This week, The Knox Student sat down with sophomores Madeline Pape and Lee Foxall, the members of the folk pop band Fellows, to discuss songwriting and the experiences of being in a college band.
The Knox Student: So what is your general songwriting process like?
Lee Foxall: It used to be that we write songs separately … and bring [our song ideas] to each other and we’d build off each other that way. It’d be purely I’d write a song, and then Madeline would do a piano part and learn harmonies and that would be that, but it’s shaped differently now.
Madeline Pape: I think a lot of my creative process has changed since I took [music theory classes]. There was a lot of stuff I was doing before that was kind of inherent in everyone, like how you think of music but don’t even realize it. But now that I have taken the music theory series, I guess I’m more aware of what it is that I’m doing. And so I have more control over it. I used to play something that I thought sounded good … [I’d] go off of what I thought didn’t sound bad. Whereas now, it’s more like I know what’s going to sound good and [stylistically] I know what I want to portray.
TKS: Has theory made your music more structurally complex?
MP: It’s given me the opportunity to branch out if I wanted to.
LF: From an outside perspective, she knows what she wants [musically] a lot more than I do really. … When you learn a lot about something, you start noticing all the things that you used to do that were typical of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. She’s a lot more precise with what she wants me to do, especially vocally, with harmonies and stuff like that. It’s hard to get used to, but it’s definitely better for the music.
MP: It takes longer, too. Our songwriting process used to go a lot faster. But now it sounds too basic for me, generic. So now I’m a little bit more picky about what I want him to be doing.
LF: As far as my songwriting goes, but even [after] being in choir and taking voice lessons, I’ve noticed the way people who are professional musicians compose. Though I don’t really always notice what I’m doing, it definitely changes the way I do stuff. There came a point in my songwriting when I had written enough and I knew how to systematically exclude what I don’t like in my own songwriting. It’s a process and it takes [years] to perfect.
MP: I think my hardest thing these days is that I’ve been trying to break free from the restraints I’ve put on my own genre. I can’t really break out of my genre. I like the music I write, but people always say that you write music that sounds like the music you listen to the most, but I don’t listen to the music that sounds like mine.
TKS: Have you noticed any lyrical themes or motifs that inspire you in particular?
LF: Yeah … personally, I still do write a lot about [unrequited love], but I’ve definitely been able to break that mold more than I used to be able to. … It took me a really long time to break out of that [theme].
MP: I just write about sadness and a lot of that comes from boys. … My songs aren’t exclusively about boys, but there are always elements in each of my songs that have to do with romantic interests, even [if] they are so vague.
TKS: Does music inspire the lyrics, or do lyrics inspire the music?
MP: It goes back and forth with me. Usually, the music inspires the lyrics. É It used to be more that I would start singing and whatever came out came out. Now, I’m more particular.
LF: For me, I used to just yell things at my wall. It’s always been a hand in hand thing; it’s not lyrics or music specifically, it’s more of a feeling. I never really found one part [more important]. Everything has to come together [naturally].
TKS: What is the process like when you’re together?
MP: It’s very frustrating sometimes. I haven’t been writing music, so it’s frustrating because we haven’t been working on new stuff except [Lee’s] new stuff. And my most recent songs I get very particular about so sometimes we’ll be working and I’ll get frustrated … and then I need breaks and then [I] don’t get back to the music for a long time.
LF: I really enjoy when we write songs together. I also think that in certain cases, when I bring my songs to Madeline, she’ll say “I like this, but we should try this.” There was one song we were working on called “Fever” and I had a structure, but she asked me if I wanted to restructure it … We did it, and at first I didn’t like it, but then it clicked and it became a whole different song.
MP: It became more of our song.
LF: Yeah … Songwriting’s hard, especially when you’re doing it with another person. But when it sounds right, it sounds right, and it’s worth it.