NF: Adult Contemporary. Because I’m 27 years old, as I live and breathe.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
NF: Not sure. But I wait well. And I can hold on to small encouragements: a phrase, a melody, a scrap of information. A few years ago I watched a documentary about the explorer, Earnest Shackleton. I learned that his crew would boil their boots and belts for food, that they lost a pony through a crack in the ice, and that they’d sing to keep their spirits up. They would sing as they rowed, froze, and starved in their lifeboats. Last year, I wrote a song called “Explorer.” I suppose I drew some inspiration from the Shackleton documentary, but then I also drew some from this Swedish vodka company called Explorer. And there was some other stuff in between.
CH.89: What made you all want to start a band?
NF: Probably MTV.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new album?
NF: It’s like the plans you make, in excited minutes, with someone you’ve just met. Plans not meant to turn out. This used to happen to me more in Paris. Where there’s plenty of charm and loneliness. The plans don’t come to anything, but you wouldn’t take them back. They help in the moment. When I’m working on a new batch of songs, I hatch all kinds of plans. But I don’t trust them.
CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?
NF: What did Oscar Wilde say to the customs official? “My beautiful genius”? If I don’t have the guts to say it to Homeland Security, I might at least admit it here. I think it’s an old spy trick, to confess to something more embarrassing than the truth. I just don’t have the stomach to say something like, “I just want to connect”. Sure, I do. But I want to connect on rather specific terms. I suppose I am forfeiting any chance of sounding cool here. But there are certain things that I don’t expect anyone to pick up on, but it’d melt my heart if they did. For example, the song “A Wash of Teeth and Eyes”. I wrote that song around the time our drummer Robin had part of his arm amputated because of cancer. Death and illness tend to be decent topics for songs, but I can get a little uneasy about exploiting a friend’s trouble. So I took some words and some tricks from Milton’s Lycidas to speed me through. In Lycidas, Milton exploits the death of a classmate to dig into his own grief as a young poet. It was instructive. Half of my song pokes fun at this sort of thing, the other half smiles less easily. There is a guy on BBC radio who seems to like the song. Apparently each time he plays the song he calls the title “disgusting.” Fair enough, I admit.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
NF: I write, I read, I sing. I exaggerate hangovers to get out of social engagements.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
NF: I believe in a lot of black magic, and then I believe in back-up plans.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist?
NF: Wear clean clothes (expensive if possible) when visiting the doctor.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
NF: “Originality, that Romantic disease…” I think that’s the way it’s put in a William Gaddis book. My skill set is limited, so my idiosyncrasies probably float to the surface. But I drown what I can.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
NF: I have no great difficulties.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
NF: The ongoing sense of an early retirement.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
NF: I’m a classicist, with friends. Because I can steal from friends and the dead. I don’t really let myself steal from Dan Bejar (Destroyer) or David Berman (Silver Jews) anymore. Or, at least, not as plainly as I used to. Simon Stalhamre (in about 6 months Americans will finally start hearing from his band Small Feet, and then maybe I’ll have to start covering my tracks), Jameson Putnam, Chris Dowd, Mike Glover … with both hands, I steal from them.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
NF: Useful, but of no importance.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
NF: Emphatically, I do not.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
NF: I don’t like traveling. But I like other things less, and so I’ve traveled moderately. I live in a foreign country, but don’t make much of a point to travel from it. Stockholm has been unspeakably generous, I feel very lucky to be here. But to gush rather grossly romantic, Paris didn’t need to be generous.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
NF: At the moment, I’m in awe of the audio book of The Tunnel, by William H. Gass, who reads all 700 and something pages. I couldn’t call it entirely pleasant, but it’s absolutely high music. I pace the room and listen, wishing I could shake his hand a thousand times in thanks.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your music?
NF: To put out a translation album called: Les Mot Qui Quittent Nos Langues (“The Words That Leave Our Languages / The Words That Quit Our Tongues”). It’s a collaboration between the French songwriter, Baptiste W Hamon and Barbarisms. I’ve translated a handful of his songs, and he has translated mine. Alma Forrer even lends her gorgeous voice.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
NF: In this instance, I’ll take the designation as a compliment, for which I’m grateful.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?
NF: It’s an after-construction, and a joke, but I’ll give it a shot for one song. I’d like to think of “Gaudy Falsetto” as a bubblegum blend of Wallace Stevens’ “essential gaudiness of poetry” and the painter Balthus’ “The Guitar Lesson.” With emphasis, of course, on the bubblegum descriptor.
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