First in Flight interview
Written by Mary Perez | Thumbnail photo by Chrissy Lynn | Photo 1 by Priscilla Anna | Photo 2 by Ryan Herceg
Pink shoes, a camera, and upbeat dance-rock music, First in Flight are an act you’ll want to have on your radar coming into the new year. The Bay Area-based four-piece, equipped with their thought-provoking lyrics, catchy guitar riffs, funky drum beats, and a killer devotion to their fans, have been quickly gaining attention through their YouTube channel and dedicated following. The band, comprised of vocalist Pat McCloskey, bassist David Topete, guitarist Richard Mier, and drummer Max Huss, were kind enough to sit and talk with me before they opened up for The Stolen that night:
How would you best describe your music?
Richard: I’m going to ad lib a quote we’ve been using. We’re like cotton candy in a mosh pit that’s pink.
David: You totally messed that up!
Pat: Imagine the sweet taste of cotton candy in the middle of a mosh pit, a sweet urgency that pushes you forward. That’s First in Flight. In normal terms, it’d be 80’s-influenced dance-rock.
To start off, let’s talk about your latest EP, Dalliance, which came out earlier this year. Can you talk a little about the inspirations behind the songs on that EP?
P: I can start with the lyrical experiences. The essence we wanted to capture in Dalliance was the romantic chaos that happens in your early 20’s when you’re transitioning from college to the real world and even some before that. We wanted the highs, the lows, the anxieties, the doubt, especially with all of the technology we have today. Each song has a different essence. With “Danger,” it was seeing your friend in a bad relationship, which I’m sure everyone can relate to from some degree. “Lately” is more falling in love, and “Darling, I’m Blind” was more being taken advantage of yourself. Hopefully, those three songs are able to capture the essence of the romantic days in your late teens, early 20’s.
D: Instrumentally, we wanted to pick up where the last EP left off. The last EP was more instrument-driven, in terms of guitars and bass. A lot of those songs were written before Pat came into the band, so the writing style was a little bit different. We wanted to pick up where we left off, so we wanted a little more of everything but more of a cohesive unit. There are still a lot of guitar parts that are influenced by 80’s stuff that has a very energetic feel, sometimes borderline heavy metal, but that’s kinda what we are. In terms of the band, that’s kinda where our influences are from. It’s more synths, louder, meaner. Production-wise, it’s bigger and better.
Max: I would also like to say that on that second EP, we had the privilege of recording ourselves. We had more time because there were really no deadlines, other than self-set deadlines. We got to mess with things. There are drum parts that were written just because we would try something, then be like “No, let’s try something weirder.” We had a lot of time to just play, so that came out in the record that I think is really cool.
P: The one thing people don’t realize about our first record was we made it specifically so we had something to submit to venues. It wasn’t really going to be much of a commercial release. It was just so when people were like “What do you guys sound like?” we could be like, “Oh, we sound like this.” Dalliance was cool because it was the first time we could release something, like the big music video, and it was like, “Hey fans and the world, this is First in Flight.”
Was there a hardest or easiest song to create?
P: I think we kinda knew “Danger” would be the big single, so we went through so many edits of that. The cutting it down, breaking it down, building it back up. I would say “Danger” went through the most changes. I don’t know if it’s the hardest, but it went through the most changes and had the longest journey.
D: Production-wise, “Darling” has always been kinda interesting. It wasn’t much of a struggle, but as Max was saying, that was the moment we really experimented with the drums. That, out of the whole EP, is the most 80’s-sounding, compared to a lot of stuff from between 1986-1988 new jack swing thing back then. That was the hardest song to record instrumentally and also the last song. It should’ve been easier, but it ended up being a little harder.
P: “Lately” was pretty easy. It’s very straightforward. We really liked the way it was written, and we recorded it and liked the way it was recorded.
D: “Lately” is almost like a pop-punk song with a twist. The verses are a little more open than a pop-punk song would be, but it kinda starts and doesn’t really start. There wasn’t a lot of overthinking in that song.
P: Well, the rap kinda spoke for itself, too.
Are you currently working towards a full-length album?
D: That would be… a no. It’s not that we’re not thinking about an album, but I think as the current market is, it’s kinda like a singles game, at least for now.
M: I like that… a singles game. It’s kinda cute.
D: Yeah, always the romantic one here. It’s not that we don’t have other things written; it’s just that we’re putting all of our emphasis on a few select songs that are the strongest representation of us at the moment. That way, if the opportunity arrives where we have the privilege of releasing a record, I think that’s what it is now. It’s about having the ability financially, having the support to release it.
P: Financially is our least concern. The fanbase is getting bigger, and as we continue, it’s like “We want more YouTube videos.” Okay, we’ll make more YouTube videos. “Street team.” Okay, we’ll do the street team. An album would take a year, and of course, we want to tour. Since we’re releasing a single, we’re kinda already pushing on the number of things we can do at once. That’s with only a single.
R: Imagine an album. That’s multiple singles! When we do put one out, we want to put time into it. Obviously, at some point, we will make one, but we want to be in a good position to do that.
P: The only last note to that is we will constantly be putting out new music. New music will be coming, just not now.
D: When we say privilege, most of it is just time. When we have the time to really sit down and create something as an ensemble piece worth listening to, then we’ll do it.
In terms of the single, “Never Alone,” which is set to release in December, can you talk a little about the idea behind the song?
P: This song’s gonna be a little bit darker; you can say it’s closer to a “Syringe” than a “Lately.” The lyrical inspiration was that there was a certain sense, as you go through life, of people coming and going, some people treating you poorly. You start to feel very isolated. I guess it’s a fear of vulnerability.
D: What you do to kinda ease the pain?
P: There’s a couple lines in there that talk about being afraid of people leaving you, people not being good people, whatever the case might be, and pulling yourself away but only isolating yourself more. It doesn’t solve the problem. The song’s called “Never Alone,” and the main line is “Don’t leave me alone.” It’s kinda a call for help, as I push people away, but it’s that “Don’t leave me though! Even though I’m pushing you away…” It’s that internal conflict about it. I think it’s a good message and something people can relate to because as you go through tough times, you do have to decide on relationships with people and that “How am I gonna approach this in the future? Am I gonna stay? Am I gonna go?”
Are there any topics you really want to cover in upcoming work?
P: I usually sing about what’s current. I wouldn’t say it’s wanting to write a song one day about this or that.
M: Honestly, Pat just talks about what he’s going through at the time. We’re hoping to write songs in the future about incredible fame, an incredible amount of wealth.
D: All of the cars of the guys in the band…
P: Just too many fans!
M: Just anything that’s relevant at the time…. “How many cars can I fit in my garage?”
P: I do write about what’s current. Dalliance came right after we graduated, all that stuff was going on, I had just met my girlfriend, etc. That dealt with the internal struggles and everything going on.
D: No, the songs are just one day in the life!
P: The only thing I would say is that because this song’s a little bit darker, I would like our next single to be not dark. I want another feel-good song, but that’s the only thing I can say.
You currently only have a music video for “Danger,” so are you planning on making more videos for any of the other songs on Dalliance?
D: Absolutely. That’s all I can say about that.
M: There is an acoustic version of “Lately” that has a video, but the only “Danger-esque” video right now is “Danger.”
D: If you do want more videos in general, we do have a YouTube channel where we upload videos every two weeks.
So, on your YouTube channel, you do a lot of covers. How do you decide what songs you’ll cover next?
D: It’s all Pat.
P: The acoustic videos are just me and Max, and I pretty much take the lead. We used to collaborate in the beginning, but I record before him, so I pick it and arrange it. The acoustic songs I picked, but the full band ones, like the Charlie Puth one, we came together and decided what would sound better and different. Any acoustic song we do, I try to make it a harder rock song so it sounds different acoustically.
D: When we do full band stuff, it has to fit the band, too.
Any songs you’d really love to cover next?
P: The 5 Seconds of Summer cover was the last of this year. I think that next year, we’re going to expand a bit. I think we kinda stuck with the home run ball with Bastille, 5 Seconds of Summer, Panic! at the Disco, very much right at the middle. It was great because people loved them but maybe explore a little more next year. Maybe do some past, maybe do some…
D: Some more raw stuff.
P: Little more underground.
D: Doing a little more raw live stuff would be cool, almost like garage bands.
Earlier this year, you went on a mini-tour as an opener for Chin Up, Kid. How were those shows?
D: There’s vlogs! The whole experience is captured on film!
P: It was a lot of fun. Chin Up, Kid were really nice. My favorite show was the one up in the Seattle area. We had a really good time. The homecoming show in San Francisco was really good. We had a lot of people come out, especially given it was July 4th weekend. I personally love touring. I mean, if we couldn’t tour, I don’t know if I’d want to do the whole band thing.
Do you have a favorite show or moment?
D: I’d probably be the same as Pat. That first show was pretty dope. We seemed to be pretty well received in Seattle; that show was definitely not disappointing.
R: Especially because it was up there, and we don’t really know anyone up there. We were actually bumped from our previous spot because we were supposed to be coheadliners. We got bumped to openers, so we didn’t know what to expect. The fact that that happened was like, “Okay, we’ll just go with it.” We always go in with that mindset. With this one, we dug it. After that, the whole vibe was different. We didn’t expect that at all. The one last year was like a week, but this one was bam bam bam three days. I was literally able to reflect in 48 hours how an SF crowd feels to a Seattle crowd. It was an interesting experience, but it really proved to us how tours will really be to have it be back-to-back, going the distance, can we do it. Yeah, we did it! It was a 10-hour drive from Seattle to here, and we did it.
M: Building up endurance, you know? It’s so much fun to spend that much time together. We ate a bunch of Oreos, drank a ton of coffee, went thrifting together…
D: Oh, yeah? I remember in that first vlog, you were so happy you were by yourself.
M: Sometimes I joke, and sometimes I don’t joke. I had the opportunity to ride from here to Seattle alone without the presence of my friend, Pat. That was what happened.
P: We’re gonna be touring a lot next year. We make really good money when we tour because we usually get a good cut at the door, but we need to figure out how can we tour farther, bigger, faster, make more money. Once you can do that, you can start really picking it up and going around the country.
More recently, you opened up for Vinyl Theatre at Bottom of the Hill. How was that show?
R: That was awesome. I’ve been a fan of them for four years, and I’ve always wanted to see them. Pat actually saw them earlier this year when they opened up for Misterwives at Fox Theater, so it’s a different venue with a different vibe. Here, it’s at Bottom of the Hill. When they announced that they were headlining a show there, I nearly bought my ticket. We were in the works of trying to get on it, so I almost almost bought my ticket again, but I forgot. Then, we got the word that we got it, so I was like, “Alright then!”
M: He wasn’t there! The three of us were in the car when we got the show, and we were like, “Shoot, what’s Richard doing that night?” We checked the calendar and it said Richard was gonna be at the Vinyl Theatre show.
R: I had already marked it for that! Either way, even if we never played the show for any reason, I would’ve been there. We love that venue, we love the staff there. It was a fun experience being there. Getting to talk with them, if anything, they’re one of those acts who has been through it all, so we wanted to get their wisdom and everything and really appreciated all of that.
Something I’ve noticed is the close relationship you have between yourselves and your fans, especially your street team. What has it been like in creating those connections with them?
D: I guess I’ll start...it’s funny because I’m the least emotional person in the band by far. They can all agree with that like I don’t display as much affection. It’s not that I’m incapable of producing it, but I think it’s great! It’s an important thing for a band to have that kinda connection with the audience. A lot of times when I went and saw bands, the bands would play the music and then go home. There wasn’t a lot of back-and-forth with their fans. Even when we’re playing live onstage, we like to be connected with our audience. We’re pointing at people, getting them to shout with us, we’re very energetic and want people to feel the energy with us. Naturally, I feel it’s important for us to carry that with us offstage because then the party never stops.
P: I’m the one on Twitter all the time, and it’s been fun interacting with people. I think that when you start to develop that connection, people start to come out and show their support by buying a shirt, coming to a show, or keep following on Twitter. We love writing music, we love writing it for ourselves, but when people start to really show they care and can connect with the idea you’re writing about, you start to really dig down more and put more work towards it because you know that people are gonna see it and react. I want people who support us now to be recognized and be known because the fanbase is getting bigger, but it’s no bigger than like a hundred-something people. It’s still small, and as we start to tour the country more and less around here, I want people to remember like “Hey, you were a part of this when we were really small.” We still are really small. As we continue to get bigger, we want them to feel like they were a part of the Flight Crew, they were a part of this journey.
M: There’s no one better to help us out with stuff than people who are already fans of the music, so to take those people who like what we do onstage and make them our friends, we have a deeper connection with them than just the music. Anyone can listen to music, but these people are our friends now. To be able to collaborate with them in a sense, like them making reaction videos to our videos, it just furthers the reach of what we can do with them at our side. I think it’s a plus for everybody: it helps us, they love it, it’s just so much fun!
P: We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them. Literally at this show, literally!
Now for some fun questions! What are the first and last concerts you attended?
P: The first concert I went to was a band called The Hives. They were from Sweden, and they were playing in Chicago. The last concert I went to, depending on how you want to look at it, was Vinyl Theatre, but it would be Walk The Moon and Thirty Seconds to Mars.
R: My first concert was the Metal Masters tour. It was with Testament, Motörhead, Heaven & Hell, and Judas Priest. My most recent one was Steel Panther at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz.
D: My first concert, real concert, was back in 2008 when Megadeth came to the San Jose Event Center. I saw Children of Bodom, Megadeth, all these metal bands. The last concert I went to, if you don’t want to count Vinyl Theatre, I did go see Steel Panther with Richard.
R: Yeah, David and I are the metalheads in the group.
M: Man, I think the first concert I ever went to was a singer-songwriter named Bebo Norman. That was the first show I ever went to. You don’t even have to know who that is. I was at the Walk The Moon show so I think that was the last one I went to, but Pat took that and I’m a hipster so I have to think of my own answer. I think before that, I went and saw Jack White with David’s little brother, so that was pretty fun.
If you had to choose a personal theme song, what would you pick?
P: “Anna Sun” by Walk The Moon.
M: “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).”
R: Gau’s theme because it goes with everything.
D: “The Final Countdown.”
You’re given the chance to switch album covers with any album of your choice. What album would you pick?
R: I’d choose Painkiller by Judas Priest because you look at it and it’s this iron monster, but you hear the music and it doesn’t match at all. That’s why I would choose it: total contrast.
D: I might do Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
P: I was gonna do The Dark Side of the Moon!
D: The Dark of the Moon is a lot more classic, but Wish You Were Here is a lot more interesting because you have the fire-man doing the handshake, the framing, and stuff. It just makes me think: what could this music sound like? To me, it’s a classic album too.
M: Tangent off of that, there’s an album called Trout Mask Replica and it was released a while ago, but it’s a man in a suit but his head is a fish head. Super bizarre, not that I love it, but people listened to that album just because it looked weird. It got attention just because it was wild. Honestly, if I had one chance to use a different album cover, might as well use one that looked weird and people listened to just because it was wild.
P: I’m torn because this one doesn’t work for us either, but I really like Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin just because I love the music off it. It kinda looks like San Francisco to me.
D: Not Mother’s Milk, huh?
P: I was thinking Mother’s Milk! They got sued though, so I’m not gonna get sued.
Favorite album of all time?
M: There’s an EP...there’s an EP called Dalliance.
R: This is something I’ve been thinking about my whole life because of all the music, but if I had to choose one, it’d be Ride the Lightning by Metallica. I have the cassette of that and grew up listening to “Fade to Black,” at least half of it. It was actually the first CD I bought. When I picked it up, it was the first time I actually listened to the whole album and realized how great it is and how raw it is. It was my first exposure to go deeper into more aggressive styles of music because there were more songs that are pit-opening classics. I always come back to that album as my roots and why I do what I do.
P: 1991 Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think I’m gonna get a tattoo of the logo of the album, but what most people don’t know is that I was a guitarist for 12 years before joining the band. Red Hot Chili Peppers are by far my favorite band ever. Their guitar work is amazing, I learned all of those songs on guitar because they were so funky and such a weird coming-of-age for that style of music.
M: I like individual songs of different albums, but right now, an album I’ll listen to all the way through is the live album by John Mayer. I will just listen to that start to finish, so right now, album all the way through, it’s got to be that one.
D: I’m gonna pick an album that, in a sense, is kinda the roots of my musical endeavors, I’m gonna go back to Richard, not Ride the Lightning, but Master of Puppets. When I listened to that record, that was a dividing moment in my mind. I hadn’t listened to an album with that caliber, constructed as it is: it was heavy, melodic, just everything I kinda liked or thought I would like in my music. I listened to early in my teenage years to cement what I would like from then on. You can listen to it now and it’s still relevant.
Any last words for your fans?
P: Our new single is coming out December 7. If you like us, subscribe to our YouTube channel; we release new videos every two weeks. Something to keep in mind: we’re going to have people start signing up for our email list. We’re going to be touring a lot next year, so if you want us to tour near you, get your ass on our email list and tell us where you live! Well, that sounds weird.
D: We’re going to deliver tickets to your front door!
P: To be perfectly frank with people though, if we can’t prove to a booking agent that we sell tickets in Chicago or Miami or wherever, we can’t go there. The only way to prove it is to sign up on our email list and sign up on our tour doc and say you want us to.
R: Follow the socials: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Follow us there. We’re always being active.
M: And, ladies, Richard is single.
I had a great time getting to talk with the guys and enjoy their fun spirits as they ended the interview and went right into making their next YouTube video, which they even included me in. From touring more in 2019 to releasing their new single in December, it looks like they’ll be busy in the upcoming months. Be sure to listen to “Never Alone” when it drops on December 7, and catch them on tour next year!