Rockers from Oakland take the long road to their success
On “Miscommunication,” one of the songs on Fake Fruit’s debut album—fittingly entitled Fake Fruit—lead singer and main songwriter Hannah D’Amato describes her frustrations with people who never say what they mean, or mean what they say. The track is driven by the fragmented rhythms of drummer Miles MacDiarmid, Alex Post’s chiming electric guitar fills and a half sung/half spoken vocal from D’Amato. Its disjointed tempo calls attention to the band’s impressive musicianship.
“It’s not about a romantic relationship,” D’Amato said. “It’s about feeling misunderstood, when you can’t find common ground with somebody. I didn’t realize that [the arrangement] was as crazy as it was. I wasn’t thinking about the time signature changes. I just thought it sounded cool.”
The album’s sound has been described by a panoply of varying categories, with many reviewers landing on post-punk. It’s a description D’Amato is comfortable with. “Post-punk is a wide umbrella that includes all kinds of sounds like Devo, Delta 5 and Wire. It doesn’t pigeonhole you too much,” said D’Amato. “We got to open for the Circle Jerks and a band called Fucked Up, real punk bands. If people are putting us on the bills and calling us post-punk, then that’s what it is.”
Although Fake Fruit’s debut was released last March, it took a long time to complete. They recorded the first half of the album just before a tour of the West Coast, and put the songs on a cassette, so they’d have something to sell at gigs. The second half was recorded more recently.
“We recorded inside of [recording engineer] Andy Oswald’s practice space. We were all there together, live tracking. There were a couple of tunes we locked into on the first take, but it was our first time all recording together. There was a bit of red light fever and some nerves, until we figured it out. It was a big open room and all done live. There was only a little bleeding into the tracks, which is a testament to Andy,” D’Amato recalled.
“We were shopping [the album] around for a while. He didn’t think he had the budget to release it on LPs, which I was married to. He sent it around to his contacts, and then the pandemic hit. Sonny finally put it out himself, because he really believed in it,” said D’Amato. Since the record was released, it has gone through multiple pressings, a significant achievement for a new indie band.
“I was stressed about selling the first 250 records, but every repressing has sold out. We’ve been really lucky. We would have kept going, even if we didn’t sell any, because we love the music, but I’m thankful it’s been doing so well,” she continued.
The 11 songs on Fake Fruit are concise bursts of energy that show off D’Amato’s wry humor and the inventive arrangements crafted by her bandmates. “Milkman” likens a failing relationship to a bottle of curdling milk. Post’s guitar hook slowly builds behind MacDiarmid’s persistent backbeat, as D’Amato bids goodbye to an expired relationship.
D’Amato sends up the anti-feminist stance of some men on “Lying Legal Horror Lawyers.” It’s a jolt of pure punk energy, with an ironic lyric driven home by Post’s distorted guitar and D’Amato’s dynamic vocal. “[The song] is based on a banner I saw outside of a car dealership. I researched it, and I found a website for this guy who lost his kids in a custody battle and likened feminists to terrorists,” she said. The band shifts gears on “Keep You,” a quiet ballad that builds to an emotional climax, as D’Amato cries out—“Just because I want you/Doesn’t mean that I should have you.”
D’Amato was born in Los Angeles and said she has been a performer for as long as she can remember. “I was a ham when I was a kid. I was a child magician. I did shows for friends and family and had a deep passion for performing. I liked making people laugh. That probably was the foreshadowing,” she recalled.
Her first instrument was the viola. She played in school bands in elementary and middle school. She was first chair and learned to read music, but mostly relied on her ear. At home, she started playing guitar and piano. “We had a Yamaha at home, but we couldn’t afford lessons,” D’Amato said. “I had a friend, and her mom let me sit in on her lessons. Then I’d go home and try to regurgitate what I’d heard. I had a great ear.”
After graduating from high school, she moved to Brooklyn, did session work and started the first incarnation of Fake Fruit. “I only played two shows before moving to Vancouver, BC. I really came out of my shell out there. I felt liberated by the prospect of my anonymity and re-invented myself as a more outgoing person,” D’Amato recalled.
She said she wrote most of the songs that appeared on Fake Fruit as the band went through various permutations in Canada. After a series of gigs to hone the tunes, D’Amato moved on to Oakland. Her sister was attending the San Francisco Art Institute and introduced her to Post and MacDiarmid. The trio hit it off, and the current version of Fake Fruit was born. They’re currently putting the finishing touches on their second album, hoping to release it in the near future.
Fake Fruit can be heard on their Bandcamp page: fakefruitmusic.bandcamp.com/album/fake-fruit.