Q&A: Fellow Robot explains new sci-fi concept album series

California indie-rock band Fellow Robot is no stranger to political music; the band’s latest record, The Robot’s Guide To Music: Volume 2, is the group’s second release and the second in a trio of sci-fi concept records, and it is no exception. The Robot’s Guide To Music series follows the tale of Fellow Robot, the band’s namesake and a robot living on Saturn, and Volume 2 begins to tackle the future of artificial intelligence.

The band’s concept does not end there, however, because singer Anthony Pedroza is writing an accompanying novel. It’s a fascinating story and an even better record, and, fortunately, the members of Fellow Robot answered a few questions about their work – check out the interview below.

Photo by Antonio Gilbreath.

Indientry: Hi, guys! How are you?

Fellow Robot: Hi, Abby! As a band we are doing great, as citizens of The United States we are disgruntled and it shows in our writing. We’re all fed, have roofs over our heads, and people and music to love. We are grateful.

What music are you all listening to most right now?

We’ve been listening to some of our local favorites, Bundy and Asi Fui who both had new releases in June. We love so many different artists, and we’re always listening to Tom Waits, Neil Young, Love and Rockets, Smashing Pumpkins, Bowie, Bjork, Beatles, among many others on the regular. Last night at rehearsal we jammed to “All I Need” by Radiohead and some of The Black Album (Metallica, not Weezer).

I know you just released the second in a trio of sci-fi concept records. How did The Robot’s Guide To Music series come to be?

The Robot’s Guide to Music album series started to take shape in late 2016 when Luis and Anthony started producing many of the songs. We would meet several times a week to record, and by late 2017, we had over 30 songs produced. We had plans to release an album called Justice based on the supporting character in the book with a female fronted lead singer. We scrapped that idea and decided to incorporate every character in the novel and compile it into 3 volumes. While the music stands on its own, the character arcs within each album shine through with its sci-fi novel counterpart. The songs have always been deeply rooted in the story.

Can you tell me a little bit about the plot and the robot that it follows?

Among the debris on the outskirts of Saturn is Station FR29. Aboard the station is the inspiration for the resistance, Fellow Robot. Fellow Robot’s purpose on FR29 is to upload his memories and music to Jason, “The Musician.”

The history and music that only Fellow remembers are a last-ditch plan to save the humans, a way to break through Jensen Eternity’s Frequency Optical Eternity connection (F.O.E). Most music on Earth has been banned. Many musicians, artists and scientists were not compatible with the mandatory implants. If they were lucky, like Jason, they made it off of Earth.

The Robot’s Guide to Music is a story of hope, love, humanity and music from the perspective of a robot.

How does the novel that Anthony is writing play into all of this? What are the plans for the novel?

When the novel was in its early stages, the idea was to have one song or memory from Fellow’s life in each chapter. As the story and characters developed, each chapter inspired multiple pieces of music, almost as if the story was being scored for a movie. Many songs and instrumental pieces that tie into specific scenes have been left out of the albums. In each Volume we stay true to the story and characters, but at the same time, want each album be its own thing. The first draft of the book is nearly finished, and the third and final act of the novel has been outlined and mostly written. Once the book is finished and has gone through multiple drafts and beta readers, then we can start looking at how it should be published. Until then, Anthony is enjoying writing as Fellow Robot and fleshing out the story.

Anthony, how do you put yourself into the mindset of the robot to write the novel? How do you all, as a band, do the same to write the music? How do you weave your human experiences into those of an automaton on both the record and the novel?

When writing as Fellow, it’s important for me to embrace his programming. In The Robot’s Guide to Music, through life experiences and trauma, Fellow finds his humanity, while humans closest to him lose theirs. The story is a reflection of what is happening in society today. Fellow starts out as a logical automaton and discovers his sentience through illogical human behavior. Our music embraces humanity and in Volume 2, we all try to capture a feeling in every melody. Fellow Robot wants to be human, therefore we write human music. If he wanted to be a robot perhaps we would sound more electronic with beeps and boops.

In terms of the actual musical content of The Robot’s Guide To Music: Volume 2, it feels like this cool, cinematic alt-rock music. Where did your musical inspiration for the album come from?

Thankfully, our venn diagram is thick, and having a vast middle ground in musical tastes is incredibly helpful in the studio. Some songs we purposefully tried to sound like some of our favorites. “Promises,” for example, is very Beatles, while Radiohead definitely creeps in on songs like “Darker Days” and “Cemetery Song.” Michael Adams, our lead guitarist, has some amazing moments in Volume 2 and his influences heavily show. Mike shaped the sound on several of the songs like “Everything That’s Wrong,” where he leans into Wilco, My Chemical Romance in “So What” and Sigur Ros on “Golden Man.” It was important for us to show the depth of emotion in V2, and and it felt right to bring a cinematic tone to the album.

Do any of you have a favorite of the three concept albums or a favorite song on Volume 2?

We love the diversity of each album and are very excited about Volume 3. Collectively, we like “So What” the most on Volume 2.

What’s next for you guys?

This week we release our new single “Bernie T-Shirt,” a politically charged punk rock anthem. We’re hoping people vote blue in 2020. After that, we have several music videos from Volume 2 scheduled to be released in 2019. Our animated music video for “Cemetery Song” is currently in the film festival circuit, and is seeing a release in late September.

What else about you or your music do you want readers to know?

Our favorite place on Earth is the studio, and we’re always working on something. Pre-production on Volume 3 has begun, and it’s exciting to work on these new songs.

Check out Fellow Robot’s latest single, “Bernie T-Shirt,” below:

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