Fizzle Like a Flood
Sitting in his bedroom in Omaha, Douglas Kabourek creates some of the finest contemporary quirky pop you’ve heard lately — that is, if you’ve been lucky enough to hear it at all. His albums are readily available, distributed through Saddle Creek’s Web store and elsewhere, but Doug isn’t too keen on actually making a huge effort at courting people into buying it, and instead relies on dedicated music lovers to discover his releases for themselves. And you should definitely search it out. Fizzle Like a Flood brings to mind everyone from Brian Wilson to The Flaming Lips, and in the process creates an idiosyncratic blend of every good pop album from the last forty years.
Douglas used to be in what became The Faint, and as good as they are, his releases as Fizzle Like a Flood proves that he’s moved on to better things. His Golden Sand and the Grandstand album is a modern-day classic, only few people know it yet. Speaking with him, it was a pleasure to discover that articulateness and disarming, self-deprecating humor is a feature of the man as well as the music.
Tell me a bit about your musical career before Fizzle Like a Flood came to be. You used to be with what eventually turned into The Faint, are you kicking yourself around a bit these days, now that they seem to be all over the place?
I was drumming with Todd and Joel before Clark learned how to. I guess if I hadn’t thought they really sucked, I might still be the drummer, but probably not. I’m not into tours and life on the road. I probably wouldn’t like being in the band they are now, so it doesn’t really bum me out much. They were nice and let me do some remixes for them, so that was cool. I guess I do feel a little like Pete Best sometimes, though! But anyway… I quit playing with them after one night where they wanted to write a metal song. I didn’t know how to play metal drums and they just said, “Play a lot of toms!” I was playing with another band at the time, and they had real songs, so I quit playing with Todd and Joel to play in Iowa City in what became Matchbook Shannon, a power-pop band. We played together for four or five years, until Matchbox 20 kind of ruined our name and we broke up. Then I moved back to Omaha and started doing Fizzle Like a Flood by myself.
Why Fizzle Like a Flood? As in, why that particular name, plus why not simply go with, say, Doug?
No one’s going to remember my real name! My dad actually asked me the other day if it was okay that I wasn’t using my name because he was afraid I couldn’t get paid if I didn’t! Like I’m getting paid in the first place! I guess I’m just too creative to use my real name on the box. If I can have the option of coming up with something cool and different, I’ll go in that direction. So I went and just stole a song title for my name! How creative is that really? “Fizzle Like a Flood” is a song by a band that was called Tripmaster Monkey. My favorite album is Practice Changes by them, and that song is on that record. I always thought it was a neat phrase and could be a cool band name. They made it up themselves, so it was totally original.
Being the tech-savvy boy I am, I knew that http://www.fizzlelikeaflood.com would be available and that any Internet searches for the phrase would either lead to me or a Tripmaster site, and there weren’t any of those really, so it was good in many ways. I like that it’s a positive phrase. One guy offered to design my Web page for free just because he thought it was an awesome name. I also could see, in my head, Fizzle Like a Flood written above the nameplate on Magnet magazine. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’ll look good in their font when it does!
You recorded Golden Sand and the Grandstand on your own and in your own home, which is a bit unbelievable, really. How on earth did you do that, both with regards to recording all the parts yourself, and with regards to technique/equipment, etc? It certainly is a huge sound coming from one man and one bedroom.
It doesn’t sound that unbelievable to me. I guess when you compare it to other home-taper type releases it might be kind of impressive. But when you compare it to other popular lo-fi indie releases, it isn’t all that big of a deal. It’s not a big deal compared to the Elephant 6 stuff. It wasn’t really that hard to do, though. I didn’t mess with trying to find any particular sounds or any of the stuff they do in studios. I just put my $80 Optimus microphone in front of whatever I was playing and recorded it. The keyboard I used then was one I got for free from work in a give-away. I think its value was $30, and I recorded right off the speaker. I guess when you consider all this, the sound is pretty good for what it all comes from.
Nowadays, I’m just amazed I finished the record at all! I’m currently having a hard time finishing anything. I can’t think past the current song I’m on, and keep reworking it over and over. I guess that can happen when you’re trying to improve and top yourself. I’ve been recording the same song since Christmas, and it still isn’t finished.
Your music is quite complex and layered, but it’s still undeniably pop music, isn’t it? Who do you look to for musical inspiration? And do the music translate well from your head to the finished CD, you think? It’s got to be a long journey going from start to finish?
Lately, I’ve been influenced by Brian Wilson a lot. Him and Phil Spector. And the current people recording in that manner, The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, and now Steve Burns. All that stuff is wonderful. Guided By Voices. I’m excited to hear a new album by The Lips. And the Steve Burns thing sounds amazing. I don’t know much about it because the guy only has little clues about it on his Web site. Why doesn’t that surprise me?
The Beatles really influence me, especially on a progression level. I want everything I do to be a complete jump from the last thing, and always something I haven’t really done before. And not just musically, but project-wise. I don’t want to just make full-length after full-length like Aerosmith. That would be so boring. I want to do a variety of different things. Singles, EP’s, full-lengths, remixes, whatever.
On the last thing I did, the Love single, I actually got the exact sound that I had been hearing in my head for a while, though it did take a long time. No one really liked that sound though! Well, the critics did, but none of the kids who buy records. I sure like it though. I think it came out sounding like maple syrup. Usually I don’t have a particular sound in mind, which is good because I could probably never reach exactly that in a normal pop song format. I usually just have a core song and add stuff to it to see what I’ll get and I usually like whatever it is I get. But I like the songs just as much when they are just words, a melody and chords on a guitar or some other instrument.
Golden Sand… is a concept album about a grandstand, which is fairly original to say the least. Care to fill us in? Also, the story seems to progress the other way around, moving from finish to start, which is another unusual ways of doing things — any particular reason for that one?
When I started at UNO, I rode this shuttle bus to school, and it loaded in the parking lot of this place that used to be a huge horse track. There’s this huge grandstand just standing in this field that is being developed with new buildings and stuff. I just thought it was the coolest image. And kind of sad because it’s really just waiting to be killed. I wrote “Shadows” about that, and that’s how it started. I did it backwards because I though it made it maybe a little more sad to know the eventual outcome but hear all this optimism coming up as you went backwards. Not that it’s a sad record by any means. And going backwards was kind of different, so I went with that. I also didn’t want “Shadows” to be the last song. It was a better intro to the record.
Omaha seems to be a breeding ground for a new generation of folk singers — including Bright Eyes, Simon Joyner, the already-defunct Lullaby for the Working Class, and more — as well as what seems to be quite a few hard/emo-core outfits. How do you and your music fit in with that crowd?
I don’t really fit in at all, I think! I’ve never even met Conor Oberst [of Bright Eyes]. I rarely go out to see shows. I think I kind of exist outside of any one scene in Omaha right now. Mostly because I don’t play live much. That is what really defines your scene I would guess. The scenes always seem to revolve around a certain club. In Omaha, it’s either Sokol Underground or the Ranch Bowl. I guess I’m kind of with the bands that are in the indie scene but not actually on Saddle Creek like Neva Dinova, Race For Titles, and Simon. But even then, my music is too happy to fit really well with theirs. I look like a sappy dork compared to them I think. The Omaha indie scene as a whole is kind of depressed or something. You can hear the scene in the lyrics more than in the music.
Your music must be fairly hard to reproduce in a live setting. How do you approach your music in that format?
I really don’t. In addition to it being very hard to do live, I have terrible stage-fright when doing anything other than playing drums, so I try really hard to not play very often! I accidentally locked myself out of the club I was having my first show at 15 minutes before I was to play. I didn’t mind. I hoped no one would come find me trapped outside, but they did. Because of the lack of live shows, no one really knows I’m still doing stuff until I put something out, and then there are those long breaks between releases.
I understand that you are recording and putting something together for a release right now. How’s that going, and what can we expect to hear?
It’s hard to say what it will be. I keep changing my mind. One can be fairly safe in assuming it won’t be anything like what I’ve done already. I’m kind of burnt out on the whole layered opus thing. I don’t think I can really do much more in that direction from my spare room, and since I don’t write much when I’m recording, the long recording process of big songs prevents me from writing many songs. And I miss that. The next thing will be really different. The one song I’ve been working on for some time should end up with lead vocals by my friend Rachel, who has an awesome voice and sings in this Omaha band, Shelter Belt. They are the most talented group of people in the whole city. Nearly every one of them is a multi-instrumentalist. Blows my mind. It’s also cool ’cause I’m the only one who really knows about them.
How’s the business side of things going? Are you content operating a bit on the sideline or do you go for world domination?
I don’t have any kind of record deal or distribution deal. I used to send demos out, but I got sick of getting rejected! I have at least a dozen of those postcards Merge sends out to the losers! Every label I sent Golden Sand… to said they thought it had some problems, so I just said fuck it — they apparently have a different sound in their heads. I sent some songs to college radio in January with the help of some money I got for Christmas.
My stuff now comes out on the Side 1 label, which is a label a friend of mine has started. He’s really cool about sending things out to get reviewed, but there is no distribution or anything. You can pretty much only get my music in Omaha or at the Saddle Creek Web site because they are nice enough to sell it. Sometimes you can’t even get it in Omaha stores ’cause of my whole problem with the business aspects of music. I never check the stuff soon enough and lose all my money! I just don’t like the business side of music at all. I’m never going to book my own tour, that’s for sure. I guess you could say I plan on always staying on the sideline unless of course someone else offers to do the business stuff and just leave me alone with the artistic side. Then I’d be happy to dominate the world.