Tracker Pixel for Entry

​What makes a band a band

by Ashley Murtha | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Music | May 3rd, 2017

The Human Element of Fargo started off as a cover band by the name of Matty J and Friends in the winter of 2014. Originally the band only consisted of three members -- Matt Johnson, Andrew Overby, and Seth Holden.

But then they played a gig with Kari Marie Steen and everything just fell into place. The group became a new band with their own original sound and now they have their debut album coming out May 5.

I was able to sit down with them and talk about their experiences with the band and the process of making their first album.

High Plains Reader: How has the process of your album been?

Seth Holden: Really simple.

Matt Johnson: It was really as easy as going to the studio and playing the songs that we played. We took a few takes of each one and picked out the best one and that’s pretty much what’s on the record.

Seth: It’s one of those records that makes me think of the term ‘warts and all.’ It has mistakes here and there, but I think it’s kind of part of the shine of the record. We just kind of went in, laid it down and didn’t really regret too much of what we did.

Matt: It’s a live-track record and we wanted to keep it as live-track as humanly possible. So you live with a mistake here and there, but the overall feel is exactly what we were shooting for. And Shawn Smalley helped a lot. He was really a Godsend for us. He came along when we were trying to figure out the process and he just helped us get the best out of our songs.

Kari Marie Steen: One of the things that was really important from the get-go was preserving that energy and that organic feel that we have when we play on stage. So for our debut album, we wanted to get that energy and capture that off-the-cuff feeling. The tweeking that we’ve done on some of the tracks is very minimal. It was a very organic experience.

Matt: We got along with Shawn so well that we probably could have gotten the album done in half the time that it took because we were all just having fun and hanging out.

HPR: Your Facebook page says you get inspiration from everywhere. Can you tell me a little more about that?

Matt: The main theme of my writing is probably nature. Being a Native American, it’s kind of been a part of my life.

Seth: And doing right by other people. I would say a very heavy, underlying theme of this record is doing right by your fellow person.

Kari: Love is kind of an underlying theme of the album, too. Love for one another, love for your fellow man, love for the environment you inhabit. Spreading messages of positivity instead of living in negativity. But understanding that we come from circumstances in which there is a low, there is a sad time, there is a hard time, but we persevere through those times. Another thing that I think is so great is that each of our own influences has really helped create a unique sound for this particular band and our style.

Andrew Overby: That also kind of goes with the whole F-M community. Everyone plays with everyone.

Matt: So we’re just as much ourselves as we are Fargo as a whole.

HPR: What does the writing process look like?

Matt: It’s usually really organic. I don’t really search out ideas. I really just play the guitar naturally at home. Usually I’ll have a complete song ready to go and I’ll bring it to the band.

I have a really awesome team and I don’t really have to worry about a lot of egos in the practice room when I bring a song. Everyone trusts me a lot and I’m able to have a lot of freedom when I write. I’ve never really had that.

So I’m able to be myself. That’s the biggest thing. I’m able to write music that comes straight, one hundred percent from me.

The songs would not be where they are now without these three people, though. If there were even one of them not there, these songs would not be alive like they are now. People always tell us that when we’re together, they notice how we interact and how we truly care and it’s just really easy to play music together. It’s not really just about the band, it’s really about us as a group and a team.

Seth: It’s so easy, when he brings a song to us. Not only is it easy because of what he just said, but also because we just know him that well. We know exactly what it is that you’re trying to accomplish here and we just kind of end up doing it because we know him that well. It usually doesn’t take too long to come up with a really good f*cking product when the session’s done.

Kari: We’re able to flex stylistically as well. On our debut album we have certain songs that are more jam-oriented, and we have certain songs that are more country-oriented, certain songs that are more rock ballad oriented. So it’s been really nice to have Matt come and bring some of these songs to the table. As we become more serious and focused on this particular project, it becomes a family. We are starting to really feel a bond and a camaraderie. We could play in projects until the cows come home, but there’s a certain magic that exists when you not only connect musically, but on a person-to-person level as well.

HPR: I was interested in your band name and how you guys came up with that.

Matt: It stems from a conversation that Kari and I had. She comes from a classical background and we were playing a lot of covers that the three of us enjoy, but Kari didn’t really know the songs. She was bringing a new approach to the songs and making them different. And we had a talk about that.

Kari: I’ve done a lot of singer/songwriter, solo performer, choirs and classically oriented stuff. And I always knew I wanted to plug myself into a project. I wanted to be in a band that was organic, that was real, that was down to earth, that wasn’t superficial, that made good music played from the heart. And when you do that, you always bring an element of your humanity into that. So that’s exactly what Matt was talking about.

Seth: Some of the covers we were playing ended up having an original feel to them because she didn’t know where they came from. A lot of bands do covers and they’ll either do them verbatim of how it was recorded on the record or the most famous interpretation of that song. But we were playing a lot of covers and every single one we would play didn’t ever really sound like the actual song. It was always our own interpretation of it. A lot of times, what we do now is we’ll play covers and we’ll play them once or twice and be like ‘ehh’ and then other times we’ll play a cover and we’ll think that song is f*cking ours now. It doesn’t sound at all like the original, it doesn’t feel at all like the original, it feels like us. And I feel like the birth of that name still carries on to what we’re going to do live.

Kari: And I think it also ties back in again to the family or the community feeling like the human element is what binds us all together. We each bring our own individual strengths to the table and that’s the human element too. I have a weakness and you all make me better in that area of weakness.

Matt: We all make each other better.

Andrew: I think another part of it for me is the fact that it’s the four of us live. In a world full of over-produced electronical sounds the Human Element is different.

IF YOU GO

Human Element Album Release Party

Friday, May 5, 9pm-2am

The Aquarium, 226 Broadway N, 2nd Floor, Fargo

Recently in:

Sophia Wilansky says she’s lucky she’s right handed. Since nearly losing her left arm from an exploding projectile on Backwater Bridge one year ago, cooking has become a tedious art. She can no longer be involved in circus…

The Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes the trans individuals who have lost their lives due to violence this year. It is a day where we read their names and remember them—not how they died, but how they lived. This is also…

Thursday, November 16, 7-9pmUnglued, 408 Broadway N, FargoProof Artisan Distillers and Unglued present a craft party with four distinct projects and help from artists Ashley from AENDEE and Nicole Rae, not to mention a special…

“The experience of all ages has proved that the people constantly give away their liberties.” - John Adams“Man’s dishonesty with himself is his greatest enemy. When he makes a mistake, his memory admits, ‘I have done…

The thoughts and prayers of politicians will finally be answeredWe have had 307 mass shootings (four kills or more) so far in 2017, including the last one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 mortals attending church, aged 18…

For the third week in a row, our panel of judges were out on the town with a thirst for cocktails and a focus on presentation, flavor, and creativity. This week’s adventures took us to a couple of hotspots in south Fargo, as the…

Colder weather, changing leaves, pumpkin spice and more are some of the few things that come to mind when many think of fall. But fall is about much more than sugary lattes and scarves, and you can fully indulge in fall flavors at…

I’m told that there is nothing quite like a live Green Jelly show, where anarchy and foam puppets reign. So perhaps it’s in the spirit of the upcoming show that my intended interview with the mastermind and vocalist behind the…

On Tuesday, November 14 at 7pm, the Fargo Theatre hosted a screening of “The Mission of Herman Stern,” a feature-length documentary chronicling the remarkable humanitarian efforts of the North Dakota businessman and founder, in…

Would you like to escape your stressful daily life with a relaxing arts event? Do you like to meet with old friends and make new ones? Or maybe you would like to start your Christmas and Holiday shopping early. FMVA has the event…

Ted Larson introduced me to Chris Jacobs one evening at Weld Hall in the late 1980s. I was in high school then, but Chris recognized fellow film fanatics, and we would chat a little bit each week. I learned quickly that he loved…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Believe it or not, “The Holidays” are upon us. If you’ve been to Target lately, and I know you have, you may have noticed that the Christmahanakwanzika stuff is already up (if you’re unsure of that term, Google it).In fact,…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Anthony Paul [Editor’s note: This piece contains language that some readers may find offensive]It has been all over social media and the news lately, how our president and commander-in-chief called and spoke with one of these…