Asheville, N.C based funk warriors The Fritz are back with another super solid release, the soulful and spirited EP entitled Echo. Named for the studio by the same name, Echo finds the band crushing four fantastic tracks with the help of some heavy hitters. A major strength of the band lies in their songcraft, and the songwriting team of Jamie Hendrickson and Jamar Woods really shines on the new release. We caught up with guitarist Hendrickson for a quick chat on the creation of Echo, and Jamie gave us a peek into his process. Then we ran down Echo Studios engineer Josh Blake to discuss more on the making of this brand new record.
B.Getz: Congrats on the tremendous new EP! Let’s talk about the process. How did the Echo EP come to fruition? Take me through the creation and recording sessions.
Jamie Hendrickson: We had a couple of ideas going but for the most part all of the songs were written about two weeks prior before we went in to the studio. We had the dates booked at Echo (Studios), we had the horns players and film crew booked, and we had no music. It was good for us. It was a positive thing. We all thought about it as a positive thing rather than a negative or stressful thing.
As far as writing it, Jamar and I make demos and send stuff back and forth. We are really good friends at this point so we can critique each others stuff pretty harshly without the other person taking it the wrong way and we can also say when say when someone’s like ‘I dunno if I like this…’ we can say just ‘send it over’. I’ll send something I am unsure about to Jamar and he’s like ‘oh, this is perfect!’ and then we take it to the band and then the band actually arranges it. This really helps us make it an actual Fritz song.
Two weeks before that we had a session that was just constant writing, constant rehearsing, throwing stuff out, seeing what works and then pretty much, we rehearsed for a few days before the session and could actually play the songs from start to finish and then we just went in…. it was really fun, it was a really good, positive experience for everybody.”
B: How long did y’all record for?
Jamie: We were only recording for two days. We had a set up day, we recorded for two days and then we did some overdubs and stuff like that but for the most part, we took the best cuts from each song, and picked the best versions.
B: Self produced as a band, too? That’s very impressive Jamie!
Jamie: We produced it as a band, and the EP. It’s as close to a live version as we can get. Each song we are releasing a video and you know, it’s pretty much just live takes of us playing.
We played each song a few times, we wanted it to have that kind of feeling. You know, our last studio album, we did more of a traditional way of building the drums and bass tracks, and then overdubbing a lot of stuff and then overdubbing solos. But for this, it’s in the moment, live and trying not worry about getting everything so perfect but trying to capture a feeling of just playing, playing music together. A feeling we get all the time when we are playing live, because in the studio, it’s a whole ‘nother beast. Then you throw in the incredible guests we were lucky to have on the horns, Justin Stanton and Chris Bullock from Snarky Puppy, plus the amazing Natalie Cressman. Very excited for how this all came out.
B: Right on. Do you have a particular favorite song, or jam? You had a big hand in this project.
Jamie: I think the two songs Jamar and I collab’d on 50/50, and those are the two best songs, I think. The two tunes are ‘Unique History’ and ‘Nothing to Find.’I think the whole band would agree, and then the other two songs, he did one and I did one and they are great, they are cool, but there’s something about when you can get out of your zone and collab with another person and be open to their ideas and then suddenly you have created something that is hopefully unique to that collaboration. That is the joy of working with someone else, it forces you to have to be ‘okay, this wasn’t my initial idea, but it’s probably going to end up being the best.’ By the time you get out of it, it really does create a whole unique thing, like where did this even come from?
B: Do you think we will hear some of the new EP at Hulaween? That fest and the music park itself is kinda like your home away from home, right? I’ve been seeing The Fritz at SOSMP for years its seems!
Jamie: yeah, we will definitely be playing some of it. If not, all of it. We kind of write the set list right before we start playing but I would imagine we are going to be playing a good chunk of it at least.
B: Any parting shots for The Fritz faithful or newcomers to your vibe?
Jamie: The EP is called Echo. It came out on October 13th. We already have one video that we have put out for it, but each song, we are going to put out a video slowly over time, but the entire release will be available streaming and vinyl. Something we have never done before, the vinyl release, and that is pretty exciting, a limited amount, probably under 500.
B: Thanks Jamie!
Josh Blake Interview
The Echo EP was recorded at the studio by the same name; we wanted to supplement Jamie’s recollections with some context from the project’s enginner Josh Blake. An excellent guitarist and songwriter in his own right, Blake was a founding member of the seminal hip-hop collective Granola Funk Express, among many other projects. We asked him to color in the Echo EP picture a little further.
B. Getz: How did you get hip to The Fritz? I know you all live and jam in the cozy confines of Asheville, N.C.
Josh Blake: I first met the guys from The Fritz when they started showing up at The Tuesday Night Funk Jam we’ve been running down here for the last 11years. Such nice and humble kids and so skilly, we quickly became friends and started circling around and often playing together in different formats and jams. We’ve definitely stayed tight through the growth and development of the music scene here in Asheville, and Jamar has become a regular in the house band at Funk Jam for a few years now, whenever he can make it or we need a sub.
B. – How did you get involved in the Echo EP sessions?
J.B. -So when they asked me to help them record their new album it was a no brainer. I’ve always been a huge fan of theirs, as individuals and as a band, so I was naturally excited to dig into creating some studio magic with them. When they told me they were adding horns to the record, I started listening to their tunes and imaging them with horns…..and then they dropped who they were bringing in (Stanton, Bullock, Cressman) I knew we had all the ingredients to make something epic.
Lo and behold they over delivered. All the tunes came out amazing, and quickly made The Fritz with horns one of my new favorite new things to listen to. Just enough pocket to keep it popping and just enough musicality to make it spicy.
B. -Gimme your number one takeaway from the experience in the studio with The Fritz
J.B. I think one of the things that really stood out to me the most, and what ultimately made these tunes come out so amazing, was how well prepared they were. This wasn’t their first time stepping into the studio environment, so they walked in with purpose and direction and it really helped everything run smoothly. The band was snap tight – really well rehearsed, and Jamar had all spent hours writing such killer horn charts for the guests and all of them worked so well together to create a common vision, which in a band is a special thing. I even asked Jamar about their songwriting process, and he said it’s a full group effort even down to co-writing the lyrics. I feel like that’s super rare, a special thing I hope they can hold onto for a long long time.
I’m so stoked on this record, super honored to be a part of it. Making dope music with homies is the best. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it! I’m also pumped to be supporting them for their hometown CD release Party next weekend… bringing it full circle from stage to studio!!
As told to B.Getz