Fine China
Gig Seeker Pro

Fine China


Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Fine China on the O.C."

Back in the spring, when I first heard Fine China's new album, The Jaws of Life, I fixated on the idea of hidden Phoenix treasures. The album's great from the first listen -- moody, Brit-styled pop, but by a band based here. The album's easily one of the best local releases of 2005 -- the perfect way to launch Fine China into the national spotlight.

That got me thinking about the imaginary line between "local bands" and "national bands."

Maybe we're more prone to distinguish between local and national here in Arizona because, well, the rest of the country hasn't figured out how much good stuff we have. It doesn't even really matter whether they're on a label -- a lot of our best bands stay under the radar.

Here at home, we might make special exceptions for hometown acts that we wouldn't make for outsiders. We forgive them their flaws, their low budgets, their shitty demos -- because we've seen them give a kick-ass live show, or maybe because we hear true potential in their songs. We wonder whether any of them have been added to the bill when a "national band" comes through on tour. Who knows if they'll ever be the next big thing?

But bands like Fine China don't need any special consideration. They just need more exposure.

On Thursday, December 8 -- tonight, if the New Times you're reading is hot off the presses -- Fine China's going to get just that when a two-minute clip of their song "My Worst Nightmare" airs on The O.C.

As in, the super-popular weeknight soap opera that's made the indie rock gospel as widespread as Chrismukkah. The O.C. is the reason Death Cab for Cutie is practically a household name, and its influential soundtrack has even spawned a series of Music From The O.C. CDs, already on volume five.

Sure, there's backlash -- in the form of snarky amusement, with most of the alternative music press poking fun at the show's trendiness, melodrama, and waifish beautiful people. I've only ever seen a couple of episodes, and it struck me as the 21st-century retread of 90210 and Melrose Place. But when it comes down to a local band getting a tiny piece of hype, I'm not too jaded to be happy for the members of Fine China.

Hey, they don't watch The O.C. , either.

I met up with singer/guitarist Rob Withem and bassist Greg Markov a few days after they found out their song was going to be aired on national television. They were glad, but not blown away about the news.

Their publicist, who had never heard back from The O.C. 's producers about his other clients, sent in the album a while ago. Withem wasn't sure why "My Worst Nightmare" was chosen, but he says the song is "about waking up and having your family not be there. Like the Rapture."

So the lyrics don't exactly match up to the show's teen angst mantra. The band read a chunk of dialogue from the episode that'll have the song, but couldn't make much of it.

"I was hoping we'd get a juicy scene," says Markov.

It's actually not the first time Fine China's had songs on TV, Withem says. "We had two songs on Just Deal four years ago, and something on MTV's Sorority Life."

Um, yeah. I can understand why these guys aren't making a big deal about the TV thing.

Besides, Fine China's been around for nine years, so this is just one more footnote in their history book. "You go through cycles with being in a band," Markov says.

Funny enough, while Withem and Markov say they're in a cycle of focusing more on local shows than national tours these days, Fine China would probably have a better chance than ever at getting a national audience right now.

Withem says, "We've been accused on every record of trying to sound like The Smiths."

"Or like Interpol and Joy Division," Markov says.

That could've been a detriment a few years ago, but with all things '80s coming back into vogue -- recent albums from The Cure and Morrissey and Depeche Mode, plus countless new New Wave bands who've carefully studied vintage sounds -- it's hardly an insult.

"When we first started, we tried to emulate people," Withem admits. "After a while, though, you try to find ways to not sound like your influences." On this album, produced by Bob Hoag, Withem says he focused more on the craft of songwriting, telling stories and developing different characters.

To be sure, the dreamy, melancholy vocals, crisp guitars, and catchy bass melodies evoke English bands from two decades ago, but there are just as many hooks that recall the best of the '60s British Invasion. In other words, it's the kind of heartfelt pop that'll sound good long after the '80s revival -- and even The O.C. -- have become cultural artifacts themselves.

Markov says Fine China doesn't aspire to be famous, but getting paid just to play music for a living would be nice. "There's always that glimmer of hope on the horizon," he says.

"But," Withem adds, "you learn to suppress it." - Phoenix New Times Magazine

"Review For Indie Workshop"

While the recycling of 80's British post-punk has been fashionable for some time now, there are very few present-day bands that have been able to inject anything new into the genre that gave us everything from Gang Of Four to Joy Division to The Smiths (just to name some of the most imitated). That a band from Arizona would be able to channel these considerable influences from over two decades ago and then deliver an album that is good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside them may sound preposterous, but that's exactly what has happened with Fine China's new album The Jaws Of Life.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about The Jaws Of Life is how fresh and original it sounds. This is largely due to the songwriting of singer/guitarist/keyboardist Robert Withem, who writes modern songs as opposed to merely rehashing the past into a nostalgic musical trip through a bygone age. Withem's songs seem to have found the elusive connecting point where American indie-rock and British post-punk intertwine, illustrating how The Cure and Pavement have more in common with each other than not. Listening to The Jaws Of Life, it's exhilarating to hear how easily and smoothly the songs weave in and out of all of these opposing influences that, under most circumstances, would almost certainly cancel each other out. Somehow, it all makes perfect sense.

From the first thirty seconds of Rated-R Movie, with its in your face Peter Hook-style "lead" bass riff breaking the church-like ambience of a subdued reed organ, I was probably already hooked. When Withem sings lines like "Panning to the left we see evidence that leads us to believe, Life could be this full for me," in his sweetly slurry delivery after which the song's chorus offered up a Brian Wilson-like falsetto backing vocal to die for, I was starting to get obsessed. After the back-to-back perfect post-pop of the tracks Are You On Drugs? ("Everybody knows that it's not love / Are you on drugs?")and And The Cells Divide (and I might ruin my life), I was thinking album of the year. I'm not fucking around here. The Jaws Of Life is a brilliant, stunning record and Withem's songs are the strongest I've heard in years.

Likewise, his lyrics are literate, dark, full of life and occasionally wonderfully droll. A few of his niftiest lyrical passes appear on I'm Sorry For The Hating and My Worst Nightmare, which effectively capture growing older and shifting priorities, as well as the aforementioned Are You On Drugs?, which is simultaneously emotionally harrowing and hilarious; "Remind me how you met / 'cause I'm a little unsure what you said / my listening skills have quite a way to go".

What may be Fine China's biggest resemblance to bands like Joy Division and The Smiths is their ability to transcend the pop idiom and turn it into something more akin to a work of art. A living, breathing piece of pure artistic expression that you can dance to as well. I've heard some great albums this year but The Jaws Of Life is by far the best. It's rekindled for me that all-consuming (almost scary) love of music that comes with the discovery of an album like The Queen Is Dead or Wowee Zowee and how it becomes a part of your being and enhances your very existence. An album like Fine China's The Jaws Of Life.

- Mark Horan | 2005-08-11

- Indie workshop

"Jaws of Life Review Arrivistepress"

If you weren't smoking dope in your buddy's basement in the 80s, you were probably hanging out in the woods behind the high school ruminating about why your parents hated you, or why the girl in home room hated you, or why the people you were hanging out with hated you.

Fine China's The Jaws of Life evokes the soundtrack to those melancholy days, with hints of The Smiths, New Order and The Cure -- and it may be the first band in a long time that deserves to be classified with such. - Arriviste Press


Fine China
No One Knows EP
1 - No One Knows
2 - In the Winter
3 - Forty-Five
4 - Your Amy

Fine China
The Beautiful 7 inch
Side A - I'm Sorry
Side B - In the Winter

Fine China
Rialto Bridge EP
1 - Comforting. Gondoliering
2 - Standby
3 - I'm Sorry (Joy Electric Remix)
4 - Rialto Bridge

Fine China
When the World Sings
1 - We Rock Harder Than You Ever Knew
2 - Labor Saving Device
3 - When The World Sings
4 - They Will Love Us For Our Instruments
5 - Give Us A Treble
6 - The Patient
7 - For All Centuries
8 - Comforting, Gonoliering
9 - I Dropped A Bomb On Your Heart
10 - Young And Having Fun

Fine China
You Make Me Hate Music
1 - Hug Every Friend
2 - The Unsuccessful
3 - Rock Can't Last Forever
4 - Don't Say Nothing
5 - You Were A Saint
6 - Boo To The Freaks
7 - The World Wants Me Dead
8 - Your Heart Was Made Of Gold
9 - You Ain't Happy
10 - Forget The Experts

Fine China
Down Frown 7 Inch
Side A - Don't Frown
Side B - Chicago Lovelife (exclusive song)

Fine China
The Jaws of Life
1-Rated-R Movie
2-Don't Frown
3-Are You On Drugs?
4-The Cells Divide
5-Skull and Crossbones
7-I'm Sorry for the Hating
8-I Can't Fall Asleep
9-Moving Up
10-My Worst Nightmare
11-Prosecute Electrocute
12-Person of the Month


Feeling a bit camera shy


The perfect pop song is universally accessible. Although it is inherently simple, creating it is not. Bands come and go, but the art of writing the perfect pop song will never go out of style. Few artists possess the talent to create songs that evoke the true masters: The Smiths, The Jam, New Order, and all other bands that have achieved pop perfection. Fine China (Rob Withem, Greg Markov, and Thom Walsh), over the course of their two full-length records and numerous EPs and singles have consistently crafted such songs.

Fine China’s first two albums released by Tooth and Nail Records were so well received by fans and critics alike that they are guaranteed a space in the hearts and shelves of pop-lovers everywhere. In live performance they reveal the truly dynamic range of their albums and show a tenderness and intensity that allows them to powerfully connect with their audience. Fine China have polished their sound in the studio with the unique production talents of Joy Electric’s Ronnie Martin on When the World Sings and Starflyer 59’s Jason Martin on You Make Me Hate Music. Thanks to the success of those two records and the hard work that Fine China has put in touring over the years, playing with national acts such as The Faint, Pedro the Lion, Joy Electric and Gene, they have amassed a fan base that has been waiting, not too patiently, for the next step.

In the fall of 2004 the band returned to the studio to record their most poignant practice in the art of pop, a third LP The Jaws of Life. Arizona’s recording virtuoso, Bob Hoag, produced the record with the band and gave it a sound that is more layered and complex, but still distinctly Fine China. And while the album makes sense sonically in the context of their last two records, it certainly defines a new direction for the band. As the title suggest, it is an album about life, and just as certain moments if life leave lasting impressions, so this album subtly grips your psyche. The record is an expression of the complexity of life, but to listen to it is a simple pleasure.

Leading up to the release of The Jaws of Life by Tempe, AZ indie label Common Wall Media, Velvet Blue Music released a pink vinyl preview 7” in February containing the song “Don’t Frown” and an exclusive B-side. And later this year, Common Wall Media will be releasing a special edition CD single for the song “Rated-R Movie” that will include a remix of “Prosecute Electrocute” by Joy Electric’s Ronnie Martin, two live songs, and an acoustic track. Also in the works is a music video for “Rated-R Movie” to be directed by Jeff Newton. Common Wall Media in cooperation with Newton will be promoting the video to music video channels as well as submitting it to film festivals.

In the course of the many years that Fine China has been making music, a lot of people have tried to classify what they do and what they will become. The answer is that Fine China make pop music—the kind that gets you excited about being in love with music, the kind that fuels the dance-floor and gently tugs at your heart.

For more insight on process of writing and recording The Jaws of Life, check out the on-line recording journal on the Fine China Web Site.