The classic band archetype: you start out in your parents’ basement, and when you make it big, you’re supposed to move out.
Not Flightschool. Despite being a band that headlines clubs in Philadelphia, New York, and more, they still prefer to use their parents’ basement to practice.
Part of it might be because they come from musical families. Although Flightschool is a band that combines the various musical interests from rock to blues to Americana, their lead singer Jordan Haddad‘s parents come from a Bossa Nova jazz background. Despite the fact that their music diverged, the core drive of making music and making it in a tough industry continues across generations.
I got the chance to speak with Jordan and guitarist Chris van Roden about their band, their new EP, and their future recording plans. Also, as a note, we’re alumni of the same school and there are some references that I tried my best to explain.
So I’d like to hear a bit about the band, how you guys met, how you got started?
Chris: Jordan and I started the band at Franklin & Marshall [College] in 2008. Next year will be our ten year anniversary. We had a number of other members and Sam Morris is the drummer of the band. He’s the class of 2012, Jordan is class of 2011, and I’m 2010 and we all became friends and started the band. We were playing covers for the most part, and probably around 2010, we started writing our own music.
Jordan: Chris and I knew of each other, we had pledged the same fraternity and he was a couple years older than I. So he was kind of a brotherly figure to me. He would kidnap me every now and then, and we would start playing music together and I could tell we had a lot of interests in common. Not only musically, like music tastes, but my parents are professional musicians and Chris grew up playing music and I could just tell he wanted to get something going. Which has been kind of his mindset the whole time the band has been around, really working on getting bigger shows, working with different artists.
The more we played together the more we started playing parties and other venues. We started playing venues in Lancaster [Pennsylvania], we did Spring Arts [F&M’s annual spring music festival]…
Chris: Out on the Green.
Jordan: Yeah, Spring Arts out on the Green.
Chris: The first show we ever played was in the Lofts [a nickname for an apartment complex in Lancaster with a lot of F&M students] for some girl’s birthday party.
Jordan and I lived in the same dorm. We both lived in Schnader [a dorm on F&M’s campus]. So I would pop down to Jordan’s room, or he would pop down to my room, and we’d play guitar and practice covers that we might want to play at parties.
From that, when you started writing originals, how did you settle on your sound?
Chris: Whatever music that we’ve written, it’s been inspired by either the band itself from when we’re practicing and also what the band members are listening to.
Jordan and I never just sat down and said, “We want to be this type of band.” We always wanted to be ourselves and bring a mix of our influences and stuff we like from a sonic perspective. Focus on writing music that way.
Jordan is our main lyricist and brings a lot of great ideas. I mean, Jordan writes all the lyrics and is also our lead singer and he brings a lot of great ideas to the band as the basis for most of our songs.
Jordan: You and I have similar tastes in music, but we differ in certain ways, and I think we each bring our own flavor to what were composing. I think the crossroads of those two styles gives us our Flightschool sound.
I grew up listening to a lot of indie rock. One of my favorite bands is The Strokes. I mean, we sound nothing like The Strokes, but our songs are influenced that way. And then, Chris, your interests are more… you like Americana, you like blues, you like bluegrass, and you take a lot of those influences when you solo and you play guitar. And those influences find their way into the music.
Chris: Yeah, that’s very accurate.
Starting out, what was the first real venue you ended up playing? Was it in Lancaster?
Chris: Yeah it was. The first real we played was the Lizard Lounge at the Chameleon Club. [laughs]
Moving up from that, how did you identify venues and get your band out there?
Chris: Well first off, we played the Lizard Lounge at the Chameleon Club and then we returned, I want to say, four years ago, and we played the main stage there, which kind of closed the loop for us. We started very small and left Lancaster and played a lot of clubs in New York and then we had the opportunity to come back and play a headline spot at Chameleon Club.
But in terms of the venues that we looked at after the Lizard Lounge show, a friend of mine in Philadelphia got us a gig in, like, the worst bar for music, and we were stuffed into this tiny corner, and we played a three hour show of covers or something ridiculous like that. But people came and they enjoyed it and they drank a lot and the bar obviously liked that so they kept asking us back. And then we started getting contacted by other smaller venues in Philadelphia.
Probably the first real venue we played was the North Star Bar, which unfortunately is no longer there. It was a great venue for up-and-coming indie rock and rock acts, and my parents played there when they were our age.
Jordan: I never knew that.
Chris: Yeah. And then basically we always proved that we could draw big crowds and our crowds had good energy for our shows. Then slowly, year by year, the venues got bigger and we expanded to Boston and Baltimore, Maryland and DC and Philadelphia. And most of those cities, we’re playing decent clubs.
Jordan: New York.
Chris: Yeah, New York. New York is a big market for us.
Do you have a particular favorite place you enjoy playing?
Chris: A highlight for me, we headlined the TLA [Theatre of Living Arts] Philadelphia, which for both Jordan and I, that was a dream of ours. When we started the band, we said a big milestone will be playing the TLA and we accomplished that two years ago.
Jordan: World Cafe [Live] was a big one for me cause i grew up listening to the local radio station here 88.5 [WXPN] and my parents knew a lot of the people that worked as the radio DJs and they even had played shows there. So playing downstairs at World Cafe Live was a big milestone for me.
Chris: One more thing I want to note is that having Jordan’s parents supporting us is big. The name of their band is Minas, they’re jazz musicians and they play bossa nova jazz.
Every time when we were starting the band, there were so many questions like how do we market ourselves, how do we sell ourselves, how do we go about distributing our music, and we were always able to lean on Jordan’s parents to answer those questions because that’s the life they live.
And not only do they support us in helping us understand how to manage a band, but also they still, to this day, give us their basement as a practice space. So we have full support for them and that’s been huge.
You have a new album coming out. It came out a couple of days ago right?
Chris: On Monday, yeah.
What was the recording process like, how did that come together?
Jordan: So we recorded in a couple different ways. We started when we recorded our first EP. That was Red Planet Studios and we had found out about this studio from a sound guy, audio engineer, Joe [Smiley], that we met at North Star, one of our first big milestone shows that Chris mentioned earlier. He wanted to record us and he did an awesome job on our first EP.
And then as the band grew stylistically and musically, sonically, we wanted almost a fifth member to work with us on the ideas we had, and get them out the way we heard them, and get them out right. So we recorded them in one studio and then did a lot of the production with another engineer that actually works with my parents a lot, his name is Brendan McGeehan. He works with Forge Recording, a recording studio in Fort Washington.
The process was, in terms of logistics, in a couple different places, a couple different hands. But we’re really happy with how it turned out, it’s exactly how we envisioned it. We’re kind of getting that whole procedure down. It’s a lot of work putting an album together and a lot of moving parts. I think eventually we’ll have this whole process down for the full length album.
Is there anything you’re particularly proud of that you want to highlight that somebody might not pick up on initially?
Chris: Well, I would say that it’s a five song EP and it’s a good representation of what a live show might look like if you were to come see Flightschool. Every song has a structure of a story that we tell in every song, in particular on tracks like “Tame” and “Little Chicken.” You pick some time to do some improvisation, you let the song breathe a little bit, and it’s kind of like a microcosm of what one of our shows would be like.
Jordan: You mentioned the song “Tame,” there’s a part at the end where we just let it roll, we let the tape roll, and that was all one take. We’re kind of proud of that because you can tell the energy there and what we were all vibing off of, we’re all playing at the same time in a room. Well, I was in a separate room, Chris, you were in the room with John [Lalley, the bassist] and Sam.
After the album release what’s the plan for the future, where do you hope to take the band?
Jordan: We’re gonna do another one soon!
Chris: Yeah, we’re going to make another album. We’re in the process of writing new music, and we already have some good music written. We’re hoping to get back into the studio early 2018.
We are headlining the World Cafe again in Philadelphia on Friday, November 24th. We typically do an annual Thanksgiving show and we partner with a brewery in Philadelphia named Dock Street Brewery. Scott Morrison, he owns the brewery and he went to F&M as well, he’s a good friend of ours, and for that event, they actually brewed us a beer, which is named after “Little Chicken,” the last track on the new EP.
But other than that back to the grind of writing new music and recording new stuff.
Jordan: We’ll be releasing the EP. We have an EP release party this Friday in New York.
Anything else you want to add?
Jordan: Do you want to talk about what the plan is for the next project, what we’re doing, how we’re spending time together, or do you want to wait?
Chris: I think we should wait for that.
I mean, if you want to get into what you have coming up though… your project.
Chris: Well… so for the next album we’re putting out, we’ll be recording it at a remote location in the Poconos. So not at a studio, we’ll be building a studio in a cabin in the woods. Which I think that’s what you’re referring to, right Jordan?
Chris: So we’re really looking forward to that because it’s important that when you’re recording this stuff you spend all your time together.
By isolating ourselves and not having any other commitments from everyday life, we wake up at 3 in the morning and want to record we’ll be able to do it, or we can record all night long. So we’re really looking forward to that and really do things to thrill our fan base. Write new music and spread the word.
How long do you plan on being up there?
Chris: It’ll probably be five or six days!
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