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Fair to Midland bring originality to hard rock

WBCN radio personalities Toucher and Rich have a contest entitled “Know Your Butt Rock,” which pokes fun at the indistinguishable quality of today’s hard rock. Contestants are given brief clips of songs and asked to identify the band. It’s harder than it sounds, and this is because of the unoriginal nature of so-called “heavy” bands that pollute modern rock airwaves.

It’s safe to say that the hard rock of Texas’ Fair to Midland resists categorization. They recently signed to System of a Down’s lead singer Serj Tankian’s “Serjical Strike” record label, worked with Tool producer David Bottrill, are currently on tour with Japanese screamo band Dir En Grey, and, according to lead singer Darroh Sudderth, are fans of “old-school country, piano-driven rock, electronica, stoner rock, 80’s indie pop, and Delta blues.”

Their insanely powerful live show, a blend of these influences, is earning them rave reviews and a loyal following across the country. At Avalon on Wednesday night the band flowed confidently from heavy, chopped riffs through orchestral piano breakdowns and back to angular guitar lines as Sudderth showcased his impressive vocal chops, from a Robert Plant wail to a Slayer growl and everything in between.

The set was culled from their upcoming album, to be released on April 24 and entitled Fables From a Mayfly, as well as their recent The Drawn and Quartered EP. The epic “Seafarer’s Knot” condensed everything that the band is capable of into a swelling, seething experience, an indicator of things to come.

Fair to Midland is a band on the rise. After self-producing two albums, their buzz caught the ears of Tankian who signed them and continues to support them. Sudderth says, “Serj has been great. We were hesitant at first that the general public would feel we were riding his coattails, but he’s been great. Some people have been trying to take advantage, you know, cut corners because we’re new to this, but he’s the first one to step in and say ‘That’s not right’.”

Another big name attached to the band is Bottrill, who has worked with Tool and Godsmack. Sudderth describes the recording process, which resulted in him losing chunks of hair due to anxiety, “It was pretty stressful, a lot of pressure. It was fun at the same time, but they don’t develop acts anymore. It’s make or break, and I myself personally could literally feel the pressure.”

Fair to Midland’s goal is simply to sell enough records to be able to make another one. They have jammed their foot in the door with their live show, displaying genuine creativity, impressive chops, and incredible intensity. Sudderth and company are ready to bring their originality to hard rock fans sick of the same old thing “Eclectic is the only way we know how to write songs,” he says, “and it takes us forever to write a song. Each one of us tries to make it our own, and that’s what makes it what it is.” What it is may not be easily described, but it is easy to recognize that whatever it is, Fair to Midland has it.

By: Jed Heneberry, Associate Editor