Since early 2017, the Los Angeles band Fencer has been delivering what their Facebook page describes as “fuzzy, manic, garage rock.” The trio consists of Field as vocalist and guitarist while brothers Cameron and Scott take on the drums and bass respectively. Their debut EP, Growing Up Selfish is like a sucker punch of angst and anxiety consisting of four songs that prove heavy both lyrically and sonically. But, in their new lockdown acoustic session, the band delivers stripped back versions of songs from the EP, a new song, and a cover of “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars.
“Basically, we were planning to do a session for a second but then the world started ending, so obviously it made more sense because it’s kind of what everyone was doing at that time,” Field says about making the session. “We just wanted to make sure we kind of did our own little spin on it. We didn’t want to just do a live stream or something.”
“I feel like we wanted to have, with the cover, one cover that sort of fit with the whole quarantine thing but wasn’t like a fad song. Something that was like upbeat but it still related to everyone being stuck at home,” Scott adds about how “The Lazy Song” got added to the mix.
Stripping the songs back to do the performance, Cameron notes that the important thing for them was keeping as much of the structure as possible. “We have some of the songs that we did that have like heavy breakdowns or whatever that, you know, would be kind of difficult to have an acoustic session. Even if we change it up slightly, we do our best to try and keep every part of the song in the acoustic session.”
WATCH THE PREMIERE OF FENCER’S LOCKDOWN ACOUSTIC SESSION HERE:
Music was always something in each of their lives growing up. For Field, the influence of music came out in going to concerts and then realizing in his later teen years the level of importance music (or as he also refers to it as, “the generic soundtrack to your life and stuff”) was to him. “But there were a few important bands that I discovered in my late high school years and stuff that kind of made me feel like that was an avenue I really wanted to enter and kind of shifted my thinking on music.”
Scott recalls that he and Cameron grew up in a musical family with their dad playing guitar for them when they were kids. But what stuck with him heavily as a kid was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He credits the band’s bassist Flea for getting him interested in bass. “I start out with the guitar for probably about a couple of months, but I switched to bass just because of listening to how he played that sound was so interesting,” he explains.
“Yeah, like Scott said, we grew up around music constantly,” Cameron follows up. “I’m a bit different, I went through a couple of different stages of the band so I first really liked a bunch of different generic stuff back in middle school, like all the pop stuff and then late middle school was like Green Day. Then, the same thing with Field in high school, there were a couple of bands that I still listen to pretty often and I’d fallen pretty hard.”
The origins of Fencer then, begin with Field and Cameron. The two played together in a couple of other different bands and then moved on to do their own thing. “We were playing with another bass player for a while and then we were like auditioning tons of bass players and it wasn’t really working so Scott sat in a few times to just kinda jam with us,” Field explains. The trio recalls that at that point Scott wasn’t looking to be in a band, but it turns out, the concept grew on him and he was the missing piece even as Scott was considering himself a substitute until the band found their permanent bassist.
Now that the band was formed, the three looked for a theme to associate with their work which became the color blue. The ice-y blue color finds itself setting the tone (quite literally) from the lighting in their acoustic session and their debut music video for their lead single ‘Junebug’ off their (also icy-blue colored) EP to the curation of their Instagram page. When explaining their decision to start “drowning everything in blue” Field prefaces that the answer sounds pretentious before continuing, “But, I think creatively, it helps a lot of what we do because it’s just all kind of based in this very blue colored world that we’ve created. I have synesthesia and I always think of song names in colors, this sounds so pretentious,” he repeats as an aside, “But, I say this all the time and some people think it’s cool or I’m a total jackass,” he quips and is met with laughter. “So, like based on songs we write, I’ll bring the ones up to the guys that I see as like ‘blue’ songs and if someone else brings on something, we usually kind of mess with it to get it to that kind of place where we just see it as blue in our heads and I feel like just staying super strong and committed to whatever our theme is, is super important because that creates uniqueness and it’s very striking. It’s something you notice very immediately and it kind of just differentiates what we put out and what we do and makes us look like clowns.”
Even with the self-aware self-deprecation, the intention works with the way they link the color blue to their work. In terms of where they are currently and creatively, the plan seems to be to stick with blue, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a potential color change in the future.
There’s a lot of different connotations that the color blue can add. It could represent sincerity but, it also evokes the contradicting emotions of tranquility and coldness at the same time. This isn’t to say that’s why the group chose blue of all colors, but the polarizing appeal of blue is reflective in Growing Up Selfish. “So, we called it Growing Up Selfish because one, that song already had that name for like a while and we were like, ‘That’s a really sick name like that’s a cool name for a release.’ But two, those four songs are four of our oldest songs. Fencer was like a baby and it was kind of very much like our first wave,” Field explains. “We have matured a lot since then. We write a lot of different songs now that was kind of, you know, our original collection of songs and the idea of growing up selfish when a lot of it is about like, me and my family life or being terrified–terrified of bugs–it just kinda felt like it made sense of that loosely based idea of like growing up and shit. But also, it was just we thought that song had such a cool name and we were like, we should all do something with it,” he says about titling the EP.
Oh, we don’t really know where to go with this’ if someone is like super excited about it, we’ll try and get super excited about it because I think that’s important for us to support each other’s creativity and stuff. – Field
I ask the three if they think they grew up selfish which takes them by surprise. Cameron responds, “I feel like to a point, everyone kind of grows up selfish,” which leads to more laughter and a “Thanks, Cameron,” from Field.
“I think because I was very much like an introverted kid, especially in elementary school and stuff like that, Cameron definitely has a point. Everyone grows up selfish to some extent,” Scott agrees with his brother. “But, I couldn’t even walk up to the teacher and ask a question or anything like that. So I don’t know if I’d consider myself a very selfish kid. I was not confrontational whatsoever.”
“A band, am I right?” Field remarks.
It’s at this point I joke about Scott agreeing with Cameron’s sentiment before admitting he was shy to the point of being nonconfrontational growing up. “To an extent, you know, maybe as a preschool kid I had a toy car that I didn’t want to give anyone,” he says earnestly.
The moments like this during the convo shine light on how the three of them bounce off each other and work together. When I ask about their personalities in relation to their music, Field says that his personality is pretty much literally the band’s sound. “I can’t get very far away,” he laughs.
“I like to think that because I try and write even for the–not depressing–but the slower and quieter songs, I try to write sorta bouncy sorta basslines and I think that kinda reflects me as a person,” Scott says.
“It’s our outlet to get creative things out and said so I feel like often the three of our creative juices get pulled into it pretty heavily,” Field adds.
The typical process for their music-making looks like them bringing in an idea and then bouncing off each other. Usually through electric, sometimes the ideas come acoustically, but overall the goal is to find an idea that not only excites them but holds their attention for however long they need to work on it to get it where it needs to be. “We’ll constantly bring in like a song idea or just like a lyric and start maybe expanding on it and maybe spend a little longer than we want to and then kind of lose interest in it and be like, ‘Oh, it’s not that good.’ It’s usually better when it starts kind of like snowballing when things are clicking like really quickly,” Field explains once I ask about concepts and ideas that they want to write about.
“I know that all of us have like little soundbites recorded on our phones or like riffs or vocal melodies we made that sound pretty cool that we may never bring to the band or like Field said, we’ll lose like interest in it, but I think all of us have a ton on our phone,” Scott says.
“I think the thing is that if somebody brings in something they’re like super excited about it, even if like initially we aren’t all feeling it or whatever and we’re kinda like, ‘Oh, we don’t really know where to go with this’ if someone is like super excited about it, we’ll try and get super excited about it because I think that’s important for us to support each other’s creativity and stuff,” Field adds. “But also, you know if somebody is seeing something cool in something and we’re not there, we like really wanna understand and sometimes that creates cool stuff.”
Working on new music now, the three agrees that there’s growth from their previous EP with their new work. “I feel like it’s all a little bit more matured than the EP. Not too much more mature, we’re still morons, but it’s a long and similar course I think just up the notch as far as the songwriting and structure and all that stuff,” Field starts.
We’re paying a bit more attention to structure and what isn’t the norm, you know? Stuff that’s a bit different but there are aspects of the EP in our current songs so it’s pretty interesting to see the stuff that we’ve made currently. – Cameron
“Yeah, there’s a lot more intricate things. We’re paying a bit more attention to structure and what isn’t the norm, you know?” Cameron comments. “Stuff that’s a bit different but there are aspects of the EP in our current songs so it’s pretty interesting to see the stuff that we’ve made currently.”
“I think we’ve managed to like over time more solidify the type of sound we go for in our songs, whereas with the EP and the earlier music, we were still kinda trying to find that niche. Now, I think we sorta found that as we’re developing it right now,” Scott adds.
Managing friendship, being siblings, and being in a band, isn’t unheard of, but it does require the group to see each other in multiple settings and spend a lot of time with each other. “It’s weird because, you know in theory we’re making music so this barely counts, but it’s like a business working together and so that creates a weird dynamic that you probably wouldn’t normally have in just like a friendship,” Field starts off. “So that’s something we’ve learned over the years as we deal with like more serious stuff and kind of navigate that between the three of us. For the most part, I feel like it’s easier for them because they’re brothers,” he refers to Scott and Cameron, “So it’s kind of like we’re all just jumping into this and trying to figure out exactly how to navigate everything. But I think we do a pretty good job of it. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in working together and separating our friendship and our band, etc.”
It’s not just like one idea, it’s three ideas that get mixed into the song. – Scott
Scott chimes in, “I think it works to our favor that all three of us kind of notice we have different personalities. Like, pretty starkly different. We do clash sometimes like we’ll have disagreements and things like that, but I think those differences are what helps the songwriting and the creative process.” The goal within the trio very much feels like it’s based on making sure they each feel heard and included. “It’s not just like one idea, it’s three ideas that get mixed into the song,” Scott concludes.
As we begin to wrap up our phone conversation, I ask them if there’s a recording session they would sit in on if they could. There’s a brief pause before Field shares that he already has his answer. “I would be at a White Stripes White Blood Cells record,” he says before then clarifying, “I would sit through the entirety of the three days they recorded the songs for that album.”
“For me, it would be either the Foo Fighters, their self-titled, that would be a big one or, I would love to be in–it’s not gonna happen–but Kurt Cobain with Bleach,” Cameron says. “Like it’s not gonna happen but…”
“That’s tough because I have three that would be really difficult,” Scott goes last. “Red Hot Chili Peppers is obvious I think. Probably either their very first or Blood Sugar Sex Magik would be two that would be really cool to sit on. But then also, Boston, their very first self titled that they released in the 70s. That one would be really cool to sit on as well and the even beyond that if I could sit on KALEO’s A/B as much as I ground that album to death in my car, that’s one I want to sit in on as well.”
Fencer’s Mini-Playlist for Readers:
Growing Up Selfish is available wherever you stream music.
(photo cred: Kelsey Smith)