A Synergistic Life: Arts Fishing Club, Their Old Touring Life, and Adjusting to a New Normal

What does walking 1,337 miles, driving 11 hours to perform multiple shows a night, and being produced by the likes of former Wilco drummer, Ken Coomer have in common? Well, they’re all part of the stories and background of Arts Fishing Club, a soulful upcoming rock band we got the pleasure of getting to know a bit more about.

Originally a one man act, founder of the band Christopher Kessenich began his music career seemingly on a whim.

“I graduated from Vandy, I was on my way down to Austin to do a computer programming boot camp, decided I don't want to be a computer programmer, always knew I didn't want to be a computer programmer. I wanted to be a musician. I just stayed in Nashville and got a bartending gig and just started working on music right away. I recorded an EP that spring,” said Kessenich.

Eventually, current keys and sax player Peter Eddins, drummer Brian Kempson, guitarist Jimi Greene, as well as a rotating cast of members joined and Kessenich’s original name, Arts Fishing Club, stuck. Currently, members hail from all over the US South and Midwest, including Georgia, Alabama, Kansas City, and Wisconsin.

“Everyone's just completely different backgrounds was a really cool aspect because it created this new sort of synergistic life to the music that I couldn't have necessarily projected,” Kessenich stated, citing a heavy influence from members growing up on Southern rock.

“That Southern classic rock that they, I think, grew up on a little bit or is just so ingrained in growing up down there, I think that they definitely added some of that sort of influence,” he added. These influences are reflected in many of the band’s releases, especially tracks like “Hello Heartbreak” off of Long Lake Sessions.

In regards to the band’s current creative process, Kessenich commented that the band is attempting to develop away from relying on these influences.

“When we would get together, we would make what was natural to us and then roll with it, and now moving forward, we definitely are kind of crafting more of like a vision together, in where we want to go with it, and how we want to start, I think innovating more with our sound than where we've been,” stated Kessenich.

The band still has some internal concerns about what the next step for their musical development might be, “Now we're starting to focus a little bit more on, okay. Hey, where do we want to go? And how do we want to maybe push the boundary a little bit?” Kessenich continued, related to the band’s upcoming release of five new EPs. For the upcoming release, Kessenich stated that the producer was Ken Coomer, former drummer for Wilco, and the mixing engineer was Ryan Hewitt, who has worked with Rick Rubin, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Avett brothers, so it is bound to be jam packed with talent.

In regards to forays outside of music, “We each kind of have our own silos of creativity,” noted Kessenich, unique to each member. For Kessenich, growing up skating and snowboarding had a huge influence on developing his confidence.

“In both skateboarding and snowboarding, you have these moments where like, you're looking at a ramp or a rim and you want to try it a trick. Like you want to try this thing, and there's this anxiety that builds up into you because you know that in trying this thing, you're like physically putting your body at risk,” commented Kessenich.

“You take a moment, you sit there and there's always this question, for me at least, there was always this question of, ‘Okay, well, if I don't try it today, if I don't try it right now, where's that going to leave me?... I'm never going to do it then, right? You have to take those leaps, otherwise it becomes you start building momentum in turning away from it.”

Kessenich related that same feeling to the mood right before attempting something new at live shows. He noted that there’s some anxiety when trying something new and spontaneous. But he credited skating and snowboarding with giving him the confidence to try. “Having that practice of, you know, screw it, I'm doing it anyway” Kessenich stated.

Kessenich is no stranger to risk-taking. He delved into one particular experience that has further influenced his approach to music and the band’s overall style: a walking tour from Maine to Nashville.

“I found this tour where someone had posted, ‘Hey, looking to book an adventurous tour,’ on this Facebook group, ‘and looking to do like 40, 50 shows all on the East coast’ and I was like, ‘Hell yeah, this sounds amazing, I'm super in,’” said Kessenich. After speaking with the manager, Kessnich asked “Okay, so what's this adventure aspect? And it gets real quiet and [the manager] goes, ‘Alright promise you're not gonna quit’ And I'm like, ‘Okay, sure.’ He goes, ‘Okay, we’re walking it.’ And so, I couldn't think of a reason not to.” The experience bolstered Kessenich’s confidence in performing and self booking tours, something he brought to the band, Arts Fishing Club.

“It was like a big time declaration to myself of, ‘Hey, you're gone after this. You're going all in so much so that you're willing to walk, you know, from Maine back to Nashville,’ and I knew that if I did that and I still enjoyed [making music], that I could pretty much handle anything with that sort of lifestyle...just understanding that like you can really do whatever you want if you decide and then just make it happen.”

The idea of willing goals into reality reflects the band’s approach to being independent.

“I don't think [a record deal] is what's going to define us or make or break us. And if we end up being independent in 10 or 20 years, I think there's a lot of me that would be really kind of stoked and proud of that as well,” Kessenich commented.

In terms of living in Nashville, Kessenich stated that “iron sharpens iron” in regards to the immense amount of musical talent.

“It's easy to feel overwhelmed and that you're not good and that you don't deserve to be doing it...to fall back into a place of, I don't know, darkness,” Kessenich said, relating similar imposter syndrome-esque feelings while attending Vanderbilt.

“If you flip that mentality and you just start soaking up what everyone's doing, like as a sponge [that’s] the best way I think to handle Nashville,” Kessenich continued.

“Luckily Nashville doesn't really have a super competitive core to it. It's a lot more about collaborating,” Kessenich stated.

Continuing with the goal of disavowing doubt and the inner critic, Kessneich detailed the fabled tour experiences and background behind the band’s latest release, “Horizon Eyes.”

“Horizon Eyes is a track that I wrote after [Arts Fishing Club] drove like 11 hours through the night, from Wisconsin back to Nashville because we had to get our guitarist Jimi back into Nashville so he could hop in a different van and drive to New York, so the life that we've been living,” Kessenich added.

“We arrived back in Nashville, I think at like 6:00 AM and dropped Jimi off at his bus call for his next gig and then he drove 16 hours to New York to play another show. So I was absolutely exhausted.”

As a result, Kessenich got sick. “I was a little bit broken and my immune system was just down...and the song came from that experience and just how absurd and exhausted this road lifestyle was. But also having this deeper sense of peace in the fact of like, this is crazy and wild and like, we're never going to stop doing this.”

However, the meaning behind “Horizon Eyes” goes deeper than exhaustion-induced song writing.

“Between the voices, the monsters of self-doubt, and kind of these other people's voices in our lives that potentially express doubt and, encouragement to not do the thing that you know deep in your heart, you want to do, [Horizon Eye’s] a little bit of a ‘Hey, step off’ sort of song to those voices.”

As for the future of the band, Kessenich commented on a variety of avenues they have been exploring for performance and innovation.

Without the ability to perform at their typical 60-80 shows per year, Kessenich commented that Covid-19 and subsequent quarantine orders had some positive effects.

“It gave us a moment to sit back and like breathe a little bit and take a view at the whole thing.” All of this led them to start a weekly livestream on their YouTube channel.

Kessenich commented on the ability to connect to fans better through these streams on a more intimate platform. In addition, Kessenich described a shift in the band’s mentality as a result of Covid-19 as well.

“The old model was kind of, ‘Okay, we're going to tour our way into like becoming known’ and this really gave us the perspective of, ‘Oh, no, let's create from home and put it out on the internet and then we can go tour and then it'll be a lot more worthwhile.’”

Kessenich emphasized the band’s focus on creating the highest quality music during lockdown as a result.

“We've been scheduling and booking days where we just all go into the studio together and start from scratch right then and there, and that's bringing this whole new, like a whole different world and soundscapes.”

If you are dreaming about in person concerts, Kessenich detailed a future concert goal.

“What I would love to do is find a lake or the ocean and get a big old boat and then have all these other boats independently kind of come up.”

If you are hoping to stay updated on releases, streams, and possible lakeside performances, the band is active on a multitude of platforms including Spotify, Instagram, and recently TikTok.

Kessenich stated that he originally had been averse to TikTok but he hinted at the band’s possible expansion on the platform.

“I'm really actually excited about TikTok right now. I plan on doing a lot more because it clearly works and people are so supportive on it.”

We know we’ll be keeping up with Arts Fishing Club here at Qore, hopefully having more exciting tour stories to relay based on the upcoming EP release.

Check them out on Spotify here: