Tony Cummings spoke to Leanor Ortega Till of Denver's EDM pop rockers, THE FAST FEELING
Of the thousands of independent releases, only a few are ever going to make it to radio playlists, particularly if the artists involved have no track record of previous hits or airplay. Yet the band The Fast Feeling, from Denver, Colorado, are currently enjoying not one, but two radio hits from their debut album 'Pulses'. Both "Until It's Gone" and "Break" are the kind of EDM-tinged pop rock totally in tune with today's sounds. The startling fact about The Fast Feeling is that they've never played a gig and that their lead singer, Leanor Ortega Till, had, until the making of the album, never recorded or sung on stage and is emphatic in her insistence that she is a not very good singer! Despite Leanor's admission, it turns out that she and the other members of The Fast Feeling are far from being raw, untested music beginners. She, together with Scott Kerr and Andrew Verdecchio, are members of Five Iron Frenzy, who in the '90s and 2000s were spearheading the Christian ska movement and are still today playing a gig or two every month. The other member of The Fast Feeling is Matt Langston, from the popular rock team eleventyseven.
I spoke to Leanor and began by asking how this particular aggregation came into being. She responded, "What had happened is Scott, who is in Five Iron Frenzy, he is one of the main songwriters, had written a handful of songs for Five Iron and they were just sitting there. They were songs on his electric guitar, ones he had sent around for anyone in Five Iron to comment on but no one had really commented on them in about a year. One day I went through the files and I started singing melodies over them even though I'm not really a singer. I play the saxophone, but I had written melodies and lyrics before so I was kind of playing around on them. The song 'Break' was actually the first one I [tackled]. I was just singing whatever was on the top of my head. Psychologically, 'Break' was obviously something I needed to express. I sent the lyrics to Scott. It was funny because within moments he texted me back and said 'This is really cool!' We texted all day long, even though we live in the same city, and the next day he said 'Come over, let's play some of this'."
The 41 year old married mother, who works as a church missionary, knows all about the need for a break. In an interview with Indie Vision Music, Leanor spoke about the theme of "Break". "Well, what's coming through is that a lot of people are going through the daily grind. Financially fighting for their families and getting stuck in the mud by trying to keep up with the Jones'. It's not sustainable. It's not sustainable for health, it's not sustainable for relationships, it's not sustainable for spirituality, it's not sustainable for life to the fullest. The line: 'The doors are open wide' is an invitation to any person who feels that life is only what you see in front of you. A life that's boring and a game you have to play. Sadly, I have to say that you do have to play the game. Dishes get dirty, you do have to get up in the morning and do some of the things you don't like to do. But that's not all there is. That's why I think music is a tool to remind people that there are moments to celebrate. There are moments to relax. I had someone say recently on Facebook: 'I can't handle these burdens'. And many people responded saying: 'You don't have to. The onus isn't on you to be the strong person'. So 'Break' is a reminder that we all want to escape and get away, but there are healthy ways to do it."
Leanor continued, "So that's what that song is about and there are more songs like that too. There's one. . . I think it's going to be called 'Fall Back'. It's the concept of the eternal perspective. Even more so than just escaping today, what about eternally? I don't have all the answers, but I believe that there is going to be something better on the other side of all of this. It's an invitation to relax and know that all we see isn't all that there is."
Leanor spoke about the band's other Cross Rhythms radio hit. "That was one we just wanted a really rocking song that makes the scene, and you can almost picture the city and the nightlife, and as far as themes, it's another one where we wanted the words to sound powerful, to sound interesting and almost mysterious. What I like about a lot of these songs is that they are almost cryptic. They could go one way or another. It could sound romantic or not, so that one again doesn't have a strong story to it. It's more like there's a feeling and a vibe, and you're driving at night and you're loving it."
The recording process that brought the album into being was something of a challenge for both Leanor and Scott. She insisted, "No, I don't have a good voice! That's the funniest thing about it. It worked because Scott is very patient in recording me. This was funny because for the first time ever Scott was recording a vocalist. He had never produced a vocalist, and also I have never sung, ever. Both of us had to come up with a language because he'd say the word 'cutie', meaning a certain range, and as I'm Mexican American, he'd say, 'No, you're more Hispanic, sexy chick voice.' We didn't know how to talk to each other about these kinds of concepts. We were saying, 'Do you want me to sing more tough like Pat Benatar tough?' So we created the cheerleader voice and the Billy Idol inspired voice, and it worked. When Matt came in, he was the producer, he's our other band member, suddenly he had all these tricks, like kind of squeezing your nose and all these weird singing techniques, which really took it to the next level, helping me to reach the high notes, because some of these notes are very high. And I do have a big range, we found out, but since I had no vocal lessons it was a trick to get me to pull that off. So, a lot of recording and a lot of patience. We got there, but I think it wouldn't have been so hard for someone with training."
When not gigging with Five Iron Frenzy, Leanor is a missionary with the intriguingly named Scum Of The Earth Church. Explained the sax player and reluctant singer, "The name Scum Of The Earth Church came from Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy. It's from 1 Corinthians in Chapter 4, where apostle Paul was saying the world sees Christians as the scum of the earth, and so the concept being, we will use this name to turn the image on its head and just say, we know that we have a long way to go but, again, speaking of juxtaposition, that we are experiencing salvation and holiness now but we are also experiencing sinfulness, and a really dark world. So the idea that the church is the scum of the earth is true because to the rest of the world the church IS the scum of the earth. The funniest story for us is that once we were at the state capital here in Denver, and it was a pray at the flagpole day, which is a very American thing to do. A woman came up and she kinda had a southern accent, and she said, 'Honey, you know you're not the scum of the earth.' And we replied whilst laughing, 'We know we're not. [chuckling] We're saved. Hallelujah!' It's so funny to get that kind of reaction, we're not putting ourselves down, don't worry."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.