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Flying Eyes’ Elias Schutzman Talks Farm Fest V (Q&A)

July 1, 2011
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The best Baltimore rock show happening this weekend may actually be all the way out in Carroll County. This Saturday, leading lights of the local indie scene like Lower Dens and Arbouretum will be heading up a bill of nine bands from in and out of town on the Carney Family Farm in Manchester, just south of the Pennsylvania border. Baltimore psych-rock combo the Flying Eyes started the annual outdoor show in summer 2007, and have grown it into a bigger event every year since.

This week I called up one of the main organizers behind Farm Fest V, Flying Eyes drummer Elias Shutzman, to get the story on the festival’s history and what to expect this year.

City Paper: So how did Farm Fest start?
Elias Shutzman: Five years ago, it basically just started as a big party. Our friend Hannah, who was dating our guitar player at the time, had the idea to throw this party on her farm; she has a huge property. It turned out pretty well, a hundred people came out. The next year we were like ‘All right, let’s do that again, and make it a little bigger.’ And it kind of evolved into something beyond our circle of friends, where by the third year or maybe the fourth year, word of mouth and stuff like that, a lot of people started showing up, and it was more of a happening than just an outdoor party.

CP: Are any of you guys from out in that area?
ES: The Flying Eyes, we’re all from Baltimore city. It was really our friend Hannah Carney; it’s her property.

CP: How far a drive is the farm from the city?
ES: It’s about 40 minutes.

CP: I guess that’s part of the appeal of a show like this, though, that it takes place at this out-of-the-way destination.
ES: Yeah, getting away from the city, being out on this nice farmland, you might as well be in a different state or something. It goes along with the whole festival kind of spirit, traveling a little distance, setting up camp, and enjoying the outdoors.

CP: Is it hard to set up a show logistically in an area like that?
ES: It definitely takes a good amount of work and organization, and every year we realize different things we should fix or improve. I think the most labor-intensive thing is the stage. Will Kelly, the singer of the Flying Eyes, had the idea of ‘Well, we should just build the stage.’ So two years ago, we actually–and mostly him, with the help of us–he actually built this really nice stage, and we’ve been taking that apart and putting it together for the past few years. So that definitely does take a good amount of work, but in the end it’s cheaper than renting a stage, and it’s also our own creation, so that’s cool.

CP: Were you more ambitious with the booking this year in terms of getting bands like Lower Dens and Arbouretum?
ES: Yeah, I handle most of the booking, and I just happened to have bigger names in mind to get the buzz going more, and in all aspects of the festival we’re trying to expand and reach a little farther. I’m glad that the headlining bands are also local bands, and I’m gonna continue to book bigger and better national bands.

CP: And these bands also fit the preexisting musical aesthetic of the festival pretty well.
ES: Yeah, that’s another thing, the style of music is pretty important to us. We don’t wanna be another kind of jam band festival, which there are so many. And nothing against jam music, but we want our festival to have a different sound, something a little darker, more psychedelic and rock’n'roll, something that’s different from your average DIY festival.

CP: How did you pick out of town bands?
ES: It’s hard to say. When I start the booking process, I just make a list of bands I like, and then contact them. Golden Animals are a really good out-of-town band. We actually played with them in New York, and they were really nice people, and I just kept in touch with them. I get so many requests from so many bands, both local and out of town, and I wish there was more room and more time to accommodate more bands, but that’s not possible.

CP: Yeah, I guess you can’t expand to more than one day without a lot of complications.
ES: I feel like the Carney family are more comfortable just having it be one day, which is completely understandable, because it is their home, and having all these people descend on their property is stressful. But we’re hoping in the future to obviously keep Farm Fest the way it is but also start a different festival that maybe is bigger and lasts more than one day, using Farm Fest as a jumping off point. That’s a plan for the future.

CP: What kind of farm is it?
ES: It’s a horse farm. There are a lot of horses that are kept there.

CP: Do they move the horses off the grounds for the festival?
ES: Oh yeah.

CP: That makes sense, they probably wouldn’t like that kind of noise.
ES: No, I don’t think they would.

Farm Fest V starts at 1pm this Saturday, July 2nd, at the Carney Family Farm in Manchester, Maryland. Advance tickets are available for $15 at Holy Frijoles in Hampden.

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