"This, honestly, is the first time I've ever wanted to be in something truly collaborative," says Christian Doble, guitarist in the new Detroit trio that has dubbed itself FAWN. "We really wanted to create something together — sit down in the living room, start playing, and write a song from scratch. With FAWN, it's all about writing together with other people."
Doble has gathered with his two bandmates — bassist-vocalist Alicia Gbur and drummer Matt Rickle in what could be that aforementioned living room to discuss the new project. "Shhhh! You're waking the dogs!" Gbur says sarcastically, over the barks of two very excited pups who obviously want out of their backyard exile to see who's arrived before she returns to (unsuccessfully) stoke the fireplace of Doble's otherwise "mood lit" room. Drummer Rickle is already sitting in a comfy chair, drinking a beer and smiling slightly.
The house is decorated with what Urban Outfitters tries to imitate; the furnishings and accessories are well-chosen, there's comfort and familiarity. And you'd think FAWN had been together for years, not some new band still deciding how many songs it should play at its second-ever live performance this week.
But they are vets in a way; the trio has jumped right into making a sweet indie-pop concoction that hints at their past projects (Kiddo for Doble, the Nice Device for Gbur), while at the same time presenting something incredibly catchy, even familiar. Take bits of '90s bands, such as Velocity Girl, early Breeders, Blake Babies and Imperial Teen, mix it with Doble and Gbur's songwriting, and you have a very promising new Detroit combo. More, they've a penchant for actual melody, harmonizing and the well-placed "oh-la-la-la" chorus — so what's not to love?
"With the Nice Device, I brought songs to the band," says Gbur, who also briefly did guitar time in the Von Bondies' second incarnation. "It was all on my shoulders to write the material and teach it to the other band members. This is different."
Despite how easy it looks, it's actually really hard to truly collaborate musically with another person; there's ego, competition, and putting up with the other's quirks. But Doble and Gbur click, so far.
And the band easily came together: "She asked me if I wanted to start a band," Dobie says, "and I said, 'OK!'"
Sure, both musicians are somewhat known around these parts, but Doble and Gbur only recently started talking to each other for the first time through Facebook.
"I know, I know, ..." Doble says, smirking. "But we met up to just feel things out and play together. We got over that first 15 minutes of awkwardness and just started writing songs."
"It's just crazy easy," Gbur says of the band's progress. "Even on bass, an instrument I don't normally play, it just came together immediately. It's also fun — and that's the way it should be."
"It's like going on a first date, and by the end of the date you're gonna have babies," Doble says. Cue unsettled laughter.
The pair is like-minded in other ways; each is a visual artist, for example — she's an accomplished photographer, Doble has done animation for rock videos, and he also did the Friendly Foes' Born Radical CD cover art.
So what's in a name, especially one designed in all capital letters? Considering the number of deer-related indie bands currently creating racket (Deer Tick, Deerhunter, Deerhoof, etc.), why FAWN? Why not Baby Deer?
"It's one of the most difficult things in the world — naming a band," Doble says, "I kind of stumbled upon FAWN while trying to think of things that sorta felt like us but without overthinking it. ..."
"A FAWN is elusive," Gbur chimes in. "Your natural instinct is to want to move towards it. But if you do, it'll bolt."
There's also the whole "fresh start" connotation. Doble: "This is a fresh beginning — kind of a rebirth."
"And we're all really cute," Rickle adds, as if to keep things from getting philosophical. "Just like a FAWN."
The seemingly quiet-shy — at least next to his cohorts — Rickle, who still also drums and sings with Javelins, was rather enthusiastically recruited by Doble for this project.
"Matt was easily our dream drummer of choice," Doble says. "That Javelins album Heavy Meadows is one of the best albums to come out of Detroit in the past couple of years."
Here's how it happened: "I was trying to sell my van on Craigslist," Rickle recalls. "I asked [Doble] to come along because I needed some 'muscle' with me, because I was going to meet some strange guy and show him the van. Well, the prospective buyer didn't show. So, instead, we sat around for two hours, ate Chicken McNuggets and talked about music."
Doble didn't steal Rickle. See, there's a mutual love for music and respect for the local scene here that, actually, is all about that comfort and familiarity.
More, the three FAWNS are well-known for other Detroit bands or projects — and not just those mentioned above. Doble is familiar as the man manning the sax at Child Bite shows — a band he just recently parted ways with — as well as playing bass and singing in the indie-rock band Copper Thieves. He was one-half of the lineup in the aforementioned Kiddo, a band he formed with Liz Wittman of the Friendly Foes when they still lived in Cleveland. Rickle also drums in Thunderbirds Are Now!
"It's nice for all of us — people who have fronted our own bands — to be able to take a back seat from time to time and play with people we're so comfortable trading on and off with" Gbur says. "Everybody's pulling their own weight in this band. And having fun at the same time."
So it is that a band in their "honeymoon stage" is playing their first full-on headlining set on Valentine's Day — at the Loving Touch.
"It's where she and I first met in person," Doble says. "If you think about it, new art is now being made due to a simple conversation that was started on Facebook. That's really neat to me. I'm excited!"
Laura Witkowski is music writer for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, Feb. 14, at the Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3644. With the Cold Wave. Inquire at the nearby Emory (22700 Woodward Ave; 248-546-8202) about a Valentine's Day dinner and concert package.
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