Photos by Brady Cooling Photography
For years Fruition has been on our map, thanks to the tape trading community and the word of mouth community. When the band first started, Kellen was hanging out with an older brother’s friend. That is when the first tapes started coming in. Years later, friends kept bringing them up in college (Haake). Soon enough they’ve gone from busking the streets to playing Red Rocks. But for these guys it is, as their new album appropriately indicates, a Labor of Love, has seen this band picking along this great music journey that seems to only be the beginning. Fruition is the truth. They’re right up there with any of our favorite acts at DelFest. And honestly, the new album, blew me away in many respects. Here’s to a successful future for Fruition. Special thanks to Thompson McCorkle for some background information heading into this interview.
LMD: Could you tell us about the lyrics behind the song Labor of Love? Is it mainly about dedicating your whole life to the craft of music?
Kellen: I think the general theme is that doing what we do is not for money. It pays the bills, but it’s not a money seeking venture. You pour your all into it because you want to put that out there into the world. The song was inspired by a time when we were driving to Chico, California and Greensky Bluegrass’s bus was broken down on the side of the road. We pulled over and just hung out with them on the side of the road. We asked if we could help them with anything, but obviously we couldn’t. Just being there to hang out was helping. The song’s about raising each other up and helping each other out.
LMD: How did the band members come to meet each other? How did everyone kind of come into the picture?
Kellen: Mimi, Jay and I all ended up in Portland without ever knowing each other. We were all drawn there from our corners of the country for similar reasons. We wanted to break free of our hometowns and find music. At the risk of sounding corny, we wanted to find ourselves. When I moved to Portland I was 19. I moved out of my parent’s house in Southern California and bounced 1,000 miles north. I moved to Portland because I heard there was music scene there and it was on the west coast. We were all drawn there for similar reasons which was to find the next part of our lives. I knew I could write songs and play them for people. We all had that same idea. We met each other in Portland serendipitously or by fate.
LMD: Can you tell me about some of the early gigs when you were playing at pizza places, bars and cafes? Growing up in high school Thompson M. sent me a bunch of tables You guys playing at places like Lewis and Clark college and smaller venues. What would you say you took away from playing all those local shows in terms of how you grew as a musician?
Kellen: It has absolutely shaped who I am. We played on the street and pedaled cd’s until someone said ‘come play at our pub or come play at Mississippi Pizza.’ The Pub at End of the Universe had an open mic on Wednesday nights. When I first moved to town I would go there and as we started playing together as a band we’d show up and play our 15 minutes, three songs. We started creating a scene around us in Portland that was waiting to happen. It wasn’t necessarily good. It was very rough as a band. It was this rough draft of something that we knew could be really good eventually because we could sing really well together and I think people were drawn to that originally. Whether it was playing on the street, open mics or playing at a pizza place, we played our asses off. We built our own scene and then we took it on the road.
LMD: Your latest album is more “electrified” if that’s the word. How do you feel your sound has evolved? How did this album come about? It’s a little different than all the others.
Kellen: The first album we ever put out was right after we met each other and we all lived together in this tiny house in Portland. There weren’t enough rooms for all of us and each night we would trade in regards to who got a bed and who got a couch. When we started it was a string band with all acoustic instruments. The first stuff we did was very folk, acoustic and bluegrassy. We always wanted to make it a rock thing. We all come from rock n’ roll backgrounds. Soul, blues, rock, punk rock and all that kind of stuff. The Labor of Love album is the closest realization to what we’ve been trying to do. It’s what we’ve been wanting to do which is make awesome music that we love. The mixing process was long. We recorded for almost a year and then it was mixed for almost a year and a half. Our drummer, Tyler, is an engineer himself so he and our studio engineer, Justin Phelps, spent a lot of time on it. They were able to tweak the mixes and make it have a good feel to it. We had the time and we were paying for it ourselves so as we had the capital to keep going back to the studio we just kept tweaking it.
LMD: What shows have you enjoyed so far this summer?
Kellen: In the span of this trip we’ve been through the hottest days with rain, hail and snow. When you tour the whole country you get every climate. We stopped at Red Rocks on this tour. I don’t know if there’s a better natural amphitheater that exists. People have been playing there for a hundred years and everyone has played there. Walking through the hallway we’re like ‘wow we’re walking through the same places all these great bands have walked through.’ I’d play at Red Rocks for free. To be able to walk out on that stage and have thousands of people freak out when you’re walking out is amazing. There’s not a lot of other occupations or hobbies where you can do that.
LMD: Are there any festivals coming up that you’re looking forward to? What was it like playing at Del Fest?
Kellen: Summer Camp is a big name with lots of jam bands and lots of electronic. It’s been going on for about a decade now. It’s a rager. The McCoury’s are a family of classy, classic entertainers and badass musicians who want to put on a somewhat wholesome, but still badass party in a beautiful place. It’s kind of like the perfect combination for a festival. We all connect in different ways to music. You get every kind of festival goer here. There’s an underlying respect for the people that put it on and the people that put it on have an underlying respect for the patrons. You go to festivals like Wakarusa and it’s amazing, but it’s a little more detached from feeling that really connected vibe. It’s just a different approach.
LMD: Any future plans that nobody really knows about? Have you been writing?
Kellen: For me the writing comes in fleeting moments of inspiration where I have to write, but it’s consistent. There’s never any shortage of songs when you have three songwriters in the band. Jay writes a song a day sometimes, but for me it’s like a couple songs every once in awhile as they come. Even on this tour we’re playing songs that are newer than the new album. People are like ‘where can I find that song?’ We have a lot in our inbox from our respective minds. We want to record good music as much as possible. We don’t want to record filler music. We’re just focused on telling a story and trying to relate a feeling that we’ve felt.
LMD: I feel like you guys are very song centric. Can you talk about that?
Kellen: Absolutely. We try and keep it concise. There are a couple times in a set when we’ll try to stretch it out if the mood calls for it. For the most part, we don’t have anything longer than four minutes most of the time. There are solo sections in each song, but it’s not so much focused on that as it is words, melodies, harmonies and feeling. Vocals were our original bread and butter, but more and more it’s everything else. We added a new bass player a year ago and I started playing keys in the band a few years back. We added the drums about five years back. These days I do about half keys and half acoustic during a show.