Fredonia rock musician leads a band aiming for the big time

Ozaukee Press staff

Jotham Higginbotham of Fredonia didn’t dream of being the lead singer of a rock band.

Band members’ parents didn’t claim the group had no future and didn’t say practices were too loud.

They actually came up with the idea. 

In what could be construed as the opposite of a traditional band’s origin, Higginbotham became the reluctant frontman of an increasingly popular group called Fall Back.

“At first I don’t think many of us wanted to do it. I think our parents made us do it,” Higginbotham said. “My mom forced me to join the little rock band thing.”

That little rock band is now performing around the state, playing some of its own music and planning to release an album within a year. It shot its first music video a few weeks ago.

Fall Back started six years ago, the summer before Higginbotham was to be a freshman at Ozaukee High School. He had been taking piano lessons at West Bend Music Academy, and that summer, prodded by his parents, he joined a band with students who had taken guitar and drum lessons.

He didn’t know any of his new band mates, but the group worked together to play some cover songs.

“It was supposed to be just for one summer. We did a couple of small shows around the West Bend area and a small stage at Summerfest,” Higginbotham said.

The five-member band stuck together throughout the school year and got busy again in summer when the gigs kept coming.

The original bass player and drummer have left due to school and work — “no drama,” Higginbotham said — but the rest remain, united by one thing.

“I would say probably just a general love for music. I think we all enjoy what we do, even though we have other stuff going on, work, school or whatever,” Higginbotham said.

The band wrote its first song, “Endlessly,” a couple of years ago.

“We recorded it and everything at this little studio in some guy’s house in West Bend,” Higginbotham said.

Fall Back has since found a studio in Menomonee Falls, got a new producer and released three singles. Its first, “Save Yourself,” was the moment Higginbotham said he and the rest of the band thought they “made it.”

Fall Back plays rock/pop/punk music. Higginbotham said musical influences largely come from early 2000s punk rock groups such as Green Day, My Chemical Romance and the Offspring.

The band’s original songs start with the music. The guitar player writes a riff, and a melody develops from there, along with a chord progression.

Higginbotham does the lyrics using ideas from across the radio dial.

“I’m all over the place — country, theater, mostly rock and roll,” he said of his listening habits.

“It helps me when writing songs, taking a little inspiration from each of those styles.”

Higginbotham also uses literary works. He likes books by Tom Clancy and James Patterson, along with the “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” series.

“I used to be a really big reader back in the day,” he said. “Poetry really helps. They go hand in hand really — trying to intertwine a motive in an entire song. It’s cool to get that in song writing too.”

Higginbotham doesn’t have formal voice training beyond high school choir, but he has a few frontman role models. He tries to mimic the style of “great vocalist” Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie. Luther Vandross and 1990s rhythm and blues are “a whole different genre from what I do, but there are little pieces you can pick up,” he said. And he watches Freddie Mercury of Queen, “one of the best to ever do it.”

Higginbotham came up with the name Fall Back during a brainstorming session, and it stuck.

The parents continue to be supportive, but found one area of improvement for their sons, urging them to dress better than T-shirts and khaki shorts. Now, band members wear black button-down shirts with red vests.

The band’s manager, Tim Prasch, father of lead guitarist Michael, helps Fall Back land gigs.

Higginbotham fits music in around his rough carpentry job. The schedule is one of the biggest challenges.

The band recently performed four times in a six-day stretch. They arrive at gigs two hours early, usually play for four hours with two 15-minute breaks, then stay two hours afterward to take down, getting home in the wee hours of the morning.

The band plays about 60 songs. The lineup usually starts with “My Worst Enemy” by Lit and ends with “Flat Bottom Girls” by Queen. In between are 1980s music and 1970s classic rock.

Typical crowd members are 18 to 35 years old, Higginbotham said, but Tom Petty and Creedence Clearwater Revival songs appeal to an older demographic.

“We kind of hit all age groups, which is cool,” he said.

The band tells the audience when it will play its own songs.

“It’s super cool to see the crowd get into the music. They’ve never heard it before,” Higginbotham said.

Fall Back gets paid, but puts “a good amount back into the band’s bank account in case we ever need to get more lights or speakers,” he said.

Higginbotham said his favorite part of performing is “just making good music together as a group, with a group of guys you’re buddies with.”

They spent 15 hours together filming their music video for “Pump It.”

The long-term goal, Higginbotham said, is to make it big and be full-time musicians. Regardless, he likes to reminisce about Fall Back’s progress so far.

“It’s crazy to think about being 15 years old, not really knowing what you’re doing and now we’re here getting big,” he said.

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