Brett Stowers played for Fair To Midland for 10 insane years. He was part of brilliant, hair-raising shows full of frenetic energy and, at times, stuntman-level acrobatics, records that combined metal, prog and art in a way that eventually caught the attention of big labels first, and later Serjical Strike Records (owned by System of a Down's Serj Tankian) and a hell of a lot of near-indescribable rock and roll memories.
Then, Stowers stopped and went home. He jumped back in to Texas A&M Commerce, and, picking up more or less where he left off right before joining FTM, started back studying for his degree in computer science. When he's not hitting the books, he's supporting a tall stack of friends' local bands, and becoming a hell of an artist in his kitchen and behind his smoker grill out in the quiet sticks of Commerce. And because City of Ate shouldn't have all the food porn fun, we plan on sharing some of his photos as well as his not-so-fictitious fables from the days on the road with one of North Texas' most creative and exciting hard rock acts.
I thought of you the other day when interviewing Barry Kooda from The Nervebreakers. He said "that rock star stuff is quite fleeting." You've gone from quite a towering inferno of local success that you stepped away from to just putting all your energy towards your education. Was it difficult?
It was a little weird at first. The decision to step down came more from a sense of being burned out from years of constant touring, and just wanting a change. I was turning into somebody that I didn't like. I always enjoyed playing shows, meeting fans and making records, but the other 90 percent of day-to-day touring stuff was getting old for me: endless long drives, no sleep, crap food ... that sort of stuff. There's definitely something to be said for getting to sleep in your own bed every night. When I saw that I had an opportunity to finish up my education, I jumped on it!
So, a computer science degree is your focus now?
I'm also taking some photo, video and design classes as part of my minor. I originally started attending university classes right out of high school, but hated every second of it and dropped out shortly before I started playing with Fair To Midland. I always regretted never finishing school but it didn't really seem too relevant while playing in a successful touring rock band, heh. I'm definitely having a lot more fun at it this time around.
You're a good sport when it comes to rooting on other local artists. You're very supportive. Is it also tough to watch your friends still doing it while you're hitting the books? Does it make you miss it?
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I've always enjoyed going to watch friends' bands since I first started playing. I wouldn't say it's tough at all. Quite the opposite really. Plus it keeps me in the loop with people I wouldn't necessarily get to see or hang with now that I'm not really active in the local scene in a creative sense. I'm a huge fan of The House Harkonnen, The Phuss, The Feds, Jibe ... SUPER excited to see my friend Sid from Upside back on vocals for this! From back in the day -- Doosu, Slow Roosevelt, The Nixons ... all those guys. I could go on all day.
You're putting a lot of energy into the art of cuisine lately! Your food porn pics are torturous.
Although it's not exactly a formal part of my education, I feel like I've been honing my cooking skills quite a bit since I've not been in the band. It's been a great creative outlet for me. My friends tell me I should open a restaurant. I don't know about that, but if you ever find yourself in Commerce, I'll fire up the smoker for ya!
Did this grow out of your frustrations over road food?
I think it absolutely grew from frustrations of road food. When we were touring in support of Fables From a Mayfly, we would only be home maybe a few days or a week at a time, so first order of business for me was always the post-tour steak with whoever would come eat with me before we had to go back to truck stop food. That tradition eventually grew to switching things up and trying new stuff. Now that I have a bit more free time, it's been fun expanding my repertoire.
What kind of terms are you on nowadays with the FTM guys you toured with?
I'd say most of us are on good terms. Matt Langley lives about five minutes away from me, so we hang out quite a bit. Jon Dicken is touring with a Texas country band and it looks like he's loving it. I still haven't had a chance to catch a show, unfortunately. I'd known Ryan Collier for several years before he joined FTM, and I try to catch him on bass with 10 Years anytime they come through town. I haven't talked to Andrew in a while, but it's certainly not out of any animosity or anything.
How did you end up interested specifically in music? I imagine it was just an organic process from loving music from the ground up. Curious if I'm right, or what you're background story is.
Yeah you're pretty much right. I had a very influential music teacher in high school that taught me to play drums. Joined my first band not long after I graduated. There was a venue called Area 904 that was literally a trailer house that had been gutted and had one wall cut away to make a stage. It was in the middle of a field, on the edge of nowhere. Somehow all the local musicians ended up there almost every weekend, though. That's how I first met Matt who eventually wound up playing keys with me in FTM. We would all just hang out in the field under the stars and listen to our friends' bands play. It was awesome. I kind of miss that.
Next, tell us about some crazy shows you've witnessed from behind the drums with FTM. I remember the side stage at Edgefest in 2007, I think? Insane. Was that just par for the course?
If you're referring to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVSa-7Kaqso, then yeah. We got a bit nuts onstage sometimes. I think everybody in the band shed a little blood and got pretty bruised up during the course of a show at some point. It was all just a part of expressing ourselves outside of the music. You can hear that on your iPod. We wanted to put on a SHOW.
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I remember being on the main stage at the Rock Am Ring festival in Germany. The top of that stage was probably a good 20-plus feet off the ground. All of a sudden during the last song, I look up and Andrew is swinging from the top of the lighting rig or something. I still don't know how the hell he got up there. I remember thinking to myself "Well, this is it. This is our last show ever, because our singer is about to die." By some sort of tuck-and-roll stuntman magic, he successfully jumped down onto the stage during the climax of the song and finished the set with only a couple of bruises on his knees. Crowd went nuts. It was pretty badass, actually.