SCAD Radio had the opportunity to chat with The Funeral Portrait frontman Lee Jennings at 2017 A.U.R.A. Fest in Savannah, Georgia.
The post-hardcore band has been loving dubbed “theatricore” by a growing passionate fan base for their memorable live shows. The Funeral Portrait made waves when they broke onto the scene with an EP, For the Dearly Departed, in 2014 and look to keep the music coming with their recently released A Moment of Silence. The band played early in the day with one of the most memorable sets of a day brimming with great music.
Here’s a look at SCAD Radio’s interview with The Funeral Portrait’s Lee Jennings!
Kush at SCAD Radio: So, since we are here in Savannah, and there’s a lot of spooky stuff surrounding death, I feel like that’s a great background for a fun question. So let’s say that after the festival, the Grim Reaper descended down upon you, but he’s in a pretty good mood, the music was good today. He gives you an extra half hour before you have to die. What do you do in that half hour?
Lee Jennings of The Funeral Portrait: I would go to the speakeasy here in Savannah. I know exactly where it is and I know how to get the key to get in. Or the keyword to get in. So I would go there, have some fun, and hopefully I would beg him to let me be a ghost and wander around and haunt Savannah. [laughs] The emo ghost! [laughs]
Ashton at SCAD Radio: It’s a good thing you didn’t say where that speakeasy was, or we were contractually obligated to kill you.
Lee Jennings: I can’t tell you where it is, but I know how to get in! I would never tell you. I wouldn’t spill the deets, because…I don’t want to die…YET! I have 30 minutes to live!
Kush: You’ve got to put on one hell of a show!
Lee: I hope so!
K: What would you say is the best song as an introduction into your music catalogue?
L: The easiest would probably be “Like Father Like Son”. It’s one of our new singles off of our record, zA Moment of Silence, which came out in late December. That’s just the easiest off that record. It’s such a weird concept record that I can’t tell you to listen to a song like “The Water Obeys the Gravity” because it’s talking about praying mantises splitting people’s souls in half. So, I can’t technically tell you to go listen to that one because it’ll be like “What..?” if you don’t listen to the first song and get the aspect. So, I’d say “Like Father Like Son”.
K: The Funeral Portrait is known for being very theatric in sound and has been lovingly dubbed as “theatricore” by fans.
L: [laughs] Oh, yes.
K: Is there anything you do on stage to translate that dramatic flair to your live performance?
L: So, the theatricore thing actually started on accident, which is funny. Our old EP definitely had more of a theatrical sound. The EP had a lot of midi instruments and all that fun stuff. And with this new record, we wanted to go full-on organic. So, we tracked everything pretty much super raw. A lot of organic tones on drums and on guitar. And all the synths on it are actual hardwired synths. So, it’s like the real deal, or we tried to at least. The theatrical part of our band comes from the live aspect of us trying to get out there and put on a good show for everyone. Me, personally, growing up, I didn’t like going to see a band and just standing there. It’s like, “Oh, I could have just put on the record and ‘saw’ this band”. We wanted to be an experience, I guess. [laughs] I guess that’s where the theatricore comes from. We’re a rock band that likes to put on a good show.
K: You guys have been getting a lot of attention and love from the press in the scene. What’s it like to be growing at what seems to be a very quick pace?
L: It’s weird because we don’t see it. We get told it by other people. They’re like, “Oh, I’m out in California and I want you to come play!” and I’m like, “Well, I’ve never heard of you before. How’d you hear about us?”. Then they’re like, “Oh, Alternative Press!” or “This radio station!” and I’m just like, “Really?”. I don’t see it, but — well I actually do see the press. I personally am kind of awed because this is cool that people like my band. Like this is weird! We are just doing this for fun, you know? We played Spokane, Washington and — for us this is big because we have never played Spokane before — and there were 15 kids out there, like in the very front row at this packed show, that were screaming along to every word. And our record was out for two days! There was 15 kids! And they were all best friends too and they bought one copy of the record and they shared it among one another and I’m like “This is AWESOME!”. I gave them copies of the record, because I wanted them to have their own copies of the record because I was like “Please! This is beautiful!” And stuff like this, like 15 kids coming to show to come see us or hang out with us, and this is because of the press. Press is SO, so important to a new band. Even the smallest of magazines, to the smallest of radio, to whatever, this is how you can discover some of your new favorite artists.
K: The band seems to draw a lot of comparisons with Alesana, My Chemical Romance, and Hawthorne Heights. Do you guys try to embrace this or do you want to detach from that?
L: That’s such a weird thing, because when we started like 2 years ago, we sought to be like “emo” and that kind of thing. But now we just realized that’s like who — I mean especially I am, I grew up in that kind of scene. And they all grew up kind of in a little bit of a different kind of scene. They’re all really big prog rock fans, the rest of my band. So they bring that, and I bring this weird dark theatrical side and it’s kind of like this weird mix to where we’re like, “I guess whatever comes out comes out”. Especially with this new record, we didn’t try to make a record that sounded like anyone else. And if people say we sound sound like My Chem or we sound like Hawthorne Heights or whatever the heck it is — it’s cool because honestly who doesn’t listen to those bands. But we never set out and were like, “Let’s write the next Three Cheers!”. “Let’s write the next hit Ohio is for Lovers!” Georgia is for haters or something. [laughs] You know, like we didn’t do that!
K: I know that you guys recently dropped A Moment of Silence in December, but I have to ask, what lies in the future for the Funeral Portrait?
L: New music. We want to write more. And more. And more. This scene is ever-changing. Everyone is so ADD, including myself. Everyone is. We want to keep pushing out stuff. Right now a band I think is killing it is Dance Gavin Dance. Every freaking year, they have something new. I think last year they did that live session thing and towards the end of the year they had that new record, Mothership. That’s what we want to do. We just want to keep putting stuff out there, because it just makes sense that way.
K: How would you say that the release of A Moment of Silence shows your evolution as musicians?
L: Oh man, a lot. When we first started we were a local band from Atlanta called Cosmoscope. It sounded totally different from The Funeral Portrait. It was pop rock kind of stuff. There was no “screaming” sort of stuff. We kind of took our first EP — it was actually supposed to be the evolution of Cosmoscope — and we didn’t rush it or anything. We decided that these were the songs we were going to release as The Funeral Portrait instead. Since then, we had 2 years to think what we wanted to do with our sound and image and all that kind of stuff. We kind of were like, “This just works.”
K: Were there any major differences in recording this album as opposed to the 2014 EP?
L: Yes. A lot. So going on to the recording process, the first EP we did up in Raleigh, North Carolina with Sean, the singer of Alesana, and one of his dudes Neil, who recorded Issues, Dance Gavin Dance, and Alesana stuff. And then this time, we demoed out everything at my house and looked around to find the best person. This time we worked with Matt McCullen, who did Being as an Ocean, Capsize, Devil Wears Prada and Underoath stuff. So, he’s definitely done his stuff, you know? And this time, we wanted a more raw sound, that is still produced. We wanted something that sounds different from everyone else in the scene. Especially the “scene” scene. So, that’s why we went with him. We tracked all real drums, guitar, and all that stuff. It was a cool process!
K: Who are you looking forward to seeing perform today, aside from yourselves?
L: Microwave, definitely. My boys from Atlanta. Uh, so, everyone? We’ve played with a lot of these bands. It sucks because Artifex Pereo was supposed to be on this and we’ve toured with them before. They were awesome. We were supposed to do a tour with SycAmour, but they dropped this, and dropped everything else. I don’t know what’s going on with that. Unearth, of course. And Zao too! Every band? Can I say that? [laughs]
Be sure to check out SCADRadio.org for more from 2017 A.U.R.A. Fest in Savannah, GA!