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Falling Up's Jessy Ribordy
by Jon Fisher
Contributor on 2011-08-24 15:08:23
Lead singer Jessy Ribordy of Falling Up talks with CMADDICT contributor Jon Fisher about their "permanent break", going indie, and their new album.

Why you did you take a break after "Fangs"?

We had kind of been slowing down a bit with the touring side of things. When we first it started out and put our first records out we were touring quite a bit. We slowly started being more of a studio band playing around more with recording and stuff and less touring. I think the main reason we split with Tooth and Nail before that was that they wanted us to be more of this straight touring band and we had ideas to do unconventional things with our music and with our band and try to go in a direction where we were growing. Their idea didn’t match up with ours so right when we decided to take a permanent break it was when we left the label.

We really didn’t know what we wanted as a band. We knew why we started it and we knew the reasons why we were playing music in the first place. We just needed some time to think about what that was and that’s why we mutually decided to take some time off. Apart from some of the guys getting married and moving, like our bass player moved to TX and stuff like that. We wanted to be sure that if we continued to do this band that we were on the same page and we wanted the same things and stuff. That’s kind of why we stepped back from it.

We didn’t know how long this break was going to be. If we just say it’s a break then people are going to be expecting us to do a CD in maybe a couple of years. If we say we’re completely done then we just don’t want to keep breaking up and coming back together, so we just said we were taking a permanent break. Which a lot of people took to mean that we were breaking up for good, but in our minds it was the safest route to take while we figured this stuff out.

I was disappointed. I thought you guys were breaking up

Yeah and it felt like that, it really did because we didn’t know. We might be completely broken up, and we were unsure. It did feel like that. It seemed like that to me and the other guys. We stopped playing shows. We stopped hanging out. We were always friends, but everybody kind of moved away. It was like it wasn’t the band anymore.

You had a pretty successful fundraiser with Kickstarter and exceeded your goal. Is this going to be the preferred way forward for future albums?

It kind of is. I mean I would hope when we do some records in the future and stuff we wouldn’t have to depend on it as much. Just being that we can find other ways and we’ve slowly managed other ways to do records and stuff. I’ve been doing solo records and records with other projects that I have on my own and been figuring out ways to do that. I don’t want it to be something where we have to depend on it, you know, but it definitely is a really cool program and I would use it and utilize it for the future. It just might be on a smaller scale, like using a smaller amount of money that we can press vinyls or something like that. Just things like that, rather than help us make this entire CD.

Coming out of the break and not really knowing where our fan base was at, if people were really wanting a record, I think the reason we kind of dumped everything into Kickstarter and said alright we’re going to go for it and raise the entire budget and have the fans help us was also to kind of gauge if we wanted to do another a record. As far as if it was going to be received, if people wanted to hear another record or we’re just kind of done with it. That was kind of the reason we put it all into Kickstarter to see what happens and help us to gauge what we have to work with right now and if there are people interested in having us do new music, you know?

Josh Shroy, Jeremy Miller, Jessy Ribordy, Daniel Elder (left to right)

Regarding the new album, I read where you said that some songs are for you and some are for radio. Do consider those two to be mutually exclusive?

You know I don’t. And I think it’s only because I really believe like that when I say it I really have a hard time with saying that, and I say it a lot, but I never want it to sound pretentious to people like, well like, you know, oh well these songs are the ones that I think are good and you guys think these ones are good but they’re actually dumb. You know like I never want to come off that way cause that’s not what it is. I believe you know that our fans and the people who listen to our music would agree with my musical taste as far as what I’m writing or else they wouldn’t be fans.

But I think it’s only mutually exclusive with the radio, and not every station or everything that’s going on, but just with the way that it is in mainstream radio, or Christian stations or bigger stations, or any station in general in the Christian industry, the mainstream industry whatever. I think that it was this thing that we had a specific way to write songs and if these songs weren’t written a particular way they wouldn’t be played on the radio.

That was told to us from the very beginning. Ever since we started out, “You need to write a song that’s two minutes and forty seconds and the chorus hits within twenty seconds and it needs to be a really catchy chorus and it needs to be moderately tempoed”. And you know it was this set of rules. So when we go in the studio and scratch our heads thinking, OK well we’re not going to get played on the radio unless we do this and that’s what we had the label telling us, that’s what we had everybody telling us. And after awhile we started thinking, you know what, that’s not true. It’s just not true. I’m not going to write songs just for the radio. I’m just going to write songs and if they get played on the radio then that’s awesome. I’m grateful for the stations that play us and for the fans requesting it, but I’m definitely not going to write radio songs just because.

I’m not going to write songs that won’t be on the radio on purpose either, you know, seven minute songs that are crazy. I really wanted to kind of to be able to have the idea that you know that those can kind of be blended, but from the industry’s point of view there are radio songs on the record and then there are more just record songs, you know band songs that probably wouldn’t get played on the radio.

And that’s kind of where my opinion came in on it was you know there’s “Diamnds” and there’s “Forms and Shapes” that you know they could be played on the radio because they fit some of that description that was always said to fit and then there are songs like even “Blue Ghost” which is, I think, a radio-friendly song. But the length of it is pretty long, and you know there’s just certain parts of it that conventional radio probably wouldn’t play. And that’s totally fine and I kind of think that’s where I was defining that line between what would be played on the radio and what wouldn’t, but it’s changing so much too that. It’s really becoming like it really doesn’t matter how long a song is or what the structure is, if it’s a good song and people want to hear it, it’s going to be on the radio.

Particular to the new album, “Your Sparkling Death Cometh”, what would you list as your musical influences?

We had quite a bit going into it. I mean what we had all talked about, you know Josh and I and Jeremy, when we first started Falling Up we grew up listening to bands like Deftones and Taproot and Incubus and a lot of that nu-metal scene where it got really big in that era. So when we kind of returned to it, we wanted this influence to be there and to have that new sound but also like what we got turned onto rock music back in the day which was those bands.

And we kind of sat down and thought you know well why did we like those bands? What made those bands different than the other ones out there? They were trying new things, like Incubus before any of the rap core stuff came in, Incubus was a rock band and they had a DJ, a turntable guy. And I think they still have him even in the band now, but it was like that was so new, the only people that had DJs back then were rap artists and hip hop artists and stuff. And so it was just really neat that this band played rock music and they were singing and they weren’t rapping where they had a turntable.

So they were all doing something new and were doing something with emotion. A lot of time with the Deftones what we always talked about that we liked was just the fact that a lot of times the vocals would get buried in the music even on the CD and it was like sometimes you couldn’t really tell what Chino was singing just because the guitars were so loud and the drums were so loud and it kind of gave it this live sound from their CD. You know that’s it probably what it would be live, the guitars overtake and the drums overtake and the vocals sometimes get lost so just kind of that raw idea.

So we were really just influenced with a lot of that like stuff that we fell in love with rock back in the day, you know? That kind of influenced “Your Sparkling Death Cometh” but then also I’ve been in the last couple years writing scores and stuff and kind of my musical journey where I’m heading is to do soundtracks for film. So that’s where I want to go, and where I’ve been trying to go for the last couple of years and so I infused that into it as well with the transitions and the little musical pieces here and there. It was kind of those two things, that raw rock that we were going for and then I just kind of went in and did some orchestral stuff and meshed some things together. Being those two kind of influences in our lives, that’s what ended up on the record, and I think that it was it was fairly expressed in our hopes on “Your Sparkling Death Cometh” pretty well.

“Blue Ghost” from the new CD contains the line “He is tracing lines like flames right before your eyes”. Are you commenting here about man’s plans vs. God’s plans?

That totally is what it is. The whole song was a song for me that I always felt, you know, that the meaning behind it kind of hits home with me really well just because the idea that we have this idea in life of where we’re going and what we’re doing and what we’re supposed to do. And not that the things that we think we’re supposed to do are bad like it’s not like I’m saying oh don’t conform to anything. It shouldn’t be about like conformity or non-conformity, it’s really just about following your heart and if your heart is owned by God. If you’re following something greater than just yourself, then if you trust in what your heart is telling you then that should be for the most part what God is telling you in a very kind of abstract way. It really should be.

If you have a child that you are raising to be a certain way you don’t always want to tell them “go here, go there”. You might want to tell them once or twice and you want to see them make that decision on their own, and that makes you more proud. When the child can do something on their own, and you’re like yeah, I influenced that and they’re doing the right thing but they’re doing it on their own. That’s just what that song is.

You know I’ve had this relationship with God for awhile and it’s been a growing experience. It’s personal, you know, and that’s what I think. This might be a little of a sidetrack thing, but you know we always hear that phrase “personal relationship with Christ” and it’s thrown around so often that everybody talks about it all the time and they want to tell you all this stuff that’s going on, it’s like you know that’s your personal thing .

You know everybody’s got their own thing, and it really should be like a husband and wife has their intimate things that they don’t talk to everybody about. You should have those things, you know, like there’s a beauty in that and so I really feel that my relationship with God is this growing thing and it’s very personal and there’s struggles and there’s doubt and there’s mistakes and there’s all this stuff. And at the end of the day, I know those weaknesses that I had, those flaws that I had, and everything, they all still exist but at the same time the owner of my heart is still guiding me, so when my heart tells me to do something I know that its most likely the owner. So I can decide between it.

And so really that’s what that song is about, just like allowing your heart, if it’s owned by God, to just really be overtaken and be able to understand that you understand your own selfish plans and ideas and stuff. That song was kind of a theme for the whole record and the process of what we were doing and where we were at as a band from when we announced the break and even before that when we didn’t really know what was going on.

We heard so many people and so many things from people, and the label and managers and friends and everybody just telling us what they think we should do. And it wasn’t that we were like we don’t want to conform, we’re going to be rebels but it’s like, my heart isn’t telling me that. My heart’s telling me this, and I think my heart’s in the right place because I feel like I’ve been trusting in God for awhile and I feel like he wouldn’t guide my heart down a path that it shouldn’t go and so I feel if I just trust my heart, that’s where He wants me to be. That’s really what the whole project kind of was and “Blue Ghost” kind of wraps it all into one in that song.

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Lyrically the new album seems to reflect an interest in science fiction. Can you comment on that and your favorite type of sci-fi, i.e. writers, movies, TV shows, etc.?

Oh man, well I love all science fiction. I mean any time a movie comes out, even if I know it’s going to be dumb and everybody on-line is like “don’t watch this movie, it’s so stupid”, if it’s sci-fi I watch it. I just have to. So I like everything, but specifically I like more of the cerebral sci-fi.

My favorite movie of all time is “Gattaca” and I just kind of love the more thinker part of sci-fi. I do like the alien ideas but I don’t always feel there have to be aliens if it’s sci-fi. I’m just into all that stuff. Andrew Nichols who did “The Truman Show” and “Gattica” and “Simone”, he’s one of my favorites writers and directors. And then I really like Terry Gilliam who did “Twelve Monkeys” and “Brazil”. I even consider people like Charlie Kaufman, who did “Schenectady NY” and stuff, I feel like he’s a sci-fi writer even though it’s really not like as generic sci-fi as people probably think. And shows, any sci-fi show, you name it, I watch it, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Firefly”, “Lost” obviously, just every single one that exists out there.

There’s this new series that’s going to be coming out. I’m a huge Steven King fan too, and it’s his newest novel, or actually not his newest one. It’s the second to newest one, called “Under the Dome”. It’s this fantastic novel and Steven Speilberg is actually making it into an HBO mini-series. When I heard that I was like, “OK, I can die after that and I’ll think I’ll be happy”. That’s just gonna be sick.

I like Steven King, I’m more old school though. I really liked “The Stand”.

Oh yeah, “The Stand” is classic. Steven King is just phenomenal. I was just recently reading that when he wrote “Carrie” it was when he was 27 and I had thought that he had started earlier than that. I guess I didn’t know how old he was. He’s like in his mid-60s now but it’s pretty crazy how long he’s been writing and how many books he’s written.

And it’s funny too, I feel that Steven King’s kind of like the Beatles in a way of like you know people hear a song on the radio or they’ll hear a cover song by a band and go “I love that song”, and I’ll say did you know the Beatles wrote that? They’ll say “Whoa, no way” cause they have such a huge catalog that it’s like the Beatles wrote every song. And there’s so many songs that people don’t know that the Beatles wrote. So I think it’s the same thing with Steven King , like I say do you know he wrote “The Green Mile” or do you know he wrote “Stand by Me” and people are like “what, no way”. I mean he wrote the books, but those are Steven King. It’s pretty intense, you know?

I went back and listened through “Fangs” again, and it’s really quite good. Do you think that the way people purchase and listen to music these days has killed the concept album?

You know, I think it has in a couple different ways. I think when people do buy ninety-nine cent songs on Itunes and that’s totally fine it does take it out of context. But I also believe too that because bands are always trying to do new things to try and get people to listen to their music and stuff. I feel like it’s kind of become saturated with concept albums, and bands are like how are we going to get this new CD to just go super far, oh well maybe we should do a concept album. And that because of that so many bands are doing it, it kind of devalues it a little bit.

I feel, at least in my opinion, that every band that’s been around for longer than five or six years has at least one concept album. And I like when those bands do that but I feel like is it a concept album just because nothing else is working or is it because you really had this concept that you thought would make a good journey musically and stuff. So I feel like those two things contribute.

It is a little frustrating when people can take things out of context and just hear a song or hear two songs and be like “I don’t understand what this song means”. Even when you listen to “Fangs” from beginning to end it’s really not clear still at all, partly because I wrote the story as a continuation so its not really finished by any means. And for the most part I didn’t want to do a concept album that was like I was basically reciting a story from beginning to end. I wanted it to be more like a reflection because to me concept albums shouldn’t be like, OK in the beginning, blah, blah, blah, and the end. It should be more like it’s like a soundtrack trying to encompass everything about the story with music and lyrics and feeling and stuff. It was really weird.

Not to mention too that it was really hard to put out a concept album like that on Tooth and Nail and coming out from where we were just doing “Captiva” and the remix album (“Exit Lights”) and just having singles. It was like suddenly we have an album that has no singles and has only just this concept, and I think it was a lot to ask for fans who were pretty ADD to where they’re just going to listen to the first thirty seconds and then either buy the song individually on Itunes or not. I think it has killed it in many ways because a lot of bands back in the day were doing concept records and people didn’t even really notice that they were concept records. They just loved them.

Making of “Your Sparkling Death Cometh” - Falling Up Video

Is there going to be a tour planned to support “Your Sparkling Death Cometh”?

We are sort of planning something. It was hard because when we first recorded we were talking about it in the studio, “are we going to be touring with this?” We all agreed that we want to. It’s really just finding the right thing to step back into. We haven’t toured for awhile so we really want to step back in and have a good run and really make it something special for people, and kind of treat it like maybe it’s like the only support for this record that we’ll have. So we really want to be careful with how we’re going to present it.

We really want to make it good and so I think that’s kind of why we’re holding back on it and waiting for some things to kind of align. Even though we know we can’t wait for too long, we’re hoping that we can get something up and running soon.

I guess a little bit of an idea so far of what the tour would be, we’re definitely going to try and make it hitting every region in the U.S. and we want to do it in a way that we did the record. The way we’ve been doing things now is really independently but like making it something to where this is our own thing and people that want to come to the shows and be a part of it. It’s like our own thing and our own movement. We can kind of be separate from the way things should be done in a conventional idea and aspect of it. Just kind of do something special , just kind of like the record was to us. Doing it a different way, doing it special, doing it all in-house, and making it something that everybody can be a part of, but it’s kind of like our own thing. So that’s kind of what the tour we hope will be. But yeah, we are looking forward to getting out there and sharing some of these songs live.

Please come to Philadelphia.

I love that area. We toured quite a bit in the state of Pennsylvania and over there in the fall was our favorite time. We always wanted to make sure that we were doing a tour that went in that area during October.

Do you think the Northwest is more or less receptive to Christian artists?

I think it’s less although I think it’s becoming more. Just because the scene in Portland and Seattle is so indie and just like, if you’re not on Pitchfork you’re not cool. That’s just the way that everybody works and it’s totally cool because it influences a lot of the music industry and art and stuff. At the same time I think that they just kind of block you out if you’re not a part of that scene at all or if you’re doing your own thing or whatever.

I think it’s becoming a little bit more receptive to the Christian music industry just because it’s like switching gears where the lines are kind of blending and blurring a little bit which is a good thing. I think to where you’ve got bands like Typhoon, which is a good example. They’re from Salem, OR which is about thirty minutes from where I grew up in Albany. They’re just this straight-up indie band, as indie as they get. You know, like skinny jeans, beards, somebody plays the accordion, somebody plays the melodic and they’ve got like 12 people in their band. But they’re all these college kids from Salem and they’re like all over Pitchfork, they’re all over AbsolutePunk. Everybody into indie is into this band. But they’re a Christian band. They probably wouldn’t say that they’re a quote/unquote Christian band, but they’re singing about their beliefs and about faith. They’re outward about it at their shows and they’re really upfront.

And it’s really cool, and so I think because those lines are kind of blending between that I think it’s going to be a little bit more receptive. But right now, it’s not as much. And maybe we were kind of caught up in it when we first started out, just because we were from a small town. It didn’t matter if we were a Christian band or not. It was like most of the people in there, in our small town, conservative, were stoked when we came out. So maybe our perception of it was a little bit different off the bat. But I think it’s slowly becoming a little bit more receptive. Right now it is pretty tough but at least what we’ve experienced in other parts of the U.S., the Northwest is a little bit less receptive than other places.

Are there any particular Missions or outreach efforts that you are passionate about?

Well I go to a church called Imago Dei in Portland and it’s a really, really cool church and I really like the way that they run things there and I actually working on music quite a bit or just away I don’t get around to going to church there too many times. But I when I go there I really like it and they’ve got some really great programs where you can kind of just start your own thing as long as it lines up with them. There’s like a form you fill out and they have to approve it or see that it lines up with what they’re doing, just to make sure that it’s legitimate.

You can kind of be under their ministry and do a charity based thing. One of my friends has set one up and I really like how he’s set it up. It’s the clean water foundation stuff where they help build wells and stuff in third world countries. But what I really like about his is that he has it set up to where you can see, on a web-site, basically where everything is going on a daily basis, like it gets updated. If you donate $10, $20 or $100, it has very specific details of where that money is going and you can see it on these graphs and charts and you can comment and it’s just kind of like this really cool community-like idea with this organization with the water thing. And like I said there’s a lot of them like the clean water foundation but this one is cool because unlike just giving your money and trusting that it’s going to go somewhere, this is like there being able to see where it is and what’s happening to it. So I really like that idea.

But yeah, we’ve kind of been involved in some charities in the past before, and a lot of things when we were on the road and raising money and stuff. I think specifically we’ve never actually started anything, but I’ve been trying to look into trying to start something on my own and I’m not sure exactly what it will be. I was hoping that it could be something a little bit more musically related for young people and stuff and trying to get people involved a little bit more in the arts and stuff instead of just, I guess just growing up in a small town that was never made available to us. It was always football or guns or whatever.

So I think you really need to have an organization where you can go into small towns and help kids and people see the arts a little bit different direction and a new way. I don’t know what that’s ever going to be something that happens any time soon, but that’s something I’m interested in doing.

What scripture would you consider to the most influential/meaningful to you?

Well as far as like specifically, I have such a hard time because when I’ve read the Bible I always had a hard time if I really liked this one verse and then whatever the verse was before it or after it, you know in the context, and then how far does that go. And were there really chapter sections and were there really like, yeah, there’s books of the Bible but do they just all flow together or not, and that was always part of what I had a hard time with, just not being able to focus on one verse because then it would be like this verse before it said something almost completely different, and you know I guess that’s kind of off-subject but it was always something where I could never have one influential verse. More as books of the Bible and even just characters of the Bible would be more influential in the way that I looked at things.

A verse that I think does and has really stood out to me and it’s a pretty simple verse and everybody knows it, “God is love", 1 John 4:8, and the reason for that is because I, and this can kind of get into a little bit different subject and I don’t want to have a big controversy going on or anything. God is love is a verse that has always stood out to me in a way that is a little bit different because we always hear of God’s love. There’s always like there’s love from a husband and wife, and there’s love from your parents, and your brother and sister, or whatever. But then there’s God’s love, and I always heard that growing up and being like OK, well God’s love must be different. When that scripture pops up, it totally takes God’s love out of the picture, completely. But that wouldn’t make any sense because if God is love then why would He have, you know, it’s totally confusing.

And that’s why I think the idea for me was like that verse has always brought love into just one thing. It’s always brought it all under one roof and said if God is love then all we have is love and love is the center of everything so there is no God’s love, there is no human love, it’s all one and in that case it would be really easy to decipher between what really is love and what isn’t. More than like if you have specific types of love then it would be a little bit more angry, and you can enforce anger or whatever, but then are you questioning love or that style of love or whatever. And if it’s just one that makes it so much easier, is it love or isn’t it? You know? And if it isn’t then you stay away from it, completely.

And so that has always been a huge influence on my life and that verse in general. But yeah, it’s weird like I said with the way verses are like used. Cause I like a verse, but then before it, it says something about greed and this and that and the next verse says something about that we should have riches and I’m always like, not in that the Bible contradicts itself, but if I say that this is my favorite verse then somebody’s like yeah, but did you know right before it, it says this?

I’m a big reader and I read the Bible often and when I study it, but sometimes I read just stories and stuff like that, it can be taken like that too. You know, not in a demeaning way, but just like I like to read, I like Steven King, I like all that stuff, so when I sometimes open the Bible I’m like, oh I like to just like to read the stories and the characters and the heroes and the epic nature of things. That’s a lot of times the way I read the Bible, but I trust there’s a lot of people that are like yeah but did you know that this verse says this and this verse says that, and I’m like well, no I didn’t know that.
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