5.24.2010

At the Bar with Fallon Bowman

South African-born, Canada-based Fallon Bowman is the former guitarist for and founding member of Kittie.  She has since helmed Amphibious Assault and now Fallon & The Grace Dynasty.  I completed this interview with her on May 24, 2010.

At the risk of making us both sound old, I first fell in awe of you when I was in the 11th grade. A friend showed me the "Spit" album and my eyes immediately went to you. I remember gasping over and over again, "There's a brown girl in Kittie? Really?"  We both thought you were black, at first; later, of course, I learned you're of Indonesian descent. 

Among others! My heritage is closely tied to my birth country's dubious relationship with colonialist aspirations - and clearly - desires as well.

Now, to be very, VERY honest with you, you were the reason I KEPT listening to Kittie. I bought your album, watched your videos, bought your VHS - you name it. I was waiting for more "you time", I guess - more Fallon interviews, more Fallon singing lead - all of that. It didn't come, so naturally, when you left Kittie...I did too.

I don't think I was ready to take on that kind of responsibility in that band. Morgan wasn't at first either - but was truly at her core a band leader for us at that time. I believe now I have grown to be that person too.

When you picked up that guitar and helped form that band, did you realize (at that time) how you could seriously impact girls of color? I ask this because I remember reading an interview in which you said you "gave up on becoming the next Mariah Carey" - that comment, I recall, thoroughly resonated with me at the time.

Not at all - I didn't consciously think of what I was doing as a step for me as a woman of colour - it was more simple than that - being a teenager wanting to be a rockstar. In retrospect however, no one besides maybe Skin was doing that style of music and was also a woman of colour. It's a bit mind blowing really. There was really no one else doing that at that level.


How have fans - recently and in the past - responded to your presence on stage? How have bands you've performed with or opened for responded to you?

I would say mostly with scrutiny at first: I say that because most of the audience were male, and were waiting to see what this 'chick' could dish out. Some with awe and are really impressed. Some with indignation and some with indifference. However fans have almost always been supportive and enthusiastic of my presence on stage.

What countries have you performed in, and how did the different fans respond to you?

I have performed in almost every US State with the exception of Wyoming, N and S Dakota, and Montana. I went as far east as Germany as far north as Sweden, and all across Canada. If I may say, California and Texas have been the states particularly that have responded really well with me - and I'm not sure if there is any correlation there at all but it's just how it is! Pretty much every country has responded well, but as I recall Munich wasn't very welcoming! That was when we were playing with Slipknot though. That's a tough spot to be in: with screaming german metalheads wanting their band, not us. So in a way I couldn't understand, it just made me rock harder.

When I learned about your Amphibious Assault project, I was excited beyond words. What I love about you doing your own thing is I get to hear your voice more. It's very low, but quite rich and strong; you can sustain a note and really belt out a tune! You put so much emotion into your voice that you remind me of the likes of Billie Holliday.

Have people taken note of your vocal range? How much does it factor into your composition? And where does all that emotion come from?

I was always a singer first - with a strong R&B influence (thanks to my sisters and parents). So it makes me happy that people notice I can do something else besides scream and yell (which is fine too sometimes :D ) I hadn't taken any singing lessons until I left the band, and of all things it was singing for musical theatre. My teacher taught me all sorts of vital lessons about maintaining pitch while moving, projection, note sustain, and more. It was absolutely integral to where my voice is now. Therefore, I try and incorporate as much of those lessons as possible to give an almost 'theatrical' aspect to my music.

Concerning emotion, it comes to me from a place I cannot access readily or pinpoint. It just happens. Like my lyrics, that emotion and pain comes from that place too. I know it sounds cheesy but it's actually true.

Speaking of composition, question #6: You're style is distinctive; you're so, so, so, so memorable, which is an excellent asset. Which genres influence you the most? I notice you blend quite a few, and I'm curious to hear about your use of movie clips in your songs.

I would say vocally R&B influences me the most, but musically I listen to a lot of electronic music and rock. So naturally, I try and blend them as much as possible. I really like the contrast with angelic singing and harder music. I always have.

With regards to movie clip usage, I like the use of movie clips to tie into the idea or nuance of a song - for example I used an exchange between Julia Robert's character and Clive Owen's character in 2004's Closer, which is probably one of my favourite plays before it was made into a movie. The song was about sexual freedom and also our society's ideals of 'love' and how things like that complicate life in general. So I picked that exchange because it was the breakdown of those ideals - completely, utterly, and done in the most raw way possible.

How do you write your lyrics? Where does your inspiration come from, and how do you decide to word things? I LOVE the way you title your songs - where on earth do you get the ideas for those?

Lyrics come to me. I don't sit down generally and write things anymore. I used to, with Amphibious Assault especially - set out and write about a specific thing. Now with this project, I let the words come to me. My titles are also an example of things that just come to me. On Better Days and Sin-Eating just seemed like the perfect name - the songs were a lamentation on how I felt my life up until that point had degenerated to where I was not okay with it.

So...I'm the first to interview you about your new project.  Naturally, this brings me to this: what are you working on in terms of albums and shows, and with whom? What brought about Fallon & the Grace Dynasty (you have GOT to explain that name, by the way)?

Album we are slowly working towards getting it done. We are somewhat normal people though, so we all have jobs and have to work around that and things aren't happening as fast I would like. (that's life though!) We have a show coming up on Friday, and we are trying to get as many in as possible. My band are all musicians somehow connected to me in varying degrees and are very talented and wonderful people to work with. My drummer Rhim is already in an established band called the Birthday Massacre, so we are all trying to balance our lives as much as possible! The Grace Dynasty is an homage to where my name supposedly came from. I like the ring of it :)

How many instruments do you play now? You have some excellent keyboard tracks - is that you?

I play guitar, keys, bass, and I sing - I want to learn how to play piano properly though - I think it will help me compose music a lot better. I was never properly trained how to read music or identify notes - i was just born to hear them. I think I need to develop that skill! I wrote all of the keyboard parts but with very basic understanding of how it all works. I think however that is pretty effective - simple works sometimes.

What can fans expect from you in the near future, and what some goals you've set for yourself beyond that?

I hope to do this project as long as I can, but I would also like to do other creative things - not just music, but also theatre/movies, fashion, other aspects of design weather industrial or architectural, for the rest of my life. My fans can expect all sorts of wacky projects from me that will keep them interested for a long time hopefully. My goal ultimately is to create things that people find interesting, and allow me to conceptualize and create at the same time.

Thanks for stopping by the bar, Fallon; it was such an honor to get to talk with you.  Good luck with the new show!

Thank you for doing this. Sorry for the delay; my time has been monopolized by the band :)

4 comments:

  1. why did she leave Kittie I knw its been a while but still...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fallon enjoys R&B and electronica along with metal. Morgan Lander of Kittie does not.

    In short, creative differences.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the interview. I am guilty of misrepresenting her. I was excited when I heard that she was black but then I realize now that a lot of people are misrepresenting her. I think it's cool that she's a woman of color, period. There aren't many Asian, black, native, Latina women, you name, out there. Their numbers are growing. I love her in Amphibious Assault. "Tears in Rain" and "On Better Days and Sin Eating" are some of my favorite songs. And of course, I probably saw my first Kittie video, "Charlotte," when I was in middle school. So don't feel bad about showing your age. I don't feel that old realizing that. It's just been maybe 10 years or so since that time.

    I think for the brown girls out there who love this music it's nice that we can see ourselves among the artists. Straight Line Stitch is coming to town soon and I'm hoping to see them. It would a new experience for me in more ways than one. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think for the brown girls out there who love this music it's nice that we can see ourselves among the artists.

    Amen. That's why for me, it was just love at first sight.

    ReplyDelete

This blog is strictly moderated. Everyone is now able to comment again, however, all Anonymous posts will be immediately deleted. Comments on posts more than 30 days old are generally dismissed, so try to stay current with the conversations.