By Kelly McCartney 07/24/2014
One for the ages
Back when Mike Fishell corralled his two sons, Miles and Roy, to play some music with him, it was all about the good times. Flash-forward a few years and Fish Fry, the Fishell-based band is still about the good times. Now, though, Mike and Miles are joined by drummer Kelvin Ammons, bassist Nathan Selfridge and guitarist John Welborn, while Roy has moved on to chase other ambitions — reggae bands in Los Angeles, mostly. To integrate the influences of the various generations and demographics within the band, Mike goes back to his singular motto: “If it ain’t fun, we’re done.” Sure, he’ll let the younger cats suggest songs, but “If anyone doesn’t like it, we drop it.” And since variety is the spice of life, they pick and choose from a wide range of influences and styles, everything from Santana to James Brown. They can do “rock, soul, reggae, funk, country, blues . . . you name it,” Mike says. “We’ll do a Neil Young song with a Bo Diddley beat, or turn an Al Green song into a swampy guitar jam.”
Like father, like sons
Because Mike has played music in Ventura County for many years, it was only natural that his sons would gravitate toward the form, at some point. When, exactly, that happened, though, is up for grabs. “Neither one of [the kids] really remembers getting started with music. They both started playing drums and keyboards when they were very young — maybe 3 or 4 years old. We never really considered starting a band until the boys brought Nathan over to jam. We started meeting regularly and it was fun from the start.” Because of their instrumental ambidexterity, when Roy and Miles were both members of Fish Fry, they would often swap out between drums and keys. Having his son in the band with him, as well as high school chums Welborn and Ammons, means the world to Mike: “We love it. It’s always been a part of our lives together. The band always feels like family to me.”
Keep on rocking me, baby
Having started on his musical journey in the late 1960s at high school dances and such, Fishell has been around a few blocks. “I have played in bands that do original music and ones that do cover material and I’ve never had a dry spell,” he notes. But he’s not one to rest on any particular laurels. In addition to eyeing some future time in the studio, Mike and his small fry have a couple more immediate goals in their sights. “We always want to get better. Better vocal harmonies, better grooves, better solos . . . just better. But mostly, we just want to keep playing for people who like to dance.” And if Mike should ever take his leave of the band, he has no doubt about what Miles would do: “I am certain that Miles will keep happily playing music for his whole life. That’s a no-brainer.”
Fish Fry will perform at Green Art People on Wednesday, July 30 with The Vonettes, and at Amigo's on Friday, July 25.