By Jimmy Alford
I entered Eric Michener’s home and was immediately met by a friendly-looking bear cub sporting a white collar and bow tie. With a confused smile, I walked past the small furry creature into Eric Michener’s living room. I found Grahm Robinson sitting behind his drum kit and Scarlet Wright fiddling with her bass, cord still held in place with blue painter’s tape from last weekend’s performance.
The trio of Eric, Scarlet and Grahm make up Fishboy, a local indie pop band that promises to transport their audiences into a fantasy realm residing mostly, if not solely, in Eric’s delightfully demented and twisted imagination.
The band is in the midst of finishing a new album and recently released the IMAVOLCANO 7″ EP (be sure to check out the video featuring Eric’s buddy “Switchblade”). While Fishboy has been around for the past decade, Eric is the only original member left. The group has had a different drummer and bassist for every album; members move away or move on to other bands.
Eric smirks a bit when the subject is brought up.
“It’s very difficult … it’s a big commitment for anyone to be in a band that is not successful,” Eric said, trying to choose his words carefully. “I mean, financially successful.”
Over the years, Eric and various friends/musicians have released six albums, including an acoustic album, along with most recent EP. The music hasn’t brought him piles of cash, luxury cars, or even a new bow tie for his furry door greeter. “You can’t make music with that expectation; you can, but it’s probably not wise,” Eric said. “Certainly, I take steps to get my music as far as it will go and I’m certainly not a self-defeatist by any means. I keep it real.”
What his music does give him is an outlet. In the world outside Fishboy’s forgetful astronauts, lifelong and bitterly loyal characters, and corrupt spelling bees, Eric is a freelance video editor and he has to create. He has to constantly discover, tune and produce new work. His music is an interpretation of himself and his aspirations.
“I want to make stuff that I wish was out there in the world,” Eric said. “I like telling stories. I have a film degree to tell stories, but I don’t necessarily have the ability to make movies. What I attempt to do, is make stories with songs. I’m not trying to make musicals, but I’m trying to tell a long-form story.”
Scarlet and Grahm joined Fishboy last winter and have steadily added their own flair. The bassist is a short-haired and punk-ish styled woman with three bachelor’s degrees, apparently excellent time management, and a shy, almost sheepish temperament. She knows Eric from way back. “My brother is Eric’s age and his was one of the bands I was in. and I was playing in Denton when I was in high school. I’ve been in Denton since Eric has been here, so I’ve known of him for like 10 years.” Now the two are neighbors living only yards away from one another. Scarlet is also in three other bands, and she played in two others before that.
Grahm is the humble drummer with little to say but much to contribute. “What about me?” Grahm said. “This is really only the second band I’ve been in.” His eyes roll as Scarlet and Eric laugh about the previous Saturday’s show, where Grahm raised some eyebrows and temperatures as a woman broke up the bar’s ambiance with drunken bellows for him to start taking off his clothes. It was Grahm’s debut gig at Rubber Gloves.
Scarlet and Grahm dig the sound and the stories, which is kind of what makes indie pop what it is. The majority of what’s played on the radio falls into very similar groves, according to the band. “They are usually pretty cliché,” Grahm said. Scarlet chimed in, “They are love songs or whatever, or songs about how it’s my fault and I’m so bad and everything sucks. Something that a majority of people relate to. They aren’t songs about stuff like elephants or volcanoes.”
Fishboy’s sound has had a slow evolution from its adolescence. It’s gone from mostly open chords to power cords and from story to story, but it’s always fun and always has something to say. As I left Eric’s home and passed the cub with the smiling eyes, I know it too is an inspiration for some of his songs. “My intention is make the best music that is perfect in my eyes, so I’m amazingly happy with it. If people like it, then … awesome.”