Local band Fialta set to debut first album

Indie pop group will perform Friday at Kreuzberg, CA in SLO

slinn@thetribunenews.comJune 19, 2013 

If Fialta’s new album reminds you of sunny San Luis Obispo, that’s no coincidence.

“Summer Winter,” which pairs a summery beach-town sound with whimsical yet wistful lyrics, is rife with references to California’s Central Coast.

“When people have listened to this (album), they’ve told us they feel like they’re being taken on a little journey,” band member Sarah Shotwell said.

Fialta celebrates the release of “Summer Winter,” its first full-length album, with a concert Friday at the Kreuzberg, CA restaurant and coffee shop in San Luis Obispo. Also playing are The Honey Trees, a pop duo with ties to the Central Coast.

On Saturday, the indie-pop quartet performs at Claiborne & Churchill winery in San Luis Obispo as part of the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association’s Roll Out the Barrels event. The band is also eying a statewide tour this summer.

Fialta takes its name from the fictional Mediterranean town in Vladimir Nabokov’s 1936 short story, “Spring in Fialta.”

“One shared passion that we all have is reading,” Shotwell said, so it seemed only appropriate to use a literary source. “It just really captured our imaginations, but it also captured the sound of the music we write.”

According to the band members — which include Beth Clements, her husband, Michael Leibovich, and Shotwell’s husband, David Provenzano — that sound has been influenced by modern acts Andrew Bird, Sufjan Stevens, Stars and Vampire Weekend, as well as older artists such as The Beach Boys and Jorge Ben Jor.

“One of the interesting elements about our band is all four of us are songwriters. That being said, the challenge for us is to have a cohesive sound,” Leibovich explained, funneled through “a spectrum of instruments” including drums, glockenspiel, guitar, piano and ukulele.

Fialta has its foundation in another local group, the San Luis Obispo indie rock band Sherwood, which gained a national following after being discovered by MySpace founder Tom Anderson and signing with MySpace Records. (Sherwood, which released three albums, officially broke up in 2012.)

Leibovich joined Sherwood as keyboard player in 2003, shortly after the band was formed. Provenzano came aboard as rhythm guitarist in 2007.

“They were touring together,” Shotwell began. “And then they met these phenomenal women,” Clements finished with a chuckle.

Although they were scattered across the globe — Leibovich and Provenzano were touring overseas, Clements was living in Connecticut and Shotwell was attending graduate school in Seattle — the four future bandmates longed to collaborate.

“Sometimes, once in a blue moon, we’d all be together on tour … and think, ‘Wow, we could all make music together,’ ” Shotwell recalled. “So we started sending tracks back and forth over the Internet. The boys would write (music), Beth would add vocals … (and) I’d try to help with lyrics.”

Eventually, they decided collectively to move to San Luis Obispo to focus on Fialta. The two couples now live just five blocks from each other.

“This was kind of the promised land for us for a long time,” Shot-well said of the Central Coast. “We just wanted to be back here.”

Fialta released a three-song EP in March 2011 before starting work that May on “Summer Winter.” All told, the band members spent about 20 weekends commuting to San Jose to work with producer Rob Ernst at Noise Root Studio.

“In a two-day weekend, we would record anywhere between 36 and 48 hours,” Leibovich recalled. “It would test our endurance.”

That wasn’t the only challenge Fialta faced. During the recording process, Clements was diagnosed with vocal cord granuloma, an injury that rendered the singer virtually silent.

“My doctor was like, ‘Yeah, you basically need to stop talking for two months,’ ” Clements recalled, but her recovery took much longer than that. “There was almost a year of not singing.”

Rather than continue without Clements, her bandmates took a break from the studio to concentrate on their songwriting.

“We could, in theory, have pressed on, but we didn’t feel like that was our best foot forward,” Shotwell said. “So we just decided to wait, and ultimately that’s been the best decision.”

In fact, her husband added, the final songs written and arranged for “Summer Winter” are some of the strongest on the album, which will be released nationally July 23.

“In a way, we all grew up when we were writing this album,” Clements said.

Now, Fialta is looking forward to the next step in its development.

The band recently received a boost when the title track of “Summer Winter” appeared in a Kmart commercial.

“That was such a fortunate thing for us because it was the income we needed to release the album on our own … to really have creative rights over the whole process,” Clements said, as well as a measure of the band’s success.

“Our next goal is (playing) Madison Square Garden,” Clements said. “We say, ‘Why not? Shoot for the stars.’ ”

IF YOU GO

Fialta
9 p.m. Friday
Kreutzberg, CA, 685 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo
$12, includes album and drink
242-3481 or www.fialtamusic.com

Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907. Stay updated by following @shelikestowatch on Twitter.

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