New York is busting at the seams with killer bands, and this one is definitely a front runner! Badass Band 30 is one that caught my attention at first with the vocals alone but as I worked my way through their album, I was impressed by the entirety of their musicianship. The band I speak of is Flying Points.
Yet again, where would my musical endeavors be without twitter?! This is again how I found this band. After a couple of clicks I was on Flying Points’ website and was perusing my way around testing out the tunage I found there. I clicked on ‘Being Nice’ first and thought it was pretty good. I went on to listen to the rest of their album, which includes, ‘New Days’, ‘Summer Girl’ and ‘4 Years’, but it was ‘The Process’ that really drove the bargain and sold me on Flying Points. Why ‘The Process’? Honestly, because on that track their lead singer, sounds reminiscent of one of my all time favorite lead singers, Joe Strummer. However, lyrics like ‘Show me some of eternity’ and the fun combination of male and female vocals on ‘New Day’ makes this is another highly noteworthy track. Things that this band does well is crank out deep bass lines, combined with smart lyrics and killer vocals, no matter what ‘genre’ the track falls under. Yet again, I lean towards bands that are diverse not only from album to album, but from track to track, and this band fits that bill easily.
Flying Points boasts four members: Barnes Benson on vocals, Dave Bradley on guitar, Jonathan Julian on drums and Kellie McCormick on bass. Each member brings a unique style to the band and the combination of them all is demonstrated in the diversity of their album. They label themselves ‘Indie Pop’ but I label them ‘Indie Melting Pot’. The bottom line is, they make fun music that you need to listen to.
Recently, Barnes, Kellie and Jonathan were kind enough to take some time to do an interview for BBB, so read on music lovers and find out why they sometimes call their shows ‘formal nights’, why they are perfect when ‘quiet isn’t what you’re looking for’, and who owns ‘Sexual Chocolate’.
When and why did each of you start playing?
BARNES (Vocals): I’ll always say that I am the least talented member of the band, because I don’t play anything. I’ve performed since I was 5, but it never felt like work, it was just something I did. I always felt lucky that I wasn’t tone deaf, or that I could discern pitch. I’ve picked up the guitar and the piano, and that is exactly how I know I am not musically gifted. Instruments are impossible for me. If I had to sing and hold a guitar, I would epically fail.
KELLIE (Bass): I started playing guitar in 8th grade, mainly because the guitar belonged to my older brother and I wanted his things. I started singing because intro songs to 3’s Company and Duck Tales were too good not to sing along with. It wasn’t until college that bass guitar finally occurred to me. Some friends approached me about needing a bassist for their punk band, and I gave that a go. I’m so glad I did, because bass such a natural fit for me. I’m a scientist by training, so I tend to break anything down into patterns anyways. Plus it’s so much better playing bass in a band than playing acoustic guitar alone.
JONATHAN (Drums): I kinda had an infatuation w/ music from an early age. My parents decided to get me piano lessons at five yrs old after incessant pleading. I just liked it – it was fun for me. Then piano became that proverbial gateway drug, as I wanted to learn everything I can get my hands on. I picked up guitar and bass shortly after. I failed miserably at the violin, but really found my true love at age nine when my parents, God bless em, bought me my first drum set. It was all downhill from there. Just ask the neighbors.
How did you become ‘Flying Points’ and what is the significance of the name?
BARNES: I met JJ and Dave many hairstyles ago. They were playing together and the first time the three of us played, I think we all knew this was our band. We laughed a lot, and I think that has bridged every gap that bands come up against. We all have different tastes and influences, but there is enough overlap that we’ve somehow managed to co-exist. We get excited about the same songs. It’s funny, now that we’re all a bit more grown up, I wonder if we had to start over again, and find a new band, what would we all look for? I somehow wonder whether we’d all manage to come together again – we are four fairly distinct, stubborn, and foolish individuals.
KELLIE: The boys had been together for a few years before I came along. I was honestly looking for an all-girl band, but I was going through this phase where I was having so much fun answering all the Craigslist ads for bassists in NYC. It’s like dating, except there’s no free dinner and you have to connect with 3 people instead of just 1. I answered Barnes’ cryptic Craigslist ad with zero expectations, and we all just hit it off right away. Much like dating, you know right away when you’ve found The One.
We picked the name Flying Points because somehow it just sounds like us. We’re all distinct individuals, but together we just make sense and we have so much fun.
JONATHAN: Dave and I used to work together in advertising. I asked him to join a band I was in. Shortly after, I realized his and my goals were much more aligned than that band, so we ventured off on our own. We spent the next year and a half over at Smash studios, playing incessantly. We didn’t have a name at the time, but we now lovingly refer to that duo as “Scorched Earth” – which best described us: heavy, melodic, crazy time changes, no vocals. It was amazing, but we knew we wanted to take this further. We toned down the viciousness, and started posting ads for singers. Barnes was probably the 3rd or 4th guy to respond. He certainly looked the part, but to our surprise, had this great, unique voice. He was the first guy to properly sing over the music. But most importantly, we all got along – he was immediately in. Kellie was another one of those “a-ha” moments – we were going thru bassists like drumsticks. Nothing stuck. We posted one last Craigslist ad, and for fun, added “guy or girl”. Sure enough, in walks Kellie, this bubbly Southern Californian, and we all hit it off immediately. She played well, was beautiful, and had a sense of humor. It was a perfect match.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
BARNES: I am fairly convinced that the early music I listened to was deplorable. Drunk on a Tuesday in a karaoke bar, it would be acceptable, but in broad daylight, we cannot utter such blasphemy. It’s funny; so much of what I love to listen to now, is from when I was growing up – but I didn’t listen to it then. I blame my parents. The 80s were incredible, way more than the guilty pleasure reputation it seems to have taken on now. I’d say the 90s are the new guilty pleasure decade. The 80s were just amazing. Seriously, why are there not more 90s parties?
KELLIE: I’m from California and grew up listening to the brilliant KROQ in LA. Their ongoing show roqofthe80s.com pretty much captures my childhood: the Smiths, Duran Duran, the B-52’s, Beasties. Other influences include my dad’s love of ELO and my ongoing love affair with the Beatles. Today, I do think that 80’s alternative is a big influence on Flying Points. We love music that is infectious, melodic, fun.
JONATHAN: I was a product of my parent’s record collection, which indulged in everything from The Beatles to Barbra Streisand to Simon & Garfunkel to Burt Bacharach. It kinda taught me early that you can learn so much from listening to as wide a spectrum of music as possible. I soon became that weird little boy in Kindergarten with the “Kiss” lunchbox and eventually the kid in high school with the denim jacket riddled with all those awful metal patches. But I also had this wonderful older sister who would simultaneously expose me to different stuff like The Cure, Ministry, Joy Division and Depeche Mode. That approach to music still resonates with me today. Hitting “shuffle” on my iPod would bring up stuff like Sleigh Bells, Slayer, then something equally awesome like John Coltrane.
Which musicians do you admire? Why?
BARNES: Any singers that can play and sing have my immediate respect. I like to pretend that if we were full time musicians, I would get over that hump, but for now, I don’t have the gift. There is a lot of music that I marvel at, it tends to be the kind of stuff that FP would just never write – stuff that is a different genre. There are just so many. I love way too much music.
KELLIE: Musicians who experiment with new sounds to make infectious dance music (David Guetta, Girl Talk). Musicians who strip away glossy digital perfection and record on tape (Jack White, Foos).
JONATHAN: I have a deep respect for a bunch of musicians. They range from legends like Quincy Jones to artists of today like Jack White. Maybe I am bias by virtue of instrument, but I have always admired the “drummer-slash-something’s”. Folks like Dave Grohl, Don Henley or even Phil Collins – guys who did not limit themselves and ventured off from behind the kit. Those are the folks I aspire to. As long as it doesn’t involve the violin.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
BARNES: Yes – but it’s nervous excitement rather than just nerves. I just want to have fun. I want everyone to be loose and enjoy it. It’s why we write music. We want to share it with as many people as we can and I wholly believe that if we are having fun, everyone in the room will too.
KELLIE: I used to get nervous, but now I just get pumped up. Also it helps if my makeup is perfect.
JONATHAN: I think I would describe the feeling more as excitement. At the end of the day, no one wants to fuck up at what they do, so I guess there is some element of nervousness as well. For me, it comes down to just trying to put on a solid show for people who’ve come out of their way to come see what you’re about. There’s really is no comparable feeling to have people feed off your energy onstage.
Any rituals before a show?
BARNES: Get there way too early and drink way too much.
KELLIE: Push up bra. Flawless makeup application.
JONATHAN: It may sound cliche, but it usually includes alcohol. This band tends to have a fondness for bourbon, particularly Maker’s Mark – so it’s not uncommon to indulge a bit in that. For me, I usually like to watch the earlier bands. Again, it stems from a respect of seeing others put themselves out there like that. You can’t not react to it, regardless of how good/awful they are.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
BARNES: We like to dress up for the occasion – I mean we are trying to put on show. That isn’t to say flair for the sake of flair, but we wear things that remind us that it isn’t a normal night. It always means a lot to us to play live. I think that is where the nerves come from – everyone deals with it in their own way. We like to throw in a cover or two of some current top 40 tracks. Those tend to go over in the right way, in that people think it’s funny, but we’d never play them if people didn’t think they weren’t also good. Nothing is better than people singing along to your own songs though.
KELLIE: Sometimes we like to call it a formal night, and we’ll dress up real nice. I do like get my hair did and wear something sparkly. High heels are a must. But otherwise, we probably look like 4 normal people taking the stage. We do bring an energy and an enthusiasm that will get the crowd on our side.
JONATHAN: There are some limits to being a four piece up there, compared to, say – Earth, Wind and Fire. I was always curious as to how we are perceived up there. I am told that Barnes and Kellie tend to be the focus of our shows. Dave tends to have a lock-tight focus on his instrument. I’m usually hidden by the drums. But our shows have been generally described as “lively” and “fun”. We tend to break it up by the occasional cover tune. Those covers have ranged from Fleetwood Mac to Katy Perry to The Outfield – it’s gotta be more out of the box. We really do give it our all up there – hopefully it comes off that way.
How does your creative process typically work?
BARNES: We’ve got two methods – all in a room, everyone warm, and just playing, throwing ideas around. Otherwise, Dave will bring in a guitar rif, and we’ll build a song from that. Sometimes everything falls in rather quickly, sometimes it’s a little more painful. Regardless it is fun.
KELLIE: Typically Dave brings in some riffs, and we use them as lighter fluid to build around that. I love it when it all comes together really fast. Some nights, absolutely everything falls into place, barnes’ vocal, jonathan’s drums. We really do have an amazing chemistry as musicians, and the longer we’ve been together, the more we know how to push each other farther.
JONATHAN: We tend to have a bit of an organic approach to songwriting. You look at someone like Noel Gallagher, who pretty much composed and wrote all of the Oasis songs. That’s fantastic, but something I don’t think I could ever want to be a part of. For us, sometimes Dave will bring in a guitar melody as an idea, and we will plug away in the rehearsal space for the next few hours, adding/deleting ideas along the way. Sometimes, it’s lightning in a bottle, and sometimes it’s a song that gets scrapped and revisited 3 yrs later. To this day, I still marvel at how easy it is for us to get along musically…
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?
BARNES: I think some very good people have gotten involved, thrown their weight behind us, and said ‘I believe in FP’, but I would also say that the biggest breaks are still ahead of us. We’ve written for ages, but we’re still babies in terms of trying to push our band out into the world. It’s the hardest part – or perhaps writing just seems easier.
KELLIE: Recently we’ve gotten a bunch of radio play in the tristate area and in London, which has been tremendously exciting. We’ve had such a positive response to our music thus far. I feel that our big break is just around the corner. I know we’ve got something truly amazing in the Flying Points, and it’s just going to take a little something extra to take it to the tipping point.
JONATHAN: I think we’re fortunate in that we have had people pulling for us along the way. We’ve caught the ear of some industry folks, so we’ll see what becomes of that. I honestly think that the great opportunities lie ahead of us.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
BARNES: A lack of inner band conflict – I wish I fought with the rhythm section more. They’re so loud. Jerks. Also, I’d say I wish it was easier to promote us, but we’ve only just begun doing that and it seems like it has been a fairly natural process. There are avenues out there for indie bands – but everyone knows the battle unknowns face.
KELLIE: The biggest challenge is that we can’t do this full time right now. There’s so much that we want to do, music we want to write, etc, but jobs really can get in the way.
JONATHAN: I think the biggest challenge thus far is the same challenge every new unsigned band faces – trying to get yourself out there and differentiate yourself from the pack. The first thing most people ask when they hear you’re in a band is “who do you sound like?” That in and of itself is limiting, cause I honestly think we don’t sound like many bands out there right now.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
BARNES: We’ve got a new EP due out in April and we’re releasing some old b-sides in the build up to that. Additionally we’re planning a release party in April and a mini-tour this summer. There are so many friends we want to visit and play for so it will be fun to actually get out and do that.
KELLIE: We’ve got new music coming very soon! We’ve been in the studio over the past month and baked out a few really amazing songs. Can’t wait for people to hear the new stuff!
JONATHAN: We are finishing up our third EP. It’s coming along fantastically – we couldn’t be more excited for it. We’ll be embarking on our first video, which should be interesting. And lastly, we will be doing a mini-tour in the summer. All good things.
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
BARNES: ‘Flying Points – When quiet isn’t what you are looking for.’ I should be punched for saying something so trite, but I like that we don’t sound like a lot of others out there. People liken us to a lot of bands, and I think that is because there isn’t a natural fit. I have a reasonably unique voice; Dave has a unique style of playing. We have very dissimilar influences, and that lends to a fairly chaotic sound. We’re a lot of things happening at once in each song.
KELLIE: Flying Points makes feel good music. As a band, we have so much fun together and we’ve got so much chemistry. I think you can really hear that in the music. We are not the band that makes sad or angry music. We’d rather try something new and have fun with it.
JONATHAN: I don’t know if our songs are for universal consumption or something you would hear blasting from a mini-van, but it definitely is catchy with a slight edge to it. My mom really likes it, but what mother wouldn’t be supportive?! No slogan, but our mascot would probably be a cracked Maker’s bottle…
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
BARNES: 5 album deals for all bands named Flying Points? I think there is so much good music out there that no one knows about. I was in Bristol, UK a year ago and heard a few local bands. They were outstanding. Each one was better than the next… it was inspiring. They are plugging away in Bristol, just as bands are everywhere, and just because there is so much volume, the odds are stacked that many of them will never get their break. I love the story of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – I wish that happened more often because we could replace a couple artists on the charts with something that maybe deserves to be there a little more on a more consistent basis.
KELLIE: On one hand, it’s cool that any band can afford to make a decent recording and put it out there digitally in several different formats. On the other hand, it’s harder to stand out from the crowd.
JONATHAN: My wish is that labels would actively make a point of not going for the fast buck and give a chance to less obvious acts. I honestly think if someone like an Aretha Franklin or even Bruce Springsteen were to come out today, they wouldn’t be given the opportunities they were given then. More diverse artists need to be given the chance to thrive. But that’s just me being idealistic.
One song you never get tired of.
BARNES: Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes. It is ugly how many playlists that shows up on.
KELLIE: Flying Points – Sex Toys. The Beatles – Blackbird
JONATHAN: Don’t laugh, but lately it’s Madonna’s “Borderline” – that has one of the best pre-choruses I have ever heard. Makes me jealous…
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
BARNES: U2 on the All You Can’t Leave Behind Tour – their catalogue of music is unfair.
KELLIE: Prince, once in 1997 and again in 2012. The man is unreal.
JONATHAN: Toss-up btwn Rod Stewart’s Out of Order Tour ‘90 (back when he used to kick soccer balls out into the arena and didn’t sing all his song 3 steps down) or the Big 4 concert in Yankee stadium (the sky turned black in mere seconds when Slayer broke into “Raining Blood”)
BARNES: Disney’s Peter Pan. Let’s round out the top five: High Fidelity, Shawshank Redemption, Gladiator, Swingers. Honorable Mention: Almost Famous
JONATHAN: “Internal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – you’re not human if that movie doesn’t move you.
BARNES: Alex Garland – The Beach. Do not mention that there was a movie made based on this book. Their wasn’t. It didn’t exist (shakes his head in dismay).
KELLIE: Jane Eyre and LOTR. Nerd alert!
JONATHAN: “Salem’s Lot” by Steven King – I keep wanting to go back and read it over to see if it would have the same effect on me as it did all those yrs ago…
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
BARNES: Skiing – it is therapy.
KELLIE: I work too much to have other hobbies
JONATHAN: Currently it is running – it’s my punishment to myself for smoking all those years
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
BARNES: Anyone of the Gummy Bears
KELLIE: Anytime there’s an asian girl as supporting character in the cast of a show, that’d be me.
JONATHAN: Billy Ocean. Wait, he was real?!!
Best prank you have ever pulled?
BARNES: Convincing anyone that I can sing.
KELLIE: I don’t really do that.
JONATHAN: Not much of a prankster. I’m not that fun…
BARNES: Fortunately there isn’t just one. I’d be a neurotic mess if there were.
KELLIE: I love my guitars.
JONATHAN: My brown Gibson SG – I call her “Sexual Chocolate”.
If you had only 5 minutes on Earth to perform one song that would leave an impact on the world today, what would it be and why?
BARNES: I’d love to play Sex Toys for a really large audience – just because I have no idea if they would get into it.
KELLIE: Sex Toys.
JONATHAN: I would play “Sex Toys” cause I am convinced that song is impossible to not like. If you’re not bopping your head on tapping your foot to the beat – again, you are not human.
What kind of jobs did you have before you were in the music industry?
KELLIE: I was a scientist. Used to study the cardioprotective effects of chocolate and wine.
JONATHAN: Meh, a bunch of advertising gigs, but the most interesting job I ever had was helping clean a church with a buddy in 6th grade. Being in the chapel alone scared the shit outta me and I quit after 2 wks…
FIND FLYING POINTS HERE: