The garage band that formed in an attic: The Fade
Story & Photo • Cory Weaver
We sometimes get lost in the feudalistic pecking order of band position: local, indie, mainstream, etc., and we lose track of what each of those categories actually means. For the Metro East quartet The Fade, it means being local—but not quite.
“It’s a little harder to go see our buddies [in bands] play, or network with other musicians when we aren’t as easily able to go see a show at one of the good STL venues,” lead guitarist Christopher Bachmann explained, talking about the challenges of living across the mighty Mississippi from St. Louis. “Occasionally, we feel a little, ‘on the outside’ but never ‘left out.’”
Drummer Anne Stevenson echoes Bachmann’s sentiments: “I think Christopher’s ‘on the outside’ comment sums it up pretty well—not intentionally excluded by any means, but just a bit removed from things.”
Being “on the outside” isn’t all bad though. There are several upsides to a band being a 30-minute jaunt from “the scene” in St. Louis. Sure, they might have to attempt a few more cannonballs to make a big enough wave on the STL side of the scene, but they also have an edge on the Metro East music landscape.
“The scene on the east side of the river didn’t have many places suitable for an original, indie band,” Bachmann expressed. “The Alton scene has been steadily growing, but at the end of the day—Alton, St. Louis, wherever—we knew we weren’t going to be playing at the corner bar up the street.”
There are also the ins-and-outs of being a player in the overall local STL scene—the battling for position, the getting thrown a bone by the Point (105.7 FM) and having your song played on a random Sunday night, and the getting chosen as an opener for an out-of-town act stopping through.
“The downside is we lack that informal network from just running into people at coffee shops and restaurants, etc., and need to work a bit harder to get noticed and befriend other bands,” Stevenson shared. “The upside is that we mostly stay out of any drama that might bubble up and definitely forge our own path and sound.”
And forging a path is just what The Fade has been doing. Nearly two years since the release of their self-titled debut EP, working around day jobs and bandmate schedules, the quartet powered through and put together their first LP, Good Dream Gone. As a local band it’s always smarter and cheaper to put out EPs—you’re essentially building chemistry in the studio, a live set, and leaving breadcrumbs for followers until you turn enough heads to pile on and give them everything. But, when you have a quartet that seems to work as seamlessly as The Fade and you have the tracks to fill an LP, why the hell not?
“When the EP fell into place, it was literally our only five songs that we had at that point, so it was a little easier to organize,” Bachmann describes. “The album was a different beast. We had twice as many songs featured (compared to the EP), and there was a very different tone to each song individually, for the most part.”
There’s obviously a lot more decision-making on a full-length album versus an EP, and with that comes more expectations from fans and critics. From the lead track, the flow and even the end track—as a band, you’re really putting yourself out on the chopping block.
In the case of Good Dream Gone, the LP’s flow is near perfection, with the feel of a custom score to an indie movie: think of a romcom like Hi-Fidelity with John Cusack or Scott Pilgrim vs the World with Michael Cera.
“At the end of the day, I think we just sat down and listened to the album on our own time, and came back to a rehearsal and talked about flow. Does point A lead to point B without being jarring or feeling odd,” Bachmann said. “I will say, the lyric content we work with is usually pretty vivid, so in that sense, it was helpful to have a kinda/sorta-visual effect of the songs.”
Stevenson added, “I wish I had a better explanation other than it just felt right this way. It seemed like a good journey, or had a good flow as Christopher said. It might be interesting to note that we tend to play these in a different sequence live. At a show, we usually end with something pretty upbeat and exciting. However, on the album, we really welcomed the opportunity to wrap things up with something a little more enigmatic like ‘The Surface.’ I’m really glad we took that route.”
Good Dream Gone has a balance that feels more like a band’s third LP, rather than a debut. It’s equal parts ownership of the final product, where it’s not a showpiece for any one facet of the album. Stevenson wrote the lead track, “All That for This,” plus takes the lead on vocals on “So Many” and backing vocals on several other tracks.
Now that The Fade has a 10-track LP to go along with a five-track EP, expectations for the band are due to build. Whether that will mean playing out more in St. Louis or extending the reach of Good Dream Gone is yet to be determined.
“We’ve all been talking that our next step is to get our sound out and abroad—‘leave the nest’ so to speak,” Bachmann explained. “We’ve been hitting St. Louis for a few years now, but we want to branch out. We’re playing in Kansas City again in January. We want to hit up a few college towns, and maybe take people up on offers who we’ve networked with in Nashville, Chicago, Denver, etc.”
While a local scene in a city the size of St. Louis can be fastidious, it seems that it’s a bit harder for local bands here to get over the booking-agent hump. Coupling that with a thin radio platform on which to feature your sound can leave any local band asking the question: what’s our next move?
“I agree that getting out of town more would be great,” Stevenson said. “More than likely for us that will end up being little weekend trips rather than a long tour. I’d also like to keep expanding our local network and open for more touring acts heading through St. Louis.”
She added: “In all honesty, my dream scenario would be that we become successful enough to be able to hire someone to handle promotions and booking for us. It would be nice to focus solely on the music and not the ‘shameless self-promotion.’ I know that’s a long shot, but oh my gosh, wouldn’t that be great?”