The couch of my living room is well-acquainted with the members of New Fossils. Since October 2018, the Bay Area-based bandmates have crashed at my apartment a handful of times for their shows in Los Angeles, since I went to high school with a few of them. Their visits follow a similar pattern: falling asleep after a long drive from up north, sleeping in while I head to class, fueling up at Philz Coffee, and jamming and recording demos at my place before they pack the van and perform their show.
When they’re here, they color my poster-less, university-affiliated apartment. I look forward to hearing them writing and practicing, to watching their show when I return home from class. As I move out at the end of the semester, I’ll be saying goodbye to not only my living space, but also a creative vessel that they helped create.
Luckily, I have one more chance to host them. Before they head to L.A. for the weekend, I chatted with frontman Shane Mitbo. The brain behind the band, Shane spoke about his background, his heritage, and what’s next for New Fossils.
Their show at The Smell is a part of moonroom's APAHM (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month) Phase showcases, an alternative arts series is set to comence its 3rd year highlighting AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) artists and bands across SoCal in May and the summer months. For more info, check out @moonroomie on IG.
5/3 - with The Aquadolls, Your Favorite Color, Mal London + Butter @ The Locker Room (Garden Grove, CA)
5/4 - ft. Marella with Noise Complaint, Your Favorite Color, Closeout, The Sweet Spot @ 6666 Sueno Road (Santa Barbara, CA)
5/5 - with Kingdom of Not, Future Twin, Unpopular Opinion @ JOY Gallery (San Francisco, CA)
5/18 - with Tangerine, Young Lovers, Tomemitsu @ The Smell (Los Angeles, CA)
How did you get into music?
Since times I can’t remember, I have just always been very musical and always responded to the songs in the little kids’ shows way more than anything else. I just sang songs and made up songs. My dad would sing and make up songs, that’s all he does all day walking around the house, he just sings about whatever is in front of him.
I started taking music classes when I was like, a one-year-old, just like Mommy and Me music stuff. I have the vaguest, vaguest memories of sitting in a room as a toddler and singing about animals. And I still have the old animal book with the songs that we would sing.
I took guitar lessons for a month when I was seven, maybe, and I couldn’t do it, just because seven-year-olds can’t do things. But, when I was nine or something, I asked my mom if I could start taking piano lessons. I started taking piano lessons with this lady down the street, I would ride my bike to her house every Wednesday and go and learn piano.
So that was all you, your parents didn’t set up the lessons for you.
Nah, I just wanted to play piano. I think I got hella into Elton John, and I was like, “That is the thing for me.” Which now makes a lot of sense why I like Elton John so much.
You mentioned your dad. How else did your family influence you in terms of music and stuff?
My mom doesn’t give a f*ck about music. She basically just likes anything. She went to see Foreigner; she just likes any crap that existed and was popular when she was young. But, my dad hella was into alternative music in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and he grew me up playing classic stuff more, like The Beatles and Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. I think a lot of the music that he likes was pretty...not for kids, whereas you can play the Beatles for kids, and it’ll be good. So, I just grew up around that.
I remember so, so, so distinctly being in the car with my dad on my way to preschool and kindergarten, and him f*cking with American Idiot, ‘cause that came out right around then. I don’t know why he f*cked with American Idiot so much. I mean, he hated Bush, and he had always liked punk and stuff, and he was like, “Yo, this is like, what should be happening in music. Everything else is crap, and this is good.” So, I listened to a lot of American Idiot being driven around in a car seat.
I guess that kind of fuses into your current genre.
Yeah, I think everything I do sounds exactly like a Green Day song.
When did you really find the music that resonated with you, beyond what your parents would play in the car? When did you find your taste?
I had a friend who...I really liked him and looked up to him, and he was like a brother to me. He was a couple years older than me, we were family friends. He had a whole CD collection, and he’s the reason why I started collecting CDs. He just is the reason I like all the music I like, pretty much. He had like, Green Day and Blink and NOFX and all that, but then he also had classic rock compilation CDs and the sh*t you used to get from Target. One day, I borrowed one of his classic rock compilation CDs, and that thing had like, 60 songs on it. And, you know Wikipedia clickholes? I just went down a clickhole on every single artist on that CD pretty much, and that’s how I got into finding music for myself.
Who are your biggest musical influences now?
I don’t know who my biggest influences are right now. I think my intentional influences are a lot more production-based and I notice things about how the music was made, where I’m like, “Oh, that’s a good thing to note that I should do.”
My songwriting influences...I really love Ben Folds, Ben Folds has been one of my favorites that I’ve ever listened to. He incorporated jazz piano with pop songwriting and some really interesting songwriting ideas and such a cool voice and melodic and harmonic sense and everything about him. He does a lot of really diverse types of music. I had a jazz piano teacher after my first piano teacher, and the first thing we did, he got me this whole piano sheet music book of Ben Folds Rockin’ the Suburbs album, and that’s how I found out about Ben Folds, was just this sheet music book. I learned how to play all the songs pretty much.
My favorite artists are like, Taking Back Sunday and Say Anything and Tigers Jaw and The Wonder Years and Brand New and Modern Baseball, so all of those things, I think, you hear a lot of in my music. I also really like Lil Peep and Bladee and Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, so you probably hear a lot of that as well in the newer stuff I do.
I think anything you take in and dissect and really enjoy a lot is going to seep through into your art, but those would probably be my main things.
Tell me all about New Fossils!
New Fossils started because I wrote an EP, and I wanted to put it out! I had previously been in a screamo band, and this EP had piano, and it was influenced by The Wombats and The Kooks. It definitely wasn’t going to be screamo, and the songs weren’t going to work for my screamo band, and I was kind of getting sick of having to rely on other people to make music. So, I was just like, “You know what? I’m going to sing and play piano and guitar and bass, and I’m gonna have my friend play drums. I guess Negative Thinking is an electronic album, but I did it pretty much the same way, where it was my vision and then Ritwik just hella helped me, because Ritwik’s the boy.
Getting to play all these shows has been really cool. It’s just really exciting, and it makes my life...you know, music makes my life feel fulfilled. I need to do it to feel happy.
What is your relationship to your Asian identity and heritage? Does that impact your music at all?
I’m half-Chinese on my mom’s side. Her parents, my grandparents, both immigrated from Taiwan to go to college and get careers here in America. Especially being Chinese and having my previous family be pretty stereotypically Chinese, in that, it was just like, “We gotta make a better life, so we gotta make some money, so we can be as efficient as possible in going to the top as quick as possible.”
Being a musician is obviously not the most sensible thing to do in terms of security and stability and all that, but I’ve talked to my Lao Lao and my Lao Ye about my choice to pursue music, and it’s crazy how much they love and support me and just wholeheartedly say...My Lao Lao has just basically said like, I should do whatever makes me happy. I definitely think that they vaguely had an idea of like, “We can’t pursue what we want to pursue right now in our lives, we just have to get to the next checkpoint. But, it doesn’t have to be that way forever.” I think a lot about all the sacrifices so many people who love me have made even before I was born, the sacrifices they made to put my life where it is, and to let me be fortunate enough to get out the songs that I need to get out and play the shows that make me so happy.
New Fossils is special because it is piano and not guitar. It’s very funny to be a band that’s known for being different from other bands just because we have not all white guys in the band and just because we have piano instead of guitar. Someone else pointed this out to me a couple of weeks ago, how piano is the Asian kid instrument and now the Asian band is a piano band. I think that’s kinda just a funny note. It makes us something interesting, that just the way that we were brought up...I just wanted to play piano. And, now, ripple ripple ripple, New Fossils is a predominantly Asian band with predominantly keyboard as the instrumentation.
What’s next for New Fossils?
Literally next week, we’re gonna start practicing all of the songs that we’ve written for the new album. Hopefully, as we practice, we demo, and then as we demo, it slowly turns into the finished product. I’m really, really excited for this album. I think these are the best songs I’ve ever written. They’re the realest songs I’ve ever written, and I love this music. I hope other people love it too, because it’s really all that I have to give.
Do you have anything else you wanna say?
Come to our shows!!! Thanks!
— Fiona Pestana, DJ