Davis Fetter: The Interview

17 Sep

                                                                                                                            Photo: Haley Reed

Davis Fetter was the creative force behind Venus Infers but he’s recently decided to step out on his own. He’s foregone his previously enigmatic presence and now records songs that peer directly into his soul. Read on as Fetter opens up about his involvement with Venus Infers, how he’s never really been in love and how he’s transitioned from a guitarist and songwriter to a one-man band.

A: People are always comparing you to other artists, from Bono to Julian Casablancas. Does that make you feel like you’re being stereotyped? Like you’ve been put into a box?

D: People come at you with comparisons all the time. Like a fan will say I like your song because it reminds me of this and I think that’s cool because that means they’re personalizing it, but if they’re comparing it in a bad way and dismissing it because it’s a derivative of something else, that’s not as fun but I think it’s okay.

I always think if people are listening then my job is done, I’ve gotten them to listen to it. You can’t force people to like your music, you can only have them interact with it how they want to and that’s the beauty of music. Everyone is going to have their own personal taste.

Music is funny because people take it so personally, even when they’re not creating it. And it can mean everything or nothing at the same time, to two different people. For me, there’s certain artists that everything they’ve ever done or will do I’ll probably love.

A: Who would those people be?

D: Anything that Morrissey is involved with. I have everything the Smiths have ever created except for maybe a couple random B-sides. They’re my all-time favorite band but definitely like the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, John Lennon – all the greats.

A: I love Lou Reed and when I saw your older band’s name, Venus Infers, I thought that had to be a play on the Velvet Underground song, Venus In Furs.

D: Definitely. I always loved that song but I thought it represented American psychedelic music in the best way. Lyrically it’s cool and you can delve way into it and get creeped out, or you can take it for pop music and enjoy it.

I think that’s the coolest thing about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s stuff. It can be kind of twisted and dark or it can be like poetry and observations, or pop music.

A: I was checking out your YouTube channel and from the songs you covered it’s evident that you have an eclectic taste in music and a good range of your voice. Was it hard for you to find your own unique style and develop your voice?

D: Oh man, I’m learning everyday. I picked up a guitar when I was young but I never wanted to be a singer and I only started singing about 4 years ago. When I started Venus Infers I was just writing the songs, and then from writing more and more I would get into the scene just to hear how they should go and then slowly but surely just kind of kept going with it and here I am.

Those covers, they’re just for fun. I always play those songs live. I like picking songs that are either requests or just songs that I’m really into. Lyrically, vocally, it’s a challenge for me, wanting to sing like Hank Williams, or try to sing like James Brown. It’s just trying to sing like these guys that I really look up to.

A: Do you think your ability to sound like them has actually helped you find your own voice?

D: Yes and no. When I first started learning other people’s songs, that’s when I was playing guitar and I was real little and that was just about learning exactly perfect. Like every Buddy Holly song I learned on guitar, I learned it perfectly. And then I played them from time to time and now I sing them, sort of how the artist would have done, it but I try to put my own little spin on it. It’s almost like I try to emulate it so that I can change it when I play the song.

A: There’s a quote on your Myspace about how much you love singles. Why do you think you like singles so much?

D: I think the root of it all is probably from my parents giving me their collections, 45, singles. It’s just about discovering bands through one good song at a time. I feel like sometimes you can get more from a single than a whole album. I see the counter argument, I can hear my friends saying, no, fuck you man, Love’s ‘Forever Changes’ was amazing from start to finish and there are great albums out there, of course, I have them, but singles are rad because at the birth of rock and roll and pop music you got one song at a time because that’s how it was released. You got to really listen to that song and just get it, and absorb it.

I really like pop music and I think it has a negative connotation to it now but over time pop music was the best music, for me anyway. When I say pop, I don’t mean Lady Gaga necessarily, but I mean like Elvis, and Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, the Beatles and John Lennon, all the great artists that we’ve ever known.

You get that mood, you get that vibe because whoever created that single they were thinking, okay let me say what I need to say as concise and simple as possible. I think in a modern way, pop stars kind of dumb down the audience, but the classic greats were more like, no, let me give the audience the best and most concise version of what I have to say.

I was talking to a friend of mine who’s getting a PhD in Russian and we were talking about Russian propaganda and how it’s very succinct and simple but there’s so much message inside one phrase. I feel like singles are the same way because at least for me, one song will affect me more than the whole album. And also with me going under my own name, I want people to digest the song and get the message because I write hundreds of songs but it takes a while to get that one song that 10 others were trying to say.

Photo: Haley Reed

A: When you say now you’re going by your own name, did Venus Infers break up or were you playing with the guys and now you’re stepping into the limelight as just yourself?

D: Venus Infers was what I liken to Bright Eyes. It was the same situation – Conor Oberst wrote the songs and then put a band together. In Venus Infers, I was the only full-time member in the group and I wrote the songs, wrote the lyrics, wrote the music. It was a collective of artists. A few of the guys stayed in for quite some time, like a couple of years, but it was always my intent to write songs under a pseudonym.

A: And why do you think you needed to write under a pseudonym?

D: I think because at the time it was my first stab at writing and I was probably just nervous to go out on my own. At first it was kind of freeing because if you look at the entire Venus Infers catalogue, it was all over the place. There were albums with two different singers, 4 EPs where I was singing and then I had different musicians playing on the record.  Any whacky idea I had, I could pursue.

When I started writing songs a year ago, they were so personal and so focused and I was kind of like, whoa, this might not work for Venus Infers. These songs were about very real things that I’ve experienced so I thought I’d almost be doing a disservice to the listener if it wasn’t from me.

A: I heard you were chosen on the Locals Only playlist on KROQ?

D: My first single ‘Euphoria’ was just played a few weeks ago and then I had 3 singles released on KROQ that I did with Venus Infers. I’m really excited about my new song ‘L.O.V.E.’ because it’s kind of inspired by Roy Orbison.

In the studio I’m really into the 50s and the 80s, as far as recorded sound. It’s like the two decades I feel are the most unique in sound: the 50s being the most raw version of recorded pop music and the 80s being the height of recording technology. So when I recorded ‘I See Love,’ to me the chords and the message of the song make it a 50s song but the guitar pedals and the technology that we used was 80s technology.

Photo: Haley Reed

A: In that same quote where you professed your love for singles you also talked about how all your songs are about love. Do you find it easier to write when you’re in love or in lust? Or when you’re in some sort of love-induced turmoil?

D: I’ve seen it all and I’ve written about it all. I have 10 songs recorded and finished but I’m releasing them one at a time and I’m hoping people see the progression. ‘Euphoria’ is about looking for that feeling of perfection, basically longing for love. But ‘I See Love’ is a little bit darker like, ‘man, everyone is so happy and everyone is in love and I’m not.’ You’re out and about and you see a couple…

A: And you almost resent them…

D: You go through these emotions right? You get envious, you get jealous and then you might hate them and then you realize, ah, I’m happy for them.

This next single called ‘L.O.V.E.’ is about losing love – a break up song so to speak, which definitely did happen. I feel like ‘Euphoria’ is about how I’ve never really been in love. I’ve said the word before but I don’t think it was that pure, unconditional love where you lose yourself and you find yourself.

To answer your question, I’ve never been in a situation romantically where I’m like, I’m so happy, let me write about it. I’m just trying to write about what’s real to me. It’s easier when you’re hurt or you’re longing or searching for love to write about it, because I’m still searching for it. That romantic love between two people, I’ve never really had that.

I’m old school and I like 50s music so I believe in romance and when I was in college and reading Shakespeare, I believed that stuff and I still do. I think it’s harder to find these days, I think our society right now is a bit troubled and love is kind of a gray area for most people these days but I still believe and hope it’s out there.

I made a list to myself about all the songs I wrote about and the one thing I didn’t write about was love and I was like, holy shit, what’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I tackled that subject? I started thinking about it a lot and trying to get out exactly how I feel and what I ended up with was, yeah I don’t think I ever really have been in love and I really want to fall in love, but I think I’ve never been there so maybe I can write about that. I think, if I can’t say I love you, maybe I can still write about, you give me ‘Euphoria.’

 (Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

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