Floater has the kind of rock credentials even the snobbiest Northwest music fan should have a hard time sneering at. The Portland-via-Eugene hard-rock outfit has lasted 15 years without a single lineup change, major label deal, hit single or ska phase. Floater has kept complete control over everything from booking to album art along its trajectory from a long-haired, earthy Eugene metal outfit to eclectic and pop-conscious, clean-cut Portland rockers—with very little in the way of (ahem, positive) local press to fuel its fire. Still, Floater sports a large, devoted regional fanbase (which frequently sells out venues like the Aladdin Theater and the Crystal Ballroom) to prove its worthiness.
So, why can't the most self-sufficient Oregon success since Dead Moon get any respect? WW asked 38-year-old frontman Rob Wynia via telephone.
WW: You were first embraced by the metal scene in Eugene; did that canonize what you were doing at the time?
Wynia: I felt legitimized, because all the bands out there that were getting signed and getting press and doing world tours had a very uniform, homogenous sound. I like hard rock and metal, but I don't have a lot of tolerance for it. I think why we got embraced by a lot of those people is because they felt the same way I did. I like bands that don't have a cool factor. I mean, you can tell when it's camp, like the guitar-face guy and when it's Joe Cocker. Joe Cocker doesn't freak out because his manager tells him it'll get him chicks, he's just incredibly uncool. He doesn't give a shit at all, and that speaks to me.
Where do the tribal and Middle Eastern influences in Floater's sound come from?
Well, we all were weaned on 4AD [the label behind the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, the Pixies, etc.] stuff. Dead Can Dance is always on the bus when we're out on tour. A lot of it has come from that influence. It's a strange recipe, because it seems like it works unbelievably well on a lot of levels on a lot of people, and it really doesn't work on a lot of people, too. Not a lot of gray area. I'm a bit baffled at why.
Is it partly because there's a contingent of your crowd that's really intense?
I always felt like, if we're doing what we're here for, then the perfect Floater show is one in which things get completely out of hand. We want people to come and hate their father who beat them up, or take off their clothes and have sex with their girlfriend. We've played one show where people got ejected for actually doing it in the crowd, but we've played hundreds of shows where people have left with broken noses and ribs. We want to whip people into a frenzy, and when you whip humans into a frenzy, most of them just get violent. It's unfortunate.
But there are thousands and thousands of Floater fans out there that are just amazing. I'm agog at how educated and interesting and questioning and passionate and just cool Floater fans are. There were solidly a thousand amazing people [at the last Crystal Ballroom show]. And there might have been a hundred that were dipshits, but the only way you avoid that is by having 45 people come to your show that are all your friends.
Why was Floater never signed to a major label?
If we were to obtain some degree of celebrity, it would definitely be in spite of ourselves. We don't have any problem with [success]. There's a misconception that we don't want to get signed or that we're fiercely defensive about our indie status. We're not. The bottom line is that if you want to be Art Alexakis you have to really want to be Art Alexakis. You have to work really hard to have everybody pay attention to you. And we've never worked very hard at it.
BONUS! Audio from the Rob Wynia interview. My favorite moment is at 11:40, when he tells the story of cutting his rock and roll hair. There are short silences between topics. I'd have rather separated the sections with Floater riffs but I'm a very amateur AV guy.