NadaMucho.com Interview – The Evens
Q & A with Amy Farina
By Justin Vela
Amy Farina enjoys action more than words. In photos, she’s behind a drum set, her back stiff, mouth pressed up to the mike, her hands a blur of motion.
Currently, Amy is the encompassing rhythm section of the somewhat mysterious “where did they come from” band The Evens, whose sole other members happens to be none other than Fugazi’s legendary front man, Ian MacKaye.
She speaks quietly and in a very controlled way. Her voice has a mellow, Zen calm to it using straightforward sentences. When speaking with her, I quickly realized that she is not motivated by ego and she tells it as it is.
When we spoke, Farina had just come back from painting a mural.
Nada Mucho: So who are you and what do you do?
Amy Farina: I am Amy, I’m in a band called the Evens and I play drums. I’m also a mural painter.
NM: How did you get started playing drums?
AF: I had an older brother who had a lot of musical instruments around the house. The drums were just the instrument I was drawn to and when my brother got a drum set he taught me how to play. After he moved away, he left the set and I’ve played off and on since.
NM: Are you from DC?
AF: No, I grew up in south central Pennsylvania, about 2 hours from DC. Where I grew up, DC, Philadelphia and New York weren’t too far away, so as we spent a lot of time there. DC was one that I really liked. I had a lot of friends I connected to. As soon as I graduated from high school I moved here, went to school and never left.
NM: How did you first get into DC punk community?
AF: I had an older brother who introduced me to punk and I was completely captivated by it all. I started going to shows and hanging out with punks. DC was so close by and I had made friends, so when I moved here I already had a group of people that I connected with.
NM: Do you work outside of mural painting and the Evens?
AF: No, actually, not at the moment. Both of those things take up a lot of time. The Evens have taken up the most time. In the last year we’ve been doing a lot of writing, recording and touring.
NM: How did you and Ian MacKaye get started playing together?
AF: We’ve known each other for a long time. We’d see each other at shows and talk about music. At a certain point, Ian had more time because Fugazi was taking a break. When I moved into a place where I could play drums, Ian suggested I move them out to the basement in his house. So we started playing together. We really didn’t know what to expect, but discovered ourselves to be pretty compatible.
NM: Was it a conscious thing to do something quieter?
AF: Yeah. I love loud music and quiet music. I love music of all kinds. But I think that in my own little musical microcosm there was a lot of volume. I always had a dream of being able to play in a living room or in a backyard, places like that. And I think Ian shared this. He’s spent a lot of time playing in big rock clubs. It was very conscious.
NM: What was it like the first time you played together?
AF: It was like anything that you do that is collaborative. If you’ve ever written a song, done a painting, or a poem – it’s super cerebral and can be mind-blowing and also super frustrating. It was like that. It was kind of this Unknown. We didn’t really know what we were doing and we just decided, “Alright, let’s write a song!”
We were actually pretty surprised that not only did we write a song, but we also wrote one that we both thought was good. I can only speak for myself in that I was really surprised to find that we could write and play together. For me that was a really, really great memory. I had no expectations. Ian was just this good friend who I thought was very creative and then to discover that we shared the ability to play together. It was great.
NM: Well maybe he doesn’t consider himself to be one, but a lot of people do consider Ian MacKaye to be a sort of legend in the Indie rock world. What’s it like working with him? Do people ever yell for you to play Fugazi songs?
AF: That’s funny. That’s only happened to us once and it was actually somebody we knew playing a really evil joke on us. Generally people have been very human.
Before anything, Ian is my friend. That mindset doesn’t ever enter into it for me. I don’t think of Ian as anything other than my friend and my band mate. We spent a lot of time writing music and playing for our friends and family, but when we decided to play some shows and put a record out I was well aware that people’s interest in the band would be largely, if not entirely, linked to Ian as a well-known person. So it’s kind of in the fabric. It’s just not something that really affects me in any other kind of way.
NM: You toured before your record was released. How was that?
AF: It was good. We have been really fortunate from the beginning that people have been really generous and super receptive.
I’ve played music and been in bands for a long time and it’s normal to be in bands and play music that people don’t know. We’ve made an effort to play in less rock-oriented places. We played in a museum and did a bunch of mini-tours before our record came out and did one in Europe. Now that our record’s out we’ve played a few shows, but we haven’t actually toured. I just feel really fortunate to be able to play.
NM: That album itself, some of the lyrics are very beautiful and very visual. And then some really don’t seem too hopeful for society.
AF: I’m not completely sure to what you’re referring. First of all, thank you for the beautiful comment and thank you for reading the lyrics. I am defiantly hopeful. I spend a lot of time completely baffled and distraught when I see what’s going on in my town, in my country and around the world.
NM: Do you still think artists have the ability to move people?
AF: Definitely. It happens to me constantly.
I remember a couple of years ago there was a big demonstration against the US invading Afghanistan. I knew that Patty Smith was going to be there, but didn’t know what time or what she was doing. She talked and sang. It was just like such an incredible kick in the ass for everyone. She was just so incredible and I think I was just one of the thousands who were totally energized by what she had to offer.
Last night I saw a documentary about the Minutemen. I’m not actually sure who made it, but it’s great. I’m a Minutemen fan and I have been for a long time, but it’s been a while since I’ve dug out their records, but seeing it and listening to their lyrics and seeing the way they thought about music and life totally blew my mind. Great inspiration.
NM: Who are your main influences in music?
AF: I don’t have many I can just list. I am a huge fan of all kinds of music. The more I take in music and the older I get, the more it affects me. When you’re young and first getting into music, it’s really mind expansive. As you get older and go through things a bit, it loses its mind expansiveness for some people. I know for me I go to see music all the time. I am continually blown away by songs – people’s songwriting, playing or their presence. And it’s all equal. It could be a neighborhood mariachi band or a punk band. Sorry to be so vague, but I love it all.
NM: Do you have influences outside of music?
AF: Yeah, everything. (Laughs) I am influenced by absolutely everything. I try to be as receptive as possible.
NM: How do you get an idea for a song?
AF: For me usually I get a sonic idea or words. The words form out of this mound and as they’re forming I try to find their meaning. Sometimes that is easy and sometimes that is difficult, but for me it is really important to find out what they’re meaning.
NM: When will the Evens make it back to West Coast?
AF: Hopefully this year. We’ve got a lot of mid-Atlantic shows planned for later this year, and a few other things on the horizon, but hopefully this year. That is the plan.