October 23, 2008

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A soldier, a saint, an ocean explorer
Indie band Finn Riggins continues to chart new waters

By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

Hailey, Idaho, band Finn Riggins have steadily been creating a name for themselves on the college radio and indie circuit over the last two years. Made up of three University of Idaho graduates — Eric Gilbert (keyboards), Lisa Simpson (guitar), and Cameron Bouiss (percussion) — Finn Riggins has drawn comparisons to Spoon, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, The Breeders, The Velvet Underground, The Pixies, and Talking Heads. The band released their first album, A Soldier, A Saint, An Ocean Explorer, in 2007 and are currently on a tour of the U.S. They will perform two shows in the Granite State, one Saturday, Oct. 25, at 9 p.m., at Concord’s The Barley House, and one Thursday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m., at Moultonborough Academy in Moultonborough. With a prestigious invite to play this year’s CMJ Festival in New York, the band continues to build fans and plenty of buzz. Eric Gilbert spoke with the Hippo.

Finn Riggins is representing Idaho at this year’s CMJ Festival. How does it feel to be able to play such a renowned national event?
This is our first time at the fest. It feels great. It’s really nice to be recognized as being on the same playing field as all the other great bands that will be there. Especially being from a small town in Idaho, where that recognition doesn’t necessarily come naturally or easily. We’ve been working really hard the last couple of years and traveling the country pretty extensively, sharing and further developing what we do, so yes, we’re very excited to be included in such a renowned national festival like CMJ, especially because it’s so relevant in the independent music scene that we tend to associate ourselves with.

You are currently on a fall tour of the U.S. With a show scheduled almost every day, it’s quite an ambitious task you’ve set for yourselves. Do you have any goals in mind with this tour?
As far as goals for this tour, we’re always very interested in the fun and adventure of it all, and now that we’ve been out here a couple times, it’s very much about visiting friends and returning to the places that we’ve been the most excited about and vice-versa.

Have you had any time to work on any new music or projects?
Time for new stuff has definitely been a challenge, but we were home a little bit this summer and we were able to work on some new stuff. In fact, we’re recording for a couple of days in Burlington, Vt., a couple days after the Concord show. We have two days, so we hope to get four new songs laid down. We’ve been working new stuff into our sets as much as possible to get them ready.

For a band that tours quite a bit, do you find that audiences are different depending on what part of the country you are playing?
Every place is different. Every venue even within a town has its own feel and crowd. One of the coolest things about touring is all the different scenes and shows. Some crowds are a full-on, sweaty dance party, while others are more of a still but attentive crowd. Each inspires a different approach — we’re willing to play anywhere, for anyone.

Today many bands seem to rely more on a combination of grassroots and Internet promotion, as well as touring, to get their music out to the public. What works for you all?
There’s no better way to reach people then in person. The Internet is great, and helpful in lots of ways, but nothing beats a live show and the personal connection of face-to-face conversation. Through our travels and shows, we’ve met so many incredible people that have moved and inspired us. We really try to approach the music scene as a big community, and try to be a support for that community as a whole. We’ve been adamant about not abiding by any rules — making up how we approach the industry, our music, CD’s, T-shirts, as we go — and being willing to adapt to how the industry is changing.

How important is it for a band to have a strong network of other bands and musicians supporting them?
Incredibly important, and more fun that way too. We’ve had a blast touring with our friends, or playing shows with them on their own turf. It’s kind of like having a tour guide when you get to a town, and it’s super-helpful with DIY booking too. We’re very grateful for some of the bands that we’ve been lucky enough to be associated with, and had the opportunity to play with, from all over the country. As of last fall, we’ve officially been working with Portland, Oregon-based label Tender Loving Empire. The support system of family, friends and friends of friends has been unbelievable.

You guys experiment with various instruments and sounds in your music. Are you always looking for new and unusual elements to explore?
Yes. We’re always seeking to try different things. Using different instruments and toys is fun, but we always try to do what’s best for the music and not get too gimmicky about it. Adding a new instrument or a new keyboard sound is always exciting and inspiring. We like to use whatever tools we have or come across to give each composition some unique characteristics.

Besides obvious musical influences, what feeds your creativity as a band?
Nature. Traveling. Shows. People. Other art forms like dance, literature, art, film and photography. Community. Architecture. Idaho. Pop culture. Politics. Family. The desire to help influence our culture in some sort of unique and positive way. Creativity is an interesting beast, and is certainly born from a variety of inspirations.

How has this year been for you guys?
It’s been incredible. Since last September, we’ve traveled over 60,000 miles, played in over 32 states and have been a part of nearly 250 shows. It’s been really, really wild. Our album has done great on college and independent radio and it’s been a blast sharing it with others all around this country. We’re excited for the next album and the next phase that lies ahead. This tour feels very much like a celebration of all the adventures and successes of the last year or so. When we get home, the next phase of this roller coaster will begin, and we’re excited to experience what will unfold next. — Dana Unger