The Dual-Couple Quartet FIALTA Talks About Their Recently Released Album, “Shadow of a Drought”, Favorite Bands, Biggest Inspirations and More!
Fialta is a dual-couple quartet from California specializing in ornate indie pop rich with multi-harmonies, keyboards, ukulele, and electronic elements.
The tightly knit four piece include David Provenzano, Beth Clements, Sarah Shotwell and Mike Leibovich.
They are multi-instrumentalists who regularly swap roles during their live set, employ dueling male/female lead vocals, and collaborate on writing and producing.
This summer, Fialta will head out on a west coast tour to promote the release of Shadow of a Drought slated for release on July 15th.
Check them out online here- fialtamusic.com and facebook.com/fialta
Learn more about Fialta in the following All Access interview:
How did Fialta first form? Why do you think you all work so well together?
We all met each other while Mike and David were on tour with their former band Sherwood around 2008. Beth was attending the University of Connecticut and Sarah was getting her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Washington. We started sending song ideas via email and collaborating over Skype. In 2010, Mike and Beth got married and relocated to the Central Coast of California. That following year, David and Sarah made the move down from the Bay Area and got married, as well! Even though we are all individual songwriters, we also bring unique strengths to the band: Sarah puts a lot of time into lyrics, Mike and David have a developing interest and knack for production and arrangements, and Beth has a strong ear for melody and vocal harmonies.
How do you think being from San Luis Obispo has influenced the band as a whole and really your style of music?
We credit San Luis Obispo with having a tremendous influence over our style of music. People in SLO don’t write cynical or mopey music. It would be too hard to pull off. We live in the carefree land of endless summer. It’s quiet and calm and slow here, and we have 300 days of sunshine a year. Our music is Vitamin D-charged. We’re moving now towards a more synth-heavy sound, but we’ve retained many of those bright, summery, fun elements like surfy guitars, ukulele, and multi-layered harmonies — elements that position our sound as distinctly Californian.
It feels amazing. This album has been 2+ years in making. We really pushed ourselves not only on the songwriting, but also in production. We wanted to set out to make a completely DIY but pro-sounding album. We couldn’t be more proud of the results, and we’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback about not only the songs, but the production quality. People are surprised that we pulled this off, and honestly, we’re a little surprised too. Robbie Ernst, our recording engineer, and Chris Keene, our mixing producer, had a lot to do with that.
What was it like working on this collection?
Creatively, we felt different things in different seasons. Some of the most exciting moments were sitting around a piano writing together, completely extemporaneously. Melodies, harmonies, and hooks would just flow. The verses for “Do the Best We Can” and “Burning on Empty” materialized in this way. Other times, it was more of a challenge. “Art Talk” (the fourth track on the album) was kind of a beast to arrange. It felt like we demoed and played that track out a dozen different ways before we found the right way to present those ideas. We learned a lot about songwriting craft this time around. We studied the form. We did our homework. It’s been rewarding.
What was the inspiration for your newest single, “Do The Best We Can”?
Does it sound corny to say the lyrics came in a dream? California has been in this crazy drought for the last several years, and we noticed that it got to the point where all the dryness, the dust, the news reports about wildfires, our dead vegetable gardens… it all was weighing on people here in a spiritual, emotional way. It bothered Sarah to the point that she was dreaming about it. The imagery in the song — the horses, the omen, the vineyards, the huge storm — came from a sleeping mind. But really, it’s just an expression of our reality right now. The central idea of “Do the Best We Can” is that of community, of seeing one another as members of the same family, and as people who share a home. This extends beyond just California. It applies to our whole generation and the problems we’ve inherited. One thing that grieves us is the way that drought has brought California into a class war, when it could be bringing us together into better communication and understanding. We have one of the most messed up water systems in the developed world, but most don’t want to accept responsibility and work together. Instead, we have water districts and rights holders in cities and ag communities fighting each other for this precious resource, pointing fingers, placing blame, and trying to get as much water as possible for their constituents at the expense of others. The drought has brought out the worst in us, and that has been disappointing. There are opportunities for compassion here, and better listening, and simple recognition of our shared humanity, but most of the state has yet to recognize those opportunities.
How do you think you’ve grown as a band since you first formed?
Since we released our first album, we’ve spent a lot of time learning how to record and produce. And it’s opened up a whole new realm of creativity for us. This new record is full of sounds and instruments we haven’t experimented with before. And as we mentioned earlier, we think we’re maturing as songwriters and we think that is reflected in this new album.
Who are some of your favorite artists? What artists continue to inspire you? Who would you love to work with in the future?
We drove back and forth from San Luis Obispo and the Bay Area for 18 months to write and track this record, and we listened to a ton of pop music together. On fairly constant rotation were JR JR, Foster the People, Taylor Swift, Bleachers, Haim, Tame Impala, Natalie Prass, and Vampire Weekend. We are really inspired by what is going on in pop music right now.
In terms of working with people in the future, there are of course those legendary producers and writers that it would be a dream to collaborate with. But we are also inspired by the work people our age are doing. A few of our millennial peers are doing just incredible work, especially in pop writing and production. Rostam Batmanglij and Jack Antonoff are two heroes of ours. They are pushing the pop genre into new territory. They’ve worked so hard to get where they are, and seeing their careers take off these last few years has been deeply inspiring and motivating. Jack would be amazing to work with because he’s an awesome producer, but he’s also just a really good guy.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
I don’t know that we have a message, exactly. But we do want people to feel alive when they listen to it! We try to draw out feeling and meaning by sending listeners on a bit of an emotional journey throughout the album. We want people to feel things and respond. We want people to get up and dance. Even in the moments of the album that feel a little darker, we want people to recognize the hope that’s there.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?
We just wanted to take a moment to say how grateful we are for all of the support we’ve received heading into this album release. This process has been two full years in the making, and we’re so incredibly proud of these new songs and our renewed relationship as a band, as friends, and as spouses. Nobody ever said being in a band was easy, and add in the normal relationship dynamics both spouses and best friends experience, and you can only imagine what this roller coaster ride is like. But every morning we wake up and say to ourselves, “We’re really doing this thing. We’re really giving this our best shot.” All we have ever asked ourselves to commit to is to be true to ourselves, make the best music we can, and have fun along the way. And we’re sticking to that as our formula. There is no magic recipe, no secret sauce beyond that. We truly hope everyone who has a creative itch feels the boldness to step out and share it with the world. It is vulnerable. It does take courage. But it’s truly one of the most rewarding and life-giving things we have ever experienced.