Big news for fans of the Fiery Furnaces! Both core members of the eccentric indie-rock sibling act are working on various solo projects, and they’re also reconvening soon to record another album together. All told, the next calendar year could quite possibly see a grand total of ten new Furnaces-related releases, most of which have been top-secret until now. Read on for exclusive details on the exciting developments in the Friedberger family.
The bulk of the ten upcoming releases will come from the Furnaces’ Matthew Friedberger, who is planning no less than eight solo albums for a series he’s aptly titled Solos. Friedberger phoned the Music Mix recently from Marseille, France, to explain. “Playing rock — except for driving around and carrying equipment in and out of a van and getting bedbugs from the motel and that kind of thing — you don’t have to work very hard, so it seems,” says the sardonic musician. “So I thought it would be fun to have way too many things to do.”
Solos will take the form of six vinyl-only albums released between January and November 2011. Each of these six albums will feature Friedberger’s voice paired with a single instrument: piano, guitar, organ, double bass, drums, or harp. Individual Solos LPs will be available in limited quantities through independent shops, but serious fans are advised to subscribe to the full Solos series for $70 through Friedberger’s label, Thrill Jockey (pre-order here), or at retail partners Other Music, Experimedia, Aquarius Records, and Amoeba Music (where prices may vary slightly). At the end of next year, subscribers will receive two additional bonus LPs, which Friedberger describes in typically cryptic fashion as “the records on which I don’t play the instruments I can’t play.”
Friedberger already recorded the piano-based Solos LP, Napoleonette, in Michigan last month. “I chose that to be the title because the piano is a very imperious, imperial instrument, I guess,” he says. At least one song on Napoleonette will feature unusual uses of the instrument, such as “scraping the strings in the piano for percussive effects [and] beating on the wood of the piano.” A free download of a Napoleonette tune called “Shirley” is available from Thrill Jockey.
Next up in March is the guitar LP, Meet Me in Miramas, which Friedberger has been recording in France. “Miramas is a town next to the petrochemical facilities here by Marseille,” he says. “It’s not thought of as a very pretty town. It’s a very guitar-rock town.” As for this record’s sound, he notes, “Guitar, especially an electric guitar, can do anything with its little microphones. So it’s fun to try to do that.” Then, after organ, double bass, and drums albums, Friedberger will move on to the harp LP, using an instrument that belonged to the Friedbergers’ late grandmother, Olga Sarantos. “She always said the harp was for me for some reason, and that I’ve got to learn how to play it,” he says. “So that will be a very personal, meaningful record.”
Back in Brooklyn, Fiery Furnaces singer Eleanor Friedberger is in the midst of recording her own solo album for a likely 2011 release — just one album, unlike her hyperprolific brother. “I wouldn’t want to characterize her ambitions for that record and get it wrong,” says Matthew. “But I think Eleanor wants to have a new story, as they say.”
All this solo activity doesn’t mean the Fiery Furnaces have burned out. In fact, Matt and Eleanor are planning to make a new Furnaces album together right after celebrating Thanksgiving with family in Chicago this year. “It’s going to be a loud, aggressive rock record,” he says. “The songs are rock songs. They’re pretty wordy, I guess. They definitely have melodies, though. They’re songs with words and tunes.” Well, at least we know that much. Titles under consideration for the next Fiery Furnaces album include I Met the Queen of the Night in the Daytime, The Diabolical Principle, Two Different Dads, City of the Sun, and I Was So Confused, all of which are also the names of likely songs from the album.
Finally, this December, Matthew Friedberger will be scoring artist Rob Pruitt’s second annual Art Awards, as he did last year. This year’s ceremony will take place at New York’s Webster Hall. “It’s fun because I get to write two hours of music,” he says. “From my perspective, it’s supposed to refer, if only obliquely, to the old history of Webster Hall, up to and including when it was the Ritz in the ’80s.”
That’s a lot of new material in the works. It all sounds very cool, doesn’t it? Which of those projects are you most excited to hear?
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