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Adam Fitzgerald Talks About His New Single, 'There Is Something Beautiful & Real About "Pale Moonlight"'

Quells is the brainchild of the enigmatic Adam Fitzgerald, hailing from the musical enclave of Detroit but currently ensconced in the picturesque environs of Edinburgh. With a scant handful of singles to his name, Fitzgerald is poised to captivate the global stage with his latest single, "Pale Moonlight."

 

In a realm where mere mortals tread lightly, Fitzgerald crafts guitar melodies that echo the surf-rock tones of yesteryear, all while delicately weaving a narrative of melancholy that ventures into the ambient realms of sonic landscapes. Adam Fitzgerald unveils the details of his new single, sharing insights into projects and creative plans. Through the prism of the Quells Universe, he describes his vision of sonic alchemy, where guitar melodies intertwine with the subtle intrigue of melancholy. Without embellishments or invitations, this interview offers a glimpse into Fitzgerald's creative process, unraveling the secrets of his musical craft and the essence of his latest single.


Indie Boulevard manages to snag the elusive Fitzgerald, prying open the gates to his creative kingdom. What secrets lie behind the alluring curtain of his new single? What ambitious projects are brewing in the studio? You'll find out more below.


photo by UNDERFLOW RECORDS


Hello, Adam! We're glad to see you here on Indie Boulevard. Let's talk about your musical career. What things and influences do you consider to have had the greatest impact on your creativity, starting from the times when you grew up in Michigan to your time in Edinburgh, Scotland?


Thank you for your time, interest, and questions. I grew up outside of Flint, Michigan, and I spent a lot of time visiting Detroit before I eventually moved there in the late 2000s. Then in the late 2010s I moved to the UK. Growing up I realize now I was very influenced by humble midwest culture, endless trees and lakes, Zelda and 90s video games, fantasy and sci-fi stories, books, anime, kindness, and integrity: my grandfather Jim Fitzgerald wrote for the Detroit Free Press and really utilized the power of his voice in myriad ways, to fight the KKK and crooked politicians, which was supported strongly by my grandmother Patricia who was an angel, along with my parents Chris and Wes. My dad took over a smaller paper for my grandfather that my family now runs, he's always been a music nut so we were exposed to everything from top of the pops to underground music. A lot of classic rock, 80s hits, and 90s radio, my sisters and I had designated dancing time to loud music after we'd finished family dinners. 


Wes, my dad, also DJ'd a bit, plus he and my Uncle Ed went to shows constantly in Detroit, so by the time I was a teen, I often joined them. Early influences were John Mayer, Gorillaz, and Coldplay - then when I discovered The Strokes it was all over. But my dad always had wise insight - "oh you like The Strokes? They're just combining The Velvet Underground songwriting with faster rhythms and fierce guitarwork like that of "Marquee Moon" by Television." - and he was usually always right - those are all some of my favorite artists for more than half my life now. I remember I got into The Killers before their first album came out, I went to see them in Detroit and this band I didn't know, Ambulance Ltd, opened - they became my favorite band that night even though they were too mellow for the rowdy Detroit crowd, that night changed my life in the best ways. 


My dad also gave me boxes of his old CDs, I grew up on The Beatles and Steely Dan but then I was exposed to new wave, post-punk, New Order, Pixies, The Cure, Nirvana, Bowie The Smiths - stuff that would become my favorites of all time. Once I started diving into R&B and Hip Hop, the evolution continued - I'm obsessed with Marvin Gaye, 2pac, Al Green, Kendrick Lamar, Aaliyah, Frank Ocean, Tyler, Isaiah Rashad, and newer artists like Puma Blue, who fuse things like Portishead and Jeff Buckley. Artists like Washed Out changed how I view music, which created another endless spiral into sample-based music for me - my true heroes are this UK duo who go by Bent. I also love old school dub like Scientist, King Tubby, Prince Jammy or newer dub artists like Pachyman. I've always felt akin to Mac DeMarco, we're both 1990 babies from rural North America with weird guitar tones, messed up families, and good intentions. Too many good bands nowadays - like my friends Triathalon, and Remnose, and Deastro - or the buzz-worthy bands I love like Men I Trust, Drugdealer, TOPS, Sam Evian, Tennis, Father John Misty, Pure X, the list goes on. 


Edinburgh was when I really started focusing on not only songwriting but producing music in new ways - I produced some hip hop for a few artists in Detroit, but I have entire beat tapes and instrumental albums now, which I plan on releasing. In 2018 when I moved to the UK was when we really launched Underflow Records and I finally launched my "solo project" as Quells - so we've been building since then. Colorado was a different story. Work and heartbreak and change.


Your musical style is described as "genre chameleons." Which musical genres and artists inspire you, and how does it reflect in your work with the band Shady Groves and your solo project Quells?


That's always been one of my favorite descriptions of Shady Groves and my own music, I consider that a compliment. "Genre chameleons" is also accurate, we pull from a lot of influences and try to weave a lot of different sounds together. Initially Shady Groves had multiple songwriters, so that also lended to the variety. With Quells I'm trying to offer limitless possibilities through sound, reexamining what music can even be, from songs to textures. With Underflow, we always say there are no limits - no limits on age or genre or demographics or location or whatever. A lot of the artists I listed above are some of my biggest influences - everyone from Kurt Cobain to Kendrick Lamar, from Lou Reed to Marvin Gaye, and everyone in between. Producers like Timbaland or 9th Wonder blow my mind, but also artists who can do it themselves like Jeff Lyne (ELO) or Sam Evian, or my friend Christian Paul Phillipi who records my stuff in LA, he also records Chris Spino who goes by Coma Girls - another truly mind-blowing artist. Again, Bent, Washed Out, Toro y Moi, even jazz greats like Bill Evans or Wes Montgomery or bossa nova geniuses like Joao Gilberto or Tom Jobim or modern artists like Thundercat or Steve Lacy - good music influences me, so I like that limitlessness to reflect in my own music. Damon Albarn's work with Gorillaz and blur cut through to me at a young age and he's still one of my biggest heroes and greatest inspirations - he has made and will continue to make every genre of music and every blend of music possible, and that's definitely a goal I have. That's why I like to DJ and play songs, I make beats and write songs, so I like to share it all. 


Shady Groves was a collaborative project, originally between Dylan Caron and I, which then grew to include our other best friend Jeff Yateman, who goes by Jemmi Hazeman - all 3 of us wrote for our first album "Bitzer" and then we added more members, then it got down to just Dylan and I again by the time we finished our second album "Dreamboat" - so the biggest difference is Shady Groves is both Dylan and I, we both wrote songs together and separately so I have songs of mine that I'll still play live like "Hourglass" and "Backflips" and "Smoulder" but yeah for the most part, I want Shady Groves to always be Dylan and I working together, songs like "Plain Dream" and "Pocket Knives" or "Sway" or "Endless" or "Chase" were really a mind-meld of Dylan and I working together, so I would never play those without him. We have a whole third album that we might never release but we wrote a lot of great songs together in the last few years. Hopefully we'll release at least a few singles before Shady Groves goes on indefinite hiatus. Quells is just me - songs, beats, remixes, ambient music, anything and everything hopefully.


Share the challenges and advantages you've experienced in teaching, copywriting, editing, and journalism.


Where to begin and where to end. The struggles are endless, the advantages are few. Teaching and working in journalism affords one the opportunities of engaging with humanity in a really authentic way on a community level, which is honestly my goal no matter what profession I'm operating within. I'm a big believer in education as the foundation of everything in life, even as a journalist I mainly wrote about education, sustainability, health, and the arts. I think the arts - music, fashion, poetry, literature, film, etc. - are forms of expression that help us survive and connect and inspire in an increasingly oppressive world. Art has always been a means for salvation, freedom, expression, rebellion, community, connectivity, inspiration, growth, evolution, love, understanding, empathy, compassion - we must support each other in open, accepting ways more now than ever. We're stronger together.


Working as a teacher of English as a Second Language was one of my favorite and most rewarding jobs - I was able to meet people - individuals and families, from all over the world. When I studied through Cambridge while living in the UK, I was able to teach on both sides of the Atlantic, to people of all ages in multiple countries - whether it was on 8 Mile, in private schools, online or in the UK, teaching never paid well but it was very rewarding and fulfilling in other ways. We are all so beautifully different yet intrinsically the same, we have the same needs: food, water, shelter, love, compassion, empathy. We need to celebrate our differences and come together in unity to help humanity rise to our potential. There's so much we can teach each other. I've also worked with some interesting people in the streaming video world, everything from yoga and martial arts to ancient megaliths and plant medicines. 


The public needs to change consumption habits, of food, media, politics, education, chemicals in products, etc. as our dollars are our votes.  I think as artists we need to make our voices heard and share information and educate ourselves and each other & have open, healthy dialogues to evolve and figure out what's best going forward - we are all stronger together than divided. Artists need to support each other. We must educate and organize, as communication and connectivity and community building are crucial to our survival against evil corporate exploitation, crooked political puppets, corruption, war, manipulation, etc. achieved by most at top levels through division over any topic possible. My goals through my music, my books, my art, my label are to share love and empathy so we can learn from one another, help each other, and grow together.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

- James Baldwin


photo by UNDERFLOW RECORDS


You recently released the latest single "Pale Moonlight" from Quells, and this track is noticeably different from your previous works. Tell us more about this single.


Originally I had first written "Pale Moonlight" in October of 2012, not long after my first real band that I toured with, The Kodaks, had broken up, I had gone through some intense changes that year, the death of my grandfather, relationships and romances starting and stopping, bands breaking up, wild cross-country tours, really a life-changing year all around - much like 2023 recently for me, 2012 was a psychedelic year filled with death, change, growth, difficulty, loss, gain, love, heartbreak, confusion, spiritual evolution, the dark night of the soul, etc. A lot of that was distilled into the song "Pale Moonlight" so it's weirdly fitting that it's finally getting released all these years later. Eerie and uncanny that the song unintentionally was released just days after my mother passed from ALS. Death, disease, divorce, trauma, drama, family trouble, moving, career changes, love, loss, light, darkness, road trips, travel, you name it - 2023 was a lot. When I went to record with Christian Paul Philippi in LA last August on a Kerouac style cross country "soul searching" road trip, I decided to choose one of my newest songs (Smoke Dance) and one of my oldest (Pale Moonlight) to record, but I had no idea if Shravan Surendran was even available to record drums, let alone that he'd show up and just destroy - CPP & Shravan added their own magic, plus my former Shady Groves bandmate Colt Caron had written and recorded a really cool keyboard part on his vintage pre-MIDI Baldwin Discoverer synth that I'm obsessed with, so we were able to get his parts to CPP to mix in. I have probably recorded and re-recorded "Pale Moonlight" more times than any song I've ever written. Initially I recorded the first demo in 2012 with my childhood best friend Samuel Achtabowski for a short-lived project we had called Bloodz. Then after my other bands Ojala and Moon Lake broke up, I decided to re-record a better version of the song in 2014/2015 - which I think I built off of slowly for the next few years - I re-recorded that version a little bit more in 2016/2017 and that's when Colt heard it and randomly wrote and recorded his beautiful keys part, which fueled me further to finally finish it. When I lived in the UK and I started playing solo gigs as Quells, "Pale Moonlight'' was always a staple in my set and I noticed it was the song most people almost always responded to.


I've always known "Pale Moonlight" was "my song" - it's one of those weird songs where it really came out of me, out of the ether, out of nowhere, almost fully formed. It kind of wrote itself. A little creepy honestly. The lyrics mean a lot to me. There's something timeless and powerful about the song, the message, the lyrics... and I usually have a hard time even relistening to songs I record, let alone finding respect for my own music - but there is something beautiful and real about "Pale Moonlight" - maybe because it's true, as I've learned through losing both grandparents and my mother, plus other friends way too young, no one can escape death. No one gets out alive. So embrace it. "Don't fear the reaper." It could be never-ending grace, or a warm embrace from a loved one, a friend, or a family member long gone. We don't know. We have endless philosophies and psychologies and religions but it's all just semantics at the end of the day... Are we evolved apes making mouth noises to inarticulately expound on the endless pain of existence, or are we divine animals with the keys to heaven within only locked by our own puzzling consciousness... Life is a mystery, we are dreaming within a dream. Art is the best method we have for expressing the unexplainable, maybe that's why this song feels weirdly comfortable... dark yet warm... like a beach at night. We're all heading toward our own endless shores, where the waves never end.


"Do not fear death, but welcome it, since it too comes from nature. For just as we are young and grow old, and flourish and reach maturity, have teeth and a beard and grey hairs, conceive, become pregnant, and bring forth new life, and all the other natural processes that follow the seasons of our existence, so also do we have death. A thoughtful person will never take death lightly, impatiently, or scornfully, but will wait for it as one of life's natural processes."

- Marcus Aurelius


The lyrics of "Pale Moonlight" convey a certain emotional depth. What sources of inspiration or events in your life served as the foundation for these lyrical expressions?


Thank you. Death. Loss. Pain. Love. The endless cycle of it all. Jungian archetypes. Psychedelics. A "spiritual awakening" if you will. Losing your mentors, losing your partners, losing your loved ones... the death of your parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling, partner, best friend... that forever changes you. It's mind-blowing. Heart-breaking. Where did they go? They were right here. In front of your eyes. Holding your hand. Talking with you on the phone. Sending you texts or comments or pictures or letters or messages or voicemails. There one day, then gone forever the next. It's the craziest thing but we never talk about it enough. We can never empathize enough. So we need odes to death. Reflections on existence. Life and death, the light and dark, love and loss, it's all part of the whole, it's nature, it's the Tao. "Pale Moonlight" is a very personal song for me. I could go through the lyrics but I think they're pretty clear / obvious / direct. Life is like quicksand, don't fight it. Go with the flow, and let go. "Darkness within darkness is the gateway to mystery." - Lao Tzu


"Pale Moonlight" Lyrics by Adam Fitzgerald

Dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight

You know there’ll be trouble if you are trying to fight

Cause you’ll never escape those angels in the black hoods

No you’ll never outrun those four horses coming for us

Death is coming for us 


If I could be so lucky to feel her warm embrace 

If I could be so lucky to witness never-ending grace

In the pale moonlight 

In the pale moonlight 


I’ve always been a werewolf among mere men

I’ve always been an outcast so send me back again 

To the pale moonlight


If I could be so lucky to feel her warm embrace 

If I could be so lucky to witness never-ending grace

In the pale moonlight 

In the pale moonlight 

The pale moonlight


“This place is a dream. Only a sleeper considers it real. Then death comes like dawn, and you wake up laughing at what you thought was your grief.”

― Rumi


photo by UNDERFLOW RECORDS


What is the role of the producer in creating "Pale Moonlight"? Which technical and creative aspects do you consider most important when working on a recording?


Christian Paul Philippi is truly a producer extraordinaire - I fell in love with the work he's done with Chris Spino on the Coma Girls material, I met him through Spino and our other friend Laidlaw - everything they've put out together is beautiful - especially the "Skyboxer" EP and the most recent "Crystal Pistol" album. I trusted CPP before I even met him, but my girlfriend and I really fell in love with him as a person, he's a beautiful soul and just a really solid dude, a real mensch. Christian got Shravan in the studio, so even though I was giving CPP my initial tracks and recordings to build off of, everything felt very fresh and we did everything from the ground up at his place in LA. Christian added a lot of special sauce and effects to my drum tracks, beyond the live drums Shravan added even. It sounds cheesy but getting "the vibe" right on the recording... that's the most important thing but also the most intangible. Sometimes you either feel it or you don't, which can mean starting over sometimes, and that's ok, too. It was great to use Christian's array of guitars and synthesizer and percussion in combination with my own guitars and pedalboard.


What challenges do you set for yourself when working on a solo project, distinct from your collaborative work with Shady Groves?


I'm always trying to push myself. I currently have an EP in the works, a full album worth of songs I hope to record soon, and then two fully instrumental beat tapes, one recorded in Edinburgh and the other recorded in Colorado, plus an ambient instrumental album inspired by Twin Peaks that I want to remaster and release properly. Plus I have a demo archive full of songs stretching back over a decade. I hope Quells can be whatever music I put out - no limits. I DJ, I produce, I play guitar, I play bass, I sing, I make beats, I run Underflow, I plan events like Whateverfest in Detroit and link artists between communities... I want the music of Quells to be anything - songs, beats, ambience... I love every genre and style so I want that to be represented in my music.


With Shady Groves it was initially - "here are 3 songs plus 1 b-side by all three of us - Dylan, Jeff (Jemmi Hazeman) and myself... that was the "Bitzer" album - then we added more members and then Jeff left and then it just became Dylan and I like it started... there are other players on our second album "Dreamboat" but at its core, Shady Groves will always be Dylan Caron and I. So, Quells is just me, Adam Fitzgerald, plus whoever I want to work with or collaborate with. I'm always trying to learn new instruments, new styles, new production techniques, expand my palate and perspectives with new gear and sounds... I love the idea of making entirely original organic sounds through my pedalboard and sampling those sounds into new songs, I've been working on doing that with different arrays of equipment and techniques, it's like mining sound or something, alchemizing sound... It's a really magical thing; music. I feel like I'm opening portals to other dimensions or something sometimes.



Shady Groves and Quells are different musical projects. What key elements or characteristics distinguish the sound of Quells from the music created by Shady Groves?


This is a good question. Again, I'll just defer back to Dylan. Shady Groves will always be Dylan Caron and I - he is a genius songwriter, he can make his voice sound like anything, he is an exceptional musician, especially with stringed instruments and acoustics - he specializes in banjo, ukulele, mandolin, slide guitar, etc. so even though I love all of those elements and have even added some to Shady Groves and Quells music myself, those elements will probably not be as prevalent in Quells. We got a lot of folk rock love as Shady Groves, which is cool because we love Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, Andy Shauf, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Keaton Henson, Devendra Banhart, Band of Horses, etc. any and all of that stuff we were linked to, that was humbling, but we also love weird stuff and every genre. Shady Groves was pretty poppy - I love pop music and pop elements, I think my music can be pretty catchy, but I like to make it weird. Off-kilter pop. Sharing unique sounds while still having the music be listenable / accessible / pleasant, that's my goal. I want to share beautiful, unheard sounds, if possible.


Are there specific themes or ideas that you prefer to explore in Quells' work but may not be as relevant for Shady Groves?


I never want to back myself into any corners, so Dylan and I always kept everything open for Shady Groves. We have songs about love, loss, heartbreak, addiction, veterans, abandonment, family trauma, you name it. With Quells, I also want there to be no limits. I think I might perhaps continue to put esoteric language front and center to educate and entice with my own words, but again, I want my music to be as accessible as it is uniquely enjoyable. I'm now working with my friend and former colleague Matthew LaCroix now, who I've done a podcast with before, so just as with my work in education and journalism, I always want to share deeper truths and profound knowledge with as many people as possible who are willing to listen with open hearts and open minds to maybe help work together to change this world for the better. Too many are suffering for no reason. We have the resources, the technology, the intelligence, etc. to end world hunger, to give everyone everywhere clean drinking water, to end war profiteering and the genocidal lunatics running our planet into the ground at high speed. We not only can and should do better, we need to. Let's feed the hungry, house the homeless, give everyone healthy food and clean drinking water, let's attain world peace through coming together. It's possible. Sustainability and utopia can be achieved through sharing resources and working together. 

"A rising tide lifts all ships."

“Why were we born, if not to help each other?” 

― Ernest Hemingway


In your free time, when you're not occupied with music, what hobbies or activities bring you joy and inspiration?


I've been working on a book series since I was about 11 or 12 years old and I'm finally working with a respectable editor as my mentor, so I'm hoping that the first book in my series will arrive publicly soon. I also run the international independent artist collective Underflow Records. Activism, education, the arts, these are my passions, so I have many irons in the fire. I pour my time into trying to help others and help make this world a better, more loving, more tolerant, more accepting, more respectful, better educated place for everyone to coexist peacefully. I honestly believe it is the responsibility of any informed and intelligent person to fight for peace, justice, human rights, healthcare, nature, animals, the marginalized, the voiceless, those in need of help. I love staying active, dancing, running, swimming, yoga, travel, eating healthy, planning events that bring people together. Meeting new people and brining artists and communities together is more fulfilling than any paycheck could ever be, so that's exactly why I do what I do with Quells, Underflow, Whateverfest, Shady Groves, etc. It might sound trite or cheesy but I honestly want to help the world heal through the power of love, art, and music.


“Kindness is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families, and nations.” 

- Paramahansa Yogananda



Сonnect with Quells via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter


*This interview was made possible by UNDERFLOW RECORDS

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