Fruition played in Columbus, Oh on February 10, 2018 at Woodlands Tavern. Fruition consists of Jay Cobb(guitar & vocals), Mimi Naja(guitar, mandolin & vocals), Kellen Asebroek(keyboards, guitar & vocals), Jeff Leonard(bass) & Tyler Thompson(drums). Based out of Portland, Oregon, they have just released a new CD titled “Watching It All Fall Apart” and are touring to support it. I had a chance to sit down with Jay before their Columbus show and we talked about many things including the new CD.
Tom Wickstrom: I’m sitting here with Jay Cobb Anderson from the band Fruition. They are based out of Portland, Oregon and have just released a new CD “Watching It All Far Apart”. Tell me about the new CD and the inspiration behind it.
Jay Cobb Anderson: Well, I guess the inspiration behind it is the usual thing but the album itself is really unique in the way that we did it. We worked with a producer named Tucker Martine, who’s worked with the Decemberists & My Morning Jacket and many others. Working with him was an amazing experience. The album’s inspirations stem from a lot of different kinds of longing, whether that be for love lost or being far away from love and there are also songs that don’t have anything to do with love on the record. FOMO is one of the non-love songs that is funny. I wrote it when I didn’t get invited to a party, so I wrote myself a song to make myself feel better about not getting invited to the party. It’s really unique to what we’ve done in the past mainly because of the production technique and the way we recorded it and working with Tucker Martine.
TW: I was listening to the 1st single off the new CD, “I’ll Never Sing Your Name” and it had a really cool psychedelic garage rock feel to it. I’ve only had the opportunity to hear snippets of the other songs. Are you playing all the new songs live yet?
JCA: We have been this tour & it has felt so good to finally do that. It always takes a long time from the inception of a song to demoing to recording to mixing. When you finally release it, you get to play all the tunes you’ve been working on. In the past like our last CD “Labor Of Love”, where the songs had already been played live for a while. Those were like catchup records, where you’re hurrying to get music out that you were already playing. This was exciting because we hadn’t played most of these songs live. Now we’re doing it and it feels great.
TW: Are the songs all transitioning well live?
JCA: They are and that’s been the interesting thing. The record before we had played a lot of the songs live already. When we went in the studio we pretty much knew what we wanted to do. This new CD has been the opposite, because we didn’t have any idea what it was going to be like, which was really exciting. I think it transferred really well.
TW: I see you recently hooked up with Lo-Hi Records.
JCA: We’re very stoked and proud to be with them. Nice! You’re wearing the shirt.
TW: Jim Brooks gave me the shirt and I had to tie-dye it.
JCA: That’s lovely. Good work.
TW: I was happy to see you get hooked up with them. I think they’re doing some good work over there.
JCA: We are very excited to be on board with them.
TW: Tell me about your songwriting process. Do you all write separately?
JCA: Yeah, we tend to all write separately. I think each members process is different in some ways but similar to many of the ways that most songwriters write. For me, I like to stay writing. I write a lot whether it’s just blips of ideas I have or poetry or just a stream of consciousness type of writing. I’m constantly working on songs and coming up with melodies and recording them as voice memos on my phone type of deal. There’s 3 different kinds of songwriting: Music 1st then words, words 1st then music or the holy grail type you hope for, which is where the heavens open up and the song falls into your lap. It all comes at once.
TW: As a band, you’re very socially conscious and not overly political, but you do stay on top of today’s issues. Do you interject that into your writing?
JCA: I have been doing a lot of that lately. It’s tricky. We live in a crazy time and I think all of us in the band, the songwriters in the band, we want to be more socially conscious and outspoken about our thoughts and beliefs. We want to do it in a way that doesn’t cause more separation, but will bring more people together. That’s what I see in this day and age especially in America where there’s this wedge that’s been put between us for years & years. That’s a scary thing because we need to remember that we are all Americans and we can figure this stuff out. Whether we agree or disagree with each other, there’s a way of going about it diplomatically. The way things have been going, I think it’s funny the way people talk to people way left and how they are shutting out anyone who voted for Trump or something like that. We need to talk to each other. We need to discuss those things. We need to learn from each other instead of….
TW: Throwing hand grenades?
JCA: Exactly. Pushing that wedge in. That’s the tricky part. There are times you want to come out & say “Fuck Trump”, but that’s not really the true root of the problem. The main point is to not separate, but to bring together. I think we’re going to release an EP in a few months that has some social commentary on it. Hopefully those songs will get people thinking in a good way.
TW: Fruition plays 150+ shows a year and your live shows always kick the energy level up a ew notches. How do you keep the momentum going from night to night?
JCA: I don’t know. We just do it. It’s crazy. When we’re at a place like Woodlands Tavern tonight and you’re releasing a new record, it’s definitely a lot easier. Some of the last tours before we released this new record were a bit more difficult because you’ve been playing the same stuff you’ve been playing for a long time. You have to inject that energy. When you get new material, that helps a lot. If people show up for the shows, we get energized.
TW: Do you vary your setlist every night?
JCA: We write a new setlist every night.
TW: How do you determine that?
JCA: We just do it off the cuff. We sit in the green room, hang out, talk it over & try to make it interesting and that brings the energy levels up & down in the ways that we want. In some places the audience is more raging, so you can really throw down the rockers more. Some places we can do more gentle stuff because it’s more of a listening crowd.
TW: Obviously there’s a difference between a festival show and a show like tonight. Do you feel more compelled to play all the hits when you’re at a festival.
JCA: Yes. We say nothing but the hits for those hour long festival slots.
TW: I just read where Elephant Revival is taking a hiatus. They were always one of my favorite bands to watch you jam with together. You always seemed to have a great time collaborating with each other.
JCA: Definitely. We just got done having Dan Rodriguez open up for us on a handful of shows. Last night in Chicago was his last night with us.
TW: You should have brought him with you.
JCA: I know. We tried to talk him into it.
TW: Who else do you guys feel comfortable jamming with?
JCA: There’s so many. I guess when it comes to bands that are on the festival circuit, it would definitely be Greensky Bluegrass & Leftover Salmon, the Infamous Stringdusters, the California Honeydrops, our friends the Shook Twins & Jon Stickley Trio. All of those guys are like crazy.
TW: Is there someone out there that you’ve been trying to get together & jam with that you haven’t had the opportunity yet?
JCA: 1st off I forgot to say Larry Keel, because it’s really fun playing with Larry. Someone I’m dying to play with? I don’t know if I ever think of it like that. I just go with the flow. I guess if it came down to the dream scale of things, I would love to jam with Paul McCartney or a Stevie Wonder but that’s like crazy talk.
TW: Is there any kind of a story you can share about the band or this tour?
JCA: A story about the band. It’s hard to pick things out because it all seems to blur together on the road. We did 2 nights at the Ogden Theater in Denver for our CD release. They were amazing big shows and we had my buddy, Rayland Baxter open up. I love his music. I love his songs.
TW: I have one of his CDs. I gave it to my 89 year old dad to listen to. My dad loves Americana & Bluegrass music. He’ll either tell me “it’s alright or that’s a good one. You can burn that one for me”.
JCA: Oh yeah?
TW: When I shared the new Stringdusters & Greensky CDs, he thought they were ok, but he loved the Rayland Baxter CD.
JCA: That guy is….we get along really well and the 1st time we met we really connected. I sat in with him once before but this time at the Ogden I got to sit in with him. We played one of my favorite songs of all time that he wrote called “Yellow Eyes”. I got to do the main lead guitar part, which was super fun. That was a great thing that happened on this tour that I was really stoked about, having Rayland on board.
TW: It was nice getting back to Strings & Sol again this year. Wasn’t it?
JCA: Oh yeah
TW: I hope to make it back next year.
JCA: I know. We missed you.
TW: Someone wanted me to ask you about your red pants and where you got them.
JCA: Hahahaha. What do you want to know? It’s funny. When I turned 19, I was living in Idaho, which was where I was from. My best bud’s cousin started collecting vintage clothes from estate & yard sales & thrift stores. He was taking all these vintage clothes and driving it to Portland and selling it to all the vintage clothing outlets. Once we got wind of this, he invited us to his basement and said we could have anything for $5 each. Pants, shirts, coats & boots. That’s when I started figuring out the style that I like and part of that was really funky pants. I’ve always liked funky pants, but when I was in high school, I don’t think I ever attempted anything like that. To have vintage clothing in my best friend’s cousins basement, where we could go through things, was when I got my 1st pair of red pants. There have been a few since. I’ve always liked funky pants & part of being a performer is you have to stand up on stage and people have to look at you. So it’s nice to be able to dress in a way that you like & that you want to even though it might be a little loud. When I 1st started doing the red pants thing and when we moved to Portland, we were playing on the street a lot. We were wearing bright colored clothes and moving around a lot. You’re trying to get people to give you money because you’re broke. I don’t think there was ever a thought that I must have red pants. I just like them.
TW: That’s all the questions I have. Is there anything else you want to get out or say?
JCA: No. Hopefully people will hear the CD when we come to your hood & come check us out at a show. You might be surprised at what you hear. I’ve been getting a lot of that lately, because we’ve been called a bluegrass band a lot. I won’t say we are or ever have been but we’ve definitely dabbled. We’re definitely turning more rock & roll, at least with this record. Who knows what will happen for the next record. We’ll be back to….
JCA: Yeah (laughing) or metal.
TW: Cool. Thanks for your time.