An Interview with Mike Boyd
By Pete Crigler
In the '90's and early 2000's, Fighting Gravity were one of the biggest bands in Virginia. Originally called Boy O Boy, they played everywhere and anywhere to rapturous crowds who sang along to every word. They were even my first show, in Richmond, VA with Squirrel Nut Zippers and they put on an amazing show. A mix of ska, soul and rock, the band were on the fast-track to national success which unfortunately never came. They had everything going for them, a major label contract, a fantastic single produced by David Lowery of Cracker but somehow it failed to connect with a national audience. Even a massive multi-page spread in Rolling Stone magazine failed to spread the band's name. The band finally crumbled internally in the early 2000's but their legacy is secure with every fan who ever went to see them in their heyday. I spoke with drummer Mike Boyd and asked him what happened.
PSF: How did you get involved with Music?
MB: I personally became involved with music in the sixth grade in my band class. Originally, wanting to play trumpet, I missed out on the opportunity to try that instrument due to an absence and then was persuaded to play drums by the band director at that time. I've always been about the music first, even going as so far to practice in my early years with all the neighborhood to hear as I practiced in my basement or garage which sat up on a hill. I was even picked on at that time by the other kids in the neighborhood for how much I played but cared nothing about what anybody heard.
PSF: How did Boy O Boy come together and what was the scene like at the time?
MB: Boy O Boy was formed in 1986, one year prior to my arrival at Virginia Tech. The band was looking for a drummer in the fall of 1987, and on a whim, I decided to try out. I was only half interested at the time as I was already playing in a couple of bands that I enjoyed. I had some friends that really liked BOB, and they thought it would be really cool if I was in the band. Luckily, it was a great decision, and I really enjoyed being in a band at that time with Dave Triano and Dave Peterson. We played many of the clubs in Blacksburg at that time like S. Main St. Cafe, Morgan's and The Balcony (Top of the Stairs). We got out of Blacksburg to play a few clubs and colleges outside that year, but ultimately decided that moving to Richmond would be the best chance for the band to succeed. All three of us were from Richmond, or had lived in Richmond for a time, and thought the scene was much better. In the late 1980s, there were a plethora of clubs in downtown Richmond and we took full advantage of that.
PSF: At what point did the band make the change to Fighting Gravity?
MB: The band changed its name to Fighting Gravity once we were selected to be on the television program, Star Search. For copyright reasons, we had to change the name, but I don't think any of us mind making that change. However, coming up with a new band name was one of the most difficult tasks we had ever attempted. It's hard to get that many people to agree on a name as it is so personal to each band member, but we managed to get it done and have everyone feel good about it.
PSF: What was success like in VA and did you find it hard to break nationwide?
MB: Success in Virginia took some time, but we did find it to happen steadily and quickly. Starting from Richmond, we were able to branch out to nearby colleges and towns and then eventually spread throughout the whole state. Being in Richmond was beneficial as most locations or within a couple of hours drive. The crowds were always very supportive and enthusiastic. I can't think of a better place than Virginia to experience success as a band. The people here really love their music and are so gracious with their praise and loyalty. We were fortunate to find large pockets of support all up and down the East Coast and parts of the Midwest. As far as finding a large national audience, that is something that most likely could have been achieved but the music business is very difficult to navigate, and even though that did not seemingly materialize, we never knew any differently. We stayed extremely busy as a band playing 50 weeks out of the year and were very fortunate to achieve the success we had, as it kept us busy for a very long time and never seem to waiver with our fan base. I would say we achieved some nationwide success, but certainly not to the level where most people would perceive the ultimate goal.
PSF: How did the Rolling Stone article come about?
MB: The Rolling Stone article came about as we had a friend and associate from Virginia Beach who was aware Rolling Stone wanted to do an article on a college band. He helped put them in touch with us, and the magazine really wanted to do the story with the band.
PSF: At what point did the band sign to Mercury and what was that experience like?
MB: The band signed with Mercury records after having talked to a few different labels, Mercury seem to be the best fit, and we really seem to have some advocates at that label who were ready to help the band. Through Mercury, we were able to go up to Bearsville studios and have a chance to cut the album that would best represent us. We were able to work with John Alagia, who had produced Forever=One Day. We really enjoyed being in that studio atmosphere for the summer and really being able to focus on making a quality studio album. We cut a couple of tracks in Richmond shortly after Bearsville with David Lowery, and “Wait for You” was one of those songs.
PSF: Why do you think "Wait for You" wasn't a bigger hit?
MB: "Wait for You" certainly was a great single, and one that we felt was deserving of a wider audience. Due to the fact that Mercury Records was part of a sale to a larger company prior to the release of the single and album, any promotion or push for our music had stalled before it even got off the ground. The unfortunate part of the music business is that it is a business and sometimes other factors prevent any artistic success that are not related to anything the artist has done. Soon after our record was released, almost all of the Mercury Records staff was let go as the Seagrams Company began its plans for completing the merger. Even though the relationship with Mercury records failed, we were able to learn from that experience and move forward.
PSF: When did the band get dropped from Mercury and was it true that the band almost signed with Atlantic at some point?
MB: It is true that we continued to talk to other labels including a subsidiary of Atlantic, but we ultimately signed a deal with Q records which was a division of QVC. We were able to go back in the studio and record new material, and focus once again on songwriting. That was an enjoyable experience, and we were quite proud of what we accomplished with that album.
PSF: At what point did the band decide that enough was enough and went their separate ways?
MB: The band eventually stopped touring altogether which happened shortly after I left the group. After 20 years of making music, I think everyone in the band was grateful for the success that was allowed by our fan base. I am sure we could have continued touring and playing to enthusiastic audiences up and down the East Coast, but our ultimate goal was always to achieve national, and possibly international, success. Once it was realized that was not in the cards, I think everyone wanted to try and have a better quality of life. Touring is extremely difficult, and I think everyone wanted to be closer to home on a regular basis. For me, it wasn't as much about ending my time with the band as it was pursuing other career opportunities. I feel fortunate to have landed in a very good situation, and that I get to continue my career as a professional musician while staying at home.
PSF: Do you keep in touch with anyone and what are they up to?
MB: I occasionally bump into some of the former band members, or communicate with them online, but nothing regular.
PSF: Any plans for a reunion?
MB: There are no plans for a reunion.
PSF: What do you hope FG's legacy will be?
MB: As far as a legacy for the band, I hope people remember us as a group who enjoyed every second we spent on stage with one another, and the fans and were able to produce great music and great memories for all who were able to experience it. We always thought of the fans first; we wanted to do nothing more then make their experience at a show the best they had ever had. When recording music, every song was so personal to each songwriter, and the band was always supportive to try and make that person's music realize its full potential and meaning. Hopefully, as part of the legacy, people will recognize that the band had many talented songwriters who made a great effort to put as much good music in the world as possible.
Also see our article on Virginia Rock
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