After his last tenure ended--he spent two years touring behind "Mr. Pitiful," Matt Costa, who also hails from Orange County--Fletcher plopped down in his Santa Ana garage (or ga-ridge, as he might pronounce it in his quasi-California-by-way-of-England accent) and got bloody busy. He gathered old cassette tapes and scraps of paper he'd been recording and jotting down on for years, putting his nose to the musical grind. The result is an emotive mix of melodies and texture-filled harmonies.
Next, he wrangled his way into producer Ryan Mall's studio Lillian Sounds and laid down some tracks. The results take the stage at Detroit Bar as Fletcher holds down the Monday-night residency for February, his first time performing solo in support of the new songs.
OC Weekly (Arrissia Turner): First, what do you think about you and your brother being named in OC Weekly's Orange County's sexiest people issue? Did you know you were so damn hot to trot? Is it hard to walk around now with all the catcalls?
James Fletcher: If below-average hygiene and bitten nails are sexy, then yes, I suppose that's me.
Who is backing you up onstage?
The live band is sounding great thanks to the guys involved. Mitch Townsend, Michael Rosas, Bob Thomson and Oscar Fuentes are all the best around. I'm very lucky to have 'em.
What sort of music influenced you while creating The Booze & Clocks?
All the stuff that I've loved over the years. In a general sense, any music that has a good feel and dark, lush melodies. Anything that "promotes wondering," as a friend of mine says, specifically: Ronnie Lane, The Jayhawks, Joe Walsh, Buffalo Springfield, Robert Wyatt, Crosby Stills Nash, XTC, Paul Weller, YES, Gerry Rafferty, the Faces, Bread, ZZ Top. I'd better stop there.
Have you discovered any new influences of late that inspired you in a new way creatively? If not people, places, a good burger, Communism? The color silver? Anything?
There's a small island in Greece called Paxos. It has the most olive trees for its size of all the Greek islands. The pace there is slow; the sea is a pretend, clear blue; and the silence is slightly eerie. I had the chance to go there a few years ago and have since had the feel and images of that place burned into my head. It would inspire anyone. Oh, and I'd have to say cooking, gardening, tennis, red wine, The Economist, travel, and a good laugh with friends and family.
What was your involvement with Scott Weiland?
Bob Thomson, who plays bass in the live band, was Scott Weiland's bassist off and on for a while. Bob asked me three years ago if I would be up for drumming on Weiland's second solo album. We rehearsed a few times, and then went to Chicago to record with Steve Albini (Nirvana, the Pixies, Urge Overkill, Cheap Trick, PJ Harvey). That was a great experience. After we'd finish a take, someone would ask, "How was that?" to Steve in the control room. He'd respond into our headphones, "I don't know; how was it?"
Albini's whole take on recording is this: Don't show up and spend a load of dough and time if you can't play the song start to finish. Also, you'd better think your songs are sort of ready to record before you head into the studio. Those are valuable lessons. Do your homework, and then we can all have a good laugh and get strong results. The backing band on that Weiland record was great.
How was it playing with Pat Visel again on his solo stuff? The two along with the Blue Whales' Piers Brown, MPHASE's Geoff Harrington and Throwrag's AJ Nesselrod achieved some mainstream success with the Costa Mesa band Filmstar in the mid-1990s, sharing stages with bands such as Weezer.
Pat Visel was a great kick in the ass for me. He knocks out a record every year or so. He and I got together to work out some ideas last year, and it gave me the push to do a whole record of my own. I am extremely grateful for that. He has a knack for coming up with a completely original style of songs.
A friend once described his music as "moving backward and forward at once." That's a simple way of putting it, but dead-on. More important, Pat is a blast to spend time with in general. That means more than all the other stuff.
Was it strange having so much creative control while making The Booze & Clocks? Was it liberating? Scary?
Having creative control was the main purpose for making this record. It was challenging but incredibly rewarding to write, record and see the songs take shape. Like many things, it was a process of setting aside the time and the budget, pleading with friends for favors, and then getting to work.
I tried not to talk too much about it while it was all unfolding. I wanted decisions and action with minimal babble. You know the expression paralysis by analysis? There was very little of that. Making the record was absolutely liberating--and a hell of a lot of fun.
James Fletcher performs with Dano Forte and Casey and the Tall Boys at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0400; www.detroitbar.com. Mon., Feb. 14, 8 p.m. 21+. Additional performances are with Matt May and Blue Whales (Feb. 21) and Andrew Corradini and Two Guns (Feb. 28).