“Someone will bring the bare bones of a song and try not to be too attached to anything,” The Fritz’s Jamie Hendrickson (guitar, backup vocals) describes of their song writing process. “They just throw it into the machine of the band and that usually ends up with us all coming up with really cool things that none of us would have thought to do.”
It’s a big change from when the Asheville, NC, band first started in 2009. Hendrickson and Jake O’Connor (bass, backup vocals) usually brought in songs almost, if not entirely, complete.
“We’d have charts for everything,” he admits. “We’d have keyboard charts, drum charts, we’d pretty much play the song exactly how they were written, and then we’d edit it a little bit from there.”
As time passed the five-piece funk-rock band has become more fluid in their work together. Lead vocalist and keyboardist Jamar Woods’ soulful voice adds the promised funk to high-energy instrumental rock jams by Hendrickson, O’Connor, Michael Tillis (drums), and Mikey Spice (percussion).
“We’ve gotten a lot better at cooperating and collaborating with each other,” Hendrickson tells. “[But] we always feel like we’re six months away from sounding like we want to sound.”
Hendrickson and company are somewhat workaholics … er … music-holics. In spring of 2013, The Fritz released their second album, “Bootstrap,” and have filled their schedules since with touring and festivals like Wakarusa in Arkansas and West Virginia’s Camp Barefoot. Their 2016 summer tour is bringing them back to Wilmington for a two-night run at The Whiskey on July 22 and 23.
“Wilmington has become one of our favorite places to go,” Hendrickson adds. “It’s going to be two nights that we can kind of stretch out and have a great time. We’re pretty excited about it.”
Despite their perfectionist tendencies to “over analyze” songs long after they’ve taken them on the road, Hendrickson says they all trust in each other’s expertise more than ever. Everyone from the band brings something to the composition table. It may start as a basic verse, chorus or bridge from Hendrickson, Woods or O’Connor, but everyone builds from there. Hendrickson says Tillis and Spice play active roles in trying drastically different approaches in the process.
“Mike is a really great professional drummer; he could be playing drums in Justin Bieber’s band,” he quips. “I trust him completely when he tells me something is feeling good. . . . And the same with everyone else. . . . People take their parts and turn it into a proper, real piece of music.”
Their latest project, “The Shoe Sessions Vol. 1,” is a music-video series that features three new tunes. They had no plans of recording specific songs when they came up with the idea. In fact, the three songs in the first volume—including “Another Way,” written only a couple of weeks prior—were picked from several they recorded throughout one night.
“We probably played eight or nine songs,” Hendrickson explains, “and we were like, ‘If we get one, that’s good; we’ll be happy.’ So we ended up with three we liked.”
The namesake for the series comes from the band’s light designer, Matt Schueler, a.k.a. “Shoe,” whose house is the backdrop for the sessions. It’s where The Fritz rehearse. “So the whole point of the ‘Shoe Sessions’ is it’s almost like a behind-the-scenes look of The Fritz at home,” Hendrickson adds.
The comfort of their “home” made shooting the first three videos relatively easy. They’re also all edited and mixed by the band. There will be a “The Shoe Sessions Volume 2” (and undoubtedly more thereafter), for which The Fritz are preparing to record.
“We want to really do as much of them as possible,” Hendrickson divulges. “Just casual and something we can be doing when we’re not out on the road. They’re kind of fun things so that people who are interested in what we’re doing can keep up with us and [be] engaged.”
The band’s stock of songs is continuously on the rise and they’re working through them all. The Fritz will head back to the studio this January to record a new album. While it’s possible a couple of “Shoe Session” songs will make it onto the record, there are a lot more in the works to come.
“We’re trying to write as much new music for the album as possible,” he says. “Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of stuff that people won’t have heard before.”
Their expanding collection helps the band come up with a fresh set night after night. They also tend to take liberties with some arrangements—improv jams that fans of Phish or the Grateful Dead might enjoy.
“A lot of really cool modern jazz is doing that, too, where they’ll play the same song but with a different arrangement or feel,” Hendrickson says. “They might take a song that they normally play and play it in half-time [or] anything you can do to make it fresh for the audience and especially for yourself. You kind of trick yourself into being creative, even though you may have played that song a hundred times that year.”
Yet, The Fritz avoids too many improvs. The high-energy nature of their music can be tiring when spiraling on and on in a set.
“Some people can do that,” he says. “Virtuosos like Miles Davis can do that, but we’re not Miles Davis. If we did it in every song, we’d be burned out quickly. . . . Most of our time is spent trying to write good songs and have good arrangements. It’s a lot of time spent arranging and composing.”
In Wilmington, no two shows will be alike. So fans can rest assured that securing tickets to both nights will be an adventure in music.
“We’re kind of ambitious people [and] it’s a beast that keeps needing more and more music,” Hendrickson says. “As soon as we get stuff together, we need to keep feeding it. We always have fresh stuff, and we feel like we’re challenging ourselves and evolving. Hopefully, the songs will get better as we go.”