Sustainable Wunderkinds: Finn Riggins Hits Colorado
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly
Idaho indie wunderkinds Finn Riggins are on quite a roll, touring sizeable venues this fall with the likes of Built to Spill as the trio showcase their diversely wonderful new long-play VS WILDERNESS. Multi-instrumentalists and University of Idaho music graduates Cameron Bouiss, Eric Gilbert and Lisa Simpson having been playing hundreds of shows a year since their inception in 2006, going the courageous trailblazer route successfully navigated recently by bands like Dr. Dog and Deerhoof. With their joyfully eccentric indie-pop workouts that juxtapose XTC, Blondie and the Poster Children, Finn Riggins might have a hard time attracting the kind of scenester crowd that flocks to worship the latest Sonic Youth or Slowdive-inspired flash-in-the-pan; their calculated harmonies and impressive poly-rhythms are irreverent and beautiful, as are the group’s quirky lyrics. However, as keyboardist/guitarist/singer Eric Gilbert told me in a recent interview, Finn Riggins’ word-of-mouth momentum and rampant touring (which brings them to the tiny Laughing Goat coffee-house in Boulder on Sunday) makes the blossoming young band a “sustainable project.”
Adam Perry: First off, how did this band get together and how have the initial stabs at touring gone?
Eric Gilbert: We all met at the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID around 2000 and collaborated in several projects before moving to Hailey, ID in August of 2006 and forming Finn Riggins as our new full-time focus. The name was loosely inspired by two small Idaho towns we often drove through, but the vision was to create a character name for which we could write the story to. Since then we’ve been touring the US pretty heavily and it’s been going great. The last couple of years we’ve played over 500 shows in 37 states and one Canadian province. It’s all been pretty incredible on multiple fronts and the project has grown a lot over this relatively short time due to the amount of playing we’ve been doing and the focus we’ve had. We tend to take one step at a time. Our general goal is to make this a sustainable project so that we can continue to write and record albums and continue to play our music all over North America and beyond.
AP: What impressed me straight about VS WILDERNESS was the inability I had to immediately pin down your influences.
EG: This is something we struggle with as well. We truly struggle to pinpoint any direct influences musical or otherwise. [Finn Riggins] came out of about 7 years of gestating in a very free form and open minded music scene in Moscow, where we experimented with all kinds of different takes on writing and performing original music. Combined with a lot of broad listening – I was a DJ at KUOI (the college radio station at U of I) – we were all in music school and Lisa and I were taking writing classes and art classes and whatever else, as well as seeing tons of touring bands coming through. When we moved to Hailey and began this project, we all agreed on a couple of things: we wanted to only perform music we wrote; we wanted to tour and play live a lot; and we wanted to be open to opportunities and ideas of any sort. And from there what we’ve created has been a product of us as filters for all that we had consumed and experienced. That’s always changing, especially with all the travel we do and all the different bands and artists we come in contact with. From the get-go we considered it a sort of art project more than a band…I would agree that it’s morphed pretty clearly in to being a band, but our attitude and openness toward it hasn’t really changed. Things just seem to keep happening, but a lot of that obviously has to do with the fact that we keep paddling this boat and keeping our eyes and ears open.
AP: Your lyrics are curious: giraffes and loads of other presumably zany but effective stuff. Who writes them and what would you say is the overall vision for what Finn Riggins’ lyrics have to say?
EG: All three of us are very involved in the writing process and it’s very balanced when it comes to the music, [but] Lisa and I tend to write most of the lyrics. Our approach to lyrics is as varied as our approach to the rest of what we do. There’s no overall vision. It’s a very case-by-case basis. However, Lisa and I both studied writing to differing degrees in college and take lyrics very seriously…even when they’re not serious at all.
AP: The harmonies on your records are remarkable. Have you all been singing since childhood, and how long have you all been singing together?
EG: Lisa usually takes the lead with most of the crafting of vocals and coaches Cam and I through our parts if necessary. Lisa’s been singing since childhood; [she’s] by far the most adept at singing, both lead and harmony, but all three of us were in choirs in college and have been singing “professionally” for several years now. We don’t tend to overwork our vocals too much; most of it tends to be what comes out when writing the song and what feels natural.
AP: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on the road so far?
EG: Impossible to claim one as the funniest. So many random and incredible things happen on tour; it’s a constant challenge to convey it to others. Sorry I can’t come up with something simple like my pants falling to my ankles in a middle of a set or one of us getting locked inside a truck-stop bathroom or something like that. We’ll keep working on it.