Sinners & Saints: Two Men And A Van
by Daniel Coston
From August 2016 Edition Of Tangents Magazine
Tangents Magazine: How did you two come together?
Mark Baran: I saw Perry play solo at Snug Harbor and his song writing struck me in a way that I was compelled to ask if he ever wanted to add a bass player to the mix. He hit me up about a gig after a month or so and we started working together.
Perry Fowler: Like all great romances begin, we met at a bar. Snug Harbor to be specific.
Tangents: How would you describe the sound of this band?
Baran: Americana, indie, folk haha just kidding. We get a lot of comparisons to the Avetts, sometimes to Violent Femmes, but as with any band the sound is a mix of our musical influences and sensibilities. Perry has a really broad range of influence, but for sure was brought up on that staple of classic and old country. I did not experience old country growing up, but came to find and love it later in life. To avoid the categories when someone asks me what we sound like I just tell them we are a two-man one-man band.
Fowler: Chuck-a-chuck-a click-clack boom-pop boom-pop
Tangents: Was there a conscious decision to play as just a two-piece?
Baran: When we started Perry played a stomp box that he built. It's a wooden box with a tambourine on top. We asked a friend Chad Shores to play fiddle for us and so for a brief time we were a 3 piece. After Chad left we started playing with the drums and evolving to our current setup. From stomp box and a small kick, to small kick and snare, and finally a full kick and snare. Being a 2 piece that can make a full sound is definitely something that makes us unique and is one of the things we get the most comments about. A lot of people say "I didn't realize there was only 2 of you." For me there is a little worry that if we expanded we might lose that magic.
Fowler: Most definitely. Drummers are a bunch of drunks and full of drama.
Tangents: You all play out of town a lot. Was that also a decision that you both made early on?
Baran: I think we both just decided that we were going to work really hard at giving this thing an honest go. Touring and getting out there is just part of that. It's been some of the most trying and rewarding things I've done.
Fowler: Yeah from the very beginning we decided that we didn't just want to be a local band. Touring is one of those things that it's either in you or it ain't. And we love to tour.
Tangents: What are the pros and cons of touring, and touring as just two people?
Baran: The greatest thing about touring is meeting some really wonderful people and experiencing a little bit of the culture of the places we visit. However, when we get to a town we don't really see it as a tourist. We load in, play a show, crash on someones floor then head to the next town. It can be pretty exhausting. A 5 hour drive followed by carrying equipment into a venue you hope doesn't have stairs, playing for an hour or 3, then hoping someone will let you crash on their floor and not want to party till 4 in the morning. After days and weeks in a row it can wear on you. Perry and I are a bit like brothers. We are very similar so we get along really well together, and mostly are pretty quiet around each other. Every once in a while we can drive each other crazy and the more days your in a car together for 5-6 hours the worse that can get. All that said I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had for anything. We just think of it as paying our dues.
Fowler: It's definitely easier to fit two people and their gear into a van than it is 3 or 4. And it's also easier to keep track of two dudes schedules as far as practicing and making time to go out on tour.
Tangents: Which recording do you think captures your sound the best, to date? Has that recording been made yet?
Baran: I think that our Love & Misery recording by Doug Williams of EMR Recorders captures our sound best to date. On that recording we still separated out a lot of the tracks in the studio. We have plans with our next recording to really focus on making the process as close to our live show as we possibly can and record as much in one take as possible to attempt to capture the energy of playing off each other.
Fowler: I'm still on the fence. Don't get me wrong, I like all our recordings so far cause they basically all sound different since our instrumentation as far as the foot drumming has changed up over the years. I think each of our records has a different feel about them. We're in the process of deciding where we want to record our next full length and that's one of things we've been asking ourselves. How do we want our next record to sound?
Tangents: Where do you draw inspirations for your songs?
Fowler: A lot of people tell me my songs are really sad, even though a lot those songs are upbeat and sound like happy songs. I like to write about things like loneliness and depression and hard times and such, but give them a different feeling than what the words are actually expressing. Cause everyone has those feelings but not very many actually show it on the outside.
Tangents: Sinners & Saints seem to connect with audiences. Why do you think that is?
Baran: I think I can answer this from an outside perspective because Perry's song writing really spoke to me all those years ago at Snug Harbor when I first caught his show. There's a real honesty to his lyrics and melodies that I think most people can relate to. In addition to that his songs are both uplifting and heart wrenching. It's a very cathartic experience. Hence "Love & Misery" even though that track itself is more about letting go of that self pity.
Tangents: Wildest Sinners & Saints shows, so far. Tell us!
Baran: Ha, probably a house show we had at Perry's place years ago. Like most of our stories begin "we had been drinking..." Perry ended up throwing his neck out from playing like a madman and the floor of their living room sunk an inch from everyone jumping around.
Fowler: Oh man, that's a entirely different interview. There was the time we played heavy rebel and were drenched in PBR and sweat afterwards because everyone kept throwing their beer at us. I guess it was a good thing because we were told that's how they show their affection for bands, by pelting them with cans. Theirs still had beer in them though I'm not so sure. Then there was one time we stayed over at a dudes house in Virginia Beach (we had never met him until that night). He was apparently a label rep and was interested in signing the band we were touring with and he also approached us about signing us. Well after our show we earned that he had taken acid right before the show had started so he was tripping pretty hard by the time we got to his house. It was definitely a weird night. There's all kinds of weird and wild things that happen on the road.
Tangents: Do labels, or genre questions, get in the way of people discovering, or even enjoying music?
Baran: Depends on the person. Americana... what is that anyway? Some people find them helpful in discovering other music they love. They are usually open minded enough to explore other genres as well. Others write off everything because it falls within a genre they are convinced has no value. Either way there is no escaping it because humans will always categorize.
Fowler: I was talking to a guy yesterday about genres and how some bands can misrepresent a certain genre and turn some folks away from discovering other music tha fits a certain genre. And he told me, "Well every genre has their Mumford and Sons." So yeah I definitely feel that attaching labels to things can hurt in a way. But also, there's SO MUCH music out there. And that's great and it's a beautiful thing, but at the same time, it helps to "classify" things just to make it easier to find what you're looking for. But we run into the genre thing all the time.
Tangents: Finish this sentence. When it comes down to it, Sinners & Saints is…
Fowler: a band, not a duo.