When we created Figment, we wanted to create a site where people could use their imaginations to create their dream band.  Whether it was to create a band inspired by their favorite “real” band or one that was completely unique was irrelevant, only that they used their imagination to the fullest.  It was the former that brought Figment player poppinfresh to our attention and led to our decision to make him the latest Figment Player Heavyweight!

Poppinfresh not only created a band inspired by his clear love for the “real” band The Beatles, but put a spin on it that was not only fun, but incredibly detailed.  The Bleatles, for all of their obvious comparisons to their inspiration, became their own band simply because of the incredible amount of detail poppinfresh employed in creating their back stories, albums, etc.

You don’t have to go any farther than the names of each member of the Fab Flock to see what we are talking about.  John Lanolin, Poll McCardigan, George Aries-Son and Ramgoat Starr not only continue the sheep theme, but are clever without being cloying.

But it doesn’t stop there, the band’s incredibly detailed album covers, including the 2009 Best Album Cover Figgie Award winner “Abbey Fold” (created in collaboration with Figment player scarletto), not only pay homage to the band’s heroes, but also adds to their authenticity.

Much like the band’s inspiration, The Bleatles like to play with their fans.  Whether it’s poppinfresh’s intention or not, placing obvious plays on such Beatles classics as “I Want Ewe (Sheep’s So Heavy)” on “Let it Baaa” instead of “Abbey Fold” or releasing “Let It Baaa” first, not only throws you for a loop, but also makes you wonder what he’s up to – is he merely grabbing the Beatles songs that are easiest to convert into sheep imagery, creating his own image of the band or is he trying to avoid slavishly following the Beatles discography to the nth degree?  Regardless, it works because you end up studying each release for clues to his intentions in much the same way Beatles aficionados do with all of their records.  In fact, it makes me wonder…is Poll dead?

For those of you who think poppinfresh is a one-trick pony though, think again.  His soundtrack for the film “Inseperable:  The Story of Chang and Eng Bunker” by Pickopp Andropov is a stunner!

So whether you are a dyed in the wool (sorry couldn’t resist) fan or a new devotee, I hope you’ll join us in congratulating poppinfresh on his appointment as our newest player Industry Heavyweight.

We’d also like to thank letswasteanafternoon for being our last Figment Player Heavyweight.  There aren’t enough superlatives available to describe his work.  So a simple thanks will have to suffice.

If you’re interested in finding out more about The Bleatles we recommend you read our interview with the band.

As you know, we often interview Figment bands here on blog.  It’s a great way to get to know more about the band and allows the player who created the band to really flesh them out.  What we haven’t done yet is turn the spotlight on the the actual creator themselves, and that’s why we’ve decided to start a new featured called Player Profiles.  In Player Profiles we’ll talk to the actual Figment players to see where their inspiration comes from, what tools they use to create and market their bands, and what they like/dislike on Figment.

When we discussed what Figment player should kick off this new feature, all of us here at Figment immediately thought of frizbee!  For those of you who aren’t familiar with frizbee, he’s the mastermind behind bands like Eccentric Arcade, Coxswain Insignia, Mac & Cheese and Tucker Jackson among others and the recent winner of our Figment Children’s Album Contest.  For those of you who are familiar with him, we wanted to give you some more insight into how he creates and markets his bands.  Whether it’s his constantly updated and detailed band descriptions, his incredible album cover design work or his pioneering use of Twitter, YouTube and the web to promote his bands, frizbee always sets the bar higher with each new band or album.  His friendly, humble, collaborative but competitive nature has made him a popular player on the site, and in our opinion the perfect person to kick off our player profiles.  So without further adieu, we give you our conversation with frizbee.

Figment News:  Tell us a little about yourself.

frizbee:  Well, I’m 24, about to turn 25 next month. I’m originally from California and lived between there and Hawaii from about the time I was 6. My family uprooted to Oahu, Hawaii permanently when I was 14, and I lived there for about 5 years before moving to Wisconsin to be with my then girlfriend who is now my wife of 3 years. I’m a music fanatic and a severe Photoshop junkie. I’m currently a student of Graphic Design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

FN:  How did you find Figment?

frizbee:  I actually discovered Figment through this thing on Flickr called the CD Cover Meme Pool. I don’t even remember how I happened across that in the first place, but it quickly became an obsession. It was a place where you could play the CD Cover Meme game, and share the covers that you created with everyone else in the group. Sadly, the pool is no longer around. But shortly before it’s disappearance, somebody had posted a link to Figment in the discussion board. Initially I was intrigued at the concept, so I checked it out. After I took the virtual tours, I was instantly hooked.

FN:  You’ve mentioned in comment posts on Figment News that you’ve always dreamed of being a rock star.  Any reason why you never tried to be one?

frizbee:  I have actually attempted rock stardom in the past, but unfortunately it didn’t pan out. When I was about 16, I was hired on as a singer for this band that this kid was putting together. I had never really met the guy, but a friend of mine had met him and told him about how I wanted to be in a band, and suggested me. I never even really auditioned, it just sort of happened. I was more than willing to give it a go, but the kid had some serious grandiose delusions about overnight success, and everybody got real sick of it real quick. We had a few practice sessions, one of which was actually productive and turned out something decent, and then we quickly disbanded. Beyond that, I’ve just never had the time or known the right people to attempt the dream again. I still hope that it may happen someday.

FN:  You’ve really created quite a roster of bands on Figment.  Are your bands inspired by any real bands or are they more figments of bands you would have liked to have formed yourself?

frizbee: My bands, like all bands really, are most certainly inspired by other bands. But I never create a band with the sole intention of it becoming a carbon copy of an existing band. And all of the bands I create are extensions of my musical tastes and styles. That’s what is so great about Figment; you can create every band you’ve ever dreamed of creating. Eccentric Arcade is my rock, that is the band that I dream of one day having. I never stop coming up with new ideas for EA. I have plans for EA that go so far into the future it’s scary. Sometimes I wish I did more with some of my other bands like Coxswain Insignia or Neutron Emission, but I don’t ever want to produce something just for the hell of it. When the time is right, it will happen. I have bands that have yet to be brought to life on Figment simply because it’s just not their time yet. I knew I was going to create Solomon X. Lambert for several months before it actually happened.

FN:  Who are your inspirations?

frizbee:  Wow, that is the question to end all questions, isn’t it? Man, where do I even start? Musically? I like everything, I really do. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have an incredibly eclectic musical palette. Queen is my favorite band and has been ever since I was a kid, but KoRn is a very very close second. I love ICP and Twiztid, but I also love stuff like Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. And I’m not afraid to admit that I own every Spice Girls album. You gotta have variety! As far as who inspires me from a design aspect? That’s a bit of a trickier question. Mainly because I never really know who designs anything. I see things that inspire me everyday, but it’s not like everything has the designer’s name slapped across it, so it’s hard to pin stuff like that down.

FN:  With each of your bands you seem to have created a lot of depth to their back stories and their overall visual image.  What advice do you have to share with your fellow Figment players regarding the best way to go about creating a band on Figment?

frizbee:  The biggest problem that I see with a lot of users on Figment is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. This is especially a reoccurring problem I’ve been seeing with new users. Everybody wants to join the site and immediately start creating band after band after band. Which isn’t necessarily a band thing. Hell, I’ve got about 6 or 7 bands myself. But you have to pace yourself. If you create 5 bands right from the get go and release your allotted number of albums for the band on the first day, you’re just pumping stuff out for the hell of it. There’s no creativity, it’s just mass produced. Treat your band(s) on Figment like you would treat any real band. You’ve got to put in the time. You don’t throw a bunch of people together, hit the stage and become the next big thing right away. People want to know who you are, where you come from, what you’re trying to say with your music. You gotta market your band. When I see a band and the band description is just “We play metal!”, that immediately turns me off. I want to know about the band, I want it to feel real. You don’t have to be overly detailed or develop some extensive back story, but for me it’s gotta be more than “We’re a band. Jeff plays bass, Frank plays drums, Chuck plays guitar. We rock hard!” I also think that the album artwork and the song titles are of extreme importance.

FN:  Your album covers are really well done.  What tools do you use to create them?

frizbee:  I’m all about Photoshop. Almost all of the album covers I’ve created have been created in Photoshop (PS). I say almost all of them only because there was a short stint when I was forced to use Gimp in place of Photoshop. The first Eccentric Arcade album, the first Coxswain Insignia album, and the first Neutron Emission album covers were created long ago with PS on an older computer that died before I discovered Figment. Up until the Xenophilia Live album, everything was created using Gimp, as it was my only source of image editing on my computer at the time. I have since then upgraded to PS once again because it is required for my schooling. I’m so happy to have it back. Gimp works all right in a pinch, but it’s no substitute.

FN:  I understand you’re taking graphic design courses?  What’s that like, and has Figment helped prepare you for these courses?

frizbee:  That’s true. I’m in my first year at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh; I’m going for my bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time to be a graphic designer, so it’s awesome to finally be on the path to achieving that dream. So far everything has been going great. As with any school I don’t always love my classes or my teachers, but that’s just part of the game. I don’t know if Figment has helped prepare me for school, but school has certainly helped prepare me for Figment. The more I learn, the better my album covers get.

FN:  How do you promote your bands once they’ve released an album?  Any pointers on what to do and what not to do?

frizbee:  For the most part, I tend to let the albums speak for themselves. I’ll announce it in the news section of the band’s page, and the Eccentric Arcade Twitter page is a great source of promotion. But I generally tend to just release it into the wild and let it run free. I feel that if it’s meant to do well, it will do well. Sometimes the success of an album can shock you. I’ve released some things that I think stand a chance of doing really well that completely bomb, but when you get the ones that blow up…that’s an awesome feeling. For new Figment users, I would advise that you promote your band(s) moderately, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to oversell yourself. If you start hounding people to listen to your band or by their new album, that’s just going to turn people off.

FN:  It takes time to build and maintain a fan base for a band on Figment.  What is the most effective way to do this on a sustained basis?

frizbee:  Like the real music industry, it seems like a little gimmick goes a long way. If you look at the top four Top Bands on Figment, they’re gimmick bands. Everybody loves a gimmick, but I think people rely a bit too much on it. In my opinion, the best way to build a long lasting fan base is to be original. That’s why bands like !? and Fait Accompli are so great and have such a dedicated fan base. I get excited when I see that !? comes out with a new album, or when I see that Gnome is in the studio because they bring originality with every single release.

FN:  With Eccentric Arcade you’ve not only promoted the band on Figment, but also on YouTube (through a video podcast), on Twitter and with their own website.  Why go to such lengths to promote a fake band?

frizbee:  Why not? When I first decided to start the Eccentric Arcade Twitter page, I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. I was honestly a bit worried about it in the beginning. I didn’t want people to think “Ok, this guy has taken it one step too far.” But I felt that Figment was the place where you could take that extra step, and live that rock star dream that you’ve always wanted without being judged. So I decided to take it one step further and spread the word beyond just Figment. Now I have Jimmy Eat World following Eccentric Arcade on Twitter. How ridiculous is that!? And the YouTube channel was something that just seemed natural. I figured if I was going to go to these lengths to make the idea of Eccentric Arcade as real as possible, people needed a face and a voice to put to everything. If you’re gonna do it, do it big!

FN:  What does it take for you to fan a band?  Buy/listen to their album?

frizbee:  A great album cover is a guarantee to catch my attention. I’ve bought a few albums just because I thought the artwork was awesome. But you’ve gotta have the whole package. If the band doesn’t feel real, I’m not going for it. There are a lot of bands that I think try too hard, and I do think there’s an overabundance of metal bands on Figment. But if you’ve got a clear identity, good songs and good artwork, you’ll catch my eye.

FN:  Any other players who you’d like to laud for their work?

frizbee:  Oh, of course. overground is awesome, one of the best players in the game, in my opinion. Not only is Fait Accompli amazing, but the side project O’Blivion was the first band I ever became a fan of on Figment. I’ve done a lot of great work with him on the Xenophilia Tour and the Eccentric Arcade/Fait Accompli hybrid, Nom de Guerre. letswasteanafternoon is another great player. He’s the guy responsible for !?, another one of my favorite acts on Figment. I’d love to collaborate with him in the future. And theHoseman is something words can’t even describe. That guy has copious amounts of genius overflowing out of his ears. Not only is Zandergriff Miggs and the Parliament of Owls one of the biggest bands on Figment, but he’s the brains behind Prime! That was a groundbreaking moment for Figment. Prime! took it to an entirely new level with being the first rock opera on Figment. It had a huge cast made up of all these amazing players in the Figment world, an incredibly rich and detailed plot. It still blows my mind. It was an honor to be a part of that, and I would absolutely love to work with theHoseman again in the future.

FN:  What is the band and/or album you’ve formed/released that you are the most proud of?

frizbee:  Hands down, Eccentric Arcade. Eccentric Arcade will always be the band that is first and foremost for me. Even when I’m working on new projects for my other bands, I’m still thinking of new things for EA. I’d have to say that the album I’m most proud of is EA’s latest album, “Dropping Knowledge”. That album was in the forefront of my mind for a long time. I came up with that album title when I was, like, 12. And not only did the album do well, but the single for “Jar Full of Hearts” is EA’s most successful single to date.

FN:  What would you like to see added to Figment in the way of features, improvements, etc?

frizbee:  I’m interested to see when/if/how the feature to be able to take your band on tour works. It’s something that has been listed as “under review” on the Feedback for a while. That could be very interesting. I do also really like the idea of the ability to set a release date for an album, and have it automatically release on the set date. Just set it and forget it!

FN:  If someone asked you why you play Figment what would you tell them?

frizbee:  I would tell them that I don’t play Figment, I live Figment. I do anything and everything I can to make everything I do on Figment as real as I can. Figment is where we get to be the rock stars we used to/still do dream about being, so why not go all out?

Band Images

May 20th, 2010

Just a quick post to let you know why we have started to ban band’s with images of people.  As you know, we’ve always banned images of “real” bands on Figment.  These are often copyright images, cannot be attributed to a “fake band”, and are not allowed to be used on Figment.  We have in in rare cases allowed a photo to be used where the photo has been significantly altered or where the people in the photos cannot be clearly identified, but even in those cases we often ask the player to change the photo.

Recently we’ve had several players use clearly identifiable pictures of people who may or may not be “real” musicians.  I just wanted to let everyone know that we will ban band images with clearly identifiable people unless you can prove that you have permission to use that photo.  For instance, RevSpike often uses pictures of his friends and has let me know that he has their permission to do so.  GothZilla’s band image is of the band’s two creators.

If you have plans to use a band image that contains a photo of a person or people, please make sure you have their permission to use that photo.  If you use a photo of a friend ask them to send you an email confirming their approval of it’s usage.  Once you have that email please pass it along to us at customerservice at figment dot cc.  Once we have that acknowledged that approval via email you can proceed with releasing it on Figment.  If you have a question about a photo you can also send it to us in this manner and we’ll let you know that if it’s okay to use.

We’d appreciate everyone on Figment follow these rules.  It will save all of us a lot of time and aggravation, plus it will protect all of us from the legal issues that might arise from improperly using someone’s image.

So in short, try to stay away from using photos of people who you don’t know, and in those cases where you do make sure you have their permission to use it.  If your looking for my advice, the best artist picture is often one of yourself.

If you want to find out more about bans and other issues related to your bands click here to read a recent post on the subject.

Hey it’s that time again, time to clear out ye olde bookmark list and share some cool odds and sods with you!  So here we go –

  • How important is a band name?  The NY Times ran an article on this subject, and how even classical groups are getting creative with their names.
  • Don’t believe that you can get people to believe in a fake bands, albums or concerts?  Guess again! Even the art community is getting involved – whether it’s creating fake bands or record stores!  So imagine it and they will come!
  • Sleeveface rocks…it simply rocks.  I dare you not to agree.
  • Change the Thought is a great design blog, but I particularly liked this article on gig posters.
  • 7 Deadly Sinners are 7 artists who among other things seem to like to create gig posters for fake bands!
  • frizbee pointed this Wired article out to me.  A must read for Lost fans.  BTW frizbee I’m still working on getting a hold of them…I’ll keep you posted.

That’s it for now.  Until next time…

A few weeks back I got an email from my good friend Jeff saying,  “Hey, you’ve probably heard of this book, but in case you haven’t, it looks like one you’ve gotta get.”  I hadn’t, and he was right!

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond is a book dedicated to those of us who have always wanted to be rock stars, but settled for being rabid fans instead.  Whether it’s meaningless Top 10 lists, a reluctant breakdown of Toto’s “Africa” or how truly unglamorous it is to be a rock journalist, Almond takes us all on a hysterical tour of what it’s like to be a “drooling fanatic”.

Drooling fanatic – noun – 1. One who drools in the presence of beloved rock stars.  2.  Any of a genus of rock-and-roll wannabes/geeks who walk around with songs constantly ringing in their ears, own more than 3,000 albums, and fall in love with at least one record per week.

After reading a copy of his book in 3 days, I was a drooling fan of Mr. Almond’s work, and was thrilled when he agreed to answer a few questions from a fellow fanatic.

Figment News:  You’ve been a writer and rock journalist for some time now.  When did you realize that you were a “drooling fanatic”?

SA: I’m not sure there was any Eureka moment. I’ve just come to realize as I grow older that I’m a LOT MORE into music than the people around me. I listen to it more often. I’ve got more albums. I get WAY into my favorite bands. I talk about them way too much and generally call the members by their first names, as if they’re friends of mine. (They are not.) But I’d argue that everyone’s got a little fanatic in them, because everyone has some song or album that’s helped them reach feelings that would have otherwise been out of reach.

FN:  Why do think so many people become drooling fanatics?

SA: Because we all want to be rock stars – or most of us, anyway – and very few of us get to be rock stars, and so some of us convert that unrequited longing into an obsession with music. The other thing is that people basically need music to remain fully human.

FN:  In “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life” you breakdown the song “Africa” by Toto.  Why?

SA: I think it epitomizes this weird paradox, which is that the lyrics to a song can be totally absurd and disjointed and even in the case of “Africa” kind of demented, but if the melody and rhythm are there, the listener really doesn’t care. I’d listened to (and loved) that song for years before actually studying the lyrics and realizing how crazy and imperialist they are.

FN:  Let me commend you on being the one of the first music journalists (at least to my knowledge) to write a book about how truly unglamorous it is to be a rock critic.  Do you think most journalists who cover music are really overzealous fan boys/girls or are they simply writers trying to make a living?

SA: I imagine they’re both, to varying degrees. Music critics are kind of in a tough spot, because I’m pretty sure they didn’t grow up thinking: Man, when I grow up, I want to be a MUSIC CRITIC! I’m pretty sure most of them would rather have been musicians. And they do get treated pretty horribly. They have to kind of beg to get interviews and get jerked around a lot. But at the same time, they get to go to a lot of shows and rack up the free CDs and indulge in the fantasy that they have a special connection with the rock stars they interview. (I certainly felt that way, wrongly.) So it’s kind of a mixed blessing.

photo: © Stephen Sette-Ducati

FN:  As a drooling fanatic father of two, I really related to the chapters in the book you devoted to your wife and family.  With Mother’s Day having just past & Father’s Day right around the corner, what advice do you have for those of us who are trying to balance being a mother or father with their musical fanaticism?  Any advice for those who are still single, but are thinking about taking the plunge?

SA: Yeah, I mean, it’s tough. You can’t really crank AC/DC (or Ike Reilly) when you’ve got a newborn. And a lot of the time that I used to devote to hunting down new music, now goes into changing diapers and making bottles. But I also feel like good parenting is partly about sharing the joys of your life with your kids, so we try to do that around our house. We have regular dance parties. We sing to our kids. And we totally indulge their drooling fanaticism.

FN:  You seem to be a devout fan of albums or CDs, but not as big a fan of digital downloads.  Do you think that’s a function of age or is there something else about listening to an album or CD that makes it special for you?

SA: I just think when you’re listening to a physical artifact, you’re more likely to listening intently. I find that when I listen on a computer, it’s too easy for me to just use music as background noise, rather than a concerted sonic experience.

FN:  I noticed that you provide every one who buys the book with access to not only a special hidden offer, which I will not divulge, but also access to a “bitchin’ soundtrack” at your website, www.stevenalmond.com.  Is this a way of better connecting readers with some of the music that inspired the book or a blatant attempt to justify your fanaticism?

SA: It’s more like this: I spend a lot of time in the book talking about how great I think Dayna Kurtz and Ike Reilly and Gil Scott-Heron are, and I just want the reader to be able to judge for him or herself. That’s one of the points of the book – that it’s impossible to convey music with words. People have to have the songs. So I’m just trying to give them the songs, in the hopes they’ll go out and buy some albums by the artists in question, all of whom I consider God-like and worthy of drooling worship.

“Rock And Roll Will Save Your Life” is a funny and intelligent look at what it’s like to be a true fan of music.  I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book, read Steve’s blog and check out the free bitchin’ soundtrack.  You won’t regret it, cuz face it, if you’re spending time on Figment you’re a drooling fanatic!  Better yet, win our Figment Album Cover Design Contest and we’ll give you a free copy of the book!

Hayden Frasco has joined the growing number of Figment bands who are vlogging.  The Forgotten Falling frontman and current cast member of Prime! gives you the skinny on the recording of the band’s new album as well as updates on some of his labelmates at Fallen® Records.

Make sure you subscribe to his YouTube Channel to catch further installments and while you’re at it do the same for Uncle Duff Records’ Radio Free Albemuth and Eccentric Arcade/RA Records video podcast.

Thanks to our good friends at Adobe the winner of our 2010 Figment Album Cover Design Contest will be taking home a copy of the newly released Photoshop Creative Suite 5 Extended!  Building on the success of previous versions of Photoshop, CS5 Extended is the ultimate solution for advanced digital imaging, delivering all of the editing and compositing capabilities of Photoshop CS5 plus breakthrough tools that let you create and edit 3D and motion-based content.  Whether it’s new painting features like Mixer Brush that allows on canvas color blending; 3D extrusions with Adobe Repoussé that lets you create 3D logos from any text layer, selection, path or layer mask; Content-Aware Fill that lets you remove any image or detail from a picture and magically fills in the space left behind; or Puppet Warp, a feature that allows you to precisely warp or stretch graphics, text or image elements to create new looks for your designs, Photoshop CS5 Extended has it all!  So what are you waiting for?  Enter our 2010 Figment Album Cover Design Contest now!