Interview with Fractures
photos by Mclean Stephenson
“I don’t have any contractual obligations to be a sad boy, merely an affinity for it,” says singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Zito. Better known as Fractures to his fans, he has accumulated over 38 million streams with various singles as well as his two accredited LPs: 2014’s ‘Fractures’ and 2017’s ‘Still Here’. Now, he’s back with an EP titled ‘Reset’, capturing the sensation of a shift in life; a universal concept easy to be swept up in.
“I did try to veer away from writing similarly themed songs, but it seemed like it was on my mind enough that it warranted the output; maybe for the catharsis as much as anything,” the Australian artist explains. “I suppose it wasn’t entirely conscious, but it felt necessary to reflect.” And it’s not just the lyrics, but the whole atmosphere that Mark has created that evokes this sentiment, where each thoughtfully-strummed chord or wavering synth seems like a reflection.
“Lyrics come last for me. Every other part of the process comes first, and that’s including melody, so the songs themselves, or at least the instrumentation probably, inform the ‘vibe’ or mood as much as anything. But I’m at a point in my life where these thoughts come to mind. [I’m] exiting my late 20’s, and the landscape changes around you in so many ways that it’s hard not to take stock and react, or at least ponder on what’s in store for me and my life, especially given the sporadic nature of the industry I’m in,” he observes.
Out of the five tracks, he feels that writing “Splinter” was the most natural expression of these kinds of thoughts. “[It’s] probably the song that came about the most organically for me so it holds a special place. It encapsulates a little moment of angst and stress, though not particularly pronounced, that I was dealing with. I was caught in between the aftermath of an album having been released that had performed admirably but not necessarily taken me to the level I was hoping, and then a period of stagnation, waiting for the next big thing to come, and I was floundering somewhat. The song is a meditation on that moment in time, as well as looking forward to the unknown and not wanting to ultimately look back on a life half-lived.”
Mark describes his music as “sad, pensive” - the name “Fractures” relating to a sense of darkness under the surface - yet also “somehow uplifting”. And despite its contemplative themes, this EP in particular has a sense of something brighter in the production compared to his previous releases. “I’m certainly more drawn to the earnest, emotionally stirring side of music when it comes to composing, so I don’t think that will ever go,” he says. But he notices more of a “balance” this time, with some light in the mix as well as dark.
He illustrates his creation of the soundscape as quite free-flowing, allowing the song itself to take the instrumentation where it wants to go. “It’s never really a specific reaction to anything, nor is the final result always representative of how the song itself was started,” he notes. “Reset and Dawn were largely driven by the synth patches that bring them in, but in the layering process the guitars became the prominent feature incidentally. So it definitely wasn’t a distinct plan, but ultimately I must’ve been in that mindset. It’s very much a matter of putting myself on a path with an initial idea and then following it to completion. The process seems to sort itself out without having any real format, which is probably a good thing.”
While he doesn’t impose any limitations while crafting Fractures’ soundscape, exploring production has given him a sense of self-reliance to build his soundscape more consciously from the beginning. “It probably began as an evolution of my stockpiling and archiving of little instrumental doodles I’d have as a pubescent man/boy/boyman, and started to really gather momentum when I tried my hand at singing on top of these doodles,” he recalls. “My ’sound’ started to take shape to compliment what was coming out of my little mouth. I suppose that was the basis of it all, and now rather than merely trying to find a vehicle for my voice, the prospect of challenging myself to adapt to different styles and sounds is what pushes me along; the general concept of not repeating myself is ever-present in the process. But as much as anything, I like to have control of all aspects, and until that changes I guess I’ll just keep doing my own thing.”
But doing his own thing hasn’t kept Mark from producing for other artists as well, most recently including work for Australian artists such as Kezra and Essie Holt. He compares this process to developing songs for Fractures, remarking how both experiences offer opportunities for growth. “I’m less bound by a brief or a specific direction in making my own music, so I can follow my inclinations without boundaries or a pressing need to conform to a certain style. It’s more exploratory I suppose, whereas producing another artist is something more of a compromise, but not in a negative sense. It often pulls me in a direction I’d otherwise veer away from in my solo work when it comes to a point of melding an artist’s different influence into a new product. So as much as I’m bound by their tastes, it allows me to flex my creative muscles (and sometimes my actual muscles - don’t ask) in a way which I hadn’t before, which I enjoy very much and undoubtedly it permeates my own work when the time comes to focus on it.”
Just before the release of ‘Reset’ in January, he also surprised us with a rendition of Halsey, Khalid, and Benny Blanco’s collaboration “Eastside” at the close of 2018. What inspired this spontaneous cover? “It was a challenge laid out for me, really,” he answers. “Covers don’t enter my thought process all that regularly, so when it was mentioned I guess I tried to find something as far removed from my own leanings as possible so I could dissect it and start again. Eastside fit the bill. I enjoy the song for what it is, though - just a simple and solid pop tune with a relatable narrative and a bunch of hooks. I enjoyed the process similarly to how I would producing another artist - I didn’t really have Fractures in mind at all, so that gave me as broad a scope as you can ask for to try and put my print on it as well as show off a side of me that’s perhaps less familiar.” Creating a trance of melodic guitars floating on a softer palette, while still keeping the persistent rhythms of the original track, it’s apparent that Mark has versatility.
Coming out of Melbourne, there’s something in Fractures’ sound that captures the essence of where Australian music is right now. And there seems to be a special something that Aussies are bringing forward; perhaps a reminder of why we listen to music in the first place. “I guess the isolation has to affect it somewhat,” he remarks. “We’re all the way down here in this fishbowl of a musical environment, so there’s a connectedness between everyone in the scene. Even if you don’t know people intimately, you know of them, so there’s definitely a communal vibe to the whole thing and it brews its own tasty musical soup that is somewhat removed from the rest of the world. Melbourne is also a culture-hungry city and people need their nourishment, so here we are, us musos, trying to fill that void.” This authentic quality seems not to be restricted to just one continent, though - it has the potential to fill a void worldwide, and Fractures might be the next to do so.
“I have a big archive of songs that cover all genres that I’ve amassed over the last 3 or so years. My intention is to drip feed them out to the unsuspecting public over the course of year, and win their hearts and favour. A couple of live shows here and there to spark things back up again - it’s been a while, so baby steps for me. Hopefully some live videos, and I am making every effort to get out of Australia this year to show my wares off to anyone who’ll listen in the US and hopefully beyond.” Whatever Mark has in store, we’ll be listening.
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