Ultimate Fakebook - Sound In The Signals Interview

We recently had the chance to interview Ultimate Fakebook. Read below to see what Bill and Eric had to say about their reunion, their first new album in 16 years including details on the artwork, themes behind the album, the vinyl pressing, and more.

First, thanks for the interview.

Bill - Thank you!

I guess the logical place to start is with what made you feel like it was time to return and write new music for Ultimate Fakebook?

Bill - Great question. I think the time away from being a full time touring musician, having kids and getting older, combined with living through the first genuine crisis in American democracy of our lifetimes, just all kind of built up whatever kinds of things inside me that made me a songwriter in the first place, you know? So around 2017 I started getting the itch to make new songs again, and normally that would mean me making some stuff just on my own. But as the ideas for the songs started to really take shape, I realized that what I was really craving was making music specifically with Nick and Eric again, and making songs that reflected who we are now, and what the experience of being in our band meant for us. But the thing is with UFB, we had always said we would only make another record if we all felt we could make something as good or better than our previous albums. So I started out on the task of writing something really special with all three of us in mind, something that could stand on it’s own knowing we wouldn’t be touring behind it. My main goal was to write songs that got Nick and Eric excited enough to want to go down a new rabbit hole with me. And to my surprise the songs just started flowing immediately, and it was like I’d opened up the floodgates and had a lot more on my mind than I’d realized.

Eric - When Bill mentioned he was working on new stuff, I was excited to hear it as a fan but didn't really think we'd do anything with them. When I heard the first batch of demos, I immediately started thinking about how I could play them - the songs were a perfect synthesis of where we were then and where we are now.

You’ve played some shows and toured before recording this new album. What’s been the most fun thing about returning to the band so far?

Bill - For me I’d say the process of sending new demos to Eric and Nick, who were in another state, and collaborating on ideas for the songs was really exciting. It also was really fun being asked to open for the Descendants for a few shows last year, so really at this stage for us anything we do is really fun honestly!

Eric - Yeah it's funny how much you can get done by emailing, sending texts, and talking on the phone. Collaborating with Bill and getting to feel that creative spark again was probably the most fun.

You announced your new album ‘The Preserving Machine’. It’s your first new album in 16 years. Can you tell me about the recording process for the album? How long did you work on it?

Bill - The recording process was definitely not at all how we’ve made records in the past. Basically what we did was I recorded demos at home by myself, with fake drum parts I’d program to sound as close to Eric’s vibe as possible. I knew that the chances were low for us to all be together in a studio recording these songs, so I tried really hard to make my guitars and vocals and other instruments as usable as possible. I worked super hard to make the song arrangements as fully thought out as we would have if we all could work on them together. Then I’d send the demos to the guys. Eric had some ideas for extending some parts and a few lyric changes, so I made those, and then they both just booked one day each in a studio and banged out their parts. Eric recorded with our long time producer Ed Rose which was a big deal for us, and especially cool as he’s retired from record making these days. Then we hired Jamie Woolford, who we knew from our days touring with him in The Stereo and the Inpossibles, to mix everything together. He did a phenomenal job making everything sound cohesive and huge!

Eric - Does it sound like the 3 of us were in the same room together at any point? We weren't. Ha!

Was writing this album more of a fun return to the band or did you also find it stressful to write music that continues the legacy of the band?

Bill - It was definitely fun, and I’d say not stressful in the least. These were songs that were bursting to come out of me. As soon as I decided they were UFB songs, they came together super fast. One day I wrote like 5 songs all in one sitting!

You released the first single “Manhattan KS” with a new 7” vinyl pressing to accompany it. It feels like you haven’t lost a beat. The vocals on the song are fantastic. Can you tell me about writing that song specifically?

Bill - Yeah that was one of the first ones I wrote for this project. We got our start in Manhattan, which is sort of the underdog college town in KS, and there was such a great music scene there, people were so grateful to see touring bands come through so they were super receptive and great supporters of local music. And once we had broken up and then proceeded to do some reunion shows in Kansas City, it was so amazing that the biggest groups of people who drove out for the shows were from Manhattan. So when writing this record, I wanted to create a true anthem all about Manhattan and the underdog spirit there.

Eric - Yeah that song really celebrates the intimacy of a tight-knit scene. It wasn't like Lawrence, where there were a ton of bands and a million venues to play. MHK was always the red-headed stepchild, farther from KC than Lawrence, and certainly a destination for bands to travel to. It was not a regular stop on bands' touring itineraries. Because of that, we had to work hard to get shows. I think it made us hungrier maybe.

Have you been pleased with the reception the song has gotten so far?

Bill - Absolutely! It’s been so fun to relive such great memories with everyone and just sort of celebrate our shared love of music and the community we came from.

Eric - There's also all kinds of references in it that only people who were there will get, which I'm excited for people to catch and unpack. It's really personal.

What are some of the lyrical themes you tackle on this album?

Bill - The themes mostly are about gratitude as I look back on the experience of being in the band. Just playing shows - as any band knows, regardless of how good your songs are, creates a community of friends who rally together to escape every day life and just not worry so much about things. Our band and our personalities are 100% all about that. So the themes mostly are me looking back and celebrating the friends who came along with us on this crazy journey. Within those themes are also ones about what it’s like raising children in such a suddenly uncertain America, and also what it’s like grappling with the reality that those dreams of rock and roll we all believed in aren’t as important as the friendships we made along the way.

Eric - I'm shedding a little tear now. Thanks Bill.

Also the new album is getting a vinyl pressing. What can fans expect from the pressing? How important was it to have the album and single pressed on vinyl for you?

Bill - The vinyl package turned out awesome, we wanted it to feel like the KISS Alive records we grew up with, so it’s a gatefold package with huge live shots of us taken by Jason Domingues. It was really important to us to have the album and single pressed on vinyl, to be physical objects you could hold in your hand and not just be digital only, because the whole idea behind the album is us wanting to turn all these memories we have into solid, tangible things.

Eric - Plus, people are actually playing vinyl again. We're thankful Sonic Ritual was into the idea too. This is only the 2nd UFB album on vinyl! Our first one, Electric Kissing Parties, was re-issued by Rocket Heart Records a couple years back.

The album artwork is fantastic. It’s such an interesting cover. Who came up with the concept and designed it? Why do you think it fits the album?

Bill - The cover art is by an amazing artist named Matt Cunningham. He goes by @moon_patrol on Instagram and I highly recommend checking out his stuff! He does super cool collages that have an aged retro sci-fi kind of feel. When we picked the piece of his we are using we just picked it because we loved the image. But then we found out that the body section of the robot is an image taken from an old paperback novel, and that novel happened to be “The Preserving Machine” by Philip K. Dick. When I found that out, I was like dudes that is absolutely the perfect title for this album, it was basically exactly what I was trying to accomplish with the songs - preserve the memories we had about being in the band as song documents. And it turns out that story by Philip K. Dick was about a scientist who created a machine to turn the world’s most classic music into animals, so that the songs wouldn’t ever be lost to future generations. So the artwork we picked had a connection to our songs we never even expected!

Eric - Plus, he's one of my favorite authors, so bonus!

A song on the album is called “Sequel (Electric Kissing Parties Pt. 2)”. That title caught my eye because it harkens back to your first album. What can fans expect from that song?

Bill - That’s one of my favorites. That song was basically an experiment I wanted to try. I wanted to see if we could make a true sequel to ”Roll (Electric Kissing Parties Pt. 1) from our first album. Compared to our other songs, “Roll“ was sort of a UFB epic, with all these starts and stops, key changes, peaks and valleys, and really yearning lyrics. So I tried to make another epic sequel that used some of the exact same riffs and chord changes - but the twist would be that it had a 100% different melody. After I figured out the music, it was only natural to continue the story and have the lyrics be seen through the lens of a now middle aged, ex-rock ‘n roller.

Eric - It took many listens to wrap my head around that one. I love that it's a sequel in the most unexpected ways. Who else decides to write all new melodies and change-ups based off a song you yourself wrote 25 years ago? If we ever play it live, I'll be hearing the old and new ones at the same time and will most assuredly fuck it up.

With the album coming out in March what are you planning for the remainder of the year?

Bill - We have some really cool music videos we are going to be putting out, and we will be playing a few shows in the summer in Manhattan KS, and Kansas City. Aside from that we will have to see!

Eric - If you know anyone who wants to fly us out for a weekend show, we're game.

I guess that wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Bill - Nothing to add but just to say thanks for the interview!

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