Interview: Finch

(this interview originally appeared in issue #21 of Modern Fix Magazine in 2003).

– interview by skye

Have you ever been inspired, in awe of, or fascinated by the musicianship, passion and heart behind a single group or artist? Coming from a place like Temecula, California, not exactly being known for it’s huge venue or music scene, Finch came out fighting, breaking down the walls of silence with their blend of emotional hardcore. Front man Nate Barcalow, guitarists Randy Strohmeyer and Alex Linares, bassist Derek Doherty and drummer Alex Pappas got their act together, tightened up their sound and made it their own. Since Randy had been persistent with his contact with Richard Reines, owner of Drive-Thru Records, the band was granted the opportunity to play for the brother-sister duo of Drive-Thru. After playing for Richard, he called upon his sister and partner, Stefanie. Impressed by the sound and personalities of this young band, they were offered a recording contract on the spot.

After releasing their first EP, “Falling Into Place” in October of 2001, their release left fans and critics hungry for more of their unique sound. With tracks like “Letters To You”, and “Perfection Through Silence” demonstrating the outpour of thought provoking lyrical content and a sound tweaked to perfection to make it all the more desirable, the EP was just a tease of what was to come. The EP featured a track titled “New Kid” which had listeners tipped off to the bands major musical influence, The Deftones.

finchalbumIn March of 2002, Finch released their debut full-length, “What It is to Burn”. With 11 new tracks featured, along with the EP’s “Letters To You” and “Perfection Through Silence”, the band started their tour with a sold-out CD release party. This would mark the start of Finch’s sold-out dates and bring them to May 17, their first show back home in a little over a month. They played the show with their friends and label mates, The Starting Line. A homecoming for royalty it proved to be as the Glasshouse in Pomona overflowed with eager fans there to support their new-favorite band. And why shouldn’t they? The “What It is to Burn” album has sold more copies than the band can fathom, and managed to hit 192 on the Billboard’s Top 200 list, and at 13 on Billboard’s New Artist chart. With all of this new found fame, it’s hard to swallow the truth that Finch has only been together a couple of years and is composed of five young friends who started out as a Deftones cover band called Numb.

With a new album out and sold-out shows nearly every night, Finch will be joining their Drive-Thru label on this year’s Vans Warped Tour, playing every date on the Drive-Thru side stage. The Warped Tour is a dream long out of reach for a majority of new bands, but with Finch attracting so much positive attention, they’re ready for the grueling challenge of playing the tour through it’s course.

With the band out meeting and greeting with fans and The Starting Line tearing up the stage, it was difficult to round up the crew to talk to, but circling backstage proved to be the smart thing on my part as I ran into Finch guitarist, Alex Linares. Finding a cozy nook hidden upstairs in the venue, we found comfort in a beat up leather couch.

Are you guys really excited about playing the entire Warped Tour?
Alex: Yes! I’m so excited, but I’m nervous too.

Nervous? Why are you nervous?
Because it’s like the longest tour ever, it’s about two and a half months of straight playing. Usually we get like eight or nine days off and even now when we play like five shows in a row my body is just like, ahhhh! Because we started off doing like half our sets and the past month we knew we were going to be headlining so we play every day and we play like hour long sets so we’re killing our bodies. My ankles and my back are like killing me.

Isn’t it worth it though?
Yes, definitely. The first time we ever played a really long show was our release at the House of Blues and we played 14 songs; our entire record plus one extra song. I thought I was going to die then. It’s been getting easier and easier as we go though because we play like 12 songs now.

Gearing you guys up for the big tour huh?
Gawd, the Warped Tour is going to be fucking awesome because there are so many amazing bands playing and to see those guys every day and hang out with them every day is going to be insane. We’re just going to be hanging around with a bunch of our friends, so it’ll be fun. It’s going to be a two and a half month party.

Do you freak out when you meet other bands that you like?
Chino [from the Deftones] is my fucking hero. He has such an influence on my music and things that I write. I met Stephen [also from the Deftones] one time over the summer at Tower Records. I don’t freak out; I just get really quiet and clench my jaw.

Do they ever look at you funny?
I got really nervous when I met the drummer from Orgy because I love new wave, like Depeche Mode. I fucking love Depeche Mode more than anything. Every time I hear them I get the chills. If I met Dave from Depeche Mode, I would pass out.

That band is so good, everything they do is good.

Their side projects are good. I love Dave Grohl. I love the Foo Fighters. I liked Nirvana. You know Courtney Love has all his assets that are like worth 500 billion dollars now. Kurt would shoot himself in the head again. It’s a lot of pressure having a lot of money. That’s why I want no money. As long as I can afford my apartment, I don’t care. I don’t want money, at all.

Okay, so I suppose we should talk about your band now. Why did you change your band name from Numb to Finch?

We had evolved since high school when we were Numb. We all had different bands before we got together, and Numb was one of those bands. We changed to Finch when we graduated and realized we wanted to be serious.


So you changed your name to prove you were serious musicians?

Well, not really, we just fucking hated the name Numb. We learned to be a band by like covering Deftones songs so we were a Deftones rip-off. So we decided to write all our own songs and get our own sound. Sounding like other bands was bullshit so we locked ourselves in our houses and in our studio to be serious, write and practice. Finch was a conscious effort to write good songs and have our own sound and not be anyone else.

Do you really think you accomplished that, when you said you didn’t want to be like anyone else or copy anyone else’s songs?
People keep telling us that we’re horribly original. People review our CD and they say we’re coming out with something new, some kind of fresh sound. My opinion is that we’re doing something that I enjoy. I don’t think we’re ripping off anybody. I believe in what we’re doing and I’m comfortable with it. I wouldn’t say we’re the most original band ever. But I don’t think anyone can take our band and say that we’re a rip off of this or that band.

When you read reviews about your music do you take it really hard, or not even think about it?
Sometimes I read them and if they’re good I get stoked on it because I like reading why they liked a certain song and stuff. If they’re bad, they’re usually pretty funny. Some of our band members take it hard if they’re bad, but I just let it roll off. I don’t take it to heart, I just let it go. If I took it seriously, I would cry every day.

I read in an interview that Finch has some bathroom problems. What’s with you guys and the “violent shits”?
That must have been Randy. He would say something like that. He shits in twos, all the time. I have to pee like every two minutes. It runs in my family. My band gets so mad at me cos every 40 minutes I have to tell them to pull over. Literally I am stoked if I can make it like two hours without telling them to stop. I’ll tell them to stop and they’ll look at me evil and say “WHY!” I get so mad if they don’t stop so I have to say “Listen, I have a medical problem and I have to stop!” They don’t even care. We were outside of Sacramento and they made a comment about me needing to get that checked out. I asked them if the band would pay for me to go to the doctor, and they said “Uh, well I guess we’ll stop every 20 minutes and we’ll just make fun of you.” So they don’t care about me.

Am I sensing some kind of inner band conflict?

This one time they wouldn’t stop and finally there was an off ramp and they acted like they were getting off and at the last second got back on the freeway. Then they stopped by a sign that said, “rest stop one mile” and made me pee by the sign where in one mile I could have peed in a bathroom.

Enough bathroom talk, how was it forming a band in a place like Temecula?

It’s where we grew up but there’s nowhere to play. If we wanted to play we had to really drive. We didn’t have a van until a year ago, so we’d always borrow one of our parents’ cars and stuff.

[Enter the Pomona Fire Marshal to check out the building. Why they were there, we don’t know. But we were interrupted for a short period of time while they checked out the small room. It was rumored the building exceeded capacity. I could see this being the truth as there were many sweaty kids on the floor and a large amount of friends backstage. So anyway, the fire guy finally went away and we continued our interview. ]

So what do you think about your album selling so well?

I think Richard is paying people to buy our album because it’s actually selling a couple CDs. I think he really bought them to make us feel better.

What a nice guy! So how’d you guys end up signed to Drive-Thru?

That was all Randy, he met Richard at the Warped Tour last year. He kept calling him and emailing him and stuff. Somehow Randy got the number so he would just keep calling, but Richard was always cool with them. Once we got the band together Randy called him and we were like together for two weeks and Richard wanted us to come down and play for them. We were in a band for only two weeks and we had a record contract. It was insane!

Weren’t you guys nervous?

Totally! We were totally nervous! As soon as we were done playing, Randy went and shit himself. He was so nervous.

A lot of bands work a very long time to get something like that, would you say your process was a little rushed?

No, not really because from the actual signing took forever. Both our lawyers took forever. It took a long time to get us signed. It’s been almost a year since we recorded the CD. It came out March 12 and we recorded it in the beginning of summer while the Warped Tour was going on.

So when it came out were you like, thank GOD!
Yes we were like FUCKING FINALLY! We had our EP released in October so we had a couple months on that before the album came out.

How did you choose the songs for the album? How come only two songs of the EP are included on the album?
When we first recorded the EP we only had four songs, so that’s all we had. When we did the record we wanted “Letters To You”. We re-recorded some stuff, but I hated “Waiting” and I hated “New Kid”. We had Mark Trombino doing the album so we made the stuff sound really good.

‘New Kid’ is very Deftones sounding.
I hated the original, it was so fucking gay! But now I love “New Kid”. We went into the studio and did all this trippy shit and now I love it. I always loved what it was about, I just hated what we did with it. “Untitled” on our record, I thought was the worst song we had ever written, but then Mark said we could do something with it even though we said it blew. After a while he did something really cool with it and we spent like a whole day messing with it and it came out awesome and I love it.

So do you like that whole recording process and how it adds things to your songs?
Oh totally! Especially with Mark. He doesn’t tell us what to do, but he inspires us. He’ll throw out an idea then we’ll run with it for like hours. He turns us in different directions, but he’s the best producer ever.

Does the same go with your record label? Do you find yourself with that same freedom?
We do whatever we want. We’re basically on the same level as far as what we want to do as a band. They are great with our marketing. As long as they don’t do any gay shit like put us on tampons or something. I would burn whoever came up with that shit. We should get a Finch toaster, like a limited edition type thing.

How do you feel about your new album as a whole and what exactly is it “to burn”?
That’s our title track. That song wasn’t even going to be on that record but we re-recorded it. It’s one of our favorite songs. We thought it would be trippy if we called it that. We wrote that song after we had finished the record and we just felt like that song was the best way to describe our band. It totally is us, in every way. It had a lot of ups and downs lyrically. It’s called “What It is to Burn”, but on our cover there’s like a fetus in an ice cube so it’s like the total opposite.

What song on the album is your personal favorite?
Lately I’ve been into “Three Simple Words” and “Project Mayhem”. Mark Trombino just made the songs awesome really. It was great to work with him and whenever I need advice I can just call him. Even just life advice, I just call him because he’s such a great friend.

How did it make you feel to know you guys hit #192 on the Billboard charts?
Well, we’re selling records so that’s really nice. Everyone we work with is really nice. Along with that, different people come up to us and want to manage us because they saw us on Billboard. Who cares if we sell records! We’re happy with who we have.

So you guys are satisfied with your management now and your label?
I fucking love our label and I’m so in love with our manager. They are the coolest people in the world. Our manager is one of the coolest, funniest guys ever and he works so hard for us.

As far as you guy’s lyrical content, where does it all come from? Who writes it and such?

We all five write music together, but Nate writes his own lyrics most of them are like hypothetical, kinda like, what if these things happened.

Is it hard for you to be in a band where someone else writes the lyrics? Is it hard for you to feel that?
I connect with his lyrics. As far as playing along, on stage, I hear nothing, I see nothing, I’m in my own world. I’m pretty much deep in thought, totally spaced out so I don’t hear anybody so I don’t know how I even play along. That’s unless I hear someone fuck up then I shoot them a dirty look. We fuck up a lot. It’s pretty much only the drums though, so when he fucks up he gets a glare.

Do you guys beat yourselves up over it?
No the only time we beat ourselves up is if kids aren’t getting into it and they’re just standing there doing nothing.

What does music mean to you? When you wake up in the morning why do you decide to play music?
I love sounds. I tune into everything sonically. I love to listen to records and pick them apart by sounds. I don’t usually hear lyrics but I hear a lot of melodies. I really don’t pay attention to lyrics in songs. Being a musician you hear things differently because through headphones you hear things in every direction and when it comes together it’s amazing.

Is there any one song you can pinpoint as being your favorite song?
‘Uh, “Be Quiet and Drive” by the Deftones.

That is so my favorite Deftones song!
That’s the fucking greatest song. It has so much heart in it. I love it. “Teenager” is a good song. So is “Change In the House of Flys” even though it’s overplayed on the radio. Chino is amazing, just fucking amazing.

As far as your live show goes, how would you describe Finch on stage?

It depends on the night really. Sometimes we’re really crazy and chaotic. If I’m mad, it just gets me more crazy and chaotic. It gets rid of all the stress. I’ve been happy lately so it’s been hard for me to be all crazy and chaotic on stage.

What’s your favorite song to play live?
“What it is to Burn” right now. It’s a fun song to play, it’s energetic and it’s just one of my favorite songs off the album.

If you could pick your dream line up what bands would you love to tour with?
Would we be headlining? God I wish. I would bring Glassjaw, Deftones, Blink 182, Korn, but they’d only be able to play songs from their first two records. I would bring Jimmy Eat World and Brand New. Okay so it’s not a tour anymore, it’s a festival.

On that note we started talking more about Depeche Mode and The Simpsons. Before we knew it, The Starting Line was exiting the stage and it was time for Finch to go on.

Finch put on a show with so much emotion, it was absolutely amazing. As I stood inches from the band taking pictures from inside the barrier, being crushed by kids flying over the small black fence totally crazed by the music being presented, the energy was inescapable as they played the songs off their debut full length album, “What it is to Burn”.