As we’re all aware, talent is rarely ever the primary factor in deciding which bands make it big and which don’t. The music industry is so mechanized that a lot of different elements come into play—image, timing, location, promotion, sheer luck, connections. Will there ever be another massive success story that champions both style and substance equally? It can be devastating to put all your energy into pursuing a dream only to fall short of your goals, especially when—as it pertains to the actual music—you’ve got the skills to compete with the best.
But what if mainstream success isn’t your main goal? All good musicians start out with a carnal love for what they do and what has come before them. But all too often, musicians lose their original inspirations in the sea of distractions that accompany a career in music—money, fame, attention; essentially, the stuff Behind The Musics are made of.
AM/FM are a two-piece from Philadelphia who stayed consistent in their vision—creating music that they wanted to hear, whether or not anyone else wanted to. A lot of bands claim to keep it real in such a fashion, but when push came to shove AM/FM stuck to their convictions and gave up music almost altogether, finding a gratifying life off the stage. Abandoning the experimental, wall-of-sound pop stylings that they nearly perfected in favor of a more “normal” life, Brian Sokel and Michael Parsell found that the benefits of success didn’t always compensate for the sacrifices. Now, with a renewed energy and motivation, they seem poised to pick up where they left off—on a glorious sun-bathed beach, exposing the soundtrack to Utopia. I tracked down Sokel with help from their label, Polyvinyl Records, and chatted via e-mail about the past, present, and future of AM/FM.