Portland is blossoming like a rose with LDS talent. It takes a special place to be able to support great LDS artists like Lindsey Pool, Canoe, KaRyn Daley, and the very retro and impeccably stylish Fossil Fools, and one need look no further than the 5th Friday Open Mic to see that Portland isn’t your ordinary LDS community. Mark Simnitt is responsible for both Fossil Fools and the 5th Friday Open Mic, but don’t worry- just because he’s smarter and more talented than everyone doesn’t mean he’s not humble, because he is. He said so himself.
How long have Fossil Fools been together?
A: The band has existed in some form for about five years. It’s something I always wanted to try, but really didn’t get around to making happen until my kids got older and interested in playing music themselves. I think that was the catalyst. We started to accumulate gear and it was there at my house and it looked like so much fun, I just couldn’t resist giving it a try myself.
At first it was just Myron Smith and myself playing and singing old Tom Petty and Chris Isaac covers for our wives and anyone else who would listen. Myron and I had sung together off and on for years, so when I needed a partner, he was the first guy I thought of. Our friend Dave Greaves wanted to join our “band,” which we thought was sort of funny at the time, because we really didn’t think of ourselves that way – as a band I mean. Dave wanted to play keyboards, but I told him what we really needed was a drummer. I taught him the basics and he picked it up pretty quickly. We first started doing shows and calling ourselves Fossil Fools about a year later and that’s when my brother Knol joined us on bass.
Your music could be classified somewhere between Rockabilly and Americana, or just good old Rock ‘n Roll. How do you classify it?
A: Actually, I like how you describe it… mostly, I tell people it’s “Garage Rockabilly.” I’ve heard people call it “Retro Rock ‘n Roll” too.
The first music I got excited about as a kid was stuff my Dad listened to. He had a stack of 45s that he let us kids destroy on an old box record player. We’d listen to Carl Perkins and Elvis and Jerry Lee Louis, Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. I didn’t set out to make music that sounds even older than I am, I just wanted to write songs that would be fun to play and would make people smile. Our sound is just sort of what evolved. I suspect there’s another sound or two in there somewhere, but that will be another project… Stay tuned for that, I guess.
How many members of the band are LDS? Tell us about the band.
A: We’re all members. Balancing the band with church, day jobs and family can be tough, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of blocking out time and making it all work. We aren’t touring because I’m the only one who’s in a position to do that, but the rest of the guys are up for playing around Portland as much as we can.
As members of the church, I suspect we do have less time to devote to our music than a lot of bands, and that’s got to impact how we do things. When Fossil Fools was brand new, I’d been serving in a bishopric for several years and it was time for a new bishop. I was released and for two glorious months, I didn’t have another calling. That had an incredible impact on me creatively. I had so much extra time and energy that I decided to try my hand at writing songs. In six weeks I think I wrote like fifteen complete songs, three of which are on our album. I’m truly not advocating for people to avoid callings, just making the observation that callings can skim off some of that creative juice. But I would also say that the band does a lot to recharge our batteries and make the rest of our lives a lot more fun.
Your website mentions your insatiable appetite for attention. The question is, how hard is it to go through life knowing you’re better than everyone?
A: Funny you should ask, I honestly don’t think I’m better than everyone else, just smarter and way more talented. And more humble, of course. Seriously though, the music, for me, is almost more about the performance than about anything else. Writing is great, recording is great, but for me performing is what it’s all about.
Linescratchers recently featured a link to the 5th Friday Open Mic in Portland. Tell us about the Open Mic idea.
A: 5th Friday Open Mic is an opportunity for LDS musicians and their friends to perform “secular” music downstairs at the Beaverton, Oregon stake center. Like the name implies, we hold it every time there are five Fridays in a month.
When the band first started looking for places to play, we soon realized that most of our options were bars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but none of us were particularly excited about hanging out in bars.
About that time, I had an assignment to organize some musical entertainment for a stake event. I was blown away by how many incredibly talented musicians we had in our stake alone. I thought – here are all these great performers with no place to perform – and that’s where the idea came from.
I ran the idea past the stake presidency and they approved it and got it on the calendar. Once it was official, I enlisted the help of a couple of my friends in then serving in the stake YM Presidency, Bob Kojima, who does lights and sound, and musician Mike O’Daly (KaRyn Daly’s father).
At first we had maybe 30 people showing up, and even that was great, but now it’s not unusual to have 100 people coming from five different stakes. I think every stake should do something like this. It’s really seems to be filling a need.
What albums have you recorded with Fossil Fools?
A: So far just the one, “The Fossil Record,” which was a total blast to make. And with the help of Greg Blaisdell and Parker Mann of the band Lindsey Pool, I think it turned out pretty awesome if I do say so myself.
What is the connection between your faith and your music, Mark? Do you see any conflict there?
A: Myron and I were just talking about this the other day… Music can be a pretty self-indulgent undertaking. I honestly feel like to have the Lord’s help with my music – and I really do want his help – it can’t just be about me. So from the message of the songs, to where and how I perform, I always try to think about how my music will effect other people. 5th Friday sort of came out of that mentality, for example. In other words, the more people I can involve in the fun, the better.
What other musicians would you recommend from the Portland area?
A: There are two Portland area bands that I really love. One is Lindsey Pool. They’ve been playing together since they were really young kids and have a ton of albums. They’re amazing. The other is Canoe, who just released their second album. I know you feature them on Linescratchers.com. Canoe was actually one of the inspirations for 5th Friday back before they had even released an album.
Any Fossil Fools shows coming up?
A: We’ve done a couple of private shows this past month. We tried out some new material, which was a lot of fun. We’ll be unveiling some of those new songs for the general public on Monday, September 14th at Mississippi Pizza Pub, here in Portland. The show is from 9:00 to 11:00 for ages 21 and up.
Where can interested listeners find out more about your music? Are you on iTunes?
A: Yes – you can find us on iTunes. And you can check out our website at www.fossilfoolsband.com. Have your listeners drop us a line, we would love to hear what they think about our site, our music, our bad outfits… pretty much anything.