An Interview with Fair Game

by Charlotte Horansky 

Fair Game is a genre blended project created by Will Sawyer and released their debut album Ponyboy on February 23rd, 2024. The short album packs seven songs in fifteen minutes and captures idle teen spirit and the essence of ‘coming of age’ movies.

Though they are a fresh face in the game, the name Fair Game can be found regularly on show flyers in the Philly DIY scene. Each song is created to be danced to and that mission has come true in the homes of fellow young folks across the city. The wide influences of alternative, punk, and rock music from the 70s onward can be pinpointed and taken with pride as a collection of what the artist has grown with. Their discography was created with the intent to emulate the feeling for others of how they felt when first falling in love with music.

Charlotte:  The first question I wanted to start it off with is how would you describe your music?

Will: I describe it as punk influences and distorted instrumentals but with pop songwriting. 

Charlotte: Cool, cool. Yeah, I would agree with that. That is a great way to describe it. How do you feel as a smaller artist being compared to larger bands in your genre, because when I listened, I heard a lot of Surf Curse influence. I also noticed The Strokes have a very popular writing technique of copying their guitar melodies and vocal melodies that you used. How do you feel about getting those comparisons?

 Will: It’s great. I mean, yeah, bands like Surf Curse and The Strokes were the kind of bands I listened to when I was like, 15 and falling in love with music, you know? And so being compared to them feels good, because that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to replicate the way they made me feel, like I’m trying to make other people feel that way. 

Charlotte: That’s a great way to put it. Because I didn’t know if it would be considered an insult to be like, ‘Oh, you sound like this band’, like it’s taking away from your individuality. That’s a great outlook on that. Okay, what amount of songs or length do you consider an album? Because your album is 15 minutes? 

Will: Yeah. 

Charlotte: So some people get a little heated about that.

Will:  Yeah. So, I was in class and we were learning about what qualifies as an album and the professor said it was like 30 minutes and seven or more songs?

Charlotte: My subjective answer is like 30. But like, I think the standard is like 20 or might even be 15.

Will: I don’t know, I mean, for me, it’s the amount of songs. Anything like, seven songs is like the minimum for an album. And anything lower than that, it’s like an EP, or single, whatever.. I never judged it by time because there’s bands like, I might be wrong, but the Descendants, their album,  Milo Goes College is, I think, 20 minutes long. I consider that an album, that’s for sure. {Fact Check: 23 Minutes}

Charlotte: Yeah, I can definitely see a lot of the punk influence because a lot of punk songs are under two minutes. Is the album title related to The Outsiders? Like Ponyboy Curtis?

Will: Yeah, it is. So I bleached my hair and my dad was calling me Ponyboy. And then my friend Mitch was calling me Ponyboy and I thought it sounded cool because it’s like such a coming of age movie. The album I want to be like coming of age, like that vibe. So yeah, totally an Outsider’s reference.

Charlotte: Did you read the book? 

Will: Yeah. And watch the movie. I love the outsiders. It’s so good, it made me want to have a switchblade when I was a kid. 

Charlotte: Did you ever get one?

Will: I did recently, though. Not when I was a kid. 

Charlotte: So, I know you’re very active and DIY, would you say that aspect is bigger than your recorded music? Do you think playing live music is more of a priority to you as a musician or is it studio recording?

Will: I totally prioritize recording and putting out music. I wanted to play shows to get myself into the scene, but I definitely prioritize my discography.

Charlotte: That’s so interesting.

Will: I’d rather stop playing shows and just keep putting out music rather than play shows and never put out music. 

Charlotte: Interesting. I say that because you just answered my follow up question. I thought you leaned more towards live music since you play so often, I was going to ask: would music be worth making if you wouldn’t perform it live?

Will: Okay, damn that’s a good question. Um, I love playing, like performing. It’s one of my favorite parts of music because of the adrenaline and stuff. Damn. I don’t know. I think I could put out music and play it, but I don’t think I would ever want to do that because I want people to be at the shows and get that excited feeling like when I would go see my favorite bands when I was younger, like when I saw Skeggs when I was 15. Oh, yeah, in Brooklyn. It changed my life, I want people to feel that way too.

Charlotte: That’s awesome. Do you have any milestones of where you’re looking to play soon?

Will: Yeah,  I want to start playing actual venues and Philly. In the next year I want to have played Milkboy. Underground Arts is also definitely a big one. Just ground level venues. 

Charlotte: Like Philamoca? 

Will: Yeah. I mean, we’ve played there before, it was awesome. 

Charlotte: I was just gonna say have you played Philamoca because that’s like the halfway point of getting off the ground. 

Will: That was our that was our first actual that was our first show in Philly.

Charlotte: Really? Nice. How was the transition from New Jersey to Philly transferring schools, how’s that affected your process and writing?

Will: It’s given me so much more confidence playing in Philly. I’m not trying to bash the Rowan scene, but it’s very different and more people come to the Philly shows, and they come to dance and jump around and it’s definitely a different vibe than South Jersey. It’s given me a lot more confidence and made me realize that Philly is just the best city ever. 

Charlotte: Yeah, it’s so good for music, the underground scene is thriving right now. Do you have any notable moments from the live music scene, whether it be you playing or seeing someone else play? 

Will: Our first show in Philly was awesome. Like just playing, being able to play in Philly and having everyone come out. All the basement shows are so fun and there’s been some shows where there’s been a lot of new faces, and they like the music. And I can see the people are listening to it after the show

Charlotte: That’s awesome. Do you notice after shows you get more streams?

Will: Yeah. We would play a lot at Rowan but people weren’t really listening as much as Philly does. It’s awesome to be in Philly and have people come listen and stick around. 

Charlotte: So your first song came out two years ago, right? 

Will: Yeah.

Charlotte: Have you noticed any possible changes? Or is there anything that you would have gone back to do, or keep your work intact after two years?

Will: I feel like when I put out that three song EP, I was just trying to get something out to be able to show venue so that we could play live and yeah I feel like I didn’t really have a specific, songwriting style or idea of how I wanted to sound when I put that out. It was kind of just me messing around. If I were able to change it, I don’t think I would. Yeah, because I think everyone has to start somewhere and figure out their sound somehow, I wouldn’t change. Yeah, I wouldn’t, I’m proud of it. 

Charlotte: It is definitely work to be proud of. It’s really good work.. 

Will: Thank you. 

Charlotte: So okay, I know you like The Replacements.

Will: I love The Replacements! 

Charlotte: Yeah! What is your most influential song?

Will: Damn, um, damn. 

Charlotte: This could be either towards your personal music or in general because they influenced a lot of popular bands.

Will: Okay, so Left of the Dial by The Replacements, is like one of the best songs ever. He wrote it about how he was on tour and he was dating someone who was also touring, and how he could only hear her voice on the radio while he was driving the van. I also like how The Replacements write about music without being corny. Okay, wait can I change my answer?  Alright it’s Swinging Party. It’s one of the best written songs ever, it has the perfect like, melancholic vibe. I’m getting overwhelmed, like, different Replacement songs. I just, yeah, Swinging Party. Just Paul Westerberg and his songwriting is something I strive for. 

Charlotte: Awesome! Do you think of songwriting more as a lyrical process or a musical process?

Will: I try to think melody first is what I have tried to incorporate into a song. If a song has a strong melody, in any genre, I can love it. And I think a lot of people can too. Then, lyrics that are relatable and are true to me. 

Charlotte: Yeah, I definitely see that reflected in your work! You have a lot of catchy melodies and  when I was listening to the album, I recognized the songs because I was like, ‘oh, I’ve heard this hook before when you played it live’. So that’s really good. You really got that aspect nailed. 

Will: That’s the goal. 

Charlotte: So my last question of the day; I know you play in other bands and there’s a lot of bandmate overlap. Do you contribute to the songwriting with those bands?

Will: The only band I’m in besides the Fair Game, is Dead Love Triangle. I haven’t in the past  but for live shows I do because we play songs definitely live more than we do in the recording. I like to add my own like character to live stuff. But on the next album, I’ve added a lot and I am contributing to the production and songwriting. So yeah, look out for that.

Charlotte: Okay. Will do. That’s all.Thank you for sharing all this, this really insightful. I’m excited to see what you continue doing and you’re a great music musician in Philly and I definitely think you’re building the traction you need to to like, really keep going. 

Will: Thanks Charlotte. Can you make me sound smart? 

Charlotte: Absolutely.

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