Things haven’t been easy the past couple of years for singer Autry Fulbright. With the untimely death of his father, he sought out therapy for his depression in the best way he knew how. Using his creative outlets to craft something beautiful. Out of this came Brookyln based band, Midnight Masses. I had the pleasure of talking to Autry this week and dove deeper into his creative process.
GSL: Your music comes from a pretty dark place. How has the death of your father played a role in that?
Autry Fulbright: It is a pretty dark place. Music was a big part of his life.The last time I saw him healthy was when he came to one of my shows. I really wanted him to come. He died 2 months later. He was an inspiration in my life, musical tastes, and interests. He helped me express my music creativity. Writing songs were a form of therapy. He was an a preacher, a liberal and a musician. Dad was a huge music fan…he wasn’t an old fart. He knew all about scenes and told me about them. When I was younger he told me all about grunge, and bands dating back to the 60’s and 70’s. Supergroups like Temple of the Dog. He was a musical savant.
How did you end up working with Jason Reece (…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead)?
Me and Conrad Keely from …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, drove from New York to Austin when they were in preproduction for their full length. I was grieving and they told me to come to Austin. I stayed at Jason’s house. Even though I was closer to Conrad, Jason was always my buddy. I stayed with him and told me he wanted to play music one morning. That ended up as our B-side. I didn’t know it would let to a record or a song. Jason and I started as a duo and I thought we’d shoot back and fourth. Gerard from TV on the Radio then helped out.
Does songwriting come natural to you? Or do you find yourself searching for words?
Songwriting is a reaction. I didn’t sit down and commit. I didn’t know it was going to happen. It was something I felt I had to do. Enjoying it came later. I didn’t know what. Lately, I’ve been writing more. I’m nervous. There’s no pressure to get it right. It’s easier to write songs. They’re painful documents, reflections, about human grief, loss. Some songs are more specific like about seeing my Dad in the hospital. I didn’t think I could sing the songs every night, and thought I’d fuck up a show. I didn’t think that if I didn’t write this song I’d have a nervous breakdown or something.
How did you record the EP Rapture Ready, I Gazed at the Body and the LP Good Sons Die Young?
The EP was done with Jason. Gerard recording with me. Our friend Dave engineered what we recorded in a 15 year old haunted house. They had found a fully clothed dead mobster in the walls of the house. The LP was recorded on Logic, and then polishing it up. No one said we had to get it done.
Your song lyrics can read like poetry. Do you have a background in writing?
For the time being, I was a visual artist. My parents encouraged it. I can paint better. I try to do something visually compelling. Eventually I want to get a document going about being on tour, and recording. I like records that tell stories like Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
You have a month long residency in New York next month. What is your favorite part about playing live?
I like playing live more than recording. It’s in the moment and spontaneous. You connect with the fans and the band. I have fun playing live. We try to put on a good show. We try to do things that are different than the record. Something unique that can’t be captured on a recording. Live is where everything comes to fruitation. I’ve been writing songs in reverse so live it’s like how it’s supposed to be. I hate being in a recording studio. It’s tedious. It loses the magic playing it over and over again. Recording songs is the work. Playing a show is fun.
You’ve gained a lot of attention through blogs, and word of mouth. Does your rising popularity ever surprise you?
I’m happy we’ve been getting acclaim. I’m surprised people come to our shows. I do headcounts on the band to make sure they’re there! It’s nice to see them supporting something personal. It makes me feel good and like I’m not wasting time. I’m not taking the fans for granted. It’s gratifying. An affirmation.
How did you come up with the name Midnight Masses?
Our vocalist Katie and I, a friend of mine, were walking around Brooklyn one day and I came up with the name. My Dad was a Catholic but it’s not religious. More of like Black Sabbath “War Pigs,” but it doesn’t have anything to do with the song. I execute band names before the band, even as a kid. I came up with it, so I held onto that name for over a year. When finishing a song during recording we didn’t know what we were going to name it and I said “Midnight Masses.” Then Midnight Masses turned into what it is. I probably have the names of my next three bands already. Some people think it’s a religious thing. No Pitchfork article can insult you more than calling you a Christian rock band! Though I like Gospel music I find it polarizing and unifying. That’s what I like about it. I’m lucky because everyone in this band was a singer in anothe band. All those people singing together is powerful. You can have a thousand people singer and only a quarter of them being good and it still sounds powerful. I want to have a room full of people sound like one person.
What is next for the band after the shows in New York?
We’re doing another EP and another LP. Then we’ll tour for a while. We’re going to keep writing. It’s cool because I’m feeling really inspired now. It’s beyond grief which is more…not so dark anymore. More celebratory. The first part of the interview talked about darkness, than working through it and unifying and not celebrating. It’s gone beyond how it started.
MIDNIGHT MASSES NEW YORK DATES
February 10- Union Pool
February 17 – Union Pool
February 24- Union Pool