Recently I was given the great priviledge of interviewing Brian Mazzaferri, the lead singer and song writer and driving force behind I Fight Dragons. For those of you who may not know the band, you actually do. I Fight Dragons performs the theme song for the hit ABC sitcom The Goldbergs. On an even more impressive note, the band just released their newest album, The Near Future after a long stressful and ultimately successful Kickstarter campaign.
Onto the interview!
Kevin Hellions: Congratulations on the release of The Near Future. Fans are already obsessing over the album’s story, the artwork, every bit of this album. Now that your baby is out there in the world, what do you want the world to know and love about your baby?
Brian Mazzaferri: Thank you! Honestly I’m still just completely over the moon that people have really given the album a chance, and have taken it seriously. I think that was my biggest worry, that people wouldn’t actually take the time with it and read the graphic novel lyric book, but I’ve been completely blown away at how people have understood what we were going for. I’d say that’s certainly my biggest hope is that people will try at least once to do the whole experience of reading along while you listen.
KH: Its been public knowledge that this wasn’t an easy task for I Fight Dragons. What lessons did you learn from this process and if you had to go the Kickstarter route again what would you do differently?
BM: Oh man. So many lessons! That said, a lot of them were in the category of “life lesson,” where you sort of have to go through them in order to learn and grow. The band almost broke up during this process for goodness sake. But that said, the fact that we almost broke up gave us renewed focus and energy when we went into the second set of recording sessions, and I think that really ended up influencing the way the album came out. If we were to do another Kickstarter, I think I’d like to either be MUCH more realistic about the timeframe, or else start later in the process, possibly when we already have the recordings done like most other bands have done on Kickstarter. There’s so much less room for error that way.
KH: For those that don’t know, I Fight Dragons has been out touring and saving planets for years now. Its easy for an outsider like myself to say your journey has been fascinating because I didn’t have to live it. If The Near Future is your Return of the Jedi what part of this journey was your Empire Strikes Back?
BM: Hah!! I love that metaphor. I would absolutely say that in the context of the album, the first recording sessions for The Near Future in August-September 2013 were like the Luke-Vader battle in ESB. We just weren’t ready for it, we went in with the wrong mindset, it really didn’t go well for us, and we barely made it out of there alive, but severely wounded (I wouldn’t go so far as to call Bill ‘Luke’s hand’, but I suppose one could make that argument).
In a larger context I suppose you could say our time on Atlantic was a bit like Empire Strikes Back, and that Kaboom!’s release was the Luke-Vader battle in that metaphor, which we lost but from which we learned important lessons.
Really the moral here is that IFD’s whole career is a ripoff of Star Wars. We’re waiting for Episode 7 in order to map out our next moves.
KH: The Near Future is being released on vinyl (and digital) with gatefold art. At what point did you say screw what big corporate music says I’m “supposed” to do we’re going to put everything we find cool out there front and center.
BM: That was definitely our first instinct when we got off the label 2 years ago. Honestly at that time I was really burned out as a writer and I didn’t even like my own songwriting voice. I had finally hit a wall and said that I was going to write something that I loved, and screw any concept of commercial viability, and The Near Future (the song cycle) was what came out, and what started the whole ball rolling on Project Atma and the idea of doing another album.
KH: Many fans discovered the band thanks to your theme song for The Goldbergs. When you started out in Chicago how far away from reality was the idea that one day your music would be heard every week on a hit TV show?
BM: Completely out of the realm of possibility. I’m still shocked to be honest, I watch the show every week cuz it’s awesome and when the theme song comes on I’m like “woah, wait, that’s my band! Wtf!”
KH: What part of The Goldbergs experience was the most exciting or eye opening for you?
BM: Honestly I’d say working with Adam Goldberg. He was one of the first Project Atma backers at midnight on the night it launched, and meeting him and working with him to write the theme song was such a cool experience. He’s an awesome dude, and getting to see the show evolve from the pilot through the first season and up to now has been really cool.
Also, I never realized how short TV theme songs had become until I had to write one that’s 15 seconds long. It’s tough!
KH: The show takes place in “1980-something” and that is all over the screen. Whether its an Ecto Cooler or a USS Flagg, there is always a feeling of nostalgia. If I Fight Dragons shot to the Billboard number 1 (as you should in a just world) what item from your childhood would you immediately buy no matter the price?
BM: Oh man, great question. It used to be the Power Glove, but I now own a bunch of those already since there was a time when I scooped up several for cheap on eBay :D
This doesn’t quite fit the bill in some ways since it’s 90’s, but as a kid I always wanted a Black Lotus (Magic: The Gathering Card). My friend’s brother had one, and they were worth hundreds of dollars. Of course the irony is now they’re worth many thousands, but I would still love one.
KH: Finally, not to ask the ridiculous “where do your songs come from” question, but how well do you need to know yourself in order to not only write but perform these songs? KABOOM! is a vastly different song than Just Decide. As a fan I love them both equally but they inspire opposite emotions. What sort of emotional ride do you go through during performances and what sort of ride can fans expect as they listen to The Near Future from beginning to end?
BM: That’s really interesting that you point that out, actually I feel like we take a long time in practice to craft our set lists to try and give a satisfying journey overall, since we do have a pretty wide range. Live, it means we don’t play a ton of the ballads, since it’s pretty hard to work those into a live rock show, but Just Decide is actually fun because of the way it brings things down but then builds them way back up again.
In terms of The Near Future, my biggest hope is that people will sit down with the graphic novel lyric book and go on a journey of any kind, wherever they find it taking them.