When it comes to discovering new music, I don’t think I really need to tell anyone reading this page the importance that the World Wide Web holds. Yet the relationship many artists hold with the Internet can be untrusting, uneasy, or at times far too unadulterated.
Finding the right balance between exposure and annoyance is a difficult game. Anonymity has become boring, and balls out arrogance a b(r)other. And while some bands get lucky sending out one track to a blog, others get accused of scheming for success. The political correctness on the indie-net is a minefield, but traversed right it can lead a brand new artist into the eyes of music loving millions.
For Guards, at times it feels their namesake determined their plan of action. With nothing but a bandcamp they broke onto the blogosphere showcasing an EP featuring guest vocals from Cults and Chairlift, and a slowly evolving back-story by means of accompaniment.
Guards is the solo project of Richie Follin, member of the band Willowz, brother to Cults’ Madeline Follin, and step-son to Paul Kostabi, a former Youth Gone Mad punker. In Guards, Follin creates dark and consuming guitar pop with an echo of heartbreak and hope. But now with the EP out on UK label 3Syllables and a string of fast approaching UK dates, we try and break down the barriers a little, via email, obvs.
Where are you from? Guards seem New York based, but Willowz are from California? Is that right? Where did you grow up?
I moved around a lot when I was a child; New York, San Francisco, Italy, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County. I grew up in California mainly. Willowz were formed in Anaheim, and Guards were formed in Manhattan.
One thing that comes up in nearly every piece written about you is that your dad was in a punk band and you got to hang out with Ramones, Devo, Metallica… Was it really as cool as it sounds? Or did it make you want to rebel against your parents by listening to The Osmonds or something?
No, it was my stepfather, and he was nothing but great to me. Plus, I wasn’t really aware of the things they knew about… I thought no one knew who the Adolescents were, and then I would tell my parents what I was listening to and they would end up telling me they used to practice in their garage. Then, it would be too late to not like it, because I had already fallen in love with it. I was too busy rebelling against my father to think about rebelling against my stepfather.
Does your step dad like Guards?
Yes, but not as much as Owl City.
Are you still in Cults too? Which band is your main focus now? Willowz, Guards or the solo stuff?
Yes, I play guitar in Cults. I am finishing a Guards record as we speak. My focus is on music!
Is it true that Guards started as you writing songs for your sister? Did Cults need songs, or did you just fancy getting involved?
Cults were playing a song I wrote when Cults first started practicing so I wrote some more, but that first song got cut from the record… Ha. They don’t need any help writing great songs. Anything Madeline sings on is wonderful.
What made you want to record all the songs you had written? (Good job, by the way)
Thanks! I think that I recognised they could be great songs.
In other interviews I’ve read, you say that you never expected the music to get much attention; that you just put the songs online for your friends/family. What was the thinking in getting fellow musicians to guest on the EP? Surely you must have known that guest appearances from your sister/Caroline from Chairlift would generate some online attention?
Its not that I didn’t expect it to get attention, it’s that it went out sooner than I expected. The songs hadn’t been mastered… I was just showing it to Madeline before I finished them up, and then she posted it online.
Do you get annoyed when the majority of things written about you mention your sister and stepfather before what the music even sounds like? Does it make you want to be less minimal in terms of your online presence?
It was kept secret for a little while, and it was just about the music for about a month. I couldn’t ask for more than that. People gotta write something and everybody knows it’s never about the music!
You’ve been compared to everyone from Summer Camp to The Verve to Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It seems a lot of people have trouble classifying your music and revert to your own ‘pop wave doom’ label. Why do you think this is?
Because it wasn’t for a band at first, it was just a group of songs. It ended up being a cohesive piece of work only because of my voice. I think that’s part of it at least. The other reason is the label makes sense… It’s dark and catchy.
Did you really play your first show at CMJ? That must have been quite nerve-wracking. Did you not even have a cheeky practice show for some friends?
It was our first! Madeline and Caroline both came up and sang and Yours Truly got it all on tape. It was a great way to have our first show.
Are you looking forward to your UK dates this year?
Yes! The UK is always fun in its own way.