An Interview with SCI-FI

Sci Fi is a three piece touring instrumental act out of Wilmington, North Carolina that is relentlessly pursuing the quest for human understanding through the art of music. With the positioning of notes and rhythms, they have developed songs that reach out and take hold, and it is their vision to share it with the rest of the world.


Tim Phillpot : Bass
Justin Heter: Drums, Percussion
Tyler Simmons: Keyboard, Percussion

Interview by: Chris Robie

Photos by: Lindsay Chandler


HGMN: So, where are you guys from and what type of music do you play?

Tyler: We're from Wilmington, NC. The type of music we play is a little hard to describe in words...jazz electronica.
Tim: It's funky but we play a lot of electronica music and jazz. There's a lot of different sounds so it's kind of hard to label it.
Tyler: It's instrumental. We take melodies and throw them on breakbeats, drum & bass, house, downtempo, funk...whatever we're feeling that night. I think that's what I like most about what we're doing. We're able to sort of do what we want depending on how we're feeling that night.

HGMN: You guys just released a new album and you have some guest musicians performing on some of the tracks. Was that planned ahead of time or was this something that just happend while you were recording in the studio?

Tyler: Yeah. We had Alex Ginzburg from Elemental Harmonics and Laura Reed do a track with us. And some horns from Yo Mama's Big fat Booty band. They came in and did a couple tracks, Derrick and Greg.

HGMN: I used to live in Atlanta so I know Alex from when he was in a band called Ghost Trane.

Tyler: Yeah, he was telling me about that. He's a hell of a guy and really good at engineering and all that. We had a great time in the studio. He also produced one of the tracks called, Ragus. He plays guitar on that track.

HGMN: So with the songs that you use guest musicians, such as vocals, how do you perform those live? Do you just do them instrumental? Do you ever use other random musicians to fill in those spots?

Tyler: Yeah, sometimes, like I was telling you Laura did a track with us. When she's in town or we're where she is...when she's in town she'll come up and do that track. It just depends on what city we're in. We'll have guest musicians we know from that town come out. As a three piece it's really easy to do that because there's already not a lot of clutter. So yeah, we love to have people come up.

HGMN: The demo we got from you guys months before the actual album came out, to me,  sounds a lot different. Did you use other guest musicians?trinumeral_250_0

Tyler: The demo was actually just us three.

HGMN: Who does the female vocals?

Tyler:  Lydia. She's from Asheville. She was singing with us for a while so she came in and did a track on the demo. Other than that it was all just us. For the new album we just wanted to bring in some other people to work with us.

HGMN: Did everything go as planned while working on the new album?

Tim: It was tough because we only had a short time to do it. Two weekends.

HGMN: Two weekends?

Tyler:  Yeah, to do the whole thing. So we kind of just went in there and we knew what we wanted to do. We planned everything out second by second before we got in there.
Tim:  We worked about 20 hours a day.

HGMN: Did you guys get any sleep at all?

Tyler:  Not much (laughs).
Tim:  We would do shifts and we would lay down tracks...
Justin: The first weekend was all me. The first weekend was pretty much drum tracks. Didn't really sleep much that first weekend. The second weekend was basically all you guys.
Tim: Even though we kind of construct it tightly we did add elements of improv on the album. For one track called, 'click', we just kind of pressed play and did some improv and played the song like we would play it live. I thought it came out pretty good.
Tyler: I think that ended up being my favorite song on the album, the one we did the least production on. We're an improvisational band and that's the heart of what we do and that's how we feel the most comfortable.
Justin: We're a live group vs. being in the studio and being real nit picky. We like to just go and play and just feel off each other vs trying to listen to a metronome or try to do our parts separately. We would rather just sit in a room and play together.

Do you do most of your song writing on the road or do you just create something from a live show?

Tim:  Sometimes during a live show I'll play a bass line...sometimes both these guys and me, he'll do this and he'll do that, he's feeling this...we kinda all write the tunes, for the most part.
Tyler: It's definitely a group effort. There's very few songs we have where it's like I write out all the parts and come in and show them to these guys. It's like, here's an idea that I have and let's see what we can do with it type of thing.

HGMN: How did you guys meet? How did Sci-Fi get its start?
Tyler: Tim was involved with the jazz band in college and so was Justin. It's really funny, I stumbled upon an apartment room one night. I'm not sure how I got there or what happened...

HGMN: Who's apartment?

Tyler: Just a friend of ours.

Like a mutual friend?

Tyler: Yeah. I just stumbled in and these guys were jamming and I had my keyboard with me.

HGMN: That's convenient.

Tyler: Really convenient. I really don't know. People ask me how did we meet. I'm not really sure (laughs). It's like this very ambiguous thing how we all came together.
Tim: We were all grown in a lab.
Justin: They think we're brothers.
Tyler: Yeah. Everyone thinks we're brothers. But yeah, we met...I think one thing that is required for a band to be able to play music is that you have to be able to get along off stage. You have to be able to ride in the truck for 12 hours at a time and not cut each others throat. We never even come close to that. We get along really well.

HGMN: So what do you guys do for entertainment while you're on the road?

Justin: Next weekend we're going to the keys and I'm looking forward to doing some fishing
Tyler: I just got an ipod so that's going to help us a lot. Before that...
Tim: We would just listen to country radio.
Tyler: Late at night one of our favorite things to do is to turn on to the country radio, the mainstream country station. I don't know why but it just makes us laugh.
Tim: For hours, literally.

HGMN: So do you draw any inspiration from listening to country music?

Tyler: (Laughs) No. It's more like listening to a comedy album.

HGMN: It's good that the three of you can all be on the same page. I don't think I would let any of my peeps get away with that for any long period of time.

Tyler: We can take it for about 30 minutes and then we have to switch it to something else. We read a lot of books and we have a DVD player, shoot conversation, whatever gets you to the next city.

HGMN: How long have you guys been touring?

Tyler: For about a year and a half now.

HGMN: So you guys have accomplished quite a lot to be such a young band.

Tyler: I'm really, really pleased with where we're at in terms of how long we've been doing it. We've got great backing with our manager, Joel, and comagun music and now with HGMN. We're just so excited to be a part of that. We can't do it ourselves. We can play the music but when it comes to everything else that's involved we're walking blindly. We really rely on a lot of help and we're so grateful that people are interested and willing to help us out.

HGMN: How did you guys come up with the name, Sci-Fi?

It's a nickname for Tyler, Sci-Fi Tyler. He always just played really spacey on the keyboard.
Tim: Originally we were like, Hey let's just get a gig with just us three and call it Sci-Fi
Justin: It was first Sci-Fi "featuring" and we  just dropped "featuring".
Tyler: A lot of bands have these really cool stories on how their names were formed. We don't really have one of those.

HGMN: How was Camp Bisco?

Tyler: The Camp was awesome. It was very different for us.

HGMN: Really, how?

Tyler: In terms of music. The scene...the biscuit scene is a little different. It's still jammy but, uh, there's a lot of fresh faces and sometimes it's a little intimidating with those people. Everyone was really nice. It was just like every other festival except the music was different. It was all electronic for the most part. I got to see some artists I really look up to. We had a great time and we had a good set. It started pouring down horizontal rain about half way through. I think we reached a whole new set of people out there and I'm really excited about that.

HGMN: Don't you guys have some electronic elements to your music?

Tyler: Yes.
Justin: It's more of an electronic feel. I don't use any electronic pads whatsoever.  It has that organic electronic feel.
Tyler: It's kinda hard. We can't really say that we're electronica musicians because our knowledge on the history of electronica is very limited. We can't really say that we're jazz musicians because our technical abilities are not fully jazz. I think we just take a lot of elements from a lot of different stuff and make it into what feels comfortable for us.
Justin: It's a monster.
Tyler: A monster, yeah.

HGMN: Your biggest influences?

Tim: I grew up in Massachusetts and I used to go see the Slip all the time and Miracle Orchestra, a band from Boston.  So yeah, those guys, for me personally. A lot of grassroots stuff.
Justin: For me it's pretty much going to any live show. When I see people playing and the audience getting in to it that's pretty much all it takes for me to get inspired.
Tyler: when I'm at home I like to listen to a lot of jazz and more of the fusion kind of stuff - Jimmy Smith, Herbie Hancock. It changes on a weekly basis. We all grew up as kids going to shows and you know, the whole community feel and the live festivals, tours and all that stuff just really influenced us a lot.
Justin: We try to stay away from just playing one style of music. It's real eclectic what we do. We're inspired by pretty much anything we see...
Tyler: Even Metal. I go to metal shows sometimes.
Tim: I listen to punk rock.

HGMN: What Metal band?

Tyler: Ummm, there's some local acts, I've never seen big national metal acts. There's some local groups down in Wilmington I go see. It's really cool to go watch those guys because everyone is just like thrashing around.

HGMN: Do you guys enjoy being on the road?

Tyler: We love it. It's good to go out and it's always good to get home too.
Justin: We have next weekend off and I'm kinda looking forward to that.
Tyler: But when I'm home I don't know what to do with myself. What do people do?

HGMN: I know what you mean. It's nothing like you guys I'm sure but over the summer I'm out of town every other weekend. When I get back it's hard for me to do anything or start on any projects because I just have to leave again. So I usually just end up doing nothing. Some bands I talk to don't even have a home. They just have a spot or floor space.

Tim: We know bands on the road that are from the road. When we ask them where they're from...
Tyler: They point to their van (laughs).
Tim: We're not quite there yet.

HGMN: So are you guys just touring the east coast right now?

Tim: Yeah. we're doing the keys next weekend and then going all the way up.
Tyler: Up and down. We'll make it out to California next summer but we're waiting on some things to go through out there.
Justin: It's a CD release tour so we focused on the East coast and the markets around here, NYC and stuff like that. So we're just going to work on specific cities.

HGMN: Where do you guys play in NY?

Tyler: Sullivan Hall.

HGMN: (Laughs) I was just about to suggest that.

Tim: It's a great place.
Tyler: I really enjoyed playing there.
Tim: Yeah, probably one of the best nights of the tour.

HGMN: What do you guys have planned for the future?

Joel (manager) : We plan on putting a live compilation album together probably within the next four months.

HGMN: That would be great! When will this be released?

Tyler: I'm not sure. This is the first time I've heard about it.
Tyler: No, we'll do it for sure. I think it's a great idea.
Joel: We are planning to have a series of live performances recorded and edited. We will be selecting someone who is interested in the project and book a solid spring tour. Then we will press a Live Double Disc CD.

HGMN: I'm sure a lot of people will be looking forward to that, including myself.

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