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Interview with Simon of Fanfarlo

Date June 29, 2009

Fanfarlo‘s lead vocalist / frontman, Simon Balthazar, took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for me.  The band is generously offering their debut album (plus some bonus tracks), Reservoir, for $1 on their website. The album will only be available online till July 4th, so grab it while you can. The album is one of my favorites of the year, and required listening. Download a couple of Fanfarlo’s gorgeous songs below and click here to read my full interview with Simon.

MP3 Luna
MP3 The Walls Are Coming Down

How did the idea come about to release your album online for $1 dollar? How has the feedback been so far?

It’s a bit of an experiment really. Since we’re not dependent on a traditional label we can sort of do whatever we want, no label would be stupid enough to sell their records for $1. But after all, if we were signed to a major label, this is how much we’d actually get. The feedback has been great – we had 10,000 people download the album in the first week.

What is your reaction to the huge online response there has been to your album? I noticed that elbo.ws ranked “Luna” and “I’m A Pilot” both in the top 10 tracks posted this week by music blogs.

We’re happy that people are picking up on it of course. I just can’t wait to get the new songs we’re working on out there.

I heard Fanfarlo was originally conceived while Simon was taking shelter in a forest from a snowstorm in Sweden. Care to elaborate on that?

This is one of Amos’s lies. (However it’s true that I grew up pretty much in the forest, in Sweden. And I was once snowed in after a snowstorm, but let’s save that story for another time.) The truth is that Fanfarlo is the result of a derailed book circle.

What music have you been listening to this year? Any new artists you’d like to recommend?

At the moment I’m listening to Jacques Dutronc and Gene Vincent. But out of new stuff I’m really liking the Discovery album, and the new A Hawk And A Hacksaw album.

There has been many comparisons of your music to Arcade Fire. I actually first heard about the band from a post on Radiohead’s message board titled “Fanfarlo will be the new Arcade fire” which got about 200 responses. Do you think it’s a fair comparison?

I think it’s a flattering comparison but I also feel that Arcade Fire is one of those bands that everyone gets compared to. As much as tastemakers seem to have gone off them now since they properly broke into the mainstream, or maybe just because of oversaturation, I think it’s fair to say they are one of the most important bands to come out of the last few years.

You’ve made quite a few fans among other recording artists. Jónsi from Sigur Ros apparently liked Reservoir so much that he’s working on his solo album w/ same producer, Peter Katis. I also heard that it’s his sister featured on the cover of your album. How did that relationship come about?

Through being friends with the SR lot we were talking to Jonsi’s sister, who’s a photographer, because we were looking for a photo for cover art. She had taken this photo which we really liked and which turned out to have her younger sister Sigur Ros in it.

I also have heard David Bowie is a fan. Have you gotten the chance to meet him?

Sadly no…

I’ve heard Jeremy Warmsley has been filling in on guitar for your most recent tour. I’m a fan of his solo work. Is his involvement a temporary thing or could he join the band full time?

Jeremy is pretty busy with his solo stuff and other projects at the moment, but who knows. We have been playing with a few guitarists on and off this year, and as interesting as it is, it means a lot of extra work because you need double up on rehearsal time. So we’ll be getting a permanent member at some point but hard to say when it will be.

You played SXSW this year. How was that experience? Are you coming back to the States for a full tour anytime soon?

SXSW was great but incredibly hectic. We were playing shows and session left, right and center and had our first experiences of conveyor belt style press. We’ll be coming over for a tour soon, it’s looking like we’ll be playing a few east and west coast shows in September. It’s really picking up in the US at the moment which is great, it feels like people over there get what we’re trying to do.

A couple of friends and I have hypothesized that Harold T Wilkins video is subtle reference to the orientation videos from the Dharma Initiative on the TV show LOST. Any truth to that?

That’s an interesting idea… I never actually followed Lost so I had to go on YouTube to see what you were on about. The director never mentioned that, but he did mention Look Around You.

What are your vocal influences? Some of my readers have compared your voice to David Byrne or Alec Ounsworth from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

I love Talking Heads, so maybe it’s a subconscious influence, but I have never really thought about myself sounding like David Byrne. A lot of people have suggested there’s a similarity though. Again that’s very flattering, he’s a great singer, but I don’t think I sound like him.

I read that on “I’m A Pilot” (MP3)  you had 100 guitars play the same note to achieve the right effect. Could you tell us more about that and any other recording techniques that you used?

We really went overdub crazy on that song, the guitars was just one of the things we did. We basically got all the guitars we could and all the free hands available to play them, and played the whole song through lots of times to create this absolutely massive sound that was something like a cross between marching drums and a string section. We also built a massive shaker out of a cardboard box full of junk. At some point I was bashing a metal rubbish bin as well.

What’s the most unusual instrument that you use on the album?

We actually used quite a lot of musical saw on the album. Cathy used to play that live as well, but it was just too much of a hassle and sound engineers always hated us for it… maybe at some point we’ll be able to reintroduce it live.

How did you select which songs made it onto Reservoir? Will the other songs from your demo like “Sand and Ice” and “You Are One of the Few Outsiders That Understand Us” ever make it onto an album?

We actually recorded “Sand And Ice”, and even though it didn’t make the final cut it ended up as the B side of the first single. “Outsiders” is a really old song now and I don’t think we’ll re-record it. The version we released was a home recording and I really like that. Maybe we’ll put on an EP at some point though.

What does the future for Fanfarlo hold. Any hints on what the next album will be like?

Very hard to say. We’re actually playing a lot of covers at the moment which is really interesting because it allows you to experiment with styles and sounds you wouldn’t normally think of using in your songs. There’s a lot of things we’re excited about right now – we want to go acoustic and rootsy, dancy and rockabilly all at the same time.

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3 Responses to “Interview with Simon of Fanfarlo”

  1. Linds said:

    Aside from the fact that I am really in love with this group/album… Taylor this is a really fantastic interview. Questions were awesome.

  2. steve said:

    i just bought the Fanfarlo album and its SICK….ive seriously had it on repeat all morning

  3. talknerdy_2me said:

    wonderful interview. also, thank you for including my question!