Get to Know a Band: Filligar
Filligar is a four piece rock act out of Chicago. The band is comprised of the three Mathias brothers—Johnny, Pete, and Teddy—and their lifelong friend Casey Gibson. Filligar have opened for the likes of The Black Keys and Counting Crows and are bringing back classic rock to the forefront with a modern sounding twist. We recently had the chance to talk to the bands lead singer and guitarist Johnny Mathias about Filligar’s history, inspirations and brotherly love.
SongFreaks: First off thank you for taking the time to talk with us today, especially during the busy summer concert season.
No problem, thanks for having me on the site
SongFreaks: Filligar was formed in 2000, how old were you all at this time and at the start did you ever imagine making it as far as you have today?
I was 11 years old when we started, the other guys were 13. When we started it was just something we did before hockey practice while we had downtime. Casey played classical piano at the time and my brother Pete picked up a snare drum. They would always be making a racket in the basement and I wanted to join in. My sister had a guitar that sat around a lot so I picked it up and began jamming with them. If you were to tell us today that we would still be playing I’m sure that we would be surprised. Each step along the way we have asked ourselves do we continue doing this? At one point Casey moved to Madison, Wisconsin for a while so we had to ask can we still make this work as he goes to college. We decided yes and it’s been a long road. To be honest it’s only been in the past year or two in which we have considered and pursued the band professionally.
SongFreaks: You have released eight albums since 2002, that’s a lot in only a decade. When do you find the time to record so much material?
Originally recording was something we did during the summer. The school year was too busy for it, thus we wrote a lot of music during the summer when we had the free time. We were diligent to get it done and we recorded using a 4 track tape recorder. With time we used computers and now we record in a studio.
SongFreaks: When I listen to you I am reminded of acts like Steppenwolf, The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple which makes for a lot of classic rock. How much has classic rock from these or other bands influenced you and your sound?
I think a lot of the time our music is informed form what we were listening too when we were recording. For example, during the recording of our last album The Nerve in 2009 we had discovered real blues influenced rock and were listening to bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. As for the music itself we kinda had this realization that we wanted to play music that is fun to play live and write music that will translate in that department. The new record features the type of music that is fun to play in front of a crowd at a theatre or in a bar.
SongFreaks: I’ve noticed that your keyboardist Casey sure enjoys standing on his piano/keyboard during jams, how did this come about and is it now a trademark of your live performances?
Yeah, that’s one in his bag of tricks. He usually does it in particular parts of songs. I remember one early morning show at a showcase and it’s ten in the morning and he didn’t have enough coffee that morning or something so he totally wiped out and face planted into the keys when he tried to get up. But even with the fall he maybe missed only one beat. In fact I didn’t even notice and only found out through checking Twitter after the show.
SongFreaks: All your records have very beautiful, colourful and appealing album art. As well your promotional posters are quite cool. Thus I have to ask who does all this great artwork?
All album covers were paintings that my cousin did, she’s now in textile design but before that she was an art major, so we co-opted her paintings for our covers, a little cross promotion.
As for the posters they are all done by our bassist Teddy. He kind of came out of nowhere with the graphic design and today he has came a long way in the realm. He’s the guy who does it all so it’s all in house
SongFreaks: You played 7 shows in the UK last summer in the span of 9 days. Was it difficult to play so much in such a short period of time? Was there any time for sightseeing, listening to other bands or meeting new people?
That was my first time in UK. I think that it’s impossible for someone from North America to go there and not get some sort of cultural experience. We didn’t get to go see the sights per say but I was totally impressed and taken aback by England. Seven shows in nine days wasn’t too bad either. We did however play two shows in one day; that was a lot. But playing that frequently allows you to get into a groove and rhythm musically and it forces you to make sure you’re taking care of yourself health wise. Honestly I would prefer to play a show everyday then wait a few days between, just like the NBA seasons this year, hahaha.
SongFreaks: Favorite city or show that you have played outside of your hometown of Chicago?
Hahaha, yeah okay. You want a decisive answer, but every city we have gone to is different, some are better than others. We had an awesome time to Toronto a few months ago. But you can’t really compare it to somewhere like New Orleans or New York or even L.A.
My favourite experience was probably New Orleans. It reminded me of the UK in that it is just so different than anything I was used to. It is decidedly an American city but with an old world feel. It felt like there was always some sort of festival going on. The food and drinks were great and overall everyone is there just to have a good time.
SongFreaks: Three brothers playing in the same band for 12 years without breaking up is quite the accomplishment, especially when I think of other brother acts like The Ramones who did not get along well. Has this brotherly connection been hard at times seeing as the band is such a family affair? Has the band made you see your brothers in a different light that you otherwise wouldn’t have had?
Yeah it has been trying, and I would be lying to say that there weren’t times when it became tough. With any band that is the case. But overall being in a band with your brothers is a great thing for me because most families grow up and grow apart. That’s the way it goes as you get older and leave the house. It’s been great to be in the same room with your brothers, it’s just such an awesome experience to be with these guys and be close, it’s a cool thing.
To respond to your second question about seeing my brothers in a different light, the band has been my only experience with them in a way. I don’t know what it would have been like otherwise; I’m not privy to that experience.
But the real practical value of being in a band with your brothers is that you say what you mean, you don’t sugar coat it. You get to the point where you can say what you want whereas in a band with friends or acquaintances you need to be more careful to qualify your statements or say something in a nicer tone. It is easier to talk on a level of complete honesty, its great.
SongFreaks: Finally, what’s on the horizon for the remainder of the summer for Filligar? I see that you are playing the Gramercy Theater in Manhattan next Saturday July 27, excited much?
Yeah man, that’s gonna be a fun show, biggest show to date in NYC for us. We are also playing a Lollapalooza official kickoff party at the metro with Alabama shakes in Chicago, that will be fun. And then we got the Sunset Strip Music Festival in LA in August.
If you’re interested in Filligar you can download their music on their iTunes page here.