When I Fight Dragons releases music, they go all out. Continuing to be independent musicians with their third album, the recently released Canon Eyes, I Fight Dragons founder and frontman Brian Mazzaferri recently talked with Alternative Addiction about the new release and the band’s work with Patreon to fund the record.
“After the Near Future, we collapsed in a heap,” began Mazzaferri when explaining the path he took to get from The Near Future to their new album. “It was a rollercoaster; having to fundraise that way was exciting, then there was a lot of pressure. It was amazing but it was draining too.”
The Near Future was an ambitious project for I Fight Dragons. It was the band’s first independent record after getting dropped by Atlantic and going through the drama that they had to deal with early in the decade. Not only was it the band out on their own after getting slightly accustomed to working with somebody else, there were a lot of plans that went along with the record. It was a concept album telling a very specific story about a kid and his extra-terrestrial girlfriend. Then there were comics that went with the story of the album… it wasn’t a small project.
The artistic scope of the record was one thing but when I Fight Dragons were making the record Kickstarter was in full swing and that’s what the band used to fund the release. They had a lot of extravagant prizes for contributing and it was a tall order to tackle everything they had to do. That’s why Canon Eyes is a completely different record for the band.
“We didn’t want to do a Kickstarter,” began Mazzaferi on how the band funded their newest record. “I loved crowdfunding and all the things that go along with it for our fans, but I also didn’t like the limits of it. We settled on doing a Patreon this time and it worked out well. It’s mostly for people making a recurring piece of art, that’s what the platform is, but we found a way to make it work for us. We thought of this idea of making an album adventure, kind of like a Kickstarter, but with Patreon instead. The difference between normal Patreons and ours though is that we wanted to just make one paid post at the very end of the process. So, once we started working on the album, we worked on posting demos, iPhone recordings of band practices, chip tunes, etc. Most every week for the past 2.5 years we’ve put something up. It was great and whoever wanted to join us, could. There weren’t a lot of limits put in place.”
With the last record Brian and the rest of I Fight Dragons raised over $100,000 – an incredible achievement. With this record, the band was able to raise $40,000 via Patreon, but the process still was something rewarding for Mazzaferri.
“We had people singing on the album, getting swag, or whatever; it was a fun way to do things. Then, the album has been out since August for our Patreon backers. Now, we’re getting ready to push the physical stuff and push the music for people who listen on all the streaming services. We’ve released singles every couple of weeks and the attention that’s gotten has been great.”
Most of Canon Eyes comes from a period in Mazzaferri’s life about three years ago where The Near Future’s promotion process was finished, and it was time to figure out what he wanted to do next with I Fight Dragons.
“I got inspired to start writing,” said Mazzaferri. “I wrote more than twenty new songs about three years ago. It was that kind of period for writing for m. It goes in spurts like that, and that’s where most of Canon Eyes comes from; it comes from a period of a few months where I was writing a lot of music and feeling super good about what I was doing.”
I Fight Dragons’ first record, “KABOOM!” was largely focused on the band just figuring out their sound. There wasn’t a specific idea behind the record, it wasn’t a concept record. With The Near Future, obviously that’s a lot different for IFD. This record isn’t inspired by anything culturally so to speak, but Mazzaferri still had a very specific sound in mind for the release.
“It’s closest stylistically to 90’s alternative radio,” explained the I Fight Dragons frontman. “It’s where my head was at. It’s a vibe we were intentionally going for. I feel like we were able to realize that. That’s what the music is supposed to sound like any way. With subject matter, this record is about more mature things. With our stuff before, I feel like the songs were/are a little more introverted; self-doubt. anxiety things, stuff like that. With this record, it’s more about legacy and looking forward and joyful stuff about family, and love, and growing up,” added Mazzferri.
With the sound that IFD was going for there are a few things that need to get done. One of them is that Mazzaferri and his colleagues had to figure out a way to simplify their sound, something that’s not that easy for a band that relies heavily on chip tuning.
“We challenged ourselves to keep it sparser,” said Mazzaferri in the interview. “With the past record we wanted to go nuts. We wanted to add as many layers as we could, this was a march in the other direction. We really wanted to fill more space with less. That made some things easier, but it made some things harder too. Chip arrangements were hard for this. “Punch Drunk Destiny” and “Oh the Places You’ll Go” are songs where we redid the verses like four different times because it didn’t pop the right way. It’s sparse, but it still feels full. It’s about doing more with less.”
Years since they started the band, Brian Mazzaferri and I Fight Dragons are in a completely different place than they were a decade ago. They’re more worried about families and about day jobs than they are about the band, but they’re still really into what they’re doing. We talked with Mazzaferri about the timing of things for his band, and it’s clear that he’s happy where he’s at.
“In some ways, we feel like we’ve been part of things and then we’ve misfits too, it’s always been a funny thing but nothing we’ve paid that much attention to. I don’t think much about the timing of things other than what I would have done with some of the tools we have now back then. You can track everything that’s being listened to in real time, there’s so much more now than there was when we started out. It’s pretty crazy how things have evolved and changed compared to how we thought they were going to.”-aa