Flight Feathers, Interview with creator Babi Pal

A few weeks ago I did a review of a fantastic album by Flight Feathers, solo project by one Babi Pal. I wrote Babi about doing a short email interview, he was into it, so it happened and here it is.

What, you were expecting more of a sensational lead in? Fine.

Under the Radar and Under the Gun! We caught up to Brooklyn’s DIY folk-pop bad boy at his computer to ask the tough questions and get the steamy details about his solo project Flight Feathers! Stay tuned to hear what scruffy mellow jamster Babi Pal has to say about the hottest fashions, the latest tech trends and all the juicy Hollywood gossip, right here, on BOLLOCKS! (play catchy intro theme cut with clips of celebrities on red carpets).

Right, well here’s the interview.

So, in response to my claim of being “old” in the review of In The Darkness Of My Night you also claimed to be “old”; how old are you anyway and how long have you been a musician? Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 34, married and have a 15 month old daughter, a mortgage and car payments. If that doesn’t make one old, I don’t know what does. I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in NYC and moved to Brooklyn right after. If I remember correctly, I’ve been playing music since the sixth grade. I had 2 friends who played guitar and drums, so I was recruited to play bass. That’s pretty much how all bass players get started right?
 What inspired the creation of TDOMN and what is the record about?

I had been wanting to make a solo record for a while now. Somehow having a kid initiated a period of hyper productivity, even though i wasn’t sleeping and was always busy, i knew i had to make the most of the couple of hours a week i had in the studio. There is this sort of prolonged sort of adrenaline rush that lasts for months after you have a child, at least there was for me. I don’t think parents would make it without it.The overall theme of the album reflects on what was going on in my life at the time, the passing of time, growing older, stuff like that. But there are also some straight ahead love songs as well.

Your bio on Flight Feathers describes the drive behind the project as a “yearning for the simplicity of the old days” yet TDOMN is, at times, surprisingly textured and complex. What does simplicity mean to you when it comes to music?

Yeah you got me there, I definitely went a little overboard on some of the tracks. When I refer to simplicity, i’m talking about 2 things. First, I’m referring to when i first started recording on a cassette based Tascam 8-track recorder, I had 2 mics and 8 tracks and that’s it. Yet those limitations somehow streamline the creative process, you commit to your decisions and that’s it, there is no undo button. And there is just something about the sound of that machine that i absolutely love. So in the recording of this album, i consciously tried to emulate the process of recording on a tape machine, and used a Shure SM57 for all my vocals. But working on a computer, it is just too easy to get carried away with tracks counts and overdubs and hyper editing. The other thing i’m referring to is the structure of the songs. A couple of the songs are just 3 chords and a bunch of verses, they don’t have choruses or bridges or anything. I got tired of playing songs with 5 parts and a dozen chord changes.

Have you always preferred to DIY when it comes to your music and is Flight Feathers your first one-man-show kind of project?

I’ve always been DIY from the very beginning. I just recently got together with the guys from my other band, Unbelievable Luck, that i’ve been with since high school, to transfer some of our old tapes to digital. We did the early stuff live off a mixing board to a tape deck. Then in college I got the Tascam 488. When I got my first apartment in Brooklyn, i had a drum set in the living room and all the recording gear in the bedroom.I had made a couple solo albums when I was in college, but not since then.

How does touring with a full band compare to the experience of performing and producing the music yourself? Which method is more satisfying creatively? Which is more fun?
I certainly love the sound of a band playing together live in a room. But the control freak side of me likes being able to dictate every aspect of the performance by playing everything myself, obsessing over every detail. I’d say playing live is more fun, especially when playing in other people’s bands, but if i had to choose live vs. the studio, i’d pick the studio.
How has hosting the album on bandcamp.com helped in earning exposure for Flight Feathers? How have Facebook and Myspace helped in getting the word out?
Bandcamp has worked out really well. They have taken the complicated out of hosting and selling music online. I am a terrible self promoter when it comes to music.  As of right now the Facebook page has 26 likes. Not exactly burning down the house. I have no idea how to get exposure on my own.
I first heard a cut from TDOMN during a segment break on Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh’s “Mike and Tom Eat Snacks” podcast. So far you’ve had three tracks from the record featured. How did your end up there and have you earned any new fans from it (besides me)?
I know the producer Ian Sterns from playing in bands with him. Pretty much all of the exposure the album has gotten has been through the Mike and Tom podcast. I’ve had a bunch of downloads from people finding the album through there, some people even paid for it. But i’m happy that anyone is listening at all. That is why i like the name your price model of selling music.
From what I can tell you’re more or less kicking it local in Brooklyn when you play live. Is Flight Feathers being groomed for the big time or are you content with keeping it small and contained? What’s your next move?
Small and contained has been my move for a very long time. But i try not to make a habit of predicting the future. If a label calls, i’ll answer the phone. After that, who knows. I’d love for there to be an audience for the music, but that is not necessarily the end goal. I’m just happy that I am still able to play music at all.
Finally, how many pennies can you fit in your nose and what words of caution would you impart on the children who would attempt to mimic that behavior?

I can think of far better things to stick up my nose. Children should stick to pennies, they have very small nostrils, I can’t imagine they can do too much damage.

Once again, check out Flight Feathers’ album “In The Darkness of My Night” on Bandcamp.com at http://flightfeathers.bandcamp.com/

It’s OK That I’m Old: Flight Feathers Review

Flight Feathers
In the Darkness of My Night
2011 5D Studios

Great independent music is like a great fishing spot; it’s so good you want to tell people about it but as soon as you do then everyone shows up and fucks it up. It’s teenagers, I think, that are most often to blame for turning the simple pleasure of seeing a great unknown band with 100 people for $8 into a nightmare a year later when buying tickets to the same band’s sold-out show off Craigslist for 25% above face value and squishing into a capacity crowd of fucktards who want to sing all the lyrics to the single and record the whole thing on their fucking phone. See: Built to Spill, Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie, Kings of Leon, The Flaming Lips, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, etc.

As I exited the party bus of my 20’s and stepped onto the commuter train of my 30’s I noticed that there were less and less opportunities to get out and enjoy a concert, especially for the bands I’d loved to see a scant ten years ago, and I’ve found myself being put off by the idea of having to fight crowds of drunken youngsters to see them again and either endure the black-hole-crush of ironically dressed bodies near the front of the crowd or stand at the back with the huddles of bored girls and too-cool dudes frantically trying to hold a conversations above the music they paid to come see. I’ve become old; old to the point where I look forward to going to a show that has fixed seating, old to the point where I’m more excited about finding good parking than I am for the encore, old to the point where I’ll wait for the concert to be released on DVD and watch it by myself on a Saturday afternoon while folding laundry. O.L.D.

But you know what, it’s ok. I’ve come to accept that the part of my life where I can head downtown at 9pm on a Tuesday to see some band in a shitty club just to say “I was there, man” has come and gone. I had a good run, I found some great tunes and I’ve got a mature and discriminating collection of music and I know what I like. Also, the internet has made it much easier to discover unknown bands without having to stand in the dark in a smelly rathole venue hoping you didn’t buy tickets to an all-synth screamo folk quartet and though seeing it live is special so is getting enough sleep to get to work on time and be awake enough to take care of your kids.

Anyway, enough about that. We’re here to talk about some music, right? The artist I want to cover today goes by the name Flight Feathers and is the pet project of one Babi Pal of Brooklyn, NY, a multi-instrumentalist who also recorded and mixed the album himself. I heard Flight Feathers during a segment break on Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanaugh’s podcast “Mike and Tom Eat Snacks” and followed the link trail to Pal’s Bandcamp page. What I found (and bought) was “In the Darkness of My Night”: 8 tracks of brilliantly executed, bittersweet indie-folk in the vein of Elliot Smith and Mark Kozeleck with hints of Neil Young and Yo La Tengo sprinkled on top. The music is patient and confident, fully realized and ready to go; this isn’t a basement tape or a demo. Pal has created a perfect soundtrack for a rainy autumn day, you can smell the wet dirt, hear the soft wind and feel the peace that comes from staring quietly out the window at the grey sky and bare trees. From the drowsy waltz of “Afterlife” and the unhurried wander of “The Last Dance” to the more upbeat skip of “Freeze the Frame” and the slowly building cacophony that is “The Beating of My Heart” the album hikes through peaks and valleys, alternating between warm and fuzzy and… warm and fluffy? Ok, so honestly it’s not hugely diverse but it’s got enough character to really pull you in and it truly is one of the best records of it’s kind I’ve heard since Red House Painters’ “Songs for a Blue Guitar”. It’s got the tender acoustic ballads, the lazy swirling vocals and the sharp edge of rock just barely scraping across the surface, not enough to cut but enough to scratch the itch.

Chances are I won’t get to see Flight Feathers perform live, as they’re currently just doing local shows, and by the time they make it out here to the NW they may be so huge that I won’t want to go. However, as I said above, the internet is a great tool for discovery and it’s proved immensely useful again as I’d have never found this little gem.

Check out the album for streaming or downloading at: http://flightfeathers.bandcamp.com/