By Brent Thompson
Photo Credit: Jessie McCall
Kellen Asebroek calls me from Tuscaloosa as his band, Fruition, is opening for Jack Johnson at Tuscaloosa Amphitheater on this night. The band will join Johnson again the next night in Nashville before returning to Alabama to perform a headlining show at Zydeco on Thursday, May 3. Somehow, this three-day snippet of the band’s schedule sums up Fruition’s year to this point. Since releasing its fifth full-length album Watching It All Fall Apart earlier this year, the Portland, OR-based quintet has been on an unceasing tour. Known for a string of self-produced albums, Fruition enlisted the help of producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, First Aid Kit) for its latest album. Since its release, Watching It All Fall Apart has elicited praise from Relix, American Songwriter and Alternative Press among other outlets. In the midst of his hectic schedule, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Asebroek gave us his thoughts on touring, Portland and today’s music climate in general.
Birmingham Stages: Kellen, thanks for your time. How’s the tour going so far?
Kellen Asebroek: We’ve basically been on the road since the end of January – we put our new album out at the end of January – and I’ve basically had about two weeks off. It’s winding down here – we’ve got a couple of Jack [Johnson] shows and then Birmingham, back to Augusta, Tennessee and then we go home.
Birmingham Stages: We are enjoying Watching It All Fall Apart. If you will, talk about the creation of the album.
KA: There are three songwriters in the band – me, Mimi [Naja] and Jay [Cobb Anderson]. We all got together, laid down a bunch of demos and threw them into the pile. The songs that came out ended up being Watching It All Fall Apart. The songs are about love, the struggle for it, the general human experience of pain and hope and good times and bad times.
Birmingham Stages: If you will, talk about working with the album’s producer, Tucker Martine.
KA: It’s the first time we worked with a producer. We worked with a producer on our very, very first studio album named Nat Keefe from the band Hot Buttered Rum. He produced and showed us the ropes of studio recording – we were just a bunch of kids. That sent us on a really good path to produce ourselves up until this last album with Tucker. We were a little hesitant about it because we enjoyed producing ourselves. But we met Tucker and hit it off and thought it would benefit all of us to work together, so we did.
Birmingham Stages: How would you describe the music scene in your adopted hometown of Portland?
KA: It’s great – there’s definitely a ton of music and most touring bands stop there. When we first started out there, there were more street musicians and buskers and that’s how we got our start. It’s a vey nurturing, supportive spot where people can do their thing and there’s a genuine passion.
Birmingham Stages: Some artists say this is a great time to be a musician with satellite radio, iTunes, Youtube and the instant exposure and accessibility that modern outlets bring. Other artists say it’s a challenging time to separate yourself among the crowd. How do you view the climate these days?
KA: I mean this from a comical angle as well as a serious angle – I think that this is probably the worst time for us to have tried to be a band [laughs]. Like you said, there’s access to everything and everyone can put it out if they do it right. It’s very competitive and you’re only going to make something of yourself if you have a really good product and you’re really good at hustling and know how to promote on the internet and use the tools to your advantage. Even if you do have a product, you might not get it heard. Back in the day, if you had a good product and a record executive liked you, you were put on a world tour with Led Zeppelin [laughs]. That’s not going down anymore. You have to forge your own path in this day and age. It’s not for everybody.
Fruition will perform at Zydeco on Thursday, May 3. Voodoo Visionary will open the 8:30 p.m. show. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $12 and can be purchased at www.zydecobirmingham.com.