About a year and a half ago, after years of playing drums in Schenectady-area bands, Fort Rooster frontman Rob Fleming began to take the guitar a little more seriously.
“I’ve been playing drums since 8th grade,” he said recently from a coffee shop in Schenectady, with two of his bandmates from Fort Rooster. “I played drums in a lot of bands, and I always wanted to actually write the song, because you’re so limited [on drums] — you’re just rhythm. . . . I’ve been playing guitar for years, just not as serious as I’ve been now, in a live setting.”
He began assembling musical and lyrical ideas he had collected over the years into hard rocking yet melodic songs recalling influences such as Pearl Jam and Queens of the Stone Age. He painstakingly recorded eight demos in his basement using the Apple program Garageband, playing all of the instruments himself. Soon after, he began to think about playing them live, and the first incarnation of Fort Rooster formed around these demos.
Roughly two months ago, guitarist Madison Peruzzi (also of hardcore band The Viking) and drummer Brian Zink came onboard, replacing original members Craig Relyea and Mike Vallely. When the band performs at Valentine’s on Saturday night, opening for Skeletons in the Piano, it will only be the third or fourth show with this lineup.
But the quartet, along with bassist Mark Moore, has rapidly come into its own stylistically, fleshing out Fleming’s already complete demos with different influences ranging from jazz to progressive rock.
“Everyone kind of has their own fingerprint on their instrument, and you can kind of hear their own voice come through a little bit,” Zink said. “I know Mark listens to a lot of funky, jazz stuff, and I’m more from the progressive side of things, with some jazz in there. And Madison’s a very, very, very good classical guitar player. So you can kind of hear a little maturity I think, in the sound.”
In Moore’s case, Fort Rooster is actually the first rock band he’s ever played in, having mostly performed with jazz and funk groups previously.
“I’m really liking it,” he said. “A lot of my influences are all jazz-oriented, like Paul Jackson and Jaco [Pastorius] and those guys. It’s tough, because there’s not as much improvisation and everything’s more defined — I play the same bass line in a tune, at two different shows I play the same exact bass line. It’s kind of weird, but I like it, because the layering and everything.”
The original demos by Fleming were already layered, mixing classic rock riffing, metallic grinding, alternative rock melodies and proggy atmospheric passages on songs such as “Cadaver Dogs” and “New Depression.” Fleming still composes many of the group’s songs in this manner — starting with a riff and then recording from the drums up.
“When I wrote the songs, I would have a melody in my head, like a guitar melody; [I would] kind of play around, write something and then I would just go right to the drum kit and think of the song in my head as I’m playing the drums, while recording it,” he said. “It takes a long time to do one freaking song.”
Lyrically, Fleming likes to keep things vague, even when he’s writing about himself.
“I’m still kind of developing my lyric styles,” he said. “I wrote some lyrics a few days ago, just, I had this — it’s nothing personal at all, it’s just this cool image that I had in my head. I kind of painted a picture with words. I want to add that to one of the songs. It has nothing to do with my life at all, it’s just cool.”
Planning to record
The band is looking to re-record the demo’s eight songs, along with new tracks composed by Fleming and the entire band, for its first full-length album.
“We’re weighing our options right now,” Fleming said. “We’ve got a friend, our friend Jesse [Winchester], who also plays guitar in The Viking — he’s got a lot of recording projects, he’s really good at what he does. We might consider doing maybe three tracks with him, something new to hand out, or maybe do some studio time somewhere, drop a couple bucks. We just want something that sounds good that has everybody on there, at least a few songs.”
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