Interviews | Jun 19th, 2006

AM/FM is the brainchild of Brian Sokel, formerly of Franklin. They play the pop that makes me weep, then smile wistfully, then weep again. Okay, not really, but they are an extremely pleasant listen. I spoke with Brian about his descent into madness and murder, and how he heroically overcame his spicy black bean gardenburger addiction. Okay, not really. Sorry, I just have a lot of space to fill. This interview is too big for half a page but too short for a full page. I should just delete the whole damn thing. I mean, it’s not like you’re reading this anyway. All you care about is the Snap Judgments. You make me sick. I would blow diarrhea on you if I could. Okay I think we’re just about done here. Please attempt to read this, you blithering illiterate fools. Thanks, Adam

Give me the straight dirt about Franklin. Why the break up?
Franklin had been together for eight years. That’s a long time in the world of independent punk music. We had played together since we had graduated high school and it got to the point were we felt we were really trapped creatively. We had completed our most recent album and it was a long, difficult process that had some very serious strains on our ability to work together. By the end of that record, and by the end of our tour for that album, we really felt that we had had a good run of it and that it was time to stop while we were still all friends. It just made sense.

Do you consider AM/FM to be a solo project or a band?
I consider AM/FM to be a band. Mike and I are equally involved in it and focus most of our attention to it. We both have specific roles that we play inside the institution and without either of those pieces it wouldn’t be the same. There is a tendency to perceive it as a solo project since I am the primary songwriter, but without Mike’s input, creativity and talent, it would be missing some of its primary ingredients. No one like bad cooks.

AM/FM has a poppy, bright, breezy sound, but real pop is simple in nature and these songs are very intricate. What are you after when you’re writing songs?
I’m not sure it would be accurate to say that we are after anything when we write songs. It’s not a point that is trying to be reached but rather an activity that is inherent in the lifestyle. I suppose some folks may evaluate their experience and target their reactions to particular points; we prefer to accept all of the inspiration as parts of a greater whole. We try and have fun and we try to be creative about the fun we have. Ultimately, if it makes us feel good at the end of the day, we are happy with the song and with the outcome. We write songs the interest us and make us happy. It’s really that simple. If they come off as intricate, creative, or special in some way that is just a wonderful added bonus to the experience.

When I listen to AM/FM, I get the sense that although the music is cheery, you’re very depressed. What’s on your mind?
I’m not sure depressed is a very accurate word. I think the music we make ultimately rings out in some sort of hopeful response. Lyrically, songs present themselves based around a particular choice of words that seem to make sense. It’s something you latch onto the music just like putting a beat behind a melody. My lyrics don’t exist as specific to the person. I am not always singing about myself. Instead, sometimes you borrow from real life experiences just as much as you take creative license and embellish to suit the need of the story.

You know Atom & His Package…
Atom and I have been friends since 1st grade. We’ve just always been best friends and probably always will.

Have you ever thought about going digital too, or incorporating a moog?
Well, going digital is not something I really worry about. I mean, it’s possible we already have based on your definition. We use digital recording equipment in the studio as well as analog. We use digital delay pedals live as well as keyboards. I suppose we like to believe that if it sounds good, use it. We’re not really snobs when it comes to equipment or technology.

Tell me a crazy groupie story.
Well, once walking down south street here in Philadelphia, I saw a fella looking in the window of a store. He was dressed incredibly sharply, and had his name embroidered on his belt. It read, “CHRIS ISAAK.” I was quite in awe since Wild At Heart had just come out. I said hello and we talked about music and guitars for awhile. At some point in the conversation he asked if I would like to hang out on the tour bus…that’s a pretty sweet groupie story…

What would be your ultimate adrenaline rush?
I am not extreme in the least. I’m not really concerned with adrenaline rushes. However, I’d be way into skydiving. I think that would be just about amazing.

What are your plans for the day, after this interview is over?
I have to make publicity phone calls for a band that is on the label I co-own (File 13). They are on tour and I have to make sure posters are up in the clubs. After that, I’m off to the guitar store to buy an amp for my girlfriend’s brother, then I’m heading back to my girlfriend’s house to watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It should be a pretty sweet day.

Check out Brian Sokel’s label at, File-13, POB 2302, Philadelphia, PA 19103. AM/FM is on Polyvinyl Records, POB 1885, Danville, IL 61834