PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER GABELLO.
Five-piece indie pop band Guards haven’t been around for very long—or, at least, not in their current format. Up until a month ago, bass player Andy Briehan was still officially in another band. “He’s like our Spinal Tap drummer; we’ve had like 80 bass players,” jokes frontman Richie Follin. Guards played their first show at CMJ in 2010, only a year and a half ago, and, although they’ve released a few EPs (including a covers EP), their first full-length album won’t come out until the summer. Guards, however, does not feel like newly-formed band; they know each other too well, almost finishing each other’s sentences. Made up of veteran indie musicians such as Richie Follin and Ted Humphrey, who played together in both Willowz and Cults, another indie-pop favorite fronted by Follin’s younger sister Madeline; Guards’ sound is assured and cohesive. “It feels like it’s been a long-time coming,” explains Follin.Interview met all five band members—Follin, Humphrey, Briehan, Kaylie Church, and John Fredericks—on a day that was far too sunny for New York in March. Happy to be out in the spring weather and chatting with such a lively group of friends, our topics of conversation ranged from Richie’s parents to Paul Simon, Bad News Bears, and Final Destination 4.
[At a cafe with Kaylie Church and Richie Follin]
EMMA BROWN: First a few basic questions—hometowns, where are all of the band members from?
RICHIE FOLLIN: I moved around a lot, but people always say the place where they graduated from high school, so Orange County—Anaheim.
BROWN: I can put Orange County/New York if you would like.
KAYLIE CHURCH: Well, it would be Orange County/New York/San Francisco/Italy. It would be a million slashes.
BROWN: “I have no hometown,” does that work?
CHURCH: I’m from Los Angeles, and then the three other bandmates are from Encinitas in San Diego. It’s this very small [community] near the mountains. Two of them lived on the same street, and they all reconnected later in life.
FOLLIN: The bass player [Andy Briehan] and the drummer [Ted Humphrey], they had played in a band together when they were younger, and the drummer didn’t even remember.
CHURCH: The bass player’s very quiet, initially. Very shy.
BROWN: Was it a strange dynamic, because three of the five of you have known each other since childhood?
FOLLIN: No, not at all. The bass player and the guitar player [John Fredericks] are best friends, and then me and the drummer are best friends and [points to Kayla] we’re dating. Technically engaged. I’m not allowed to say fiancé, she hates it. [laughs]
CHURCH: Yeah, betrothed. I like that.
BROWN: You mentioned that your dad was also a musician, Richie.
FOLLIN: My step-dad [Paul Kostabi]. He started that [metal] band White Zombies. Then he played in another kind of famous punk band, Youth Gone Mad. My first shows were him playing in this goth band [Psychotica], like Marilyn Manson before Marilyn Manson—Rolling Stone actually did a piece on Marilyn Manson ripping them off. They did Lollapalooza in 1996. I went with them, I was in sixth grade. It was Metallica, Soundgarden, Ramones, all these amazing people.
BROWN: Having a step-dad who dresses like Marilyn Manson when you are a child must be an interesting experience. Were the other children at school like, “Richie, what is your dad wearing?”
FOLLIN: He was the guitar player, so he didn’t dress like Marilyn Manson, but he definitely dressed crazy. He’s really weird and out there—you have to hang out with him a lot to understand what’s going on—so that probably freaked them out more than his dress sense. My mom was in a band, too. It took me a while to understand that my parents were cool, they didn’t tell me anything straight out, like what stuff they were in to. I had to find something and bring it to them and say, “Oh have you ever heard of this?” and my mom would be like, “Yeah. I dated him.” [laughs]
BROWN: Did you feel like you were predestined to go into music?
FOLLIN: No, I just always really liked music, I never thought about doing it. My little sister [Madeline Follin] started recording with my step-dad when she was really little, covering punk songs and stuff. He gave me a guitar when I was 13, but I didn’t record with him until I was 17 and then it was just a joke song. I never thought about playing in a band until I was 18.
[Andy Briehan and Ted Humphrey arrive]
BROWN: If not musicians, what did you all want to be when you were five years old?
CHURCH: You guys made fun of me, but I wanted to be a marine biologist.
FOLLIN: If I were to look back on what I wanted to be, I would have absolutely no idea, I only know this because my grandmother took me to a commercial for the police. A policeman asks you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” [And you’re supposed to say] “A policeman!” And then it cuts to the policeman. I didn’t get it because I said I wanted to be a fireman. I guess I wanted to be a fireman!
ANDY BRIEHAN: I wanted to be a motorcyclist.
CHURCH: Like your dad?
BRIEHAN: Yeah, like my dad. On a dirt bike.
TED HUMPHREY: I was already playing drums.
BROWN: At five?
BROWN: When did you start playing?
HUMPHREY: Probably when I was three, but I went through a phase of when I wanted to be a surfer, and a phase where I wanted to be a comic book artist.
[John Fredericks enters]
BROWN: How long has Guards existed?
CHURCH: We’ve been a band for about eight months.
FOLLIN: Basically, when I left Cults is when we started. I just wanted to be part of the come-up again. It was fun to do [Cults] with my sister, but the whole time I was having to pass up a lot of great opportunities for Guards. I really just wanted to look out for my little sister at first, but she’s got the hang of it now.
BROWN: How and when did you decide to form Guards?
FOLLIN: Kind of by default really. [Ted and I were in Cults and] our songs were supposed to be Cults songs, and then I ended up singing on them because the Cults album was taking so long. We got offered to play a show so we had to put a band together.
JOHN FREDERICKS: I had just moved here and I knew Ted in high school, so he was one of the first people I hit up and I was in the band. [I wasn’t looking for a band to join] I was already in two other bands.
FOLLIN: It was my idea to invite him into the band.
FREDERICKS: You didn’t even know me!
FOLLIN: Yeah, I did. I’d met you.
HUMPHREY: I was like, “Great idea.”
CHURCH: My background is in film. I come from a musical family, but I never, ever thought I’d be a musician. I’d be watching TV in our apartment while they were recording, because we have a studio in our apartment, and Richie would be like “Can you come here for a second [and sing].” I was a studio musician.
HUMPHREY: Hired guns!
BRIEHAN: I was living in California, then I moved here, played a show or two, and ended up playing on the Deer Tick tour.
BROWN: You’ve opened some shows for Cults. Is it weird to open for your little sister, Richie?
FOLLIN: No, but that’s come up multiple times during interviews, so maybe it is weird. [laughs] We opened for them a couple of times when we were in the Cults. We started way after them, and if there’s one person I’d be happy opening up for, it’s my little sister.
BROWN: [To John Fredericks] Earlier I asked everyone what they wanted to be when they were five, what did you want to be?
FREDERICKS: A doctor. My dad is one and my brother is becoming one. I really like medicine, I was learning the bones when I was five, but I dropped out of college and started playing in a band. [laughs]
HUMPHREY: Doogie Howser was his favorite show.
FREDERICKS: Yeah. But my dad, he’s so cool, he encouraged [my music] because it’s what I liked. But both of my older brothers are going to graduate school.
FOLLIN: You’re going to school too!
FREDERICKS: I am. I’m independently finishing my undergraduate degree. We’ll be in the van [touring] and I’ll be plugged in, trying to write my paper while they’re all watching Final Destination 4.
FOLLIN: We’ve gone beyond trilogies [for touring]. There have to be four to five, to six, to seven [films] in the series.
BROWN: Did you have one film that you’d watch over and over again when you were a child and it would drive your parents insane?
FREDERICKS: I remember watching Problem Child over and over. [I also] dabbled in some musicals, The Newsies.
HUMPHREY: Bad News Bears. [laughs]
FREDERICKS: Bad News Bears! Dude, yeah. That took me back.
BROWN: Do you have a song that you like to listen to before you go on stage?
[All look at each other]
FOLLIN: Yeah. We have a song that we like to unload our bags at the hotel to. I don’t know the name of it, but it would probably go well with gladiators fighting.
HUMPHREY: It sounds like something from the Rocky soundtrack.
FOLLIN: Rocky meets Shaft.
CHURCH: [starts singing the song]
BROWN: Does everyone at the hotel stare at you?
FOLLIN: Yeah. I can’t imagine we’d ever walk on to that song though, people would be disappointed—”Man, that opening song was way better!”
BROWN: You could leave to the song.
CHURCH: That’s a good idea.
FOLLIN: Walk-off music!
BROWN : I listened to your Cover Songs EP, and the selection of songs is quite diverse— you have stuff from Metallica, Vampire Weekend, M.I.A. Is there any genre of music that doesn’t resonate with you at all, that you could or would never cover?
HUMPHREY: Paul Simon? Though I guess we did Vampire Weekend. Whatever that Paul Simon music is called.
FOLLIN: I like Paul Simon. I feel like if a genre exists, it’s probably because there are at least a couple of guys that are pretty good. I guess probably house music. I like dubstep.
HUMPHREY: What about drum and bass? [laughs] [But] the idea behind the cover album was to take something and just spin it.
FOLLIN: Something way different. We tried covering bands that sound more like us and it just ended up sounding too similar.
BROWN: Your first full-length album is coming out in July; is there a theme to the album?
FOLLIN: We’re kind of doing this evil, power-pop. We were definitely trying to write pop songs, and then we’re all a little bit evil.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GUARDS, OR TO DOWNLOAD THEIR EP, VISIT THEIR BANDCAMP.