For a band in Austin, making it out of our own music scene bubble can sometimes feel unattainable. There’s something about being able to sell out a 150-200 people room with some of your nearest and dearest that keeps you content with not playing to strangers in a far away town. For some bands like Mother Falcon, years of hard work and plans taking positive turns, lead to great things.
The most obvious factor about Mother Falcon is that the symphonic rock band is a large band. The group numbers fluctuate between 12 to 14 members to accommodate to the multiple jobs/projects that most of the band juggle on a daily basis. Saxophonist Andrew Fontenot took some time to share what Mother Falcon has been in the past and where it’s going from here.
In 2008, Nick Gregg formed Mother Falcon with members of the Red Armada String Quarter, a local Austin high school ensemble. Fontenot, originally from Fredericksburg, joined the band during the summer of 2011. He had also come from similar backgrounds, playing in jazz band from middle school all the way into college at St. Edwards University. He can’t remember a time that he wasn’t playing music.
“My dad taught me how to play bass when I was 10 years old. I played in his band and he had a little studio in his closet. He always had me come do bass tracks and sing,” shared Fontenot.
Fast forwarding to his time with Mother Falcon, Fontenot laughs when I question exactly how they manage to function as such a large group. He believes they have found that having that many people in the band actually makes things easier. Their duties are split evenly throughout the group and the cool thing about is; everyone does a little bit of everything. If anything needs to be done, there’s almost always someone who specializes in it. Mother Falcon’s drummer Isaac Winburne does lighting, Gregg does architecture, trumpet player Matt Krolick does furniture design and their accordion player Tamir Kalifa is a photojournalist.
Thankfully, the various talents amongst the band takes the pressure of one or two people having to do a lot of work. There are always extra hands to help. But when it comes to traveling, there really isn’t an easy way to get Mother Falcon around.
“We have a van that we basically load all of our gear into the back of it,” said Fontenot, as he laughed. “Then we still have two benches and then we usually at this point, rent another van. When we first started we had about 17 people, but we only had that van and a Chevy Tahoe.”
Despite the lack of space they must have dealt with on the road, Mother Falcon is fortunate to have made waves in big cities such as a Philadelphia and New York. Their rendition of Radiohead’s OK Computer, or MF Computer, was an unplanned victory for the band. Their original idea was to do one show of their own version of the prolific album and record a video of it. That was it. But their team believed that by creating it into an album, it’d be easier to get them in the door in big city venues. From the get-go, they had an enticing factor that a lot of venues were interested in. It’s not every day you can see a 15-piece orchestra play Radiohead’s OK Computer all the way through. This created a sort of gateway to new fans, so that when Mother Falcon came back to their city, they weren’t just some unheard off band.
“So, it ended up being completely different from what we anticipated but we ended up touring it for about a year,” recalls Fontenot. “It’s definitely one of the weirder things in our history because it just ended up being something that we really never thought it was going to become…in a good way.”
Aside from opening doors in new cities, MF Computer influenced the way Mother Falcon saw future material from there. Up until that point, the band had never really fancied the idea of doing covers. Sure, they had to learn “Ring of Fire” for some Texas show, but OK Computer was, for the most part, their first time jumping into covers. In turn, it gave the band a chance to arrange someone else’s music, which gave them clarity on how to arrange their own music. Also, it gave Mother Falcon the opportunity to jump into someone else’s brain for a second. Fontenot shared that it helped the band’s writing capabilities, as well.
After a few years of experience under their belt, Mother Falcon have taken a much more deliberate approach with their new album Good Luck, Have Fun. Fontenot strongly believes that their band was guilty, like other bands that are growing, of making albums full of songs that were just their newest material. He feels that this new album was written as a unit, which was something new for them.
“This one, we kind of lived in a theater in Providence for a few days and sat down and wrote and recorded all of it as one cohesive unit with this whole thought of making sure that every song has a clear cut verse and a clear cut chorus,” said Fontenot. “No crazy stuff that we always do but really see how we can simple it down. I think what we came up with, everyone likes more than the rest of the stuff we’ve done in a lot of ways. Simplifying complex music, it just turned out in a good way. I think more than anything, it’s something different, whether it’s more accessible or not.”
Whether it’s the first half of solid, great pop music, or the second half of insanely avant-garde orchestral music, Mother Falcon is finding the extent of the range of what the band can give in their music. They’re pushing the boundaries of what they are capable of, and the best part of it is that they get to share this with a national audience. Their six-week run that begins in October will be kicked off by a double-show in Austin this weekend.
Good Luck, Have Fun is set to release sometime in the near future, as their original Aug. 14 release date has been postponed. In regards to the change of events, they have now made their two-night release show FREE at The North Door on Friday, Aug. 21 and again at Empire Control Room on Saturday, Aug. 22.
* Watch the music video for “Kid” off ‘Good Luck Have Fun’ below.