The Fair-Weather Friend: An Album Review and Interview with Connor Schon ‘16

What's this? I asked my friend after receiving a Facebook notification for a party on Fountain the upcoming weekend. As I investigated further, I discovered it was a release party for the album “The Fair-Weather Friend”, hosted by an unfamiliar name--Connor Schon '16. The theme was pretty simple; the date was October 10th, the address 10 Fountain, the time 10:10. It was also rumored there would be ten kegs.

As someone relatively familiar with the many names in the Wesleyan music scene, I had never heard of Connor or his group, Saint Savage. Intrigued by the fact that they were releasing an album without ever performing at Wes, I curiously decided to give it a listen.

Saint Savage is Connor Schon ‘16 and his lifelong friend, Kitch Wakerman. “The Fair-Weather Friend” is their first recorded piece but if you listen to the album, this is impossible to tell. After spending four years writing material for the album, the duo spent a year recording, retracking, and editing it to perfection. The album has a professional and clean sound that can be attributed to the engineering and production work of John Bergeron and the mastering work of Randy LeRoy at Airshow Mastering. For their first album, Connor and Kitch didn’t cut corners--they reworked each song until they found just the right product.

And their hard work shows. “Fair-Weather Friend” is an easy listen, but far from boring. Each track contains nuanced details that contribute to the depth of the album. It’s clean, alternative electro-pop; relatable but not too familiar. Connor’s voice is sweet, but not overpoweringly so--balanced perfectly with pleasant melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Connor’s layered synth sounds pair well with Kitch’s guitar and bass lines. The drum beats, provided by local musician Scott Allshouse, contribute to the well-crafted backbone of the album, seamlessly tying together the other competing sounds. “Fair-Weather Friend” is definitely worth a listen, and will uplift you out of your mid-term blues.

When I sat down with Connor Schon ‘16 about the album, this is what he had to say:

Why haven’t we heard of you?

I’ve never played a show on campus. I transferred in as a sophomore and then I was sick the first semester, so I haven’t really been here that often. And then the time I was here, I was on the crew team, but this year I’m not rowing.

What inspired the creation of this album?

Music has always really been a part of my life--the guy I wrote and recorded this album with has been my friend since like the first grade, and we’ve always written song. [The ones on the album] sort of materialized over the past four years; I think I was a senior in high school when we wrote the first one. We’ve worked together for a long time.

You recently declared the Music major, instead of continuing the path of studying Russian Studies. Why did you make this change?

I was a Russian studies major, and didn’t speak any Russian. It wasn’t what I really wanted to do. When I transferred into Wesleyan, I really wanted to do music, but I took a few theory courses and it sort of put me off from it for a little bit. I still don’t read music, almost, at all. But I decided after a couple years of the Russian that [music] is what I wanted to do.

You have a background in recording-- Can you discuss that and how it played into the creation of this album?

I started working [at Red Feather Studios] last year, and I’m an engineer. I just had a session last night actually.

Did you work on your own album?

We actually worked with a local producer, John Bergeron, who works at Green Street teaching lessons there. I had played him a track I was working on he said I’ll produce it if you want me to. And so, that was a year and half ago. We started recording last July and finished this July. And so he mixed it all; we did it at his studio, other than the keyboards which I did at home in my studio. We then sent it to his friend at a mastering company, who mastered it.

I know you said you’ve been working on writing this songs for over four years, but are there any key inspirations that stand out as the driving force behind your album?

I’d say most of the songs deal with relationships, and obviously since senior year there have been several relationships I’ve been in, and same with my friend. And so I think that’s really the focus of this album.

Do you intend on doing any live performances at Wes before you graduate?

I’d love to do that, definitely. It’s a little tricky because the album is heavily orchestrated. We would have to find at least three other musicians, maybe use backing tracks, and then also my friend just moved to Austin. So it takes a little coordination to find a weekend, and then also be able to practice together.

Do you see yourself doing something individually?

Yeah, I think at some point that would be on my list of things to do.

How was the recording process for you, this being your first album?

I think it was pretty important. It actually took so long; we had originally thought it was going to take one month. And were staying on campus, I had subletted a room someone was renting on Home, and that’s what we thought it was going to be. One month. But I had gotten my tonsils taken out at one point, and that meant we retracked all my vocals. [The procedure] completely changed the sound of my voice. We were growing so much as musicians throughout the process that we ended up retracking more than half of the parts. And we both learned so much during the process that it was well worth the amount of time.

We also got to work with a fantastic drummer. We hired this studio musician who worked with a band called “Max Creek,” he was their drummer for like 11 years or something. He was a Berklee grad, older guy. And we’re both like 20, 21, 22. And he was like 40 something. John was like 65. So it was a nice age range, a lot of different levels [of experience.]

Are you planning on doing a music thesis?

I’m going to do a senior project, which is just one semester, and I think it will be the second EP we put out. We did some tracking this summer, with a kid who graduated last year, Ethan Currie, he plays guitar and mandolin. And we’re moving towards a different type of sound, a little more acoustic stuff. I’ll be engineering and producing this one, which is really exciting.

What inspired your large-scale album release party?

We figured since no one really knew about us on campus we needed a big launch like that. And it was October 10th, so we were like okay we’ll roll with the 10/10 thing. So we did 10:10 pm, we live at 10 Fountain, so that was easy. And then someone said “Oh you have to get 10 kegs!” and wrote it as a joke on the Facebook event, and then went to the liquor store and got our one keg, and they also had mini kegs. So we got 9 mini kegs. We don’t have 10 gigantic kegs at our house, but we do have a couple left over still.

~Kelsey Gordon '18