Interview: Fiery Furnaces - Playing it as straight as they're able
Published Date: 10 October 2009 By Aidan Smith IN THE fickle business of pop, it's difficult to predict what's going to happen next, but there seems little chance of us ever having to issue this stern edict: Alex Kapranos, will you please stop boring us with all the tiny details of your love life – who do you think you are, Peter flippin' Andre? The last anyone knew, the Franz Ferdinand frontman was still stepping out with Eleanor Friedberger of Fiery Furnaces. That would make it five years now, but gushy ten-page Hello! spreads, hand-holding Richard and Judy stand-in turns and even fuzzy pap-snaps of one skinny art-rocker smothering the other with sunscreen have been noticeable by their absence.
Kapranos seems to have confined his public statements to the Franz Ferdinand song Eleanor, Put Your Boots Back On. Friedberger used to be a bit more forthcoming about the romance, but hasn't done this in a while. And not even her appearance on the Frannies' Glasgow turf tonight is going to change that.
"I will tell you what I do love, and that's the Scottish countryside," says the Chicago-born singer, now based in Brooklyn (hence the song's reference to kicking your heels in the "Brooklyn dirt"). "I have a Glasgow routine that probably sounds pretty boring: I walk around Buchanan Street. But the great thing about the city is you're only a ten-minute drive from the country.
"My favourite part is Dumfries and Galloway. Mentioning no addresses (Kapranos has a house in the region), it really is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I've made a trip to the Highlands, travelled along the Spey and visited a few islands, but that's where I like best.
"I've spent some time investigating the sites of the Covenanters. I know about The Wicker Man being shot there, and I've been to the cemetery featured in the film and other locations. The spooky tunnels, hiding places and stuff all make it very romantic."
Fiery Furnaces are back in town with yet another album. I'm Going Away makes it seven in six years for Friedberger and brother Matt. The first three songs all seem to be about romantic break-up. "The end is near … it's over," she sings on one. On another: "Windshield wipers can't wipe away my tears." Then: "I got another man now, can't use you no more." But Friedberger won't speak about their inspiration. To paraphrase another old movie, she's still ice cold on Alex.
I'm Going Away, though, may be their most accessible record yet. The duo have always liked to mash up post-punk, psychedelia, bubblegum pop, folk, blues, music-hall, prog, anything else they can find down the back of a favourite sofa – and transmissions from the planet Zog. Just when you think you're getting a grip on them, however, they can bend already tricky songs into new shapes for live performance. Then there was the time they got Grandma to take over vocals.
"Our records are ostentatiously clumsy – they're not very pretty," Matt once said. Well, they've now made a pretty one.
"I don't want to say we've become less eccentric, but we definitely tried for something more straightforward," admits Friedberger. "We wanted to write songs with more universal themes, so we sat down with a list of generic lines, like, 'If I see you tomorrow I don't know what I'll do'." Mind you, there's straightforward and there's straightforward. Fiery Furnaces have not turned into Coldplay (thank goodness). At one point she sings about seeking out "the squarest thing on the jukebox". That'll never be them.
Friedberger, 33, says most of their outré moments are down to Matt, four years older. "He's the one who's always trying to write an opera." So what's it like being in a band with your big brother? "We get annoyed with each other really quickly, but we sort it fast. So many bands must be repressed and then they explode and can't be put back together. In this business you've got to know how to fight."
The next Fiery Furnaces record will be silent – "a songbook with sheet music and guitar parts and lyrics, then we'll invite other musicians and even fans to stage concerts".
No more contributions from their octogenarian gran, though – Olga Sarantos died a couple of years ago. "She loved making her record and all the fuss that followed," adds Friedberger. "She kept cuttings of her interviews in her purse and showed them off at the beauty parlour."
• Fiery Furnaces play Glasgow's Nice 'N' Sleazy tonight.
Post by Mrs Clarkeycakes on Oct 10, 2009 17:58:25 GMT
Indeed - he's hardly likely to change the habit of a lifetime now is he... he came out and said he wasn't with her anymore and hasn't said anything since. Don't expect anymore and don't know that I'd want to know more anyway