Sailing the Ocean with Martinis, Pizza and Kellen Asebroek

Karin McLaughlin
By Karin McLaughlin / February 4, 2020
Kellen Asebroek of Fruition

​A person who makes talking nonsense more fun than anyone I have ever met and still probably my favorite interview to date, I had the rare pleasure to once again talk to Kellen Asebroek, keyboard player for Fruition, about everything and nothing at the same time.  The band is back at Union Stage in Washington DC this week and DC Music Review welcomes the band and its members along with some great new music that we can't wait to hear live!

​Karin McLaughlin: Hey Kellen, how are you?!

Kellen Asebroek: Hi!  Good , I just sat down in a green room in Aspen, Colorado at the Belly Up

KM: Yeah, that's gonna be exciting!

KA: Oh yeah - the shows here are always pretty raging, but the fact that this one is in the middle of ski season on a beautiful day, it's even better.

KM: And it's Hump Day! How have you been?

KA:  Been pretty good.  I'm just trying to keep my head above water and be productive and kind of stay out of trouble.  ​We've had the last two weeks off from tour and so that's been nice, sleeping in and in my own bed.​

KM: Off tour - does that mean more trouble or less trouble? 

​KA: Um, more usually.  Tour is pretty - as crazy as a lifestyle you think it might be, from going to festivals and stuff - it's ​pretty systematic with schedules​ and it's just a little more reliable than if I'm home.  If I don't have necessarily anything on my schedule for the day, that's when I sleep all day and then ​I go hang out ​at my bar. 

KM: Yeah, without a regimen you're in trouble.  

KA: Yeah, so ​that's been kind of my whole last trip, making sure I to have my own regiment outside of work. 

KM: And 2020 is off to a good start?  

KA: Yeah, I'd say so.  This is night one of tour, so I'll say it's off to a good start.

KM: Okay, good.  ​ Well, I know you have the show, so I won't take too much time but just kind of a catch up.  It's funny - I was reading our last interview - we really went off the rails on that one (laughs).

KA: Yeah, we sure did!  I​ think we really talked about everything and nothing simultaneously. I don't know how it worked but we pulled it off.​

KM: True, and I had fun doing it. ​ I remember listening to it a few days later and thinking "What on earth?' but now reading it again, I'm like, 'Well, it was a lot of fun!' ​

KA: Honestly, as someone who does a good amount of interviews around album release time, and someone who likes reading interviews, those are ​my favorite kind of interviews to do, the ones that are still good to read too.  I don't need to read the ones where you're on the phone with someone ​and it's the same questions about the music and the band, etc.  I want to read really weird random ass questions or obscure facts about a musician.  Or when the interviewee turns it around and reverses it on the interviewer.

KM: Well, don't you worry Kellen, I got some of those gems in store for you ​shortly.  ​I do obviously​ want to talk about the new albums too though and the way you guys did this release.  I thought it's really cool with Wild As the Night and then ​Broken ​At The Break of Day and how you guys released them.  ​How did you guys come to the decision on the way to ​do it because you don't see that done, essentially, I guess it's considered a double album, but with different release dates and such different stories behind each of them, right?

Fruition - Wild As The Night
Fruition - Wild As The Night

KA: Yeah, so we wanted to we wanted to mix it up from the standard, you know, releasing a new album every couple years, then doing a  big publicity campaign behind it and all that stuff.   We wanted to take that and compress it down into a smaller album and then be able to do that more often. 

We had the idea to do a conceptual two part release, essentially.  We didn't know if it was going to be night and day or light and dark or like, love and hate.  We wanted to do a two sides of the coin approach and put out two short albums and then eventually press that one vinyl really.  So we set out to do that and it all just kind of started to take shape with the night and day approach. We figured out songs that would fit into either of those categories loosely and abstractly essentially, and then filled in the gaps and wrote new material for form two.​  We're calling it companion releases.

KM: Interesting you call it companion releases and it's all about like love and ​ heartbreak and everything in between, I guess. 

KA: Yeah. ​

KM: ​Coming from the place that I'm at in my life right now, it's very therapeutic to listen to a lot of that stuff.  ​

KA: Well I'm sorry you need it but glad that you have it.

KM: ​Right.  I think that's essentially pretty much what it came down to the first time I listened to it. I think I wasn't ready to listen to it and didn't really hear it.  Then the second time I listened to it through I was like crying, which is sad to admit, but you know, like you said, don't want it but need it. ​

KA:  Well if someone is crying listening to our music, that means we really fucking did our job right. 

KM: Exactly. ​How much of it is hard for you guys to write and perform being that it's that kind of subject matter?

KA: I mean, it's always been kind of a trademark of our band - using the medium of song to express vulnerability and to grasp​ the hard times of depression or the elation that we're experiencing​.  We're kind of lucky to have that​ therapeutic output. Whereas some people might not get a chance to talk about other people or write about it and have​ an audience ​receive it in that way.  It's lucky, but it also can be hard.  It can be very candid thing, a very personal thing to write about the shit you're going through, and then write about it in a way that people can relate. ​Then ​you get to play it for 1000 people like, yeah, it's intense, but it's also it's also cathartic, right?

KM: Speaking of therapy and stuff like that, and I know we touched on basically what happens when Fruition is not on tour - I saw that you were doing some individual projects and got to do some performing outside of Fruition. Is that something that you consider therapy as well?   Sharing things that you need to get out that maybe you can't do on stage with the band?

KA: Absolutely, yeah. We all are involved in solo projects and other groups when we're not doing the Fruition thing.  Some of us more than others, but yeah, at the end of the day, this is my main source, ​in an existential way of therapy or a place of ​wholeness and my purpose. It's also, you know, my source of income - there's both sides of that coin to that - I still need to survive when we're not on tour, but also, luckily, my favorite thing to do is​ play music. ​

As for me playing solo, it lets me do different things than I do with the band because it's just me.  I can start and stop songs at will and stop them in the middle and change the tempo and talk about the song for a long time or whatever - make jokes ​and try stuff that I wouldn't be able to do with the band.  So yeah, each​ opportunity to be on stage or to release stuff online, holds its own purpose, and it's important and I am grateful for all of them.

KM: That's so exciting that you get to do that. Not many people find ​the passion that ​becomes a job with passion and stays the passion and then continues to grow as a passion. So you are one of the lucky ones, sir. 

KA: I feel lucky about it and whenever I find myself taking it for granted, I have to kick myself and remind myself that it may be hard and uncertain to do what I do, but also the complete and utter joy and elation from being able to do is is hard to find any other place.  I can tell​ that we all find we all find joy in our passions, but I can't speak on stuff besides my own. So yeah, I'm grateful and lucky and, ​of course, humble.

KM: Sticking with the theme of love and all the things that go along with the new music - what's the craziest silliest, biggest thing you've ever done for love that you're willing to share?  

KA: (laughs) Wow, I was not prepared for that.

KM: Gotta keep you on your toes!

KA: It was a lifetime ago, but the first thing that comes to mind is - I had a girlfriend back in college and she left to go study abroad and I was devastated. ​ I saved up money and as soon as my semester was over, I flew out to Italy and we traveled together. ​ We broke up right after the trip (laughs), but at the time, that was definitely the biggest thing that I've done for 'love'. ​ It shattered my earth that she had left and my whole like world was focused on getting back to her. 

KM: That's so cute.

KA: Now she​ just got married, so I'm super happy for her.  I'm happy to be part of that journey ​in some way.  Meanwhile it's just little old me here trying to figure it out before I give myself to someone else (laughs).

KM: I see all these memes and​ they're like 'All my friends are out here getting married, having kids and buying houses and I'm just trying to go to the gym and have a diet that I stick to for more than a month.'  

KA: It's like an engagement photo where it's like two happy couples and then one person just hugging a bottle of champagne.

KM: Yeah, pretty much.  ​My group of girlfriends from college, one of them lives in the Outer Banks year round and we always go down for her birthday.  She just surprised us ​and told us that this year, we're doing a best friends photoshoot. So we're hopefully gonna have matching outfits and she's hiring a professional photographer and all this stuff. So that's kind of where we're at in our lives. 

KA:  (laughs) So cheesy but that's the type of stuff I love.  

KM: It's gonna be good. So, you mentioned tonight's the first night of tour, and you're at Belly Up.  You got quite a bit coming up on the calendar. You're touring with The Mighty Pines, Caleb Elliott and Lindsay Lou, who I love.

KA: Me too, I love her and her band.

KM: I'm so glad that y'all ​have the DC date with her.  Have you heard her story about - ​what is it- like her ​aunt or her grandmother that was a bank robber or something? 

KA: No!

KM: Yeah, you have to ask her about that.   I interviewed her ​at Delfest and I had read a little bit about it somewhere, but I can't remember the whole story.​

​So what's something that you guys do as a band or even you personally to help you stay ​sane on the road? Are there things that you guys make sure you incorporate into day to day life or make sure you take on the bus with you?  Is there a standard that you guys also spend enough time apart during tour? ​

Kellen Asebroek of Fruition

KA: ​Individually, we all have our own ways of creating space - whatever that means to each of us as a person.  I think over the years we've been able to identify when other people need space and give that freely to them because​ our collective sanity and ​our individual sanity is paramount to a successful tour ​or any kind of business. ​When our business is so personal and so emotionally based, we have to be able to support each other and we have to give each other space.  Sometimes the best way to support each other is to leave each other the fuck alone (laughs).

KM: Yeah, I can totally see that.

KA: We're in such close quarters living in a van.  It's a little bigger van than the last time you saw us, but it's still small.  We're spending 99% of our lives within a 10 foot radius of each other.   Personally, ​to get my sanity straight, when we get to a ​new town, I just go for an aimless walk for as long as I can, until I have to be back.  That's super grounding and super nice to just not talk to anyone and not look at my phone - to be able to just breathe and walk.  

Kellen Asebroek of Fruition

We all know and love each other ​enough at this point that we know when someone needs to talk, when someone needs help and when, like I said, someone just needs to be left alone.

KM: Yeah, it's good that you guys can read that on each other.

KA: Yeah, it helps a lot for sure.  So the short answer to your question is space. 

KM: So when's the last time I saw you - Peachfest?  

KA: Yeah, I think that's right, very briefly.  

KM: Way too short! ​ How was Red Rocks?

​KA: Red Rocks was amazing.

KM: With The ​Wood Brothers right?  

KA: Yeah we've ​done it a bunch.  ​We've played there five times now but I think this was my favorite.

KM: I was super jealous that I didn't get to go. I have some friends that live out in Denver that went and they kept posting videos.  I had serious FOMO. 

​KA: We were all like relaxed and healthy and ready to put our best foot forward. The weather was great and by the time we played the place looked full, so we were playing to a full Red Rocks, the sun was going down and people are singing along to our music and it was just very surreal. ​As good as it gets.  ​

KM: Even though summer seems like a long way away, it's already right around the corner.

KA: Good, I like that you put it that way because, fuck Winter.

KM: Yeah, agreed.  I'm missing you guys​ - you're playing in Steamboat but not ​for  WinterWonderGrass, ​right?  But you are playing one of the WinterWonderGrass Festivals.

KA: Yeah we're ​playing the Squaw Valley one.

KM: Well, I'm doing my first ​WinterWonderGrass at Steamboat and I'm excited but also like I'm also like 'Man, fuck winter! I'm ready for​ summer festival season!  I saw you guys ​already got Rooster Walk and a couple things on there.

KA: Yeah warm weather and those warm feelings.  I don't really hate winter, I can deal with the being cold part, you just have to have the right gear.  It's just driving in it - driving in it is scary and can actually be life threatening. ​ Then loading gear in and out or having to get out of the van to dig ourselves out and put chains on the tires.  ​Then your gloves are too big to actually be able to put on chains and then you ​have to take them off and do it bare handed and you just cursing​ the gods.

Yeah, so I like winter, but I like to just look at winter out of the window or maybe when I'm shredding the gnar down some​ ski slope or something, but working in snow sucks.  Don't get me wrong, I love WinterWonderGrass, I love that festival so much, but it can be incredibly, incredibly difficult trying to perform during a blizzard and that's the whole thing, that's the whole show, right?  You think 'Yeah let's play in the snow.  It's amazing, guys. It's super cool,'  I imagine as a fan, it's great but it's tough. It's an interesting challenge, I'll put it that way, to do it.

KM: How do you keep your fingers nimble enough to play an instrument when they're about to fall off from being frozen?  

KA: That's a good question. I've been trying to figure out for years.  I'll keep hand warmers in my pocket and anytime ​my hands aren't on the instrument, I'll shove them in my pockets.  Beyond that, you kind of just get used to playing with completely numb fingers and hoping that the muscle memory from ​playing these songs so many times yeah ​comes through on the clutch ​and does it for you.  I'll look down and think, 'Well I hope I'm playing the right notes, sorry folks if it sounds like shit' (laughs).​

KM: I guess that's the next level of musicianship when you can play when your fingers are numb.

KA: It's like playing with no fingers at all.  

KM: (laughs) Yeah, kinda like that, I guess.  All right, well, you ready for some rapid fire? 

KA: Sure, let's go. 

KM: Okay. What's your favorite tour bus or tour van past time?

KA: Oh gosh favorite? My most common ​one is looking at shit on my phone.  I realize that isn't the most compelling answer.

KM: You don't play any fun road games?

KA: Not really ​although we do have this thing called van party, which is when we're done and we've loaded out of venue, we get to the hotel and find a good spot in the lot, open up the slider and have ​a couple beers and smoke a joint to kind of decompress - van party WHOOHOO! 

KM: I read an interview you were doing​ promo for the new music that if you guys were a dinosaur, you'd be what is it a ​bronchiosaurus or something?

KA: I said that?  (laughs)

​KM: I think - maybe somebody else in the band said that, but if you could be any animal what would you be? 

KA: Oh man, I think I'd be a dolphin. ​ I've heard that they're very intelligent, they get to swim around all day and surf, which is even better since I grew up surfing. They surf more gracefully and ​with ease more than any other fish or human that I've ever seen and from what I hear they're also pretty frisky in the sack.  I think it's the favorite past time of dolphins - doin it.  ​So yeah, dolphin, fins down.

KM: Fins down, huh (laughs).

KA: Yeah, sorry I had to.

KM: So, I know that you ​had ​dreads at one point and have seen your new hairstyles and that you've experimented with different haircuts and style. What's one haircut you would never ever, ever get caught having?

KA: But I can't say dreads - because that would be my answer now. 

KM: Did you save your dreads when you cut them off?  

KA: You really want to know?

KM: Well, everyone else I know that had them and cut them off ​has always kept them so I'm going to assume yes. 

KA: I can actually give you a little nugget here. I saved them.  I not only saved them but I took the best​ ones and used safety pins and pinned them into the inner brim of a baseball hat so when I wear it, it's like a dreadlock wig.

​KM:  I was gonna say you could sew them into a wig and wear them anytime you want it.

KA: What I should've done is made a rope out of them.

KM: Or a belt, a hemp belt.

KA: There was definitely enough hemp content in those dreads that I could've.

​Actually, funny story - we had a show ​at String Summit - it was a late night show years ago, probably about five years ago - we were jamming and it was pretty loose.  At one point I walked off stage in the middle of a song and went into the greenroom, I didn't tell anyone I was gonna do it.  ​ I came back out onstage in the dread hat and freaked everybody out - the band, the audience, there were some people there that knew me back in my dread days too and everyone was so confused.  ​They were all like, 'What the hell is happening dude?!'

KM: Don't eat the brown acid!

KA: Right. I was just like, 'What are you talking about, I've always had dreads'. 

KM: (laughs) Ok, have you ever played 'Bang, Marry, Kill'?

KA: (laughs) Yeah, of course, I've played that.  I'm a dude who was once in middle school.   ​

KM: ​Good - so Pizza ​Hut, Papa John's, Dominos.

​​KA: Wow, that is very oddly specific and it's really hard to separate the three of those to me.

That being said, I think I was ​would marry Pizza Hut - they've got the longest track record and, I think, of the three, the tastiest pizza. ​ Then I think I would bang Dominoes, because they have chicken wings and I can get down ​with chicks with wings for a couple nights before you know, I have to go home to my wife Pizza Hut. And I'd kill Papa Johns's just because I think they have some pretty shady business practices and stuff.

KM: Well, Kellen, I think we might have just become pizza soulmates. I'm in the exact same boat as you but for different reasons.

KA: Yeah well you know same boat, different reasons is still the same boat. We're sailing out in the ocean together watching the sunset.

KM: ​And if we went down, I would totally let you on the raft ​Titanic style. ​

KA: That's the nicest thing anyone has said to me in 2020.

KM: S​peaking of  - any good new New Year's resolutions?

KA: Not really I have my own personal demons that I'm always trying to work on, regardless of the time of year.  A buddy and I, who we view the world in a lot of similar ways, we came up with our list - it's 'Stay cool daddio'. ​

KM: (laughs) That's a great one!  

KA: Yeah and you can interpret that​ however you want to.

KM: I told someone my resolutions the other day and they were like 'Those are the most odd, specific and stupid resolutions I've ever heard'.

KA: Let's hear them.

KM: Mine are drink more martinis, wear earrings more and - I don't know why but - every time I run into something or bang a body part into something, I always say 'Ow'  ​even if it doesn't hurt​.  So one of my resolutions to stop faking.

KA: (laughs) Oh my god, I love that one. I totally do that. I don't know why.

​KM:  ​Yeah, I mean it didn't hurt, do I just want attention or something??

KA:  Probably something from childhood. 

KM: I'm working on it. 

KA: How do you how do you like your martinis​?

​KM: Very dirty with blue cheese stuffed olives.

KA:  Oh my god we just became​ martini soulmates.  We could live on a raft in the middle of the ocean with just pizza and martinis and be happy. 

KM: And you know, you would never have to play with frozen fingers - we'd only sail the tropics.

KA: All right, I'll meet you there. 

KM: All right, well, I won't keep you anymore have fun at Belly Up. Have fun at Mission Ballroom.  Have fun everywhere else and I will see you here. 

KA: Yes. Will we actually be seeing you?

KM: I will be there with bells on.  And balls.  And all the other things that start with 'B'.  Hopefully we will get to have a drink together.

KA: A Dirty Martini with the side of pizza.

KM: Union stage - they have the best pizza. Did you ever get to try their pizza last time?

KA: I did.  It was great.  

KM: Alright, it's a date.

About the author
Karin McLaughlin

Karin McLaughlin

Karin has been a live music junkie all her life, however is a fairly new fan in the world of jam bands and bluegrass. She grew up on hip hop, classic soul, motown and classic rock but has found a new home in the festival world and that is what, in part, had brought her to DC Music Review. Karin produces and hosts a weekly radio show in the area called Karin's Calendar, where she talks all about 'Where to be in the DMV'. She is very excited to be starting down a semi-new road with us and hopes to use her interview skills and write ups of shows to contribute even more to DC Music Review.