I’m slowly, slowly, slowly becoming an anime kid again. Ever since re-watching Cowboy Bebop this Christmas, I’ve been getting back into the genre. I’m just finishing up Madoka Magica. It isn’t really my style, but many of my cosplay friends loved and emulated it.
This weekend, I’ll be at Anime Midwest. The main goal is sharing pics of cosplayers. In addition, I’d love to talk to fans about the anime I’ve missed.
You know who could help me? Face Time Police. These musical brothers, Brian and James Serra, will be playing at Anime Midwest on Friday. Their music combines Japanese anime covers with anime-inspired originals. One song pulls from a single moment in Hellsing. Another is named after an FLCL episode. Even FTP’s look is rooted in anime. Bleach fans will recognize the style of their masks.
Face Time Police reached out to me via e-mail. I hadn’t featured any Rising Stars of Geek Rock lately, so I gladly asked a few questions. The below interview features only Brian, but you can hear music from James at the end:
GGC: “You boys are brothers, so I can’t exactly ask how you met. Instead, what is your origin story as musicians? How did you decide to pursue music, and what made you do so as a pair?”
Face Time Police: “Music has always been around us. My brother, James, was singing (or rather, mumbling) along to Green Day since he was 3. Even back in elementary school, I would listen to the radio as well as obscure cable access music shows, just looking for anything that might catch my attention. I’ve been playing guitar since high school, but never really had any intentions of being a serious songwriter.
One day, out of nowhere, my brother and I just had the urge to write a joke rap song in the vein of SNL’s Lazy Sunday. It was so much fun to do! The music turned out to be pretty interesting and well-structured, considering the song was a joke.
Once the creative floodgates were open, waves of ideas just kept coming in. Our first serious work as a musical duo was an experimental 4-song demo EP called A Lesson in Articulation. The song titles were comprised of sections from a well-known tongue-twister: She Sells, Seashells, By the Sea, and Shore. My brother and I immediately knew that we had stumbled onto something.”
GGC: “So, you became Face Time Police. Where does the name come from?”
FTP: “My brother James used to just blurt out ‘FACE TIME POLICE!!!’ at random times. He did it to get a laugh out of me.
When the time came to name our band, it took on a deeper meaning. It stood for the struggle between art and image. We see it all the time, especially in mainstream pop. There will be a ‘face’ shown to the public, while the real artists behind the scenes (the songwriters) are just album liner notes. Fake artists have had enough face time. It’s time to focus on authentic artists.”
GGC: “Nice. Let’s keep talking names. How did you name your album, Don’t Believe in the Moon? The moon is real, after all.”
FTP: “Its meaning actually lies in the song’s chorus:
So don’t you promise me the stars anytime soon
Don’t you even try and offer me the sky
When you yourself don’t believe in the Moon
We, as human beings, have these grandiose notions of romantic sentiment linked to the Moon. In reality, the Moon is a satellite. It’s a rock. So, any significance or romantic notions linked to the Moon lie within each person. When it comes to matters of the heart, we might make promises that turn out to be meaningless later on.”
FTP: “I made my mask around the time that Bleach’s Arrancar arc was prevalent in the manga. I loved the idea of having partial masks as opposed to covering our entire faces. We knew that we didn’t want a scary image, so we started with plain white masks and modified them.
My mask covers the lower part of my face while my brother’s covers the top. We’ve always had this sort of duality in our art. We’re different, but similar- 2 sides of the same coin. We’re a cohesive unit through and through.”
GGC: “You use a few unique terms on your site. In your own words, what is ‘pop macchiato?'”
FTP: “‘Pop Macchiato’ is the term that best describes our music. ‘Macchiato’ itself means ‘marked.’ While we may dabble other styles and genres, at the heart of our songwriting (structurally, at least) lies good, catchy, pop songs. So, our songs are essentially pop, ‘marked’ with other styles and genres.”
GGC: “I can dig that. Similarly, what does it mean to be DIY/do-it-yourself musicians?”
FTP: “It’s exactly what it sounds like. We do it all ourselves. We write and record our songs. We edit our music. We film our own videos. We shoot our own promo pictures. We maintain our website. We write our own press releases. We design all of our merch, logos, flyers, album artwork. There isn’t any aspect of our art that we aren’t responsible for.”
GGC: “You seem super into anime. What are some of your favorite titles or characters?”
FTP: “Ooh, this question is tough. FLCL (Fooly Cooly) will always be one of my favorite series. It’s the epitome of anime. It can be completely goofy and off-the-wall one minute and deeply poignant in the next. It’s original, and it has EVERYTHING. There’s comedy, there’s a love story, insane mecha fight sequences, you name it. Its visual style and use of colors are like straight out of a music video. Lastly, and certainly not least, the music in FLCL is AMAZING. It’s such an integral part of the series.
Another favorite of mine that tries to be everything at once and does it well is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I love the way that Haruhi is constantly trying to make life interesting. I can relate with all the things that we do with Face Time Police.”
FTP: “Anime has definitely impacted our art for the better. The strong visual aesthetic has inspired quite a few shots in our music videos. The inspiration from anime always seems to work its way into a lyric, full song ideas, videos, and even our artwork. There’s a certain boldness in anime- that all-in, double-down, refuse-to-fold, attitude. I’ve adopted that mindset when it comes to Face Time Police. As the saying goes, ‘Fortune favors the bold.'”
GGC: “Do you cosplay, collect things, or enjoy anime in other ways?”
FTP: “I haven’t cosplayed as of yet because I love wearing my current mask to conventions. It just feels right to wear it. My mask is my identity. But if I were to cosplay, it would probably be as a slightly different version of a character. I love it when people put their own spin on existing characters.
I don’t collect any anime figurines because those can be really pricey, though I’ve had my eye on the Nendoroid Satsuki Kiryuin (Kill La Kill) for quite some time now. It’s just awesome and adorable. I’ll probably break down and finally place an order for it one of these days.”
GGC: “What kind of audience do you think would most enjoy your music?”
FTP: “So far, from what I’ve seen from our biggest fans and supporters, they’re very open-minded. They don’t pay attention to labels. They aren’t music snobs. Some people get so caught up in what tastemakers are raving about that they forget that you are your own tastemaker. If it appeals to you and it sounds good to you, don’t wait for other people to jump on the bandwagon. Just listen to it. Enjoy it. Share it with others. Support that artist.”
GGC: “What performance or gig has been your favorite thus far?”
FTP: “In 2011, we were invited to play the big hometown Halloween show for Cleveland’s own Mushroomhead. There’s always such a great atmosphere at that event. It’s Halloween, it’s in their hometown, and everyone is in masks and costumes… everyone’s just in a good mood and ready for a full night of music.
Because my brother and I used to do a lot of web and graphic design work for Mushroomhead, some of their fans have known about us for years. It was amazing to finally play in front of those fans, and to have members of Mushroomhead in the audience there to watch our set. I still get goosebumps from thinking about it. Face Time Police would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Mushroomhead.”
GGC: “I’ll have to look them up. What do you have planned for Anime Midwest?”
FTP: “I believe that we’re the first band to perform on the mini stage, so we’re aiming to set the bar really high! We’re playing a special acoustic set that will feature original songs and a few covers. We’re covering the English versions of Follow Me from Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, and Shissou, the ending theme from Ouran High School Host Club. Also, if we get these in before the show, we’ll have some goodies to pass out to everyone who catches our set (while supplies last, of course.)
Here’s another teaser about our setlist: there’s a cover medley which we’re playfully referring to as Ice Ice Avril. It’s going to be a fun set.
GGC: “What should we expect from Face Time Police after the con?”
FTP: “We’re currently working on an acoustic EP that we hope to release in the Fall. We’re on most of the major music streaming services, so if you’re using Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Beats Music, XBox music, etc., just search for “Face Time Police.” You should be able to find us!”
Will you be at Anime Midwest, gentle reader? Tell Jess and me how to find you below!
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