“Growing up, my dad was a big Beatles fan, and so I think that’s kind of what started me off because my first album I ever bought was Sgt. Pepper’s.”
“It’s funny because the first one was a really cool one and the second one was like Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill.” Since 2008, Robbie Connolly has been playing guitar and singing in the pop-rock band, Fictionist. Along with singer-bassist Stuart Maxfield, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Brandon Kitterman and drummer Aaron Anderson, Connolly has drawn from a wide-range of lyrical and sonic influences, creating a sound that has won them recognition from Rolling Stone Magazine, and the chance to open for bands like Vampire Weekend and Imagine Dragons. Previous releases including Invisible Hand, Lasting Echo, and FICTIONIST have all displayed a reverence for smart, vibrant pop music. Although for Connolly, much of his musical taste was born out of the records and artists of his childhood.
“I’m the tenth of thirteen kids, so I have some older siblings. So all my siblings are kind of like kids of the nineties.” Connolly went on to say how even artists that seem diametrically opposed to the music he makes, have all inevitably made some sort of impression, specifically saying how Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Dave Matthews Band, “doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of a connection with our music, but I think there’s probably some influence there. Even like, the Greatest Hits Police CD I listened to all the time growing up, that probably had an influence on me for sure.” (laughs).
“And my singing voice has a certain ‘raspiness’ to it that’s similar to Sting and Peter Gabriel and stuff, so I hear that comparison here and there. But yeah, his vocals are some of my favorite.” Though he does say that certain performers are more impressive in a live setting. Specifically naming U2, Connolly said, “they’re another band that I heard a lot growing up from my older brothers. And no one will ever say that Bono doesn’t know how to put on a show, you know? It’s amazing.” Connolly went onto say that they were one of the first bands who were able to make, “a stadium full of people feel totally uplifted.” And even though his influences span all eras and genres, he does acknowledge that the group has fun with any opportunities to pay homage to an artist they admire.
“We definitely have some references here and there. So for instance, one synth part in the song “Give It Up,” when the chorus and synth comes in, I just kind of hold up a synthesizer and made a synth sound in the demo and our producer was like, “Oh my gosh! This is like the most Peter Gabriel thing ever! This is awesome!” And so I think there are moments where it’s like, “Oh cool, let’s play that up.” Although he does say that they do not deliberately chase those comparisons, stating that it’s more about “letting the influences fall out.” And while he was initially drawn to indie bands like Pinback during his high school years, his favorite records of the last few years include indie rock mainstays like Elbow’s seminal The Seldom Seen Kid, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs and The National’s Trouble Will Find Me.
Most recently, Connolly bought Paul McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney, and the Talking Heads’ Remain In The Light at a San Diego record store. And while the McCartney record was recorded in the Beatle’s house, allowing for a stripped-down, no-frills sound that makes the tracks feel like demos, the Talking Heads record is decidedly more produced. When asked if he prefers one recording style over the other, he says that he can, “appreciate both for different reasons.” After talking about how songs can sometimes stray far from the original recording or idea, he spoke about Fictionist’s own process and experiences with bringing demos to life.
“With Fictionist, everyone has a lot of thoughts and opinions and it always ends up shifting and being cool in a brand new way that I wouldn’t have expected. But then again, it’s kind of fun to hear the original ones and you’re like, “Oh, that’s just more raw.” So I don’t know, it is fun to hear both in recordings.” “Maybe if I had to say, I’d go towards the more produced stuff. Because even the fact that I like Abbey Road better than the McCartney album, you know what I mean? I guess the other band members just push you and challenge you, and I know that’s hard a lot of the times but it does refine the music that much more. Because I have both of the Lennon and McCartney, first solo albums after the Beatles and they’re cool, but at the end of the day I think I’d rather have a Beatles album.” And when asked the essential, age-old question of where his loyalty lies, Connolly didn’t hesitate in choosing one British band over the other.
“You know, it’s funny. People always ask “Stones or Beatles?” And in my case it’s kind of true. I don’t know why, I didn’t really hear a lot of Stones growing up. So I’ve actually gotten more into them in recent years, just like getting to know them. And I totally dig it, it’s just a whole different thing. With the Beatles it’s about, I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but with the Beatles it feels more about the songwriting craft and production and that kind of artsy side of it, where like the Stones are just about super great grooves. And the songs are awesome too, but I think there’s a different appeal. But if I had to claim one, I would say the Beatles. I mean, that’s just like what happened in my life, probably because my dad was a Beatles fan, so I was not so much of a Stones fan.” (laughs).
Article by: Caitlin Phillips