It’s every band’s dream to grow from humble beginnings gigging in basements to producing high-quality songs for 80,000+ Spotify listeners across the globe. In just six years, New Jersey alt-rock band Flycatcher are living that dream, making the leap from a group of college friends to a solid band that’s gone on a national tour, performed in stellar spaces, released two albums and several singles, and are still going strong. Their latest single, “Sodas in the Freezer,” centers around the consequences of bottling up our emotions and authentic selves. And while it may reflect the monotony many millennials are familiar with, it’s far from stagnant, with its heavy guitar riffs, head-bopping rhythm, and joyfully sarcastic lyrics. “Sodas” is an anthem for those brimming with creativity and dreams – much like Flycatcher themselves.
Long before Flycatcher had seen a recording studio or 600,000+ streams on a single, frontman Gregory Thomas Pease never really pictured himself in a band. “The first time I actually picked up a guitar was in a guitar class in middle school. And I sucked, and I didn’t like it,” he told me with a laugh. “So, I stopped playing and I just didn’t touch it until end of my sophomore year, pretty much junior year of high school. I was like, ‘I’m gonna learn this this time.’ And from there, I got obsessed with it.” While Gregory wasn’t a childhood musician, he was a fan of rock music since birth thanks to his musician father and music-buff mother. “My earliest memories are us listening to Californication by the Red Hot Chile Peppers on the way to the recycling center.” Talking Heads, The Kinks, and U2 are just some of the other bands Gregory was raised on since preschool.
“We’re doing it for real, we’re a real band! It makes it feel like less of a pipe dream when you can do something like that.”
By the time Gregory was a sophomore at Rutgers University, he knew his way around a guitar and was playing with senior Stephen Verdi’s band Tracy Stone. When that band split ways after most of the members graduated, Gregory and Stephen began writing songs together and were joined by their friends Yianno Tsamutalis on bass and Connor Camelengo on drums. The group quickly rose to fame within New Brunswick’s DIY music scene, playing almost 200 basement shows around the city. “We sucked so bad,” Gregory reminisced, “but you do it until you get good at it.” And they got good at it, gaining a loyal following and recording two albums: Other Things in 2018 and Songs for Strangers in 2019.
Shortly after the album was recorded, Stephen and Yianno left to pursue other ventures, and Jack Delle Cava became the new bass player. Now a trio, with a highly anticipated album newly released, Flycatcher decided to hit the road, embarking on a cross-country summer tour from New Jersey to Washington state. “I wanted it to be more tame,” Gregory said, originally planning to stick to cities close by. “But I couldn’t get shows that were close enough together, so it went further and further and further, and by the time I was done [booking], it was all the way to Seattle!”
Starting with a sold-out show at Asbury Park Brewery, Flycatcher spent two weeks traveling to Ann Arbor, Chicago, Minneapolis, Fargo, Rapid City, Seattle, Portland, Couer d’Alene, Missoula, and Columbus, and playing with bands like Political Lizard, TGTG, and Sad Girlz Club, to name just a few. The entire tour was funded solely by ticket and merch sales, and booked entirely by Gregory. “We’re doing it for real, we’re a real band!” Gregory reminisced. “It makes it feel like less of a pipe dream when you can do something like that.”
Then the pandemic hit. Whereas most bands struggled with COVID, lockdown ushered in a new chapter in Flycatcher’s growth, allowing them to shift their focus from booking tours to writing more songs. But rather than an album, the band – which was now joined by a fourth member, Justin VanNiekerk – released two singles produced by Conor Hanson that marked a turning point in their career: “Games,” which has earned over 600,000 streams on Spotify so far, and “Sodas” (Gregory also worked on a folksy solo song, “Maybe,” during this time).
“It used to be, I gotta get this thing done to prove to myself I can do it. And now, I know I can do it. So, let’s make it the best possible thing it can be.”
It’s these singles that reflect Flycatcher’s real growth from a garage band to dedicated musicians, steering them towards more thoughtful songwriting, giving each song the full attention it deserves. “I’m always ready to write a record,” Gregory explained. “I’m a conceptual, big-project person. But because we’ve done two already, I’m not in a rush. I’d rather do singles and really fall in love with each song as I make them.” These latest singles also reflect a newfound confidence within the band – whereas Gregory used to feel rushed to make as much music as possible, he described not wanting “to feel that way about music and the stuff I make anymore. It used to be, I gotta get this thing done to prove to myself I can do it. And now, I know I can do it. So, let’s make it the best possible thing it can be.”
“Sodas” – mixed and produced by Connor Hanson and mastered by Jon Markson – is the latest culmination of this philosophy. Gregory began writing “Sodas” in 2017, but held onto the lyrics for years while searching for the missing ingredient. While mixing Let Me Ask My Mother’s album At Best, of which Gregory is a part-time member, he found that frontman Kevin Donald’s chord shapes and progression was the link he was searching for. The rest of the song wrote itself while Gregory commuted to his day job daily, the guitar part playing over and over in his head. “It was freeing. I was able to be a singer without a guitar.”
With crisp vocals and distorted guitar riffs that bring to mind The Strokes and Radiohead, Flycatcher rips through the all-too-common issue of millennial burnout and denying our true selves. The guitar’s melody in the verses takes steady, repetitive steps, evoking a sense of exhaustion as Gregory sings of giving into an unhealthy cycle of purposefully causing mishaps for attention. “Hanging clothes out in the rain,” “leaving the gas on in the kitchen,” and, of course, “leaving sodas in the freezer,” are all masked cries for help from someone weary and at his wit’s end – “but no one listens.”
The song picks up as the unspoken grievances finally boil to the surface and burst in the chorus: “I’ll be no one except what you want, while you chase the sun.” Gregory finally vocalizes his desire to break the cycle, exclaiming, “I’ll be your greatest stunt when I’m done. I’m done.” But in the bridge, the lyrics of the chorus are repeated, in a much slower, fried, somber tone backed by piano. The sodas have finally exploded, and now Gregory must reflect on his words as he cleans up the aftermath.
“There’s nothing left for you, if you aren’t true to yourself.”
“I was feeling really frustrated,” Gregory remarked when reflecting on the inspiration for “Sodas.” “I viewed it through the lens of being in this monotonous routine that I do every day. It was me being what everyone else wanted me to be.” Gregory also pulled from the idea of giving yourself up for another person in a relationship. “We’ve all been there, when you’re with somebody and say, ‘I’ll be whatever you want me to be.’ People say, ‘oh, it’s nice you’re there for the other person,’ but at the same time, once you do so much for another person, then there’s nothing left for you, if you aren’t true to yourself.”
Despite the topic hitting home for many, the song is meant to be lighthearted. “It’s a good caricature of how I feel,” Gregory said. “I didn’t want the song to take itself too seriously.” The song’s cover art, designed by analog collage artist and designer Jesse Solomon, reflects this fun side of “Sodas,” depicting a woman sunbathing with a soda, her head on fire – as if the soda blew up in her face. “No matter how many times you learn your lesson,” Gregory says, “you’re going to keep self-sabotaging.”
But Flycatcher is anything but self-sabotaging. With the pandemic winding down, the band is back to gigging, with plans to perform their new songs during a northeast summer tour with fellow band Marigold. Flycatcher also plans to release more songs after “Sodas,” continuing on their upward trajectory – is an EP in the near future, or a larger tour? The sky’s the limit for Flycatcher, so keep an eye out for what comes next; it’s bound to be delightfully explosive.
You can listen to Flycatcher on Spotify and Bandcamp. To grab tickets for their tour, visit flycatchernj.com.