The rural Texas-based quintet Fair to Midland holds the platypus-rare distinction of sounding like pretty much no one else in rock music today. Take a track like "Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes," from the band's debut album, Fables From a Mayfly, released this past June. There's a beginning hushed moment of shuddering, medieval violin — then the deluge of crashing, down-tuned power chords. Then comes another stutter of quiet before Darroh Sudderth's voice kicks in, modulating from a palate-busting wail to a reedy, plaintive trill in one phrase.
It's heavy but not quite metal and still far from anything that could be tagged "indie." It's creative and expansive but blessedly way too song-oriented to fit the prog tag. "I would like to be the band that's too heavy for the indie kids and not heavy enough for the metal kids and somehow manage to appeal to both crowds," frontman Sudderth says. Over an in-and-out cell phone connection from the tour bus in which he has essentially lived for the past year, he speaks with a light but distinctive Texas twang. He's also heartbreakingly humble and polite.
"Well, there's not really any tours we've been on where the initial reception we've gotten has been, uh, really positive," Sudderth says. "We're kind of a hard band to market. We are playing with acts we don't necessarily belong with, and we try to have a broad spectrum of listeners... But we can't complain; we went into it knowing what we were getting into."
Asked about specific influences, Sudderth is hard-pressed to spout off a short list of artists. Pausing, he name-checks... R.E.M.? Then Peter Gabriel. Then Corrosion of Conformity. Even Marvin Gaye. "I think I was just inspired more by music as a whole. I can take something away from any genre of music whether I love it or hate it."
So then, why work in a heavier idiom?
"Heavier music is a little less charted... It seems as though there's still a lot to be done in that whole genre. It's definitely not the easy route to take. But we don't make anything easy on ourselves."