Andy The Doorbum: In Through The Out Door
The Tangents Interview
Interview, introduction and photographs by Daniel Coston
Even if you’ve never seen Andy The Doorbum play, you’ve probably met the man behind the moniker. Andy Fenstermaker works the door at both the Milestone and Snug Harbor, depending on which night you are at either venue. Working at the Milestone pushed Andy to create his own music, which he has done now through several releases, and numerous live shows. It’s the wide-eyed energy that Andy brings to the shows that make you stand up and take notice, and that energy also comes through in his recordingings. Andy is always working on another album, and may well have another in the works by the time you read this. Whichever CD or cassette you catch him on, Andy is somebody you should catch up with, as I recently did via email.
Tangents: How did you first start writing and playing songs?
Andy: When I was about 8 or 9 years old I had these stuffed animals. I had given each one a distinct voice that I would do for them and I got a hold of a cassette boom box with a record button and made a 'band' for the stuffed animals. I would hit a cake pan for drums and sing along in the various voices, making guitar noises with my mouth when there weren't any vocal lines. I did 3 tapes and most of the songs were originals that I came up with. After that, I realized that I could write songs so I continued.
Tangents: How did the Andy The Doorbum moniker come into being?
Andy: The Milestone is one of those places where, if you sit around for long enough in one of its nooks or crannies, strange things will start growing on you. The Doorbum moniker is one of those things.
Tangents: How has being the doorguy at both the Milestone, and Snug Harbor influenced what you’re writing?
Andy: The Milestone really shaped me into the adult that I am. I started working there when I was 20 and so it really taught me about the music game and fostered my pursuit of a certain lifestyle that I had dreamed of having. Snug carries that on in the same way. Both places give me the time to reflect and to observe people in an extremely uncensored environment. I am not only allowed to express myself and take the time off I need to travel and perform, but I am encouraged to do so. Everyone I work for and with are supportive and understanding of that lifestyle that is necessary to be an artist and pursue that passion. They're the best 'jobs' I've ever had.
Tangents: Has being the doorguy helped you get gigs, and meet other bands?
Andy: Abso-fucking-lutely. Almost every single contact that I have and band that I know is a result of working in a rock club.
Tangents: You released the album Art Is Shit earlier this year. Describe that album, and how did it come together?
Andy: Art is Shit came about like most of my albums do. I record and write pretty much continuously, and when I have enough material (or actually, way too much) I decide that it must be time to arrange it into a record. That was the process with Art is Shit. It’s by far my favorite album. I did 98% of all the playing myself, and recorded, mixed, and mastered it also. With the upgrade I made in recording equipment, I was able to realize all of the ideas I came up with, which used to be hard to accomplish due to a limited number of tracks and mixing capabilities. I didn't feel like I had to compromise or settle with anything on that record, which is a nice step in artistic evolution, in my opinion.
Tangents: You're already recording your next album. How is it going, and how has your sound changed for this new project?
Andy: The new album is coming along rather well. It tends to be a lot more lyrically oriented and most of the songs are slow, stripped down, and more along the lines of ballads. This wasn't intentional, I just happen to be writing more songs like that lately. Its definitely on the darker side. Someone once told me that Art is Shit reminded them of funeral music. If that's the case, this new record would be the purgatory that follows the funeral. It should be out within a few months, if all goes well, and will be released to vinyl only with a digital download card.
Tangents: You’ve done a lot of four-track recording in the past, but this new album was recorded in a studio. Talk about the pros and cons of working with both ways of recording?
Andy: I actually recorded the newest record myself, but with much more studio-like equipment. I've recorded in a studio one time, the results of which ended up as the B side of the limited edition cassette that was just put out on Slanty Shanty records. David Childers had the studio slot booked and right around the time he was thinking about retiring, he gave it to us. It was a fun experience and studio sessions always seem to come out sounding 'better,' but ultimately (and this is just a personal preference) I like doing things myself. I am unlimited in my capacity to explore ideas and when it comes down to it, when I do it all myself, its 'me.' Art is a perspective. Its the same reason some painters like to build their own frames or mix their own colors. Whether it comes out good or bad, I have no one to blame but myself.
Tangents: What subjects drive you to write songs? Things you witness, emotions, etc..
Andy: Any number of things. Mostly real life situations. The grit and grime that makes up the beautifully chaotic world we live in. I like striking images. I find beauty in the worst of things, just as in the best of them, but I tend to focus more on exalting the uglier side of life... Maybe because its far less traditionally appropriate to find beauty in those places which seems odd to me. I think I'd go insane if I couldn't find some sort of magic in tragedy.
Tangents: You’ve also traveled quite a bit, which has shown up in some of your songs. What has your favorite countries to visit, and/or be inspired by?
Andy: I have been extremely fortunate to travel the places I have, given my financial disposition. My favorites were: Iceland, mainly because I was fresh out of high school and made the decision to just get on a plane, hitchhiking and staying in a tent in a country I knew nothing about, which was a really intense and intimidating experience that grew me up awful quick. The other was Chiapas, Mexico. That place is amazing and the people there, along with the political and military situation, are things I feel I needed to experience in my life. That harsh reality is essential and incredible. One of the prettiest places I've seen.
Tangents: You’re part of a healthy stable of musicians, all of whom have their own bands. How many bands are you also involved with at the moment, and do all of the bands help out each other?
Andy: My only other project at the moment is Appalucia. Its a country/drinking music band. We do help each other out, because the bands share members and most everybody in that band has other bands that they're in. So the chain of possibilities is endless and those collaborations always lead to other opportunities.
Tangents: Is it hard to keep track of the schedules of all those bands?
Andy: Very much so.
Tangents: How important is it to play out of town, and build a regional or national base?
Andy: That all depends on what you want to get out of it. In my case, I feel like music is the best thing I have to offer and at this point have dedicated my life to pursuing it. I don't aim to get rich, but I aim to live this lifestyle regardless, and so for anyone with those ambitions I think playing out of town is extremely important. You gotta go tell it on the mountain to create an echo.
Tangents: For one day (earth time), you get hold of the Tardis. What are you doing during that day?
Andy: See what the world was like without people. I'd like to know how she's supposed to look.