Most musicians will tell you that Craigslist isn’t the best place to find bandmates. Sure, it’s worked for some groups (The Killers), but in a small town like Charlottesville, the odds of finding a copacetic match on the internet are especially slim. You’re more likely to meet like-minded musicians at a show.
But Films on Song needed both to achieve its current lineup and develop the jangle-pop post-punk sound that makes the band stick out in the current Charlottesville music scene.
Francis McKee had been living in town for about a year when he realized he hadn’t done anything musical. “I had a mini panic attack and thought, ‘Well, I’ll take a shot at Craigslist.’”
Jonathan Teeter—who was already performing pop songs under the Films on Song moniker—was one of the first people to reply to the ad that listed bands like The Smiths and The Cure, and dream pop as potential influences.
“Not that we’re dream pop at all,” says Teeter (who counts Damon Albarn, the musical brains behind Britpop band Blur and trip hop virtual band Gorillaz, as one of his own biggest influences). When he and McKee started working on songs, they developed with a post-punk tilt—the songs were groovy and uptempo, more oomph-atically, and less dreamily pop.
And adding Sam Roberts, known in the area for his drumming in punk ‘n’ roll band Wild Rose and hardcore band Fried Egg, only increased that post-punk angle.
Teeter asked Roberts to join on a whim: The band’s previous drummer was returning to school, and Roberts agreed after hearing a Films on Song set at Magnolia House, the DIY spot Roberts runs.
“What immediately appealed to me was that this is a pop band, unapologetically,” says Roberts. “That was something brand new for me [as a drummer], that I want to see in town, and done well.”
Who gives a shit about what’s cool these days, or what any other band is doing, but for the most part, “hip” bands (in Charlottesville and elsewhere) aren’t making pop music, and they’re certainly not focusing on melody. Films on Song doesn’t quite understand why. Perhaps it’s because those songs are pretty difficult to write, proposes Roberts.
Teeter agrees. “I’ll throw out entire songs I’ve written because I don’t think they’re catchy enough. Different strokes for different folks,” he says with a shrug.
But the truth is that “everyone likes catchy music,” says Roberts. “Everyone.”
(Yes, even those who stand at shows with their arms across their chests, refusing to nod their heads with the beat unless they’ve had a few drinks. Just dance, for crying out loud.)
Catchy is what Films on Song supplies. But don’t mistake it for a one-note band. There’s variation from song to song, and in a way, each band member’s favorite track reflects his distinct musical contributions.
McKee’s particularly attached to the riff in “New Light” (or, “I’m Starting to See You in a New Light”—the band hasn’t decided which title to use yet)—not only is it memorable, it inspires him to write more earworms to sing along to.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Roberts is partial to “Sushi.” “It’s the rocker,” he says, progressively building in volume before exploding into distortion at the end. Roberts likes it even more when, during this interview, Teeter explains what it’s about: Taking a vacation from his grueling restaurant industry job, and the bizarre experience of being served by another server (and then developing a crush on that server).
The band agrees that “Friends of Mine” is its catchiest song—and thus the one Teeter most fancies. He wrote the song after learning that a few of the animators who perished in the Kyoto Animation studio fire in July 2019 had created some of his favorite animes, folks who’d created characters who felt like friends to Teeter.
Films on Song hopes to get the crowd bopping at its Magnolia House show Saturday night, and the band promises to release an EP (or two) this year.
And for alt-weekly music column readers who also happen to be musicians, take note: The band is seeking a keyboard player as well as a bass player, so that McKee can move on to lead guitar and Teeter can focus on vocals. So, if you’re into playing jangle pop and post-punk, consider this—and the show—the Films on Song’s classified ad.
Films on Song performs at Magnolia House on February 29.