We were pulled a million different ways,” Brooks says. “There was a lot of friction between our manager and the label, and it all blew up.”
The end of the band cannot be attributed to any one revelation or mishap.
It was not megalomania on the part of any band member.
No, Flee the Seen’s breakup is the result of many things – some personal, others not-so-personal.
They, like so many bands on the cusp of breakthrough, fell prey to an industry that too-often rewards formulas over feeling.
They’re also tired, primed for other pursuits.
But the memories of the band will endure.
In their early years, when they weren’t developing new music, Flee the Seen toured, rip-roaring via a 15-passenger van through much of the contiguous 48, Idaho aside.
“I’m told there’s a jukebox in Boise with our songs on it,” says R.L. Brooks, the band’s guitarist/vocalist. “Regrets.”
On the road, drummer Aaron Crawford usually manned the steering wheel, while Brooks manned the tour schedule, assuring everything would run according to plan (of course, sometimes the venue would turn out to be a state park or what appears to be a storage space adjoining a Journey-blaring bar full of middle-age cat fights). Vocalist and then-bassist Kim Anderson would slip behind the wheel occasionally for an all-nighter following a flurry of Monster energy drinks.
“We’re talking an 11-hour Monster binge,” Brooks says. “We would have to pry her fingers from the wheel.”
As for guitarist Manuel Sanchez, well, he was the court jester. According to Anderson, he was to keep the band smiling – or off with his head.
“Thankfully, I never disappointed,” Sanchez says.
Following the release of their full-length album “Doubt Becomes the New Addiction” in March 2006, Flee the Seen hooked up with a cross-country tour that was troubled from the get-go when, two weeks prior to the tour’s start, the headlining act’s lead singer was jailed for molesting an underage girl. After opting to move forward with the tour sans the headliner, Flee the Seen found themselves paid often in beer, if at all. But they buoyed onward – motivated by a band of die-hards, the Odd Project.
“They went to hell and didn’t come back,” Brooks says.
After the Odd Project’s guitarist was smacked onstage in the eye by their bassist (he went around the world with his guitar) at the Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood, the band’s lead singer hopped aboard a bus heading home.
“He shouted some blasphemies and was bonzai,” Sanchez says.
Singing was thereafter handled by the Odd Project’s merchandise guy, whose womanizing antics earned him the nickname “Fast Eddie.”
The Odd Project was further beset by a van that disintegrated during the tour, first blowing a tire outside a show in St. Louis then, after spewing steam show after show, the van broke down for good in Florida. They were just shy of Miami, the final destination.
“No matter how bad it got for us, we’d never have it as bad as they did,” Anderson says.
And yet, in a way, they did.
Upon their return from the tour, Flee the Seen had a decision to make: if they wanted to progress, then Anderson would need to relinquish the bass guitar to someone else. That someone was Luke Dills, recruited while still in high school.
“We liked his ability, and we liked him.” Anderson says.
The addition of a fifth member wasn’t easy, particularly for Anderson who, for a long time, felt lost in her new role as lead vocalist.
“Before Luke, I wrote the bass part and then figured out what I wanted to say,” Anderson says. “I’d always wanted to write, to be foremost a lyricist. I didn’t know how disconnecting it would be, this feeling that the music is one thing and the lyrics another.”
Brooks says he assumed Anderson, whom he met in the marching band (he was a trumpeter, she was a dancer/flag twirler) at Missouri Western State University in 2000, would make the adjustment effortlessly.
Instead, the band took a year off, practicing five nights per week with Anderson enrolling in vocal lessons.
“I had never learned how to sing,” she says.
The remainder of the band had their difficulties, too.
“It was like we were starting from scratch, all of us,” Brooks says.
Then there was the pressure to produce a second record from both the label (Facedown Records) and from their manager, Mark Lafay.
“We were pulled a million different ways,” Brooks says. “There was a lot of friction between our manager and the label, and it all blew up.”
According to Brooks, the label wanted the band to keep touring, whereas Lafay insisted that touring would hurt them in the minds of promoters.
“We didn’t know what the fuck to do,” he says.
Ultimately, Flee the Seen split with Facedown in July 2007. Art wasn’t the only conflict. There was the money, too. Facedown was short-changing them about $11,000 for their follow-up record.
Later, Lafay was also let go.
“We trusted this guy to get us to the next level,” Brooks says. “And he wasn’t doing anything.”
For awhile Flee the Seen flirted with producer Steve Wilson of Nashville, but it wasn’t to be.
The band that took its name from a dream had become just that.
Dills is the only one still pursuing dreams of musical megastardom as the bassist for a grind/thrash/metal band based out of Marshall, Mo. They’re called Cowboys vs. Indians, or CVI.
Crawford works as a sound engineer and producer for Covenant Recording. He also has a top-secret position with the federal government. It is believed he develops war games.
Sanchez is a nursing student at Missouri Western State University.
For the past six months, Brooks has operated a merchandizing business, Seen Merchandizing. Someday he plans to start a local yokel band not unlike the coed softball team to which he belongs.
“You know, get together every Friday, drink a few beers, put on the do-rag and go to town,” Brooks says.
Then there’s Anderson, the voice.
For the moment, Anderson’s voice clucks like a bird tossed from its nest.
“Trust me,” says Anderson, who works as the special event manager at the Uptown Theater, the venue for Flee the Seen’s farewell concert. “I’m ready.”
Ready to take flight one last time.