Do you like the band Flyleaf? Do you like to read? Here’s something made with you in mind! Flyleaf Spreads Their Wings, a digital edition of which was offered three months ago for review, is about the “Christian but not Christian” band Flyleaf, who is currently apparently on hiatus.
The book was written by Carl Phelan, who is (guitarist) Jared Hartmann‘s grandfather and a former math teacher. Flyleaf Spreads Their Wings retains considerable professional distance – much more then you’d expect of something written by a blood relative. The first 240 pages are basically a giant compilation of items a reader can find on Google: tour dates, press releases, concert reviews, and the like. It’s a distanced, “dry” read, and to a music journalist, “it reads like a one-sheet” summarizes chapters 1-11 nicely.
The main strength of the book is how comprehensive it is – it puts a lot of historical information immediately at a fan’s fingertips. The other strength of the book is illustrating how the band is perceived by others.
Historical information is copious and presented “like a textbook” – very clear and concise. The first 240 pages of this book are pretty much all historical information relating to the band. With the chapter beginnings and endings being so similar, a reader might get a fleeting “will this be on the test?” stab of nostalgia back to their school days as the words pass by. With Flyleaf’s melodic alt-rock genre and style geared towards younger, and sometimes teen, listeners, this might not be as deja vu as it seems.
Chapters are both introduced and ended with “summaries”, which read like this:
“Flyleaf played a total of 139 Concerts for the year 2007. They did tours with Three Days Grace, Skillet, Dropping Daylight, Kill Hannah, Sick Puppies, Resident Hero, Korn, Evanescence, Trivium, Atreyu, and Hell Yeah in America. They did a Tour in Australia with Thrice, Deftones and Eighteen Visions. They also did a short tour of the UK with Stone Sour. They also attended several Fairs, Festivals and some radio stations. They received a multitude of positive reviews from Newspapers, Magazine and other Periodicals.”
Each chapter basically contains every review or press blurb the band generated within that year’s time-frame. Each quote is preceded by a very brief introduction, like this: “The Soundwave Festival in Australia comments on their upcoming event:” Quotes are not organized chronologically as they occurred throughout that particular chapter’s year, or by any other readily-discernible cohesive subject thread. The quotes are pretty much just thrown in, per year. The book could use some very serious editorial guidance here. Keeping the reader thinking about ‘upcoming events’, then ‘reviews of recent events’, then ‘gear talk’, has a much more natural flow then reading a show review followed by a fan quip followed up by an upcoming show press release. Think of it like teaching in a “battery” – you work first on one subject, then another, then another… not skipping around randomly.
The other strength of Flyleaf Spreads Their Wings is how extensive the research is, in to what others think and say about the band. Hundreds of press quips, album and concert reviews, fan letters, fan experiences, and even some religious evangelism make their way in to the many pages. The band is portrayed as nearly universally loved by their fans, and it’s not just one person doing the talking. This methodical point really shores up an argument that the band had, and has, something great to offer their chosen scene. Professional opinion, as from reviews, is positive, as is ‘lay’ or fan opinion. Phelan was careful to include some items that show the band is not perfect, is not universally regarded as ‘the best band in the world’, and is composed of human beings. That lends additional credence to the book, by presenting multiple viewpoints.
The book does have some issues, which Phelan has mentioned “may be corrected in future editions”. That he plans to issue another edition shows his devotion to his subject, which is fantastic. Some issues and their solutions might be: other then in Chapter 15, captioning photos with either text underneath or rollover text would serve to ‘date’ them and would be helpful to new fans. “Pull quotes”, selected outlined quotes from fans and the band, would serve to invigorate the text, and make it more compelling and vibrant. In 2014, the digital book format doesn’t have to look like a 1997 website. Chapter 14, “Inspirational Messages from Flyleaf Fans Around the World”, is composed of ‘what read like’ pull quotes; Phelan could have used these within the text to make it ‘pop’. Condensing the lists, such as the tour dates and per-chapter bibliographies, into a multiple column format would save both digital white-space and reader scroll time.
The band doesn’t get a personality until 240 pages in to the book, which is very unfortunate. When readers finally do get to hear the band speak, it’s in Chapter 12, “In Their Own Words”. Here’s where you’ll find the tour stories, quips, and anecdotes that “humanize” these pages, separating Flyleaf from pretty much every other successful mid-level rock band of the era. This is where the magic begins. Chapter 13 is a collection of letters, Twitter tweets, posts, and the like from fans. It is the “digital scrapbook” Phelan envisioned. While touching and personal, the letters again are not consistently dated, nor arranged in any sort of discernible manner – it’s just sort of random. That’s kind of what you get when you run a Google search for this kind of ephemera, so, it falls back in to the “search engine trap” here.
Carl Phelan’s Flyleaf Spreads Their Wings is an excellent resource for both ‘new’ and ‘old’ fans of Flyleaf. It’s a great Flyleaf collector’s item; something that surely shines a positive light onto the band and their following. There is a lot of great information here, and it’s a relatively fast and “factual”, dry read. Given that it’s shortcomings are editorial and not content-related, it has a lot of potential. Working out those editorial issues (and fixing typos, like making sure to spell Pittsburgh correctly) would make the book command it’s price.
Oh, the book has an official website!