From Good Homes in 1995 while recording their RCA Records debut LP, “Open Up the Sky.” Pictured from left to right: Jamie Coan, Todd Sheaffer, Brady Rymer, Patrick Fitzsimmons, and Dan Myers. PHOTO BY VICTOR GUADAGNO
It’s an honor for me to be featured so prominently in the new From Good Homes documentary, “Charlie Loves Our Band,” directed by Victor Guadagno, who also produced with the beloved Northwest Jersey band’s members: Todd Schaeffer, vocals/guitar; Patrick Fitzsimmons, drums/vocals; Brady Rymer, bass/vocals; Dan Myers, saxophones/melodica, and Jamie Coan, fiddle/mandolin.
But my much-appreciated screen time is not why I love the film so much. I love it because it lovingly does justice to one of Garden State’s greatest homegrown talents, a talent that was treated extremely unjustly by the oxymoron known as the music business after years of DIY touring the nation to rapturous fans. Nowhere, however, are From Good Homes more loved than in their native New Jersey.
In preview of three opportunities fans have to express that love, I chatted with all five members in an email interview coordinated by Vic, a longtime fan of the band who is an independent filmmaker. He will present his film on Sept. 15 at Lake Mohawk Country Club in his and From Good Home’s hometown of Sparta. All five members of the band will participate in a dinner before the screening and Q&A with Vic after the screening, all for only $40 online here. Two days later, FGH will return to The Fields at Waterloo in Allamuchy for what’s sure to be another sellout concert there. Tickets are $40-$60 and available for purchase here. All that excitement has been preceded by a stream of the film on Relix Cinema through Sept. 1.
Enjoy the following chat with the boys, and let’s hope it’s not too long before they reunite again!
Who is Charlie, and why did you name a song and movie after him?
Todd: I didn't name the movie, but (laughs) … the name for the movie, I think, came about in the same way that the song came about. It was an attempt to honor the tremendous friendship and support between a band and its loving fans.
Charlie could be any one of many people. The song and the movie celebrate the relationship that the band, From Good Homes, has shared and developed and nurtured -- and that nurturing goes both ways … Band to audience, audience to band over many years.
Brady: Charlie is the everyday fan. It was so sweet to have such dedicated supporters and friends, and there were some nights when there was one person in the stand, you know, and it could be any anyone. What's great is I know a lot of people think that they're Charlie Hogan.
Dan: I don’t think Charlie is any one person although we’ve had more than a few believe they were Charlie.
Jamie: I've always understood this to be a fictional character who represents our most devoted fan(s). A few have claimed the title.
What do you each like most about ‘Charlie Loves Our Band,’ the documentary?
Todd: I would have to watch it many more times because there are so many things about it that I love. I love seeing old friends and faces and I love seeing their joy and their spirit, and I love reliving old moments. I think what I love most maybe is … that I felt inspired by it. And what more can you do with a movie than inspire people? I think I'm not alone in having that reaction.
The filmmaker did an amazing job of capturing that and embodying that and, of course, bringing his own inspiration to it. So, I think more than anything, I left the movie feeling fired up.
Patrick: I love how so much of the story is told from the fans’ perspective, and how the FGH fan is just as important to the story as the band. As it should be!
Brady: I loved the pure energy with the fans and with the band and the time -- the energy of the music and friendships and just the vibe and the spirit. It was so alive. When you're living it through it, you don't notice, and to see it this many years later, it just really charged me up, put a smile on my face. It was just such a beautiful gift.
You know, in this day and age, you have so much video content. Back then, you were lucky to get a photograph from a gig or something, but Vic was always there with the cameras going. And it's nice to see what Vic was actually doing there!
Dan: I loved seeing all that old footage, much of which I didn’t know existed.
Jamie: I love the fact that the story of the band has been documented. Also, that a number the high-energy shows of days gone by have been captured for posterity. It's a good minor success story!
How does the band know Vic Guadagno, why did you want him to make a movie about you, and why was he qualified to do so?
Todd: Vic knows the band as well as anyone and clearly knows his craft. So that's why he is uniquely qualified. I don't think there's anyone who would be more qualified, because Vic's been there from the beginning to the end and has been a friend.
We sort of knew that he was documenting things, but to see all that come to fruition after all these years is amazing. And it makes you realize, there was a lot more of a vision going on.
Patrick: Vic went to high school with me, Brady and Todd in Sparta. He was actually in Brady’s grade. He’s always been documenting our journey in one way or another. He’s done plenty of photo shoots for us and has a boatload of videos he shot from the old days.
He would frequently come out on tour with us to shoot footage and help out. He’s been wanting to make a film about us for a long time now. In the past 15 years or so, he has gotten really involved in video production and began making documentaries and started his own production company.
Brady: We know Vic from all the way back to grade school, and because of his long, beautiful relationship with this band and always wanting to document things. He should be credited with the first podcast because he used to carry around an audio recorder – the ‘audio log.’
And I think that he had the right touch. He was there, firsthand, so there was nobody better to do it.
Dan: Vic … has avidly followed the band from the start.
Todd Sheaffer, far left; Brady Rymer on bass and Patrick Fitzsimmons far right on the second set of drums in an early pre-From Good Homes band based in Sparta. PHOTO BY VICTOR GUADAGNO
How far do each of you live from the band’s original base of Sparta?
Todd: I live maybe 20 minutes from Sparta.
Patrick: I live in Middlebury, VT.
Brady: I live 150 miles away.
Jamie: I live 892 miles from my house to the Lake Mohawk Country Club!
If any of you still have family and friends in Sparta, how often do you visit them?
Todd: I'm blessed to still have my folks around and, they live in Sparta, and we visit as often as we can. And my sister Julie lives right down the road from me, so my family's still here. I feel more blessed every day that I still live near my family. I don't go to Sparta to hang out with friends as much. My life is a little further west of Sparta at this point, but I think there are still people there -- oddly enough, in the last few years, there are more people who have come back around.
Patrick: I do, and I probably get down to NJ four or five times a year.
Brady: We still definitely have friends in Sparta, and I go out there and play at the Celebrate the Children's school quite a bit. That connection to Jersey is always there. No matter how long you've been away, it always picks right back up.
Jamie: I have a few friends in Sparta who I see about once a year. My sister lives in Florham Park, NJ.
From Good Homes today. Pictured from let to right are Brady Rymer, Todd Sheaffer, Dan Myers, Jamie Coan, and Patrick Fitzsimmons. PHOTO BY TRACER ROCK PHOTOGRAPHY
What are each of you doing now, what do you enjoy most about that, what is happening now and/or coming up with that work?
Todd: I'm still busy with Railroad Earth. We released a new record a few months ago, called ‘All for the Song.’ It's been a very busy year and especially a very busy summer. Things are starting to get back to normal post-COVID. During COVID, I expanded what I do as a solo artist, and I’m doing a bit more of that these days. So, I'm busy playing music.
Patrick: I’m still doing the singer-songwriter thing but not nearly as much as the first 10 years after FGH broke up. I continue to write and hope to get back in the studio to record some new tunes this winter.
I have a landscape company, specializing in dry laid stonework that keeps me busy from spring to fall, and I try to play out more in the winter.
Brady: I play music for kids and families and just released my 12th studio album, called ‘That Friday Feeling.’ I’m touring the new material this summer, and I'm traveling abroad, which I’m really looking forward to -- meeting some new people for the first time and playing these songs to people who've never heard them.
I really enjoyed making this record because it had been two years of COVID, locked down and doing things just on the computer and livestream. So, it was just really great to get the whole band back together (The Little Band That Could), and just to bang these songs out in the studio and then to get out this summer and to release it and to play.
A lot of my current music reminds me of From Good Homes. It's very positive, gets people going, and brings people together as a community. I never thought playing music for kids and families would be this way, but it's just really rewarding. They're up on their feet from the first note, and they’re rocking. It's a really sweet gig … really nice energy.
Dan: I teach music for autistic students at a school in Denville.
Jamie: I am officially retired from the work force. I still play music locally with a few different formats, and I do some handyman work. I like that I can set my own schedule and work as much or as little as I want to. I'll continue to play as long as I am able to do so.
From Good Homes in the mid-’90s after releasing the DYI debut LP, “Hick Pop Comin’ at Ya’” upon signing with RCA Records. Pictured from left to right are Patrick Fitzsimmons, Brady Rymer, Dan Meyers, Todd Sheaffer and Jamie Coan. PHOTO BY VICTOR GUADAGNO
What did each of you learn from being in FGH that you apply to what you’re doing now?
Patrick: Make it fun!
Brady: I learned how to play the bass (laughs), and I learned how to play with a band, learned my role as a bass player. I learned about songwriting, and how to follow the waves of the music with the band.
I learned how to create a community with the art and the message and the content that can naturally happen with just believing in what you're doing as a band -- just playing our instruments together. We just trusted that and just let that grow. What the film also shows is this beautiful community of people enjoying something and expressing something and getting together and having something … together.
Jamie: I've learned to listen to what other band members have to contribute and about what works musically. Also, about song arrangements and ‘tightness.’
How many shows have FGH done since reuniting in 2009?
Patrick: According to our manager, Waterloo will be No. 57.
What’s coming up for both the band and the film?
Todd: We have a screening coming up, Sept. 15 in Sparta, and the whole band will be there for a question and answer. That will be a great celebration. And on Sept. 17, we have our annual concert at Waterloo, which is our old, historic stomping grounds.
Patrick: Hopefully the film continues to make its way around with screenings and film festivals. There have been screenings in NJ, Denver, and Montpelier, VT so far.
People seem to be loving this film. Vic had a screening up here in VT a few weeks ago that was so fun. I played a set of music before the film and then Vic and I did a Q&A session after. Most the audience had never heard of the band but were still completely engaged in the story.
Brady: We'll probably do our winter holiday show somewhere. And with the film, it’s streaming through Relix Cinema (Aug. 18 – Sept. 1) and entered into film festivals. So, lots of promotion of the film and our usual kind of couple-times-a-year gigs.
Jamie: I'm looking forward to the screening of the film on 09/15/22 and the show at Waterloo on 09/17/22.
Will a soundtrack from the film be released? If so, when and how?
Patrick: Something’s in the works but no release date yet.
Brady: Yeah, there will be. And we'll just keep everyone posted on when.
I thought the reunion LP, ‘Time and the River,’ was one of FGH’s best albums. Any plans to record another studio LP or an EP or single? If so, when, and are you performing any of the material live? If not, why?
Todd: Well, we have discussed doing some more stuff, but there are no immediate plans. The biggest hurdle is always logistics. People are spread out, and people are busy, but we love playing and we love recording. And every time we get together, good things happen. So, I sure hope so, but it's just a matter of logistics.
Patrick: No plans yet, but I think we’d all love to get back in the studio again if schedules allow.
Brady: We are keeping our eyes open for another opportunity where we can get together. Like we did with ‘Time and The River,’ to just go in and create without any distractions.
What was so great about ‘Time and The River’ is that we didn't have any goal in mind. We just had days open where we could just kind of connect again as a band and play. And it just so happened that we got a lot of song ideas, and we were able to do it. We worked hard at honing that material in for that album.
I think that it would be great if we could find some more time to record again. I think we're all really into that. We had a blast making ‘Time and The River.’
Dan: I think one of the great things about ‘Time and the River’ is that it’s mostly live performances. I would love to record another album soon. It’s tricky because geographically we are kind of all spread out. Todd and I are currently the only Jersey boys.
Jamie: I agree that ‘Time and the River’ is one of our best efforts. I think it captures the spirit and sound of the band very well. We've talked about getting together again for the purpose of composing and recording, but these plans have not become solid.
Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
Brady: I'm just really happy that this film is out, and I can't wait for people to see it!
Todd: Thanks for the name ‘Hick Pop’!