My first impression of Fime, outside of listening to their most recent EP Sprawl, was how gracious they were while I fumbled with my audio recording software and anxiously restarted my computer. I eventually settled for the lo-est fi loopback solution I could think of — pointing the speaker of my AirPod into the microphone on my phone and crossing my fingers.

Once we finally got to chatting, I was struck by the fact that Fime — comprised of Maxine Garcia, Beto Brakmo, and Chase Cook — truly have brought a tiny pocket of the Bay Area scene to a house in LA. Living and working closely with Melina Duterte of Jay Som, who recorded and produced Sprawl, Fime seems dedicated to maintaining the DIY earnesty that the Bay Area treasures so much. Their last music video for “Solo / Together” came together through a web of contributions from friends — the result? A surreal and intense three minutes taking place almost entirely in Fime’s friend’s warehouse, could stand toe-to-toe with any big budget music video.

Released in early October, Sprawl marks a departure from the band’s more strictly lo-fi releases that
preceded it. Their latest EP does sound similar to Duterte’s other production, softening the rougher garage edges that marked Fime’s earlier material. The grungy energy remains, but it’s more concentrated and more transient, appearing when Fime deems it necessary.

In our conversation, we talked about their visual aesthetics, early punk influences, and breaking into the LA music scene as outsiders.

The Bay Bridged: To start, I wanted to talk about the “Solo / Together” music video. What do you want people to come away with when they see one of your videos?

Beto Brakmo: We talked to our friend Haley Ruffner, who had previously directed the ‘Little Princess’ video a couple years back. We wanted to do something a little more serious, a little less goofy and a little more cool (laughs). Our friend had a warehouse we knew we could shoot in, and it came together pretty quick after that.

Chase Cook: We had the song down for, what, a year or two previously? We recorded it with Melina, and the rest of the EP came about a week after we made the video. We knew we had to get the ball rolling, so we just recorded the song and video super quick. A motivational tool to help us get our shit together.

BB: I think the original idea was a lot more ambitious, but the rotating camera was what we built the video all around.

TBB: It definitely reminds me of the aesthetic that Duterte uses in some of her videos, and I know you have a close relationship as roommates and collaborators. Did your friendship come about through these collaborations?

Maxine Garcia: I grew up with Melina, but we were always playing together. Chase and Beto both went to the neighboring high school. We started working together once we moved to LA on, like, real music. We were in school band together, but we also did a bunch of Myspace music, stuff only our friends listened to.

BB: What was it called? The Platonic Sea Lion?

MG: Yeah, no, it was fun. We must’ve been like 13, 12, recording with a webcam mic. It doesn’t sound that bad though! It should sound worse.

TBB: Who did you want to be when you were just starting to make recordings?

MG: Oh we loved Death Cab, Blink-182, Wavves, we just liked punk shit I guess (laughs). Except for Death Cab.

CC: I think Nevermind

[by Nirvana] was the first time I heard music and thought, ‘Yeah, this is real music.’ I remember listening to, like, my mom’s Bob Marley records. And there was this one classic rock radio station that would always come in, 104.1 The Hawk.

BB: I honestly think Guitar Hero got me to play guitar. That virtual crowd was feeling me. The older I get the more people I meet who had their lives changed by middle school Guitar Hero.

TBB: I hear you talk about punk influence a lot, and with such lush, pretty-sounding production on this last EP it can be a little hard to let that ethos shine through. Can you speak to the influence of punk/DIY on this last EP?

BB: If you listen to our older recordings, it definitely sounds a little bit rougher. There’s not as much yelling or shouting, especially compared to the old ones. We wanted to be a little more restrained and let those moments shine out.

CC: We went from a less intentional lo-fi to a more intentional hi-fi sound.

MG: I don’t know if it was always intentional to be so lo-fi, it may have just been what we had access to. Even if our sound isn’t quite like what we listen to, we’re very DIY and everything we make is due to a community of friends and artists working on it. I feel like our shows have a very punk community of people.

“I honestly think Guitar Hero got me to play guitar. That virtual crowd was feeling me.”

TBB: Ya’ll also did the move from the Bay Area to LA; it must’ve been a bit of a process to get that community back after the move.

BB: I was the first one to do the move, back in 2013. My previous band had broken up, and I just felt like the move was LA. I was down here for 3-4 years and didn’t know enough people to be like, ‘Hey, do you wanna start a band?’ So I was just playing with a loop pedal, and then Maxine moved down, and then Chase moved down, so it was like a reunion of all the old musicians from the Bay. So we kind of just moved our music scene down to LA.

TBB: Were you looking for a bigger pool? I’ve heard people talk about the insularity and fragmentation of the Bay Area’s music scenes.

BB: Kind of. I guess we never really felt like a proper Bay Area band, more like an East Bay band. We weren’t really hanging out with the San Francisco or Oakland scene as much. It all felt like it was very much about who you know.

MG: Not like LA! (laughs)

Brakmo: Yeah, after moving down here we all felt like SF was this Garden of Eden, with so many venues and so many of our friends playing. In LA it kind of feels like there’s a billion bands and four bands who play every show.

TBB: Switching gears: How much do you all like to be involved in the mixing process?

CC: We did like three rounds of revisions, and we were sitting there for the whole thing.

MG: Melina’s cool because she asked a ton of questions about what we wanted our record to sound like, so the mixing process was super collaborative. She was always like, ‘What’s your vision; what do you want this to sound like?’, really taking the artist’s vision. Melina and I are so like-minded that if I have a reference for her, she’ll immediately know it. Her ear is really tuned, and she picks out really nuanced things about music.

TBB: What does a live show look like for you all? How much are you curating that experience?

BB: We used to be really about the DIY feel, but I realized I’m not really getting funnier up on stage.

MG: We realized telling stories and having a ton of audience interaction wasn’t actually super important. That’s more of a bigger band thing. Now we’re really focused on playing a tight 25-minute set with consistent energy, not spending too much time talking or tuning. We just started doing transitions in between the songs as well, so there really isn’t that much talking on stage.

BB: We just played a sold-out show at the Echoplex. Even just having a monitor that worked and a sound tech, I was like, ‘What kind of fancy Rolls-Royce venue is this?’ So now that our shows are getting a little bigger there’s more pressure for us to feel and act like a band. When I look out into an audience and see no friends, I’m like ‘These people can hate me freely.’

TBB: Wrapping up, lets talk about the Sprawl EP. In general, I’m a huge fan of projects that are 20-30 minutes, and getting that concise of a track list can be a challenge. What was your approach?

BB: We are the slowest songwriters in the world; it was more of a process of editing up. For the most part, we were just like, ‘Here’s a set of songs that we all like.’ We wanted a minimum of five songs, since our last EP was four songs. In general, the songs are longer as well. I feel like there’s a bigger soundscape type situation here.

MG: Yeah, there were some of those songs that we wrote and just didn’t record, like we had them written but we already knew they would get cut.

BB: Some of those are the ones you play live once and just think, ‘This isn’t it.’

TBB: How would you connect the title to the content?

MG: We had put off naming the EP for a long time, but when I thought about the content of the lyrics and the sound of the EP I wanted to emphasize the relationship to your environment, your city, your national identity, and feelings of isolation from your environment. It’s both inspiring and scary, and it’s the city sprawl that we all got inspired by. I think it reflects in the sonic quality of everything we made as well — a sprawling, expansive sound.

CC: We also, up until recently, had a problem with naming songs something that had nothing to do with the lyrics. The word sprawl appears in the lyrics for “Boundless,” so we were thinking about that as well.

TBB: Any plans for touring or new releases you wanted to mention?

MG: I think we need to just sit down and plan it, ‘cause we have friends in a lot of cities and we could totally put together a little West Coast tour. We just have to make that happen — that’s a DIY thing we still need to do.

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