Timo: We just finished watching some 'Peaky Blinders'. We've been playing 'Red Dead Redemption 2' a lot and we both listen too much music to really mention what we've been listening lately, I guess.
I have been unusually active on listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees 'Peepshow'.
Starwing: I have a whole playlist get stuck in my head sometimes, but one that made a difference in my life was 'Too Many' by Sapphira Vee.
Chris: Great choices on both. Vee's album is great, I find that gets a lot of mileage here too.
Friendly Timo: Yeah, I've really liked her work.
Chris: Thank you both for your time today. I've loved having this opportunity to speak with you.
Starwing: Thank you. I really enjoyed our conversation. Thanks for having us.
Friendly Timo: Thank you! This has been a great experience today.