Anna Ellermeier / The AS Review
The Fruit Bats, a five-piece folk band from Portland, Seattle and Chicago, will be performing on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 8:30 p.m. in the PAC Concert Hall. The AS Review caught up with their frontman Eric Johnson over winter break.
The AS Review: You all just finished up your tour in Europe. How did it go? How long were you there for?
Eric Johnson: We were there for a month which was a pretty long time for a tour. It was sort of one of those tours that I think was kind of supposed to be two weeks at first, and then they were like, oh, do you want to do Italy? and we were like, ok we’ll do that. And then we decided to add our own, because we were with Vetiver, and we decided to add our own sort of portion of the tour at the end in the UK because they weren’t going to go there. It sort of started off as two weeks and turned into a month and we’d never gone there. We’ve been a band for more or less 10 years, so that’s a pretty long time without going there. It was really cool. We didn’t really know what to expect, especially with our own shows over there and they were really, really good. I would say it was too long, but it was successful tour.
ASR: The Fruit Bats will be playing at Western on the 21st and I know that some students may be unfamiliar with your band and your music. How would you describe The Fruit Bats, your sound and also what your band’s about?
EJ: I don’t know really. It’s a song-writery kind of thing. When you have something like that, it’s pretty individualistic. So it’s maybe not so much what the band is about but what I’m trying to say and what I’m trying to say is something different every time; it’s just songs, it’s my thoughts. It’s not a great, sweeping concept or anything. ... It started off with me and a guitar and a four track and sort of making songs and trying to make music. ... You’re always trying to make music that you yourself might want to listen to. It’s sort of my thoughts and fantasies coming out into this music.
ASR: Your songs span a large array of themes, but what’s your favorite thing to sing about?
EJ: I love singing about nature because, and not in like a hippie kind of way, but in a sort of weirdly fascinated by it kind of way. ... I like thinking about dark themes in a light way or vice versa. I think a lot of people think that I have an incredibly sunny worldview or very optimistic, and I kind of do in a way, but I like to sing about weird stuff sometimes too. And I like to sing love songs with some type of disturbing images thrown into them, but not in a Nine Inch Nails kind of way.
ASR: I did a little research about actual fruit bats and learned that they have big eyes, they hang out in caves and they eat, what else, fruit. Do you as a band identify with these characteristics, or was there another reason you name your band The Fruit Bats?
EJ: The name of the band, I don’t 100 percent remember when I came up with that. It was a really long time ago. ... I used to make these four track tapes and I would make up different fake band names and I think that was one of the fake names that I put on there. I thought it kind of sounded like a punk band. I’m not totally sure how that one ended up sticking, but it just did. I think most band names should be like that. You shouldn’t really have to think about them too much. Coming up with a band name is the dumbest thing that adults can do in a room together. It seems like they should just happen, and that one did. It probably also comes from my animal fascination and fruit bats are pretty cool animals, actually, if you think about it.
ASR: Have you had any bad experiences picking band names? You sound like you’re speaking from experience.
EJ: I wouldn’t say bad experiences, but when you sit around trying to name a band it’s really, really hard. It’s ... generally grown people sitting around trying to think of some kind made up, dumb name for their club and it makes you feel like a fourth grader. It really should be something that is just bestowed upon you.
ASR: From reading through other interviews you’ve done, you seem to be really dedicated to the essence of making music, more so than the fame or the popularity aspect. What makes you so passionate about making music?
EJ: I was lucky enough early on to get a little bit of attention doing it and to be able to do it. Once you get a little taste of that, you want to keep going with that. I’ve always liked doing it, I’ve done it ever since I can remember and I’m really lucky to be able to do it. You work on it just in the way that you’d be passionate about really anything that you’re lucky enough to do. ... I’ve just always liked creating things and I think if I wasn’t doing music I’d probably be doing something else like that, writing or making movies.
Tickets for The Fruit Bats are on sale now. They are $5 for Western students with ID and $7 for general admission. Check out the events calendar to find out how to win a free ticket.