Fred Mascherino is almost too good to be true with the following attributes: a dedicated vegan, a gifted guitarist, a beautiful vocalist, and a passion for the environment equaling a love for his fans. Known for his time with Taking Back Sunday, he now shines on his own through The Color Fred. After tracking down the extremely down to earth and extremely busy Fred, I was able to speak with him at his March 7th show at the Pipeline Cafe (HI) about his solo journey so far.
A tremendous thanks to Gary Strack of Reybee Inc. for helping me set up the interview and pursue Fred.
– Can you tell us what The Color Fred is all about?
Fred: It’s pretty much a solo project I started called The Color Fred. It’s mostly me and I have different musicians play live with me.
– You used to be co-vocalist and guitarist of Taking Back Sunday. What made you want to branch out and leave the band?
F: I always wanted to sing a little bit more and we were actually heading in the other direction in Taking Back Sunday. We started out as a double vocals thing and it became more of a front man thing, so I wanted to front my own band.
– What were the pros and cons of leaving the band?
F: Well, in a lot of ways it was like starting over again because I had to let everyone know, “hey I’ve got this new record out, it’s new music,” and since I can’t immediately pump it to radio or anything, it’s more work. It’s also a solo project, so I can’t like blame the other members of the band if things don’t get done. But the positive part is that I’m doing what I love and it feels more rewarding when it works out.
– Were there any times when you wanted to quit The Color Fred and return to Taking Back Sunday?
F: Well, it’s been amazing because I’ve gotten to spend the last year on the road and getting to experience new things like coming to Hawaii has just been a dream come true. So it’s never gotten that bad. It’s always been great actually. So I guess the answer is no!
– So you’ve released one album, Bend to Break (2007), about a year and a half ago. Are you happy with the response you have received from it?
F: Yeah, we’ve definitely been building up our little army and I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far. I just went in and recorded an acoustic EP that comes out in April. In general, the reaction has been amazing. Just the fact that this is my first time coming to Hawaii and there were kids singing along last night is just amazing. It was one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever played for.
– What was the main theme or mood you tried to portray in your album?
F: The funny thing is I’ll think of the mood I want to portray but it always comes out how I’m feeling that month or year. So I can’t put on some phony teen angst. I definitely do have some inner struggles like every other person, so I try to write about that. It’s kind of my way of dealing with it, like counseling myself and not losing my mind.
– What is your favorite song on the album?
F: On Bend to Break it would be “Hate to See You Go.” It’s a song that came together well; it’s special to me. There’s also another song, “Don’t Pretend,” which is the last song on the record. It just moves me in the way I wanted it to.
– You are currently working on a new EP. How does it differ from Bend to Break?
F: It’s a lot different. Bend to Breakis something that I spent a long time writing and a long time recording, and with this [EP] I kind of just wanted to do something new and different. We are actually releasing it on Record Store Day, which is when they promote the idea of going to stores and buying CDs. It encourages people to support their local record store, which is definitely a dying breed.
– Were there any complications during the recording the new EP?
F: Yeah, I was actually sick. I had flown out to Chicago for a Myspace show, then I got back into Philly and I hadn’t slept at all, and my friend then picked me up and I went straight to the studio. We went back and redid some of the vocals, but some of them came out more real because of me being sick, and most of the tracks were done in one taping. The EP is supposed to capture how it would be if you were sitting in my living room and I was playing.
– Does it feel strange to have gone from playing with the extremely well known Taking Back Sunday, who has headlined Warped Tour, to playing as an opener for other famed bands like The All American Rejects?
F: Nah, it’s kind of like going back to my roots again. For a person who always wanted to play music, the fact that I’m still doing it makes me feel lucky. Of course, I’ve always played the same way whether I’m playing in front of 5 people or 5,000. I just love what I do and there’s nothing that weird about it. I still get to do what I love and it’s not for the fame. Actually, it’s even better because it’s my own stuff.
– What are a few things u can’t live without on tour?
F: I’m a vegan and vegetarian, so I’m always looking for good things to eat, not just broccoli. I want a good veggie burger or things that are hard to find. I’m finding a lot of it here though!
– Have you ever been “star struck” after idolizing a band for so long and then meeting them?
F: It’s usually for me like, the old classic rock guys who freak me out. I’d sound like a geek if I told you, but I grew up listening to, like, led zeppelin and those guys, but I was also around for the metal years. So there is this guitarist called Steve Vai, and I met him once and was totally weird to him. He looked at me like, “you’re a freak,” but I didn’t want to say anything because it’s weird to be in that position where you can’t explain why you feel that way. You want to say that, “you changed my life,” but it always sounds strange. Most of the ’80’s people aren’t like the guys now, so I always freak out when I see them.
– Has anything completely crazy or strange happened at a show?
F: I was helping a merch guy cut a rope recently that was tied to a pole, so I got out a knife and when the rope broke I accidentally stabbed myself in my leg, 2 inches deep. I tied up my leg and played the show and later that night I went to the hospital. It was very painful…but I made it and I have a big scar. It looks tough.
– Are there any causes or movements you are particularly passionate about?
F: Yeah, I mentioned I’m a vegetarian, and one of the main reasons for that is we are pretty passionate about preserving the environment as a band. I buy carbon offsets when we go on tour and my packaging for Bend to Break is one of the greenest packaging that I could find. It’s like all biodegradable and recycled material—except the CD, of course. I just hope that other bands can take notice of that. I just didn’t feel right putting all these plastic cases out in the world with my name on it. You have to take responsibility for those things.
– Do you have advice for anyone who is trying to pursue the musical path you’ve taken?
F: I think it’s just a matter of putting your words into action. Like, I meet a lot of people that say, “all I want to do is play in a band and play music,” and I’m like, “well what have you done today to make it happen?” Like you need to do something every single day. You need to get out of the basement and get the word out. That’s usually who gets to do it in the end.