WAY BACK WHEN - ROCK, ROCK, ROCK N' ROLL
Tim Rath was born in Manitoba into a family of musicians. He recalls, at age 10, sitting beside his mum and dad, playing bass guitar, eyes heavy with sleep, at many a family musical gathering. John Bright was born into a family of conservatory pianists in Ontario. Interestingly, John never followed that path and has always played solely by ear. Together then are TJ Fly and JB Groove of Fillis Killer.
In 1990, Tim Rath was playing with Wild Child in Vancouver and looking for a change. Fast Eddy Kazmir, guitar player in the five-piece band Ted Moore and The Border, called and invited Tim into the fold. John Bright, having already established himself as a permanent fixture with the band, gladly welcomed Tim with a handshake. “I walked in and there was Doug Grant on drums," recalls Tim. "Then Johnny showed up with a Hammond organ and the baby grand piano in tow.” John smiles at the mention of his gear. They both now give thanks to Ted Moore and the Border saying otherwise they would never have met. They have remained close friends for over 20 years.
They spent countless hours rehearsing and performing, defined themselves as cover band musicians and had a large following of fans. Even in the early days, the drive to record original music was apparent and the band perfected original songs. That led to a record deal under the name Locomotive Dream and the recording experience of a lifetime with Mark Hensley producing at Greenhouse studios.
They both recorded with other bands and provided backup vocals to supplement income. One band, John recalls, was Chelsea Morning. Tim remembers laying bass tracks for a country band named Totally Toasted. They laugh and Tim marvels at how he remembered that. When Locomotive Dream disbanded, they formed a three-piece improvisation band calling themselves The Jazz Men.
TODAY - FINDING INSPIRATION IN SONGS WITH NO LYRICS
It's 2011 in Squamish, B.C., and Fillis Killer is hatched from a con or a mistake, or was it a creative collaboration. Tim now known as TJ (short for TJ Fly) recalls conning John, now known as JB (short for JB Groove) into coming over one afternoon to jam. JB explains. “It was a mistake. I discovered a bunch of unique sounds on my keyboard." JB purchased the Yamaha keyboard for the fantastic piano and organ sound then realized its many parameters. With several different sounds, textures and ranges it enabled them to created music, of all types, from techno, to jazz, to reggae. They caught a groove and away they went. They describe their music as improvisation.
The writing process begins with the choosing of an arpeggio, on the keyboard, which plays a drum pattern and a certain set of instruments. They play along and hit record. “Sometimes we hit record a little late,” laughs TJ. "It's pretty much point and go. The only additions, after recording, are other instruments, such as acoustic guitar for an organic feel. JB may become inspired to grab some loops when I step outta the studio for a bit. I come back, and he's created a track and vice versa."
JB believes a lot of technical guys won't believe there are no rehearsals or discussions and that they use no pens or paper. “There is no set plan, we do not write songs, and we simply hit record and play. It's experimental." In choosing which songs to release on their first album, they decided not to be conventional and pick the best songs, but to release the songs as they were created. The music is 100% them as there is no room to pretend. Everything that comes out is uncontrived and born of their imagination. They recall the many hours of rehearsals, in prior bands, to get that “all-perfect” track.
JB remembers words written by friend and fellow player Kenny Wayne. “Kenny said it best;" said JB, “be honest and direct with your recordings. Spend minimal time on rehearsal and preproduction in order to capture a true live feel."
The desire to enjoy music again is what inspired both to go back to basics. TJ admits he's never done any instrumental recordings prior to Fillis Killer. JB has admired TJ's bass and acoustic guitar playing for years and marvels at his ability to pull a Pat Metheny for 15 minutes on his electric guitar. TJ's noodling around, as JB calls it, is amazing. In turn, TJ accredits JB with spending hours fine-tuning tracks in his man cave, JB's own home studio.
“I call him the magician because it's magic, ” JB said, “I nicknamed him the illusionist.” And where did the name Fillis Killer come from? “In 2003, the name just popped into my head and I wrote it down. It just stuck. It is not a representation of anything," TJ explains. He held onto the name thinking “one day."
“Many may think aggressive, punk rock, makeup, what have you.” JB adds, “What’s in a name anyway – it's what you make of it."
Traditionally, a band is asked to play songs from their recorded album. With Fillis Killer it can't be done. “We tried to make a spit and polished version of a track, brought in all the exact sounds, and it doesn't work. In trying, we ended up with 10 completely different songs. There are no recreations – it's on the fly improvisation."
Still, the duo does perform live. "We play stuff folks have never heard before, yet it sounds hauntingly familiar, especially when we stick melodies like Blue Spanish Eyes or Girl from Ipanema in there,” explained JB. "In studio, we stop and search for a drum patterns then go. Nothing changes live. It's the same process. Performances, if not flawless, are spontaneous and, at times, truly inspired. People dig that we essentially bring our studio to them live. Audiences like to be involved and interact with the talent."
JB recalls a time when TJ, with his back to him, was playing riffs in a certain key and JB chimed in at exactly the same time, place, and key as if it were rehearsed. Laughter erupts between the pair again. “The comfort level that exists between us is astounding," said TJ. “I could not do this with anyone else. It simply wouldn't work," says JB. TJ jokes, “We are masters of the two-chord songs."
One thing is certain; they share one musical soul. Some notable venues that Fillis Killer has performed include: BG Urban Grill in Whistler, Hollyburn Country Club in North Vancouver, Zephyr Cafe in Squamish and the Squamish Academy of Music. Whether it is a celebration of Crankworx, that hundreds attend, or a local garden party for the seniors of Squamish, they bring groovy style and charm every time.
What Fillis Killer hopes audiences get from their music is enjoyment. "Selling albums isn't what is most important to me," said JB. "Dishing them out to friends and family, received by a smile and a nod, and a 'thanks man', that’s what I do it for. It just feels good to share my passion."
TJ and JB often welcome friends and local musicians to join in on jam sessions. As well, TJ's six-year-old son, Jack, is encouraged to join in. It's the circle of life and music.
Fillis Killer has a fever to create. When listening to the album, one feels as if they are on a trip through space and time. Whether listening to the soft rolling waves of Breakfast in Santa Cruz, or shuffling along to the sound of your own feet in Follow Me, one is magically transported outside the box.
The artwork on the inside cover of Groves on the Fly is a simple sketch of two longhairs jammin' on a beach, under the moon as well as the sun. They may sport shorter hair today but they are the same two brothers of yesterday, jammin' on a beach, day or night, inviting listeners to join them on the fly.
Their second album is soon to be released, or you may hear them on your next wine tasting in the Okanagan as they groove you in at the door.
For Fillis Killer's official profile, including the latest music, albums, songs, videos and more, click here. To Listen to and buy Fillis Killer's music on CD Baby, click here. You can also follow them on Facebook or twitter @filliskiller.