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A Dirty Dozen with FOLLOW ME DARK – April 2020

| 19 April 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Grass Valley-based Alt Rock/Metal band Follow Me Dark packages their first four singles in their debut EP Stars Collide. Not too shy to push the limits of genre, Stars Collide includes a range of haunting, groovy & anthemic tracks. Collecting “As She Feeds,” “Entwined,” “Ancient Ones,” and the title track “Stars Collide,” fans are in for a treat when they hear the dynamic progression of growth from the fall of 2019 to now. Gritty guitar riffs paired with soaring vocals has coined them an energy that is truly larger than life. Modern psychedelic grooves and metal attacks win over fans of Alice In Chains, Deftones, Muse and many more. Intricate textural interludes & melodic choruses are delivered by band members Stephen Kozak (vocals/guitar), Sean Batinic (guitar), Elliott Grove (bass), and Jim Boots (drums). Beloved in the Grass Valley area, Follow Me Dark is soon to become a household name.” We get the band to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Stephen: The Stars Collide EP represents the first four songs the band wrote together, ranging from the title track which is kind of a psychedelic-tinged grunge anthem, to the angular and groovy yet doomy “As She Feeds,” the moody and confessional “Entwined,” and the epic sludge of “Ancient Ones.”  There’s really something for fans of every type of rock music, and we love playing with genre convention and pushing listeners, and ourselves, into new directions. And, we are proud that this music contains no synth or computer instruments, we are an analog band in a digital age.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Elliot: As a very young boy my mother would play music so loud it would shake the house. Everything from Marilyn Manson to Enya… and The Matrix soundtrack, a lot. Finally, my parents got my older sister Emely a bass guitar. When she realized it wasn’t her thing I picked it up. After that I just couldn’t put it down. A decade or so later I was at an open mic, on stage alone, just playing some bass lines I made and got invited out to play more at a house party where I got to jam with a full band for the first time. Watching people dance to my music was the last pillar I needed. I knew this was what I was born to do.

Sean: I was listening to my buddies jam, guitar and drums in a garage. I had never played with people before. My friend handed me a bass, taught me a song, and I was off.

Jim: I started on slide trombone in 3rd grade. I went to a Jazz academy in Wheatland CA when I was in high school (to learn how to improvise on trombone) and while I was there I watched a jazz drummer who inspired me. I was hooked on drums from then on (age 15).

Stephen: I started messing around on piano as a little kid and picked up guitar at 12.  I had a few mostly joke bands in my teen years, but didn’t really get serious till I joined CAW! CAW! at 20.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Sean: Metallica …And Justice for All, Deftones, all of em! Deltron 3030.  I saw Rage Against the Machine, Gangstar, and Dilated Peoples, I loved the mix of rap and heavy rock. I like a lot of different types of music, as we all do in the band. This diversity has crept into Follow me Dark as well.

Jim: I always had an appreciation for drummers who put on a big, over the top performance, like Mike Portnoy and Eric Singer. I also admire technical drummers such as Nicholas Barker and Steve Asheim.

Elliot: As a frontman, David Bowie still reigns supreme.  The way he is able to inhabit music and add a theatrical dimension without being cheesy is something I always want to infuse into what I do. Les Claypool and Justin Chancellor are tied for first as Tool and Primus have been my favorite live performances I’ve ever seen (no offense Opeth). My favorite tracks by them are “Cosmic Highway” of Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade, and Chancellor’s work on “The Pot” off 10,000 Days. Victor Wooten comes in a close second for his technique and precision in slap style playing. I have to give some credit to Sly and the Family Stone for their track “If You Want Me to Stay,” which is one of my all time favorite bass lines.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Stephen: As a group we find ourselves referencing Deftones and Tool as bands that fuse metal with more emotional and dynamic songwriting, but we also draw on new wave and grunge influences.  Some current bands that we really love are Phoxjaw, Stake, and Dreaming Ghosts out of Santa Cruz, bands that, like us, blur the genre lines and make hard-hitting and memorable music.

Sean: Deftones, 311, Incubus, Lamb of God, and Killswitch Engage.

Jim: Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Cameron Mitchell, Deuter, Black Sabbath, and Opeth.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Sean: Adam D from Killswitch. That dude rips, I love those squeals man! Seems like he has a good time, too.

Stephen: Being that our band lacks a keyboardist, perhaps we should give Elton John or Trent Reznor a ring!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Sean: This is something we have been struggling with ourselves, what genre are we? It gets heavy, emotional, melodic, dark, triumphant. It’ll make you feel, that’s for sure. Someone called us grunge after a show, I cringed a little inside.

Jim: I would say a balance of darkness and light, melody and heavy riffage, with a balance like the yin and yang.

7. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Elliot: I’m definitely the first one to start drinking. Sean has to eat every two hours or we start to worry he’ll eat us, and Stephen is the king of acoustic covers/crowd pleasers. Jim is the pretty one.

Sean: I’m hungry…

Jim: I like to crack jokes and keep things light. If we aren’t having fun, then we aren’t doing it right.

8. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

Sean: I never have been, but I haven’t met many famous people.

Jim: Last time I looked at the moon.

Stephen: I ran into Jimmy Chamberlin, from Smashing Pumpkins, a few times in Chicago and had an extreme fanboy moment, but managed to choke it down and have a good conversation with him.  He’s a hero of mine.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Elliot: My favorite part is speaking a language that anyone can understand. Furthermore, the comradery of collaboration allows me to be something greater than myself. My band and anyone who dances to our voice is my family. If I couldn’t play bass anymore I’d want Anthony Bourdain’s old job.

Sean: Being a musician serves a dual purpose for me. First, I can do whatever feels/sounds good or right, a freedom of expression. Second, we get to share what we’ve created with our friends, family, and fans, that feels good and right as well. I got a late start in music, so this is it. I already did the other things.

Jim: Being a musician allows me to be part of a group of artists who are entertaining the world. I have never thought of playing music as a job or a way to “make it big” or get rich. I just do it, because I love it. My dream job would be a door to door hot dog salesman.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Jim: I wish interviewers would ask us more about the people in our lives that support us. They should ask us about the people behind the scenes who help make a difference. I think each of us would have a different answer for that question, but the support group behind us helps keep us going.

Stephen: I’d like to see more questions about the role of art in society, and why bother making more rock music when there are literally millions of songs available at the press of a button.  For us, that has everything to do with personal expression and building community, building an alternative current to what is mainstream.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Elliot: I was self taught and trained by ear, so I guess it’s not so much a single moment, but it would have been nice to have a more academic approach in my younger years.

Sean: I got an acoustic guitar when I was about 9 or 10. I played it for a couple days, it didn’t stick. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was about 24. I wish I had stuck it out back then.

Jim: I might have taken things more seriously when I was a kid. However, when I was a kid, I didn’t know any better and I was just glad to be jamming. Today, I try to take things a little more seriously.

Stephen: I had a project in Chicago called Sun Machine that started as a solo recording project and then developed into a live band that could learn those songs.  My live bandmates, Seven and Ariana, and I would get together and do these kind of hourlong acid jams that, in hindsight, were a lot more interesting than the electro-rock material I had started out with.  I learned from that process that it’s important to let musical collaborations blossom in their own way without having a lot of conditions around it in the beginning. That has been very fruitful with Follow Me Dark, which as a band has evolved very organically and in a way that all four members are integral architects of the sound and vision.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Elliot: Damnation from Opeth released 2003. The production on that album is seamless. I consider it one of Opeth’s “not so heavy” albums, providing a lot of space for Akerfeldt’s vocals and incredibly smooth transitions. It would be a great privilege to see the writing process for some guitar lines on that album such as “Windowpane,” “To Rid the Disease,” and my personal favorite, “Closure.”” That album, along with Deliverance, released only 5 months earlier, was my gateway into metal.

Sean: Planet of Ice from Minus the Bear. They have some good jams on other albums, but this album is different, more cohesive. I would want to see the process of creating such a different album from the previous ones they did and the influence from a different producer. This album was timely for me, one of my all time favorites.

Jim: I would like to have been a part of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Amazing album and I like doing voices and sounds/noisy stuff.

Stephen: I’d probably go all the way back to Sgt Peppers and the psychedelic period of the Beatles.  Nowadays everything can be done with presets and plugins, and recording is stupid easy. In those days they were working with 4-track tape and inventing everything as they went.  That creativity of process changed and shaped the songwriting in brilliant ways.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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