Updated: 08/26/00

Photos Added: 10/23/00

Fine China is a band from Arizona who have just released their debut album on the Tooth & Nail label. Entitled When The World Sings, the songs are filled with highly infectious melodies that may never leave your head -- and chances are you won't want them to. We recently had a chance to speak with one of the members of Fine China -- the hard rock talk starts now...


Highwire Daze: Introduce yourself, what you do in Fine China and how long the band has been together.

Rob: I'm Rob Withem, and I am the songwriter for the band, and I play guitar and sing. We've been together for around four years.

HD: Describe the music of Fine China to someone who has never heard it before.

Rob: Well, if you strip away all of the beats and sounds that we use, we're pretty much playing traditional pop music with verses, choruses, and the melody and chords being the main element of the song. That's always what I try to convey, because I think that the most important thing we do is write songs - that's ultimately all that matters to me. If I was talking to someone who I knew had minimal exposure to music, I would just say that we sound like Depeche Mode...everybody knows them.

HD: How did you wind up being signed to the Tooth and Nail label?

Rob: I was working with Ronnie Martin (of Joy Electric)on our full-length for another label, and through the course of that spirng and summer, we decided it was time for a new direction. Ronnie was heading up Plastiq Musiq, a sublabel of T&N, at that time, and we decided to approach him about possibly getting a deal with Plastiq or T&N, just to get us the wider exposure that we wanted. It all went pretty smoothly, and T&N liked the songs, so they signed us.

HD: What do you mean by the term Labor Saving Device?

Rob: Really I just thought it was kind of a cool phrase - it's really rigid sounding to me, which is something I like. The whole song is just me sort of venting frustration about the lazy people I have met in my life. The song title just sort of gives a weird picture of that.

HD: Some of your songs have rather bolterious messages, such as "We Rock Harder Than You Ever Know" and "They Will Love Us For Our Instruments." Why the cooler than thou sort of lyrics?

Rob: Yeah, they do. I knew that some people would think that lyrics in songs like that were strange, but I'm really just making fun of myself and our band. We're such a minority these days when it seems like every other band is rocking the daylights out of their songs. We are anything but hard, and nobody loves us for our instruments, so it is just kind of ironic to have song titles like that.

HD: You've got a really fantastic vocal style -- have you had any sort of vocal training and who are some of your influences?

Rob: Wow, thanks! I haven't had any formal training, I just kind of started singing the songs, and this was how I wanted to sing them. I like vocals that are in the higher register for pop music, so that is what I lean towards. Obviously there is some Morrissey influence, and the singer from A-ha has been a big influence lately. That guy sings. The vocals are pretty anti-indie sounding, which is something that I was going for too.

HD: How much does Christianity influence your music?

Rob: Good question. There is a huge stupid debate right now about what it means to be a Christian and play rock music. I try to not be influenced by this debate at all, because it has little to do with the Bible and what I know is true. As a Christian, (and by that I mean that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, not just a church going "good" person with family values) I am called to do everything as unto my Lord - even music. I don't separate out the secular, and sacred things in my life, and the same goes for the songs that I write. The songs are just an out flowing of what I want to do with music. The lyrics may or may not be about my faith, but as a Christian, everything I do is marked by what I believe, so it's always there. So the answer is that Christianity absolutely influences the music.

HD: You use some electronic synths in the music. I was wondering what you thought of Depeche Mode in particular and the song Blasphemous Rumour?

Rob: I think DM has written some of the best songs of the past twenty years. "Somebody" kills me, it's an unimaginable ballad that I've tried to write a hundred times. Blasphemous Rumour from a technical stand point is an excellent song, and I enjoy listening to it. I know the lyrics alienate a lot of Christians, but to me it's just an honest testimony of a person who feels rejected by God. It's real telling, actually -- it brings up one of the questions of the ages: "how can God be good if he allows suffering?". I know that God is good and just, so listening to this song just makes me sad for the people who relate to it. I wish they could know...

HD: A kid comes up to you and says he/she likes your music by isn't a Christian. What do you say to him/her?

Rob: I always try to talk to kids after shows. I don't usually know where they stand spiritually, but I feel that it's my job to just encourage them, and to be humble and see where things go. Sometimes God opens doors to sharing his good news, sometimes it doesn't happen. A lot of kids place you on this pedistal because you play rock music, and I try to always tear that down, because it's not real, and it's not right.

HD: Do you have any plans to tour and play out here in Los Angeles?

Rob: Yeah, we'll be out there for our record release this September, and in October as part of our west coast tour. We always have a real good reception in LA.

HD: What is it that you would like a listener to ultimately get out of hearing When The World Sings?

Rob: I would just like it to be an enjoyable experience to a wide variety of individuals. I want the songs to come through and be memorable.

HD:Does the band have a web page where someone can get more info on Fine China?

Rob: it has all our latest info and show dates, and you can contact us from there.


The members of Fine China are Greg Markov - bass guitar, Joshua Block - Keys, Thom Walsh - Drums, and Rob Withem - Guitars, vocals, keys. Be sure to check out When The World Sings, available from the folks at Tooth & Nail Records!!!


THE FINE CHINA HOME PAGE: All the news on Fine China!
TOOTH AND NAIL RECORDS: The record label for Fine China!
AN INTERVIEW WITH FINE CHINA: Read an interview I did with Rob of Fine China last year!
THE HIGHWIRE DAZE HOME PAGE: Return to the Main Page!