I did an interview with Milwaukee locals Fibonacci Sequence for Milwaukee Record. They do instrumental prog, and they are really nice guys.
To enter the world of Milwaukee’s Fibonacci Sequence is to enter a world whose backstory includes two Chads (“Chad 1” and “Chad 2”), a producer/musician named Chris Kringel, and a current bass player being confused for a different bass player named Dave Burkowitz (no, not that one).
The unconventional project is a progressive instrumental band founded in 2006 by guitarist Mike Butzen, keyboardist Jeff Schuelke, and drummer Tom Ford. After releasing the We Three Kings EP in 2009 and their debut LP Numerology the following year with Kringle on bass as a guest, the band added bassist Chad Novell in 2011 to round out the official lineup.
An astute listener will pick up several progressive influences. Some are obvious (Genesis, Pink Floyd), some are not (Boston, Phish). The most common sonic touchstone and most frequent comparison is Liquid Tension Experiment, the instrumental metal project from members of Dream Theater.
Fibonacci Sequence doesn’t get sick of being compared to other bands, though. In fact, they say they even see it in a positive light. “At least we’re getting attention,” Ford says. Novell has an even more optimistic outlook. “I don’t ever get sick of comparisons,” he says. “I think the worst part is, people don’t know what to compare us to. A lot of times, the only reason that we get compared to LTE is because there’s not a lot of other instrumental groups out there. But if you wanna compare me to those guys, okay. That’s a huge compliment.”
But however you want to describe it, Fibonacci Sequence’s music is certainly their own. Numerology is an hour-plus journey during which you’ll discover both their songwriting talents and their sense of humor. The band members are self-aware enough to know who they are, that what they do can be seen as pretentious, and that multi-part instrumentals don’t exactly blow up on the radio.
“It gives us a great niche—instrumental prog,” Ford says. “The chicks just love it.” But he’s also quick to point out that instrumental music gives them an added challenge as composers. “If you look at songs with lyrics, the lyrics build and change and the band can repeat the same theme behind it,” he says. “We always have to advance musically.”
As for why they’re an instrumental band, it’s quite simple. “I think it just evolved through the music,” Ford says. Outside of the band, Ford is a songwriter and lyricist himself, but he concedes that “this music just did not speak to me lyrically.”
Beyond that, the music is certainly challenging enough, both for the listeners and the musicians involved. “I wouldn’t wanna try to write lyrics or vocal melodies over this stuff,” Novell says.
“That might be why we are a little bit more cinematic in terms of music,” Ford explains. “I’ve always told people when they ask us to describe what we do that it sounds like movements of an orchestra or a soundtrack, that kind of thing.”
Fittingly, their upcoming sophomore LP, Cinema Finis, was inspired by the band’s love of cinema. “One night, me and Mike [Butzen] were texting back and forth trying to figure out a better concept because music was already coming,” Ford says. “Somehow the conversation steered towards the word ‘cinema’ and then, it just popped in my head. What about a theater that shows a film where your life flashes before your eyes?”
There’s a literary component, as well. Schuelke is the author of the accompanying story, the first three parts of which are on the band’s website. The tale, called Encore: A Cinema Finis Story, tells of a theater manager who’s about to lose his business until a mysterious benefactor offers to save it from financial ruin, on the condition that the manager allow the benefactor and his partners to renovate the theater in order to show a special film.
The story doubles as Schuelke’s own social commentary of sorts. “One reason movie theaters are going under is because people are Netflix-ing or torrenting,” he says. “They don’t go to the theater anymore. So this is my love letter to days gone by, when we all sat around a turntable and listened together. The theater represents that.”
As with progressive music, the band takes its time with writing and recording. “If you watch the campaign video [for Cinema Finis], I had to edit it because it says the album will be coming out in 2015,” Schuelke says. “That’s how long this process has been.” Following the record is a documentary chronicling the album’s making. “It’s coming out hopefully in January, which probably means June,” Schuelke says.