Best of Utah Music 2015 Winners | Best of Utah Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Best of Utah Music 2015 Winners 

Meet the champs: Fictionist, House of Lewis and J Godina

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FICTIONIST
"I think we brought some of the true spirit of rock & roll: Electrical cords were being chopped in half, and we blew up half of the P.A., and Robbie [Connolly] screamed his voice out," says Stuart Maxfield, co-lead vocalist and bassist in Provo/Salt Lake City pop-rock band Fictionist. "We had a number of technical catastrophes, but it added to the spontaneity of the night—we just rolled with it." Fictionist might be able to point out some things that didn't go perfectly during their Best of Utah Music showcase, but to the audience and judges, it was a high-powered performance that was bursting at the seams with raw musical talent.

And in the end, what Fictionist left the amped-up crowd with was the impression they'd just witnessed something truly special—even if it wasn't exactly what the band had in mind before they took the stage. "Shows like that, I always have to remind myself that things going as planned doesn't always mean good," Maxfield says. "And when they don't go as planned, that doesn't mean bad. That's the fun of live music, especially with the stuff that we play. I don't think we ever know exactly what's going to happen."

If there were a dictionary entry for the phrase "rolling with the punches," next to it would be a picture of Fictionist. Whether they're adapting during an unpredictable show or, on a larger scale, thriving despite setbacks and changes during their journey as a band, Fictionist have rallied to leap over every hurdle placed in their path. And even though they now have a Best of Utah Music win under their belt, Fictionist don't have plans to treat their victory like a shortcut to glory. Instead, they're sticking to the plan that's served them best over the years: working hard and pressing forward.

"One thing I've learned, it's that the legitimacy of an artist, in my mind, is just a matter of good work spread over time," Maxfield says. "I don't really have any intention of cheating the learning curve or the natural progression or timeline of things at this point. I want our work to speak for itself, and I'm willing to embrace whatever that means as far as time is concerned at this point."

That's not to say being declared the 2015 Best Band isn't a welcome windfall for Fictionist after the challenges they had to face in the past couple of years. "Being able to win this thing is a good reminder that there's a million reasons why we should keep doing what we're doing," says guitarist and co-lead vocalist Connolly. "As an artist, sometimes, when it's your own thing, you might have moments where you're like, 'Man, what am I doing?'" he says with a laugh.

Regrouping after leaving a dysfunctional, high-pressure working relationship with Atlantic Records in late 2013 was no easy task, but Fictionist came out on the other side with a renewed musical vision, which they poured into their album Fictionist—their first since their 2012 self-titled EP—released in fall 2014. And since debuting that album locally at the Rooftop Concert Series' massive five-year anniversary show in the summer, Fictionist's future is looking brighter than ever.

"The Rooftop show was exciting, it was big, it was all new music," Connolly says. Since then, "we got to tour, and I feel like we've gotten tighter, and we're actually performing that music even better now." As a band, "you're always making changes, dialing things in, and so ... I think that people have seen, 'OK, cool, they're still working hard, they're doing it.' And keeping the momentum going has been a huge priority to us."

And they're maintaining that momentum the good old-fashioned way. "We're at the point where we're just making the best art we can," Connolly says, "and not worrying too much about what comes out of it besides just us being able to do what we do."

Fictionist has big things on the horizon, including multiple showcases at this year's South by Southwest festival in Texas, playing as many shows as they can, and getting cracking on their next album. "We have a vision for the next step we're going to do, we're excited to do that," Maxfield says. "That's the joy of making music—it starts out as an idea, and then it becomes a song, and then becomes a show—that's the fun of it."

According to Maxfield, listeners can look forward to new Fictionist material soon. "We are on a roll writing," he says. "We had a very positive experience with the last record, and we're feeling really creative and motivated currently. So we're sitting on a pretty big stack of—in my opinion—pretty rad songs."

And that new music will reflect the creative freedom Fictionist discovered post-Atlantic as they wrote and recorded Fictionist, as well as the lighter perspective Maxfield is now writing from. "There's the musical journey and then there's a personal journey that all of us as human beings are on, and I feel like I'm a happier person—not sure that that has to do with the band or anything," he says. "I just think that I'm feeling happier, and I think that the music feels a little more carefree and that's probably because I'm just in a better place."

But no matter what happens next in their career and wherever the winds of change might blow, the members of Fictionist are staying true to themselves and their vision.

"It might be pretentious for me to try to make predictions about the trajectory of things," Maxfield says. "Everything that I've experienced has taught me that it's entirely out of my control anyway, so I'm just enjoying this moment and looking forward to writing better music and keeping on trucking."

Fictionist
Fictionist.com

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Best Musical Magic
BAT MANORS
It's a testament to the musical talent of Provo chamber-pop group Bat Manors that they don't have to rely on crazy stage antics to get people's attention—they only have to let their ethereal music work its magic, and the audience is given all the reason they need to hang on every note, transfixed. Compared to the rest of the lineup Feb. 21 at 50 West Club, Bat Manor's performance was the mellowest, but it was by no means any less engaging to watch. And as the flawless harmonies between lead vocalist/guitarist Adam Klopp and vocalist/xylophone player Katrina Ricks floated through the venue, time seemed to temporarily stop. Despite a few obnoxiously loud conversationalists at the back of the room, Bat Manors put on a performance that made the audience feel like they'd been a part of something truly unforgettable.

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