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Arrive at a local show early and you may find the opening act a more compelling listen than any of the headlining groups -- especially if that act happens to be a trio of young Miami musicians who call themselves Faller. Faller's intricate music, which craftily brings together elements from punk rock, jazz, and progressive rock, has begun to attract the attention of local scenesters.
Although the members of Faller are happy to acknowledge their hometown progress, they aren't particularly adept at conveying the considerable merits of their experimental, original sounds. "I see it as my hobby," offers guitarist/vocalist Vince Faller. "It's not a thing where I think ten years from now I'm going to get $25 million doing it." But the group's far-more-eloquent sonic vocabulary speaks for itself: The group's homemade recordings have appeared on regular rotation at the University of Miami's finicky WVUM- FM (90.5), and a local indie label recently offered to release a record by the band.
On stage, the three 23-year-old bachelors project a modest appearance -- all wear glasses and have short-cropped hair. Small-framed Vince Faller and his identical twin, bassist/vocalist John, stand on either side of Arnaldo Gonzalez's drum kit, which is often draped in blue Christmas lights. Sometimes, Gonzalez wears a box, lined with blue neon light on the inside, over his head. Throughout most of their sets, they face one another, the twins' backs often turned to the audience. Gonzalez usually keeps keyboards next to his drum kit to trigger various effects or complex loops with a foot pedal. Or he'll noodle around on crazy innovations like a 1980s "Talking Whiz-Kid" toy computer, hooked up to an amp. "It makes Arnold look like this superman," says Vince. "He's the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to instruments."
Decorating songs with these ambient effects fills out Faller's sound, making it less skeletal and bare, Gonzalez says. "Our songs are much more complicated than what a regular three-piece band would play."
Last September, the barely year-old trio put together a short EP of five technically imaginative yet breezy tracks. Two Dollar Recordings' pop appeal and adventurous song structures owe a debt to the sensibilities of experimental post-rockers such as Tortoise, the Sea and Cake, Ui, and Euphone. Two Dollar Recordings opens with the whistling keyboard melody of "Broken Metronome," offering an apt introduction to Faller's complex yet playful songs: harmonious vocals, subtle electronic effects, and subversive songcraft that takes liberties with tempos. "On Occasion, I Moan" offers a melancholy moment that highlights the Faller twins' cooing harmonies. "Enter the Contender" is a pleasant instrumental in which Gonzalez's drums sound distant and tinny as he piles on atmospheric keyboard sounds. Vince's guitar glistens and rings with delicate effects, as his brother's bass hums along with a simple countermelody. "Self Esteem," the most pop-friendly piece, features John's prowess on a row of percussive bells and Gonzalez's falsetto backups. The CD ends with another instrumental, "Brushes," featuring more chiming bells, Vince's swinging guitar, and Gonzalez's shimmering electronic effects.
Only a few weeks after its release, a copy of Two Dollar Recordings found its way to the desk of WVUM Music Director John Spain. He gave it a listen and thought the group's music fit perfectly into the station's rotation, a privilege, he says, rarely bestowed upon indigenous artists. "It's rare that local CDs are good enough to go into rotation," Spain explains. "The album played more towards indie sensibilities instead of trying, like many local acts, to mimic more commercial acts in an attempt to get signed." Even if local artists make regular rotation on WVUM, they rarely last as long as Faller did, staying on for the entire autumn 2001 semester, Spain says.
Richard Rippe, owner of Tuesday Morning Records, offered to put up his own money to release Faller tracks on a split seven-inch with another local group called Projection on the other side. Rippe hopes to have the vinyl pressed and available by the end of the summer. "The second time I saw them, I found myself into what they were doing: short songs with catchy guitar chords, twangy bass lines, and organic drumming," Rippe reflects. "They had samples looping in the background, and they were following along perfectly."
The attention from radio and record labels has taken Faller by surprise. "The fact we were on rotation for awhile was mind-blowing," Gonzalez says. "When we first started off, this was just a fun thing to do. All this WVUM and Tuesday Morning stuff was just so unexpected. I've never wanted mainstream success, but it will be cool to be an underground indie band with a small following."