Fury Things is a Minnesota-based band. They are playing CrossroadsKC September 13th. Guitarist Kyle Werstein recently discussed his first musical memory, the formation of Fury Things and the band’s creative process.
What was your earliest musical memory?
It’s hilarious, but I think my first musical memory might be me, at, three or four years old. I was in the backseat of my parents’ old Toyota Corolla, driving around with my dad. I don’t remember anything other than the fact that we were listening to AC/DC’s “The Jack” and I absolutely loved it. I’d just walk around saying “THE JACK” over and over again. Super appropriate stuff for a four-year-old.
How old were you when you first started playing guitar?
I got my first guitar (a cheap Behringer strat copy with a practice amp) for Christmas in 2005, when I was 13.
How did Fury Things first come together?
I had demos I had been working on in my spare time while playing in another project. I met Devon, who plays bass, while we were playing a show together with our respective projects. And Andy, who drums, I met on a Minnesota Musicians Facebook group. He had won a distortion pedal (a ZVEX Box of Rock) and I bought it off him. It’s still on my pedalboard today and he’s still hitting the drums. We got together as a group shortly thereafter for our first rehearsal.
How does your creative process work when writing songs?
Documentation is critical. When melodies hit me at work, I’m singing into my phone in the bathroom. When a lyric strikes me, I jot it down in my notebook. I can be scatterbrained, forgetful and unorganized at times, so having the shortest path between my brain and a recorder is key to me remembering ideas for songs.
Otherwise, I sit and noodle around until the songs present themselves to me. I’ll watch TV and play guitar. I’ll sit by myself with an acoustic and play until I come across a melody or a chord progression that can be built into something bigger.
Lyrically, I’ll mumble syllables or noises or phrases to establish a meter and fill in the lyrics from there. Sometimes I’ll sit and free-write. I’ll set a timer and write non-stop for five minutes or so. Later, when I’m trying to build lyrics for a song, I have a collection of ideas to pull from.
Then, I’ll record a demo with some basic drum programming to send to my band mates. They’ll digest them and then we get together to figure out what we want to do as a group. At that point, it’s very collaborative. I try not to have an ego about any of my songs. I want them to grow organically and I want us to collaboratively, as a band, discover how to make them as compelling as possible.
What inspires you lyrically?
I’m increasingly inspired by current events and the world around us. I still struggle with finding my voice and what I have to offer listeners, lyrically, but I feel it’s incredibly important for artists to have opinions and facilitate conversation through music. So, in the songs I’m writing now, for example, I’m parsing my lived and observed experience from my perspective only. How I see things. And that’s hard, coming from a place where I intentionally wrote in abstractions to avoid actually talking about anything at all.
Do you try and record your songs as live as possible?
We record all of our material live, in the studio. A lot of our songs incorporate the first or second take and I feel it adds to the immediacy of our sound. We like to sound like three people in a room playing music. Feel is everything.
What inspired the song “Hard to Breathe?”
I wrote Hard to Breathe in 2011 and my songwriting process has evolved a bit since then, as we’ve released more material. It’s seriously just a pop song. I wrote it before I visited California for the first time. It’s interesting to hear how others interpret it or relate to it, though, and how songs can take on meaning after the fact, through lived experience.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
The biggest challenge is a matter of resources. Time, money, availability – they’re all things that make it difficult to sustain a career as an independent musician. We’re trying to get out there more and tour, and we’ll continue to keep releasing music and playing, but in terms of dollars and cents, without assistance, seemingly small challenges can feel insurmountable. This is our first tour ever as direct support for another artist, so I feel like we’re just getting started. Despite any challenges, I’m optimistic and excited about the future of our band.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
Don’t be an asshole.
Seriously. Don’t. I’m far perfect, but I really try to live by those words. Be kind. Listen. Show up.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Play music to have fun, first and foremost. Have no expectations. Work hard. Be professional. Invest in strap-loks for your guitar and don’t listen to tone-snobs on the Internet. If it feels good and sounds good, run with it.