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The Interview: The Fake Fictions

By Sarah Dahnke in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 4, 2006 4:10PM

Music critics have been quick to drop the "twee" label onto The Fake Fictions, but it seems that any band that writes fast, peppy, short tunes is in danger of the same allegations. The Fake Fictions are not a cheesy pop band that only 14-year-olds enjoy. With guitar licks that sound lifted from a Futureheads album and that everybody-jump-up-and-down sort of feel, it's hard for anyone of any age to not totally dig this trio.

2006_12_4_fakefictions.jpgSince moving to Chicago in 2004, The Fake Fictions have managed to keep a steady calendar of shows around the city, in addition to their first-ever performance at the CMJ Music Marathon this year. The band's live performances are the foremost reason to fall in love with this band. Their sound is always loud and guitar-heavy. They have catchy hooks that are contagious. And Nick will undoubtedly end up on top of something — an amp, a table, a speaker, the crowd — before the performance is over. Chicagoist has never seen an audience member have a bad time at a Fake Fictions show.

We were honored that Nick and Sarah, the power couple of the three-piece, sat down with us and chatted a little about the band's history and their transition from being a Virginia-based band to a Chicago-based band.

Chicagoist: I know that you and Sarah met in college, and you met Ben though Craigslist. But can you tell us the full version of the Fake Fictions fairytale?

Nick: Sarah and I met in college, fell in love, and started a band. That band ended up playing around Virginia for a few years, but it wasn’t always a fun experience being a couple in that band. There was a lot of tension with one of the other band members, who would accuse us of ganging up on him and trying to take over the band, stuff like that. So after I graduated from college and we moved to Richmond, Va., in 2001, we decided that we wanted to do different things musically for a while. Sarah started Times Ten, which was basically a superdistorted pop band, and I started the Id, which was a little more skewed and atonal. Sarah and I still had some home recording projects together that were more relaxed and informal, which I think ended up being good because we learned a little more about actually collaborating on music.

In 2004, we moved to Chicago, and decided that we should try being in a band together again, one that combined our sensibilities. We started writing some songs with the goal of being poppy and catchy but having some kind of lyrical idea or guitar riff or something that might not be what you would expect in a pop song. After a few false starts at looking for a drummer, we found Ben on Craigslist. Although he had been in bands for years, he had never played drums in a band before, a fact he cleverly hid from us until he had burrowed his way into our hearts. We’ve been writing songs as a band since April 2004 and started playing shows in September of 2004.

Chicagoist: How did you guys end up in Chicago anyway?

Sarah: The Richmond scene was a lot of fun. Everyone played in a band and had a good time. However, there were only a handful of places you could play, so we kept playing the same venues there and in Charlottesville, Williamsburg, DC, and Norfolk. Meanwhile, the hardcore punk scene was growing and our pool of non-married, non-babied friends was shrinking. We started visiting a whole bunch of cities we were drawn to, including Baltimore, Philly, & Chapel Hill, but when we got to Chicago, we just knew it was The One.

Chicagoist: Your live sets are composed of a series of short songs that seem as if they are composed to make the listener immediately want to hear another. Is it better to write and perform a punchy two-minute pop song, rather than a 10-minute complicated noise ballad? Do you ever find yourself having to edit your songs to make them shorter?

Nick: I would say this tendency springs from several factors: Short attention span, lack of physical stamina, [and] a desire to turn these weaknesses into strengths.

Plus we started the Fake Fictions with the goal of being a pop band, and a good measuring stick is that a pop song should fit on one side of a 7-inch.

We never edit songs to make them shorter just for the sake of being shorter, but we do edit them to get rid of any parts that seem unnecessary or like they might just be there to bring a song up to “proper song length.”

Plus, most bands just play too fucking long.

Chicagoist: Where do you get the inspiration for your rock star persona? You're always standing on top of amps and jumping into the crowd when you perform. But off of the stage, you're a pretty mild-mannered kind of dude.

Nick: Although I may seem mild-mannered, I am basically an asshole at heart. Being in a rock band is one of the few situations in modern society where acting like an asshole is accepted, or even rewarded. Being in the Fake Fictions is a chance for me to release my inner asshole.

Chicagoist: This year you guys played for a good-sized crowd at CMJ. Was this your first performance there as the Fake Fictions? How was it?

Sarah: Yes! It went pretty well. The whole trip was a blast. We finally got to meet one of our heroes, Dana Carlson, who did the artwork for our most recent album Raw Yang. Also, we got to play with some great bands, like I Need Sleep, Canasta and Brighton MA.

Chicagoist: You and Sarah have been in a band together for a couple of years, live together and are engaged. I'm sure everyone asks you this, but how do you make sure you don't flip out on each other after all of that living and working together? Do you ever argue during the songwriting process?

Sarah: It just so happens that Nick and I don't mind spending a lot of time together. Also, we still have our day jobs, so we have at least forty hours a week of pining to see each other again. We honestly rarely argue about songs any more. If anything gets tense, it is just because one of us needs to eat or take a nap.

Chicagoist: Why does Flavorpill love you guys so much? They seriously list you every week. Are you paying someone under the table?

Nick: We stood outside of their house, holding a boombox over our heads, blasting “In Your Eyes,” until they admitted that they love us. It’s a new promotional technique we’re working on.

Catch The Fake Fictions live at the Empty Bottle tonight with Mannequin Men and Shopping. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and there is no cover.