The Faim: A Q&A with Josh Raven
By Lexi Vollero
The sun was fading fast as the Pink Line train rushed by overhead. I leaned against the icy brick facade of Bottom Lounge on the Near West Side of downtown Chicago, sheltering my face from the wind and fixating on the rows of tour buses lining Lake Street. The caravan was a week into their cross-country venture, carrying the crews and equipment for five up-and-coming bands hoping to get their name out and grow their American fanbases. Josh Raven, the front man of Australian rock band The Faim, emerged from behind the first black bus wearing a black sherpa-lined jacket and a smile that seemed to send the cold away. But in reality, he was practically freezing. In fact, he recounted that the previous day, he and his three fellow band-members had encountered snow for the first time – quite a contrast from the weather this time of year in their hometown: Perth, Australia. I was also informed that he hadn’t come from one of the buses, but from a small van parked across the street alongside a McDonald’s drive thru.
Below are excerpts of a conversation with Raven about his 11 years making music and The Faim’s journey from their first album Summer Is a Curse to their Chicago debut:
How are you liking the U.S. so far?
I love the U.S. It's so nice to actually be touring because we've only been to L.A. and New York and we've just heard so much about the culture and diversity all across [the United States], so it's nice to actually just get head first in and really experience it, especially getting reactions from shows on tour.
Are you still based in Perth?
We're pretty nomadic at the moment…We pretty much live on the road right now.
Do you have plans for where you want to be based when you're done being “nomadic”?
Honestly, I feel like we'll always kinda be nomadic in a sense, but Germany's been a great place for support. We've been getting a lot of attention over there and a lot of love, so we'll probably be spending a lot of time in Europe.
Do you speak any German?
I speak little bits, not much. Let's see: “Ich liebe dich” means “I love you”, “danke schoen” means “thank you”, “Deutschland” is “Germany” and “hallo”...
How did your band get your name out from Perth?
We've seriously put our heads down for the last four years as a band…Being from Perth, one of the most isolated capital cities in the world, we utilized everything that we possibly could. We quit everything, stopped all our studies, stopped all of our jobs and really just [worked] seven days a week, fifteen hours a day. Whether it's writing songs in the studio, going out handing out leaflets, creating conversations with random people on the street, going to shows or waiting outside shows and meeting people, [it was] really just spreading the name as much as possible.
I know John Feldmann was the first person in the music industry to contact you, but what was that moment like when he first reached out?
When John finally got in contact with us, it was a very surreal moment because we always joked about it and laughed, "Oh ya, we're gonna work with these people one day or work with John," but it was never really like a goal in mind. It was just something we always kind of talked about and to see it kind of come to fruition was really really special for us. And he really opened doors for us: he taught us not only what the music industry is like, but [showed us] the stepping stones and the tools to look within yourself and find not only a great song, but also a great message.
Who were your musical inspirations?
I have a wide variety of inspirations from Slipknot to Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin to Fall Out Boy to Panic! At The Disco. I love to find a piece of influence in every single bit of music and I feel like that's important, especially in an industry today where genres are amalgamating, songs are the same and it’s important to really utilize all the things that you love.
Speaking of Fall Out Boy, what was it like working with Pete Wentz?
It was incredible...Being someone who's looked up to Fall Out Boy for a long time, you put these people unknowingly on a pedestal. You idolize them a little bit and you think they're these extra special people, which they are – they're very talented and very hardworking – but when you meet them in the flesh, you just realize that they're just normal, hardworking people who are in it for the same reasons you are. They're passionate about music, they're passionate about a message and it's just refreshing to see people of that stature have such a down-to-earth way of looking not only at the world but at their profession and the way they want to spread themselves out there.
Do you write a lot of The Faim’s music yourself?
We all have an input. Me and Stephen do a lot of the writing together, but it's important for us all to have a perspective because it's all for us up there performing the songs. I feel like if not everyone gives their perspective and opinion on the songs, the songs wouldn't be the songs they are now.
Is there a song on the album that you're most proud of?
It's really hard to narrow it down to one because I feel like there's a different piece of our personalities and our story in every single song...But I'm very proud of the song "Make Believe" because it offers a perspective to people who trap themselves in their [own] head or keep [themselves] in sort of a negative light because in a world full of distraction and full of impossible comparisons, it's easy to forget the most important thing to be is yourself.
What are you listening to right now (besides your own music, of course)?
Honestly, I don't listen to my own music very often because sometimes I just don't like listening to my own voice because I’m very critical and analyze everything too much.
But I keep finding myself always going back to the Strokes at the moment. I don't why.
What would you say is the main goal that you're working toward right now as a band?
I mean I think the goal we've always really worked towards since the start of the band is to keep playing music that's true to ourselves....[Being able to be on stage] is the privilege we get to live every single day. It’s not about having this crazy rockstar life that people perceive us as, it's about being able to inspire people all around the world that you've never met to do something they never thought they could do.
Would you say that’s your favorite part of performing?
It's definitely something I keep in mind when I perform, but when I’m on stage kind of everything kind of goes out the window. I call it calculated crazy [because] I get kind of manic in the weirdest way possible. It’s like becoming the songs in a nice way because they're so personal and intimate, [so] it comes across theatrical… Every show is different. You could come to two shows two days in a row and you wouldn't see the same show twice.
My final question is about the title of your album: why is “summer a curse”?!
You know, it's funny. So many people be like, "Ah, do you hate summer? You don’t like hot weather?” and I’m like: “NO, it's not about the weather!” I understand why [people might think that], but the summer is this idea of a brighter future for us. It’s this idea of a dream or an impossible goal, [something that] we've experienced already…So, the idea that summer is a curse is really believing in your dream and believing your passion's important. When you start working and start becoming consumed by it, there’s always going to be sacrifices, whether its relationships or missing your parents or being back home all those different things. It's about acknowledging that and being bigger than that sort of sentiment and just letting your dream take control… It’s about acknowledging and embracing those sacrifices and letting it really define you as a better person [but] not letting yourself be swallowed by it.