For a band that claims to have an ordinary story, New York City-based Flying Points are anything but. Drummer Jonathan Julian and Guitarist Dave Bradley worked together at an ad agency when Julian asked Bradley to join his preexisting band. Their original sound, as described by Julian was “if you could somehow meld Pantera and Rage, with [John] Coltrane and bossa nova – that would have been us.” After taking it as far as they could, the duo stumbled across singer Barnes Benson. “He had the vocal tendencies of a young Rod Stewart. Dave and I initially had no idea how to play around it, but we knew it was what we were looking for,” Julian recalls. After what felt like an endless search for a bassist, the trio found Kellie McCormick and the band was at last complete. With influences ranging from Depeche Mode to Stevie Wonder, there’s a little bit of something in the band’s sound that a person can relate to. Recently, Bestnewbands.com caught up with Benson via the power of electronic mail to talk about how he met the original duo, a typical songwriting session and what he thinks about his beloved AS Roma chances this season.
DK: How did the band form? Who are the principles of the group?
BB: How we met was rather un-exceptional. I found Dave and JJ through Craigslist – back when it was used for things other than ‘not’ prostitution. They had been playing together in a friends band and decided to branch off on their own and started looking for a singer. I had just finished college and already didn’t like my job. I wish I remember or knew what their ad said or what I told them I was into – I imagine it would be unrecognizable in the music we play now.
Back then; I can only say that the genre they were playing was somewhat similar to Jazz-pop. JJ and I hit it off pretty much from the start. We have a very similar sense of humor. Dave was a bit harder for me to read, mostly because my first impression of him was his voice mail, and it made him sound just terrible – we still make fun of it today. Because I am tremendously judgmental, I didn’t realize he was the funniest person in the band for a couple of weeks.
The bass search was horrendous. We kept trying to stick square pegs in rounds holes. It would lead to the three of us bickering because we really just wanted to get on with it. After two or three people we decided to specify that we were interested in either a male or a female bassist and that led to Kellie. We met her and stopped looking the next day. It’s just one of things about chemistry – when you get it, you get it.
DK: Take me through a typical songwriting session. Who comes up with the melodies? Is it a group effort or does one person present an idea to build off it?
BB: Traditionally the ideas start with Dave. He’ll write a riff and give it a skeleton and everyone moves in from there. Everyone kind of sticks to their piece: JJ does the drums, Kellie does the bass, I do vocals… once the vocal is set then the structure moves into place. The lyrics are always the last piece. I think more often than not, the feel of the song changes during the process. With us, the timing is always the variable. We have songs that we hashed out in a day without even going to the studio and then we have songs that we’ve recorded and are now deconstructing and changing from a slow love song to an up-tempo alt rock song. I think that stems from how much we’ve changed over time, and each of our preferences. I love dancey sort of Brit-pop. Kellie is into straight pop music. Dave was raised by jazz musicians but prefers alt-rock and Jonathan is literally all over the place in a good way. True to that, early on we had this unique jazz vibe that still makes us laugh to play it in practice. We then beelined it for literally hard rock – I would be yelling every night, everything felt so heavy. And at a certain point we just kind of fell into our groove and I’d say that’s where we are now. Again, chemistry. At a certain point it just feels good.
DK: How did you come up with the name Flying Points?
BB: I feel like Jeff Beebe again because I really wish this story were going to sound cooler. Again, we were all over the place. We’d landed on and changed the name several times early on. And at a certain point I was complaining to my mother that we couldn’t settle on a name. She asked a question or two about why I was in the band – and whether it made me happy. When I said of course she suggested Flying Points, which was the name of a beach I grew up going to. So there you have it, if we achieve any degree of notoriety, then our fans can basically make fun of the fact that my mother named us. Dignity forfeited.
DK: When can we expect to hear your new record? What are some of the themes you tackle on the album? What are some of your influences?
BB: We’ve learned that we prefer to write and record in batches of two or three. Our first record had five songs. The second time, we did ten, which turned out to be much more of an undertaking than any of us really expected – in that it was just really hard to focus on each song as much as we would have liked – and so that recording turned into a five song EP with five B-sides. In other words, five got there, and the others were missing something. Our next release is a four song EP.
These songs don’t have a unifying theme really. I mean there is definitely an identity to them but the themes vary. ‘Sex Toys’ is all about the power struggle in a relationship – it’s a title that people definitely can get the wrong idea about. I feel like we should rename it, ‘Sex Toys (not porn)’. ‘Where We Started’ is about a friend whose life has changed dramatically and it kind of focuses on the idea that I don’t think he is thrilled about where he finds himself today. ‘Lose Your Shirt’ is about that night that every single man wants to have. I love that song. I want to re-record it but only because I want to sing it 100 times into a microphone, again. I love that song.
DK: What are the band’s tentative plans for 2011?
BB: We’re ending the year on a bit of a high. We had a photo shoot that wrapped at the end of summer. We played a residency at Arlene’s [Grocery]. We just unveiled the new website. The new EP and the singles are being rolled-out now with the release at Crash Mansion the second week of December.
We’ve got our first remixes also being released during December as well. I’m really excited about them because it kind of gives new life to an older song from our second EP. And it opens us up to a new audience – the team that did the remixes plays them here and there when they spin and they’ll tell us people ask about the track – there’s nothing better than hearing that.
In January we will have a couple of meetings that decide our year. Either way we will be back in the studio – it is just a question of for what. Either way, I think this is as exciting as it has ever been for us.
DK: As a fan of Italian football, what’s your assessment on the season thus far? Do you think your club can turn it around?
BB: Turn it around? Fifth in the league! Just beat last year’s beaten finalist to all but confirm our progress in the Champions League! As for the World Cup, bah. Didn’t we just win that competition anyway? Also, very pleased with the new Nazionale coach. Good call offloading Aquilani to Juve. Oh wait. Not only is he crushing it there, but Lucas, he seems to really be dominating the midfield.
You can check out Benson and the rest of the Flying Points at Crash Mansion in New York City on December 9. If you want to catch a great live show with lots of antics and great energy, then you should definitely catch the outfit when they play next.