The Fill Ins are here to bend the bars and strike the chords of raucous rock n roll. The Fill Ins are high-octane, vital rock n roll; exhibiting catchy guitar riffs and an unapologetic attitude.
We ask the band to answer a few questions for Ignite and the graciously did so below..
1. Tell us a little bit about the band and how long you have been together for some of our readers that may not know about the band?
ALEX STIFF: The name “The Fill Ins” has been around since 2010, but we didn’t start really actively playing shows until 2013. Though we’ve had a lot of drummers in our time, Mikey and James have been in the band since 2014 so it’s been nice to have the same group of writers this whole time.
2. What is new with the band? New Album out? New Videos?
ALEX STIFF: Well, right before this virus outbreak, we had a bunch of release shows planned for our new record NEVER HEARD OF ‘EM on Hobo Wolfman Records. We had pressed it to random color vinyl and everything, but a week before the kickoff is when everything fully shut down, so we’re in a bit of limbo right now until we can get back out there.
3. With all this madness going on with the virus…What do you think the music scene will be like in the future…and how are you prepared to make your music heard if there will not be any concerts or festivals for the year 2020?
ALEX STIFF: We’ve always respected the online audience. I really don’t get out to as many local shows as I should, so I’ve always enjoyed live streams and videos, and I’ve tried to do some even before the virus hit. The music world is always evolving and this seems to just be the new temporary evolution. I’m really interested to see what happens after all this is done.
MIKEY BLACK: It’ll probably return to normal like most things probably will. People will be super stoked and excited once things open back up, but after some time it’ll be as it once was.
4. What got you into music and what is your earliest memory of when you told yourself…”THIS IS WHAT I WANT”?
MIKEY BLACK: My mom is the person who influenced my early tastes and passion for music. She would clean the house while jamming Billy Idol records and I would dance and play air drums with wooden spoons in the living room. I always wanted to play drums, but of course, they were “too loud” and “took up too much room,” so I settled for taking and learning my brother’s guitar that he was using to collect dust.
JAMES NUNN: Watching Led Zeppelin videos when I was a kid made me want to get a guitar. Nothing was cooler than Jimmy Page with the double-neck guitar wearing dragon pants.
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: April of 2011, I saw Rise Against play at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. I was 15 and was absolutely blown away by seeing how they perform. At some point during their set was when I knew I wanted to play music.
ALEX STIFF: Punk and rock n roll was the first type of music that really grabbed me and spoke to me. My mom was heavy into the punk scene in the 80s so I was exposed to the best of the best at an early age (after she tried to hide it from me for years), and she took me to see ANTiSEEN at an all-ages venue; Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte NC. During their set, singer Jeff Clayton took me out of the crowd, hoisted me on his shoulders swinging his barbed wire baseball bat singing “Beat on The Brat” with the band blasting behind him. It stunned me but it was a feeling I loved and had to chase ever since.
5. Who was your first concert and what is your best memory?
ALEX STIFF: That ANTiSEEN show was definitely one of my earliest show memories. Shortly after that, we found out Marky Ramone’s solo band was coming to Charlotte NC so we made the trip out to see that too. That one really sticks with me because vocalist David Divine and guitarist CJ Gunn were very nice and personable and took the time to talk with me. Both of them still stay in contact today and we even cover one of David’s songs on our new record; Thinkin’ About You (with a slight lyric change here and there).
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: Two days before the aforementioned Rise Against show, I saw 30 Seconds to Mars and Anberlin. That’s the first concert I remember seeing. My best memory would be seeing Streetlight Manifesto in Atlanta on the Somewhere in the Between anniversary tour. That night was the only time in the history of the band that they played an acoustic set live, and it was done so their drummer could fly down from New Jersey. They could’ve canceled the show but instead played until almost 2 AM.
JAMES NUNN: My first concert was The Eagles with my parents, and I remember Joe Walsh getting the best reaction out of the whole band as a lead guitar player.
MIKEY BLACK: first concert: Mad Brother Ward at Tremont Music Hall.
Best memory: all nights and shows played at The Rim or Tremont Music Hall.
6. If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: Playing video games and wasting my life away.
JAMES NUNN: I’d be in the farming business.
ALEX STIFF: I seem to always get some sort of sales job, so I’d probably be doing that or working in the audio/video/photo editing world. I’m still really green on knowledge and ability, but that would be something I’d like to do more of in the future.
MIKEY BLACK: Well, music isn’t my full-time gig, so without it I’d probably put more focus into my career or fill the void with herb gardening.
7. On a scale of 1 to 2593, How good is your newest single compared to your last
single? (my attempt at humor, but please still answer)
ALEX STIFF: Man, it’s over 3000!
JAMES NUNN: 666
MIKEY BLACK: The newest single, Long Way to Go, is actually not as good as the last single, Return to Sender. I give Long Way to go a 1892/2593 and Return to Sender a 2087/2593.
8. What do you feel is the best song you have released to date and why?
JAMES NUNN: Good question. I like “Dangerous” a lot because of all the dynamics that flow together.
MIKEY BLACK: Drinking Again. Structurally, it’s nothing special. But people love it, and it has remained in our set for the past 6 years. It has withstood the sands of time.
ALEX STIFF: Probably the one that means the most to me is Hit The Gas. I always wanted this band to be a hard-hitting rock n roll band, but I was very limited with my songwriting so most of the songs came out as punk songs. As Mikey also grew as a guitarist, he started really getting in touch with his groovy rock side and this was the first showings of that. It helped bridge the gap between the “punk” sound we had and the more classic rock sound we wanted to achieve.
9. Do you think you can get any better as a musician/singer? And if so, How would you achieve that?
ALEX STIFF: I could definitely learn a few new guitar tricks that would help the songwriting, but the thing I need the most work on is lyric writing and singing. Thankfully that’s something I started with this last record, and will always still work at to get better on.
JAMES NUNN: You can always get better. Just keep playing/singing/writing.
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: I need to learn my rudiments. I know the basics, but ever since getting out of high school, I’ve played by ear.
MIKEY BLACK: You can always get better as a musician, no doubt about it. The trick is to balance work and play, meaning sometimes you can just jam out and have fun, other times you gotta sit with a metronome and practice boring drills and exercises. Sometimes, I find myself getting better by simply listening to new music and drawing inspiration from that, then when I pick up a guitar later stuff just kinda happens.
10. If you could give your fans one random fact about you that you think they should
(or should “not” know) about you what would that be?
MIKEY BLACK: I have fans?
JAMES NUNN: I don’t care for the band Boston
ALEX STIFF: I live on Diet Coke and pizza, and could watch “scam bait” videos on YouTube for hours at a time. Gotta love “ScammerRevolts”!
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: I have Uranus tattooed on my ass.
11. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: Um… Pink… Because flamingoes…
ALEX STIFF: Stylin’ Silver. Because the silver crayon was always the most coveted in the box in my school, but this one wouldn’t turn that nasty yellow color on the paper.
JAMES NUNN: John Deere Green. Because Joe Diffie had a summer jam about it. RIP
MIKEY BLACK: I’d be the shitty sharpener than came on the back of the bigger boxes of crayons.
12. Who are you inspired by?
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: As a musician, Spose. He has a hustle that I wish I could tap into.
MIKEY BLACK: Leonardo DaVinci
ALEX STIFF: Mine span from Johnny Ramone, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Johnny Cash, Eddie Spaghetti, Alice Cooper, and even folks like Kevin Smith and Bo Burnham. Anyone who can create something that captures my imagination is a great thing and I always pull from my inspirations proudly.
JAMES NUNN: Prolific artists that never stop with quality. Nicke Andersson comes to mind.
13. What’s an average day like one tour? and what about these days?
ALEX STIFF: Touring these days is nonexistent of course, but unless you get up way early and hit the road (and pray the venue isn’t too far away) you basically live venue to hotel to venue to hotel. There’s not a lot of time for sightseeing or piddling around. That’s not a complaint unless you’re not someone who can handle that.
MIKEY BLACK: I’m usually the one driving and slamming energy drinks while actually on the road. Lots of gas station food is consumed. Shows are shows, always a lot of fun. Load in, load out. Sober up. Find a waffle house.
JAMES NUNN: We’re very chill for a rock band, and I like it.
14. Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans?
MIKEY BLACK: I stay pretty incognito online, so all my social interactions are done face to face. I’m no stranger, I’m at the bar, on the patio or in the crowd like everyone else.
JAMES NUNN: I work to stay as engaged as possible with fans because they’re just as stoked about you communicating with them as you are about having them care about your work.
ALEX STIFF: We always love interacting with our fans and listeners. In person I can be a bit weird because we don’t get a lot of love in person, so I don’t know how to react in the moment, but you can easily reach us on Instagram or Facebook and we always respond!
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: I have social anxiety, so usually before a set I try to look busy so I don’t have to talk to people… Afterwards I either hide in the car, talk to anyone there that I know, or get so drunk that I can talk to strangers.
15. Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety?
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: Oh yeah, the first show I ever played, and my first couple gigs with any of my bands until I feel out my place in the band.
MIKEY BLACK: absolutely. More so in the studio than on stage. Tracking is so tedious and everything has to be as close to perfect as it can get. Not great for the nerves and stress.
JAMES NUNN: Not really. We’re all pros and have had just about every Spinal Tap moment in the book.
ALEX STIFF: It’s very random, but I’ve had it every so often. Never enough to make me dread or avoid getting on stage, but just enough to give me an extra kick in the ass to wake me up.
16. Tell me about your favorite performance venues?
JAMES NUNN: Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, Star Bar in Atlanta, and The Rim in Norton, WV always made me feel very comfortable. The more insane hurdles happened in Star Bar, and Tremont is no longer around. The Rim is our Little Rock n roll BnB, and it rules.
ALEX STIFF: I really have to agree with James on his picks and add in The Milestone in Charlotte NC.
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: The Milestone. That place is a staple in the Charlotte music scene and I’ve had so many great nights there as a performer and an attendee.
MIKEY BLACK: Milestone in Charlotte is the west side ghetto fortress. They say it’s historic and has seen many many many bands come thru, like Nirvana. Though Tremont Music Hall will forever be my absolute favorite venue, but unfortunately, the city decided it’d rather have condos in its place. RIP.
17. What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
CHRISTIAN WHITTINGTON: Drink beer and pet cats.
JAMES NUNN: It is super tough, but if you stick with it, it’ll pay off.
ALEX STIFF: This isn’t a hobby and you have to really work for it. Sleepless nights, constant working and spending money in hopes to make a small dent in the music world. It’s something you really have to want; if the idea of no longer playing music makes you upset, then you’ve got more going for you than most people. That’s a better way of saying “Don’t give up”.
MIKEY BLACK: These are MY footsteps, go make your own.
Never Heard of ‘Em is the fourth full album now available from The Fill Ins under Hobo Wolfman Records. Pressed onto twelve-inch vinyl in random colors, this new full length follows the release of their cassette tape EP No Love Lost in 2018, and their previous full album The Time Is Now in 2017.
The group recorded a batch of seven new songs with Alex Stiff on guitar and vocals, Mikey Black on lead guitar, and James “Captain” Nunn on bass. Guest vocal spots by Jeff Clayton of the legendary punk band ANTiSEEN are featured on “Return To Sender” and singer/songwriter Kelsey Ryan also worked alongside the band on “Thinkin’ About You”. In addition to implementing twelve-string guitars, acoustic guitars, and other dynamic elements, this album showcases their rock n roll roots and the fun that can be had with the group. Elements of funk-rock can be heard with the lead-off song “Dangerous” along with memories of classic rock from “Personally and Dramatic” from the sounds of Thin Lizzy and KISS . The ending track, “Drown Your Blues”, rounds off the album with a slow cut in reflection of their journey as a band so far. The lead single “Return To Sender” showcases a little bit of everything that can be expected from the record with catchy riffs, tambourines/shakers/claps, and expanded vocal ranges, showing that the band is far from slowing down. “Long Way To Go” is the second single selected due to be released; filled with fun nature and catchy lyrics.
This record also features three songs from the No Love Lost EP which is exclusive to the vinyl pressing only. Not part of the digital release. Never Heard of ‘Em marks the first release from the band on twelve inch vinyl; an accomplishment the group is very excited for and proud of. Pressed to random color vinyl and released on Hobo Wolfman Records , no two records will be alike, providing a fun experience for the listeners. Fans can compare their vinyl colors on social media with the hashtag: #thefillins.