It’s weird to write an article about yourself - but as it turned out, nobody else was dying to write this for me. So hi, I’m Neil, founder of NJ based band Fairmont. We were always just a small indie rock band that one rock critic so eloquently said, “…shouldn’t hope for anything more than being a local band.” Well, first off, fuck that guy. We accomplished what we set out to accomplish, which was to write records for 20 years. Along the way we’ve charted on the College Radio charts and even had our music in a few movies and TV shows. So hey, I’m not complaining. We toured and played all the venues in the US that I considered cool spots to play. There was never an end goal. I just wanted to write songs and record them until I couldn’t anymore, and that was it. I’ve gotten lucky enough over the years to be able to play with some amazing musicians like Christian Kisala (a vibraphone, keyboard, marimba player, and drummer who has been co-writing music with me since 2008), and Andy Applegate (who joined the band in 2003 and played drums on a majority of Fairmont’s records), and many other members over the years. Our current lineup, in addition to Christian, includes Matt Cheplic (The Bitter Chills and Splendid Engine), Lisa Grabinski (Dharma Plums) and Evan Pope (The Maravines). Over the years, the counterparts to my often awkward and meek vocals have been the delicate backing vocals from Sam Carradori, Teeter Sperber, Lisa Grabinski and Suzie Zeldin. I think Fairmont took a huge step forward when the female vocals were written into the songs and not just added as an afterthought.
It’s been a long, weird trip being in the same band for 20 years. At the beginning, it’s one of those things where you are so full of piss and vinegar about that you don’t want to take anyone’s advice or let anyone get in the way of your ego. Then after some time, the music industry beats the shit out of you, and rejects you so many times you can’t even begin to count. That’s when the records actually start to get good; when all hope of ever getting famous or becoming notable is gone. At times, it was freeing to feel like nobody gave a shit. When the only person I was worried about impressing was myself, writing a record became easier. When we wrote 2008’s Transcendence (which is honestly the best I have in me), it got some of the worst press we’ve ever received. But slowly over the course of the following decade, it was listened to a lot, and even called one of NJ’s best albums of the decade in a book by Gary Wein. That’s nice and all, but no matter who has called my work great or utter shit, it would never have affected the output. I’m hopefully going to continue making records for another 20 years. It’s kind of great knowing that every asshole who tried to stand in my way has no power to stop me. I mean, unless they kill me, and I’m sure more than one would like to.
Here’s my advice for anyone who has ever been rejected by a record label, a producer, a media outlet, etc.: DO IT YOURSELF. Start the label. Be the producer. Become friends with the media outlets. Don’t let anyone piss on your parade. `
I made this video playing some of the old songs that I haven’t played in years. These were the songs I could remember, still sing, and also translate as acoustic songs. Do yourself a favor though, and check out the album versions because they are much better.
I’m looking forward to making a lot more music in the future. Later this fall, we’re putting out a second retrospective of the last 10 years of Fairmont and I think it’s some of the best stuff we’ve ever done. Unlike our retrospective of the first 10 years, I don’t cringe at all as I listen. As I wrote in the lyrics to “Everybody Hates A Critic,” – “Just love what you do and do what you love.” At the end of the day, it has been a very cool thing to be able to do this for as long as I have. Thank you to the people who have been in my corner throughout it. You’ve all made the soul-crushing experience of being in a band a lot more bearable.
- Neil Sabatino