There was a significant dearth of inspired hardcore in the scene when Long Island outfit FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES decided to call it a day. After releasing and touring behind what many consider their finest album, 2007’s Holding A Wolf By The Ears, the band split, with the members—vocalist/drummer Francis Mark, guitarists Brian Deneeve and Rob Lauritsen, bassist Mike Pilato and drummer Jeff Gretz—mutually agreeing it was the most appropriate time to adjourn. Several months ago, organizers for the Amnesia Festival approached the members with an offer to reunite. The band regrouped and discussed the proposition before unanimously deciding it would be great to drop their power on the heads of both faithful fans and unsuspecting new listeners alike.
But instead of just going for an event cash-grab, FATA booked a month’s worth of gigs beginning June 18, with folks like Sleepwave, Hawthorne Heights and Extinction AD in support. On May 15, the band appeared at the Revolution Music Hall in Amityville, New York, for a sweaty throwdown that left the true believers sated. Days prior to that gig, Jason Pettigrew chatted up Deneeve about the band’s motivations, future plans and what inspirational music they’re going to play in the van between shows.
Photo: Keith Barker
I remember listening to Holding A Wolf By The Ears and thinking it was the kind of thing that could put stress fractures in nuclear reactor towers. While it was certainly a drag when the band decided to call it quits, there was that notion of what could you have possibly done to top that album. FATA belonged to a certain space and time and that was it. I think your motivations for doing this are significantly different than those of perhaps other bands who may share a similar stature.
BRIAN DENEEVE: Money isn’t the motivation. It certainly is necessary in order to do these things. Individually, we all toyed around with the idea [of reuniting]. I don’t know if any of us actually talked about it over the last seven years or so. It’s really been a question of timing. When we stopped playing, it felt like that time had come and gone: The zeitgeist had expired. People had moved onto other things at the time. I’m not saying us—we had a great time—but [the scene] didn’t have the fire that it once did. And that was okay; I get over things, so does everyone else.
This time, Amnesia came to us and said they’d like for us to play their festival. We were like, “That’s interesting. We’re all a bit older now, maybe this is the time to do it.” We all got on email and everyone was like, “Why not? Let’s do it!” We agreed to do Amnesia, and then it was suggested we should do a couple other shows around it. If we’re going to do this one, why don’t we book some other shows and do some proper full sets? That was the motivation: It simply felt like it was the right time in years.
I think it was Fran who said at the time of the breakup, “This just feels like the end.” So why does this feel like the rebirth? It’s not quite a 10-year break.
I think we had been consistently busy from the beginning of the band until 2008. The longest we ever took off was three or four months in 2006. But we’d been doing it for a long time. There does come a point where maybe we did everything we were supposed to do as a band: make records you enjoy listening to and playing and hopefully gaining an audience of people who enjoy it, too. We had done four records and toured everywhere we could’ve imagined.
Things have changed in the interim since FATA disbanded, from how information is disseminated to the way a band communicates with their fans. The dynamics are significantly different than what you’ve experienced before.
[Laughs.] It’s already gotten kind of weird. We started up Facebook and Twitter [accounts], stuff that did not exist the last time we were playing together. We did show up late to the social-media party, but it seems much more positive than I’ve seen with other bands. On social media, I think there tends to be a sense of entitlement that people feel when connected to something. It’s a generational thing. It comes down to the fact that, sure, it’s a different time, compared to the days when you were at a show and you saw a flyer that said another band was coming to town, and that was your connection to it.
The band’s dissolution was completely mutual amongst the members? Nobody ever thought, “If I have to be in a van with you for one more day, I’m gonna stab you in the lung”?
We knew it was going to be cool. The only thing that was weird was when we did finally stop playing, we had the “Uh, what do we do now” thing. I know I had that; I’m pretty sure everyone else did. We’ve come around full circle.
Point blank: Are you terrified about doing these gigs?
Terrified, no. I’m excited. You only get terrified when you worry about messing up—at least I do. If I mess things up, well, they’re our songs—I meant to do it. [Laughs.] Now messing up when you’re a hired player? That’s terrifying. This is going to be fun. We might have to do some extra stretching more than we used to before the shows. [Laughs.] Do you remember on Van Halen’s Balance tour when Alex Van Halen wore the neck brace for, like, three years straight and no one knew why? We were talking the other night about it and we were thinking someone should come out with a neck brace; someone would have a walker, maybe a cane…
Have someone be pushed onstage in a wheelchair…
But here’s the thing: I think that joke would be lost on a lot of people. The band is a thing of legend in many circles. A browse through your Twitter account shows all kinds of people who missed the band back in the day or simply weren’t old enough to figure out how to get into your gigs back then. All they had were four albums of music that left scar tissue on their minds. In many people’s eyes, FATA are larger than life.
…which we weren’t aware of until the last few months. It is interesting because we are getting some interesting comments and tweets from kids. There was a comment that was like, “I was an infant when your first record came out. Now I finally get to see you.” That was kind of… heavy. [Laughs.] There’s been a lot of “I was supposed to see you 14 years ago, but I couldn’t and then I never got the opportunity again. So I bought my tickets today.” That’s really cool. That is something that you never really think you are going to hear. You don’t hear, “Oh, I didn’t get to see you” when you’re starting out. The payoff is, “Now I finally get to see you.” It’s flattering.
Are you going to concentrate on Wolf songs for the sets? Or are you going over the whole discography?
We’re going to be playing songs we’ve literally never played live. Ever. We’re playing songs off of Too Bad You’re Beautiful that we’ve never played before. We may have played them a few times in somebody’s basement in 2001. There’s no YouTube footage of these things. I can’t remember playing them, and no one else in the band can, either.
The setlists are going to be a pretty equal mix of tracks. The headlining set is pretty long. I think we clocked it as close to an hour and a half. Which is normal for a band playing arenas: I’m pretty sure we played for an hour or so back then, so we’re trying to squeeze in everything we can. It’s a lot of songs. There might be a need for oxygen on the side of the stage. Maybe for Fran, but not for me: I’m not going to be screaming for an hour-and-a-half.
This is the lineup of the band that recorded the last album. No former members received invites to participate?
We all agree that Holding A Wolf was the record we wanted to make and that was the lineup that really worked well. When we initially got the offer to play Amnesia, I don’t think we sat down and said, “Should we talk to the other guys from other incarnations of the band?” This lineup of the band played songs from every previous record. It would be weird otherwise.
What are the managed expectations of this reunion? More touring, followed by a semi-permanent arrangement that would allow FATA to make new music?
We don’t know, honestly. We’re doing this. There have been some riffs thrown around [at practices], there’s been jamming—and not just jamming on Warrant songs, which we have been doing a lot of. [Laughs.] Before we worry about anything else, we just want to focus on these shows. For that kid who was two years old when we started playing, we want to make it really good for him. After these shows, I can’t imagine we won’t continue to move ahead as organically as possible. We’ve waited this long; I don’t think it’s going to do anyone any good to think, “Oh, let’s put out a record tomorrow.” We enjoy being around each other and getting together in a room to play music.
Do you see this reunion as solid dudes hanging out or unfinished business?
I see it as dudes hanging out who like to play music and have an opportunity to do it, an opportunity that a lot of bands—even ones that have been playing a long time—don’t get to have. You don’t necessarily get a second go at it. It’s not unfinished business: We were fine when we stopped playing. We got to do everything we asked for. Rehearsing has been a blast, can’t imagine the shows being anything less than that.
What are you going to force the rest of the guys to listen to while you’re driving to gigs?
We’re all genuinely in agreement that it will be a solid amount of Paul Stanley onstage banter and the collected works of David Lee Roth, including his Spanish album. You could say we’re sticking with the classics.
You’re actively trying to make this reunion fail, aren’t you?
[Laughs.] Yes! As best as we can. alt