Image courtesy of Fine. Bandcamp
Interview by Marian Chudnovsky
Providence-based duo Fine., Iz Dungan and Ly Barber, make music that is equal parts tender and punk. Their songs feature a distinct combination of strong guitar riffs, occasional screaming, and reflective lyrics about self-love, queerness, and healing. Their music is a product of a deep friendship, a collaboration apparent in their recorded music and live shows. The pair dropped their first full-length album, Flesh//Vessel in late 2018. I spoke to Iz and Ly a few months after the release about the band’s evolution, building community, and “screaming about being really gay.”
B-SIDE: “So it’s almost Fine.’s second birthday!! I was wondering if you could talk a bit about how you met.
Ly: “We met…what year was it? 2015? They [Iz] were playing in a band that had a show at my DIY space in Narragansett, so we met that way, and then eventually we worked together. We started playing in a band together, they were playing bass and I was playing guitar. And then we ended up playing in another band together *laughs*.
Iz: Fine. started as basically an excuse to play music with just each other
Ly: Third time’s the charm
Iz: Yeah exactly! We were connected through the music scene in Providence and we worked at the same, kind of shitty coffee shop together, and eventually we decided to just start the band.
B-SIDE: Any reflections on two years?
Ly: The band’s birthday is basically Iz’s birthday, so it’s always kind of emotional!
Iz: It’s been such a monumental couple of years. I feel like this whole project has helped me grow so much emotionally in many ways. It has helped me gain confidence in my own identity and having that be validated. Our fans are the best, basically! The people that come to consecutive shows have become kind of a following and it’s been so special. It’s like group therapy!!
B-SIDE: Since so much of your music is vulnerable and self-reflective, what is it like performing that in front of crowds and seeing people really resonate with your lyrics?
Iz: It’s hit or miss, to be perfectly honest with you. Sometimes you can get a good idea of how the show is going to be, well sometimes it’s very surprising. But we’ve definitely shown up to shows and just been like “Let’s see if anyone stays in the room once we start screaming about being really gay” *laughs*. There have definitely been a lot of shows where people have been like “hell yeah, I really needed that, that was so cathartic” and some shows where the crowd feels equally as weirded out being there as we feel playing.
Ly: Sometimes it’s like we take a step back and they take a step back and it’s just like “ummmmm this is really weird” *laughs*, but most of the time it’s really good.
B-SIDE: I just want to talk a little bit about your new video for “Water Signs” which is just so beautiful. How did you come up with the concept for it?
Iz: We can’t take credit for the concept of that really at all. My old friend Amber Chilton was the one who had the idea. She has an ongoing project where she takes pictures of queer people in milk baths. It’s kind of this play on vulnerability inside of this really solidified area that is sort of protected [the bathtub]. Her photos are online and they’re so, so beautiful. I was like obsessed with them and I asked her if she would ever want to make that concept into a music video.
B-SIDE: What was the process of filming like?
Iz: It was really fun, but it was also super uncomfortable, because we were just sitting in cold milk water.
Ly: Well it was like lukewarm *laughs*. But yeah, we like thrashed our heads around and just had milk up our noses.
Iz: Yeah and we did all the different colors of the water, so we had to like drain the bath, fill it back up, and just be wet the whole time. But it came out really, really beautiful and I’m so happy with what she did. All the props to Amber!
B-SIDE: You released your new album, Flesh//Vessel in December! What was the process like for making this album? And how do you feel like your process has changed over the years?
Iz: That’s a great question. Well, I would say that the first one was done in a super hasty manner. We recorded it on a four-track tape recorder in like two days. It was kind of just like this scramble to make something happen. And I think through that process and just playing together we’ve become super in sync. So, that being said, doing a full-length was definitely a rollercoaster. I feel really great that I was able to get eight songs, well nine with the alternative version, out there. Those songs just mean a lot to me! It’s been a chapter of my life. I feel like I lived those songs a lot and they’ve helped me grow so far from the person I was when I wrote them. I think a lot of musicians go through that, it just feels cool. I’ve definitely healed a lot through making this record and doing it with Ly, just creating something beautiful together!
Also, big shout out to Big Nice Studio in Lincoln, RI! Ugh, they’re just dreamboats there! They helped us make a really awesome record.
B-SIDE: Your album is tagged “queercore” on Bandcamp. What does “queercore” mean to you both?
Ly: *Laughing* I just heard the word once and was like “oh yes, that’s what our music is!!” Cause people are always saying it’s like “garage rock,” but no, we’re really gay though! So that’s why we thought it was fitting. Just a queer, punk attitude. Obviously, genre is totally something that’s hard to pinpoint, but I feel like queercore is the kind of thing that you know as soon as you hear it or see it live.
B-SIDE: For sure! And sort of in that vein, what are some of your favorite venues to play in Providence? Or what are some of the places where you feel like your music has really resonated and you’ve found community?
Iz: Our favorite place is no longer in existence. It was the Aurora. So sad!! Aurora was definitely number one, but I mean AS220 does a pretty good job. They care, and it shows! Honestly, I really like the News Café, I feel like they’ve had some great blowout shows. We did Halloween there this year, and it was just super fun. We also played a really cute DIY show at a venue called Scary Door on the West Side of Providence.
B-SIDE: Who are some local bands and musicians that inspire you both?
Iz: Oh hell yeah! Ok, so you know when you have so many answers for something that your brain goes kind of crazy? *laughs*
Ly: EDT makes me really happy. And then Gertrude Atherton really thrashes, I love them, they’re really tender. Lady Queen Paradise!! Cherry Pit!! There’s like so many, I love so many.
Iz: Now I’m just gonna think “ugh who did I forget!” There’s just a lot of quality content.
Ly: Go Providence!
Catch Fine. at their album release gig on March 29th at AS220 and check them out on Bandcamp: https://wearefine.bandcamp.com/album/f-l-e-s-h-v-e-s-s-e-l