FOOD WILL WIN THE WAR AT THE KNITTING FACTORY IN JULYPHOTO COURTESY OF NICOLE CORDIER
Rob Ward of Food Will Win the War develops an intimate relationship with listeners via his celestial pop sounds. The band, which is heavily influenced by Elliott Smith, The Magnetic Fields, Neutral Milk Hotel, and the Pixies, creates lulls and sweet harmonies seemingly made while traveling throughout time and space. Their debut album, produced by Jeremy Sklarsky (who produced Freelance Whales’ Weathervanes) and mastered by Sarah Register (The Morning Benders and The Shins), reveals dreamy pop sounds mixed with complex human emotions. The album is a mix of storytelling and personal anecdotes from Ward, who has been building this band for four years (but has been a musician since he was six years old). A False Sense of Warmth comes out today, featuring songs that Ward and the band have been working on for years.
Food Will Win the War just held their album release party at The Bowery Electric for their new album. We were able to speak with Ward on having one of the worst band names (as compiled by The Onion), feeling emotional, and how the World Wars gave the band their name.
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, NY
MEMBERS: Rob Ward (guitar and vocals), Jeff Young (violin), Dara Matthews (glockenspiel, keyboard, vocals), Scott Stein (accordion, keyboard, vocals), Matt Epstein (bass), Dan Barman (drums)
HISTORICAL INFLUENCES: So “Food Will Win the War” was a campaign during World War I and World War II to try to get Americans to serve, but also to surplus goods, so they wouldn’t have to subsidize farming as much. There’s something kind of strange and goofy and eerie and scary and has kind of a lightness to it. The fact that it could have those feelings all built into one.
ON BEING FRIENDS WITH A FREELANCE WHALE: We originally met because he was living with Jeremy Sklarsky, and then we both happened to start working on albums. We would be splitting days, where I would do the earlier half of the day and he would do later in the day. We would be overlapping. Before he was working on his album, Jeremy brought the song “Traveling” to Judah [Dadone of Freelance Whales]. Judah started working on it. Before we even met in person, he had been working on it. Things just came together.
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION AT CAMP: I went to school with Dara. I finished at Columbia, but I started at the New College in Sarasota, FL. That’s where Dara went, too. We moved up here. We met everybody while we were up here. Dara went to camp with Dan, the drummer. Dan, the drummer, played in other projects with Matt, the bass player. Judah actually connected me with Jeff, because Judah was originally considering having a violin player in the band, and then he decided not to. Our old violin player stopped performing because she was in grad school and getting married. I reached out to Judah and asked if he knew of anyone. He said, there’s this one guy that I know. The accordion player is friends with someone who went to camp with Dan.
ON DREAMS AND CHOICES: It varies pretty drastically, song by song. Some songs are based on dreams. A lot of songs are based on relationship experiences or film and literature. Most often, it’s some combination thereof. There’ll be an idea that I start out with and then it starts to become this reality around a character that embodies a portion of a book combined with my life or something I observed in someone else’s life, combined with something that’s happening in the news. They usually take on a life of their own. It’s informed by a lot of different choices, but it’s its own narrative.
MEMORABLE PERFORMANCES: We performed with Richard Buckner, which was pretty exciting. It was fun to meet him. Freelance Whales at the time they weren’t as well known as they are now. We performed with the front man of the Violent Femmes last year at Mercury Lounge. Those are the three that come to mind. I think it would be very interesting to perform with Jeff Mangum. The Pixies would be… I would probably collapse. Those two would take the top of the list.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST: When I was six years old, I started playing viola. I started playing in a classical setting, so I got a five-dollar guitar at a yard sale when I was ten. I didn’t start writing songs until early high school, and they were pretty bad. Then in the first year of college, I was taking a recording class. I had to record something, so I got some friends together and we started recording these songs I had written. Then someone was throwing a party and they asked us to perform. We performed and it went over well. Then we just started building. Actually, “The Astronaut Song” was written back then. It’s a pretty old song. It just wasn’t recorded until this album. Food Will Win the War actually started four years ago. There were a lot of people coming and going. We spent a lot of time tweaking old songs. We were teaching the same songs to new members, until about a year and a half ago. It’s been steady since then.
AN INTIMATE CONNECTION: For me, music is sort of always taking you to a better place. It’s been like a companion. It’s gotten me through rough times. It’s made me happier in happy times. The songs that I write are sort of here inside of me. As an audience member, I really much prefer smaller venues. As a performer, I like connecting with the audience. There are intangible things you share as a performer and as an audience member when you’re in the same room together. That’s what it’s all about to me: the connection.
NAME RECOGNITION: People always do that in interesting ways. My favorite reaction is always, that’s a terrible name. Or when one starts to tell me how to choose a band name. The Onion did a list of the worst band names, and we were on it. We turned it into a positive thing. We ended up playing with someone else on that list while we were in Charlottesville – Doofgoblin.
COLORING EMOTIONS: As a band, I think we’ve worked on finding our sound and understanding our sound. With that being said, with our live performance, there’s a lot of variety. That just depends on the mood of the songs. I think our songs span a pretty wide array of sounds. I think part of that is that I write regardless of emotion and regardless of the color of emotion. Maybe it’s a silly song. Maybe it’s a morbid song. Maybe it’s an angry song. It’s all of the emotions that I’m going through and then those emotions are overlaid on the sounds of the band.
FOLLOWING FATE: I don’t know if it was my intent. I always knew I had a relationship with music that was too strong to abandon. I didn’t necessarily ever think about what that meant as a career or anything like that. In some ways, it’s not something that can be sculpted. It’s something that just kind of has to be done. It just is what it is.
FOOD WILL WIN THE WAR’S NEW ALBUM, A FALSE SENSE OF WARMTH, COMES OUT TODAY. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.