The Fiery Furnaces interview

The wonderful Fiery Furnaces (with Jason Lowenstein of Sebadoh and Bob d'Amico) play the An Club in Athens, on March 2nd. Read what they said.

Ray Davies said he was a fan of you a couple of months ago and that he'd like to record with musicians like you. How did you that make you feel?

Well, there is no higher compliment. I listened to Face to Face and Something Else and Village Green over and over as a teenager. In the 80's, and even into the early 90's, the Kinks were not the focus of adulation for my peers. But I disagreed. --A kind word in dark times, therefore, a kind word in dark times.

You are a band that changes style and sound constantly. How come? How do you decide the music style that you will record?
Why wouldn't one? To be legitimate one must always..deviate. A constant process of disagreement in degree. How do you decide? Well, you have a notion and execute it--in both main senses of 'execute' in English, namely 'carry out', and 'kill'. You follow the plan, but murder it as well.

You release an album almost every year. It is amusing for me to follow the media coverage of your work, as the reporters try to decide if they like your sound every time. I remember 9,6 ratings from Pitchfork and also some pretty harsh ratings in the later years. How would you describe your relationship with the press? Do you care what people say about you?
Well, I guess I don't think of it as the 'press'. What press? What are those websites? Things people consult when filling out their profiles on a social networking site? But really, it's very simple: if you like something, they will most often like you. And if you don't like something, it most likely won't like you. So it often does make sense. If you bought a rock critic's book when you where 13, it's no surprise that he later gives your record a good review. And if you really dislike a magazine or a website, they will likely not be sympathetic to you other time.

What has remained in your mind from your early days as a band, when the press was naming you sth in the likes of the White Stripes?
Well, people were very confused with the way we played live--and with the fact that we played differently live, one tour to the next--and with our second album. But our first album didn't sound anything like any White Stripes record I've heard, I don't think.

In "Rehearsing my Choir" you worked with your grandmother Olga Sarantos, who is Greek. While the album is based on her memoirs, the music (interesting, as usual with you) has no greek music elements. Did it ever occur to you to use greek music?
Yes, well, that record is very much a Chicago record, so to speak. And I thought that using Greek music would have been too obviously illustrative. But lots of the other music is obviously illustrative or programmatic. So that's not very consistent. I suppose I thought that way grandmother, though speaking in English of course, was overwhelming Greek just by herself. The Hellenic element couldn't have been stronger, as it was. But that's just me.

What is your relationship with your greek heritage? Have you visited Greece?
Yes, my sister and I have been to Greece relatively often, since childhood. I was first there at 4 years old. --We are only half Greek, but we grew up in a typical Greek Diaspora environment in Chicago, everyone speaking Greek as well as English, and having some connection to the church (not necessarily a believing-religious connection, as course). Eleanor and I are the first generation to not speak Greek, unfortunately. In American terms, we were "Greek", as those things go. Inevitably, then, as these things go, when in Greece, we feel at home, as these things go. I imagine the behavior and attitudes of Greek-Americans or Greek-Australians is often...slightly amusing.

You've gone from Rough Trade to Thrill Jockey records. What are the main differences in working with these two, well respected labels.
Well, both labels let us do whatever we want. No meddling or "A & R"-ing at all.
The difference is...Thrill Jockey is an old line American indie label, working with the Touch & Go model, you might say, and still with that spirit. Rough Trade, being an English indie, is much less nervous about being a bit more 'show business' in its manner and aspirations. --But tremendous luck being on both of them. Both Geoff at Rough Trade and n at Thrill Jockey love their bands. Very lucky.

Being in the music business for almost a decade now, what are the significant lessons about this business that you have learned and have affected you more in these years?
So much has changed. You must rely on yourself, really, even though there is so much you cannot control. You must make decisions without factoring in or counting on the contributions of the people you work with on the business side of the music business. Things change too fast, perhaps, to do that.

How do you feel that being in a family band and growing up together (as such), has affected your characters as separate persons?
I suppose it is hard to tell. You become more tolerant as a person--but only in your mind or in your convictions, not in your behavior! Perhaps, you become less alike, as a sort of division of duties. It is hard to say, I'm afraid.

What are your plans for 2010 ?
We are going to have our "Silent Record" come out in August or September. It will be a very large songbook--all the songs written out in (various) types of notations, with some things for (nearly) non-musicians and with some things for people who...love to practice. We will then set up shows were fans (or non-fans) play the songs, and we stand and listen. At the same time we will put out our "Democ-Rock" record. The songs on that record have been 'determined' by our fans: meaning that they have been written, semi-automatically, with or by means of things (random bits of ephemera, like receipts and the like) that people have given us for this purpose. And we will record a 'regular' record in the summer, to come out in Jan. 2011.--Of course, we hope to play in Greece again in 2010. One can dream, no?

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