Conniption Fits: One On Vermont's Favorite Rock Bands

Publish Notes: 

Cider Magazine October, 2013

Conniption Fits: One On Vermont's Favorite Rock Bands
Conniption Fits: One On Vermont's Favorite Rock Bands
Conniption Fits: One On Vermont's Favorite Rock Bands
Conniption Fits: One On Vermont's Favorite Rock Bands

Once in a while during my music-writing travels, I come across a local band that quite frankly – knocks me on my ass! This was indeed the case with the high-energy trio dubbed Conniption Fits, who I recently saw perform an energetic, hour-long set at the annual Bashaw Memorial Music Scholarship Benefit in Bellows Falls, Vermont.


Cover courtesy of Cider Magazine. Band photos by Joe Milliken

The band was formed in 2003 by singer/songwriter/guitarist (and Fairlee, Vermont-native) Stevens Blanchard and also features Shawn Snyder on drums and Jaimly Hosley on bass. Some of you may remember Blanchard from the success of his previous band, Motorplant, which rocked throughout New England and beyond from the early 90’s through 2001. In fact, at their height, Motorplant songs were being heard on MTV and ESPN’s X-Games, while their debut CD was a local hit and received plenty of FM airplay.

“I started playing guitar at age 11 and put together my first band at 14… we were a terrible rock trio,” Blanchard cracked in a recent interview. “But we would make enough money to buy tickets to the drive-in movie and really, that first group experience helped me gain the skills needed to form my next band, Motorplant, during my senior year in high school.

“I learned a great deal from being in Motorplant and not just playing either; from Web, graphic design and photoshop - to promotions, booking shows and interviews – to learning about touring gear, PA systems and stage lighting – to making posters, designing CDs and creating a Web presence. Motorplant would rock for 10 years, playing all over the country including six national tours… we had a good run and I really had a lot of fun in that band.”

Blanchard’s musical influences are wide-ranging; from rap and emo - to classic rock and grunge and everything in between. “I am influenced by almost anything… early on it was stuff like Dr. Dre and Public Enemy – not your typical guitar player influences. In the 90’s I loved the whole ‘grunge’ scene with Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, then the late 90’s brought Eve6 and Days of the New. Lately, it’s been bands like The Shins, The Police, Coldplay and Blink 182… anything that rocks or invokes a mood and is creative.”

The band has changed personnel a couple times over time, with previous members including bassists Erik Von Geldern and Andrew Martin, drummer Seth Roya and multi-instrumentalist Tuck Stocking. The current lineup of Stevens, Snyder (also from Motorplant) and Hosley have now been together for a few years and it shows, the band having become tighter than ever.

“Even when Shawn left for a while, we’d always remained friends and he’s just a blast to play with. As for Jamie, he was reluctant to join the band at first so I made a deal with him and said, ‘just play one show with us and see how it goes.’ Well, he played that one show and has been with us ever since. Jamie is just a monster on the bass.”

Conniption Fits have three CDs to its credit, including 2006’s Airplane Rides, 2009’s Heaping Helping of Perspective and their most recent release, 2012’s Friends with Benefits & Cash. “We always want to keep trying something new,” Stevens said. “Each album starts out as a collection of two or three ideas and then we just go from there. The first album was a bunch of my songs - fully recorded by myself - then we replaced my crappy drumming with Shawn's great drumming and then added the bass and a guitar or two.

“The second album (Heaping Helping of Perspective) was done in more of a "live" fashion - no click track was used and there were minimal overdubs. It’s defiantly less polished than our other releases and I don't think I'd do an album that way again. The songs are certainly good, but I just prefer a little more shine on the tracks. Now, our third and current album (Friends with Benefits & Cash) is my favorite so far, as it sounds like a major label release.”

Friends with Benefits & Cash was recorded in Blanchard’s home studio, produced by Blanchard, himself, and mastered by Andre Maquera at West Street Digital Studio in Fairfield, Vermont. “We finally got the sound and production the way we wanted it and it features some really good song writing!” The CD packaging is also top-notch, featuring great photos, liner notes and a nice tri-fold CD case.

Songs from the new release are also picking up airplay across the country, including radio stations in San Francisco, Richmond, Va., Lake Forest, Ill., St. Charles, Mo., Oxford, Ill., and Staten Island, NY just to name a few. Also, the song “May Day” will be on every single Delta Airlines flight starting in January… exciting stuff!

The band is looking to carry this new found momentum into the next release, which is already in the works. “Our next CD is going to trend more towards a harder, riff-based rock album, but we never really know for sure until we jump in to the project. I've got a bunch of demo tracks already put together… so I do have some idea of the sound, but often times we tend to take a left turn once we get to recording.”

The Conniption Fits have certainly garnered a lot of attention over the last few years, including full-page articles and reviews in the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader and in 2011, were voted “Best Rock Trio” in NH Magazine. Along the way, they have played over 1,200 shows and have shared the stage with the likes of Mighty Mighty Bosstones, 3 Doors Down, Blue Oyster Cult, 7 Mary Three, Mountain and Cinderella to name a few.

“We have many friends to thank, including Doug Hayes, Brett Mower and Paul Costley, but most of all our fans are what really matter the most. Our focus is really outward and on the fans, not inward on ourselves, and we work hard to not just be ‘another rock band.’ When we do it right, fans leave feeling like they were a part of a great big party – not just a show or event – but a part of the overall experience. That is really important to us because without the fans coming to our shows and buying our CDs, we would have nothing – so, thank you fans!”

When all is said and done, it is the live experience that hooked this writer, as the Conniption Fits carve out their own alternative-pop sound that draws you into their musical compression chamber, filling the atmosphere with a punchy tone that will – as I said previously – knock you on your ass!

Upcoming shows include Gustos in Barre, VT on October 4, the Railside Tavern in Randolph, Vt on October 5, the Derryfield Restaurant in Manchester, NH on October 11, the Portsmouth (NH) Gas Light Company on October 12 and New Socials Bar & Grill in Claremont, NH on October 25. To learn more about the Conniption Fits, book a show or order a new CD, check out their Web site at www.conniptionfits.com or visit them on Facebook.