Fanfarlo Interview with Simon Balthazar

02/15/2010



A stamp of approval from David Bowie is great publicity for UK’s premiering band Fanfarlo It’s also a redundant interview topic and an easy hook for journalists. The DIY indie-folk band’s debut LP, Reservoir, has garnered them comparisons to Arcade Fire and Talking Heads. Not bad company, but there is still a long road ahead as the group’s buzz spreads through the US. Before their performance at The Great American Music Hall on February 22nd, while on tour in Europe, SF Station email corresponded with lead singer Simon Balthazar.

SF Station (SFC): I imagine you put your album out for a dollar initially to encourage sales, but why not fifty-cents?

Simon Balthazar (SB): It was just an experiment really. Anyway, a dollar has a better ring to it than fifty-cents.

(SFC): What books have you enjoyed reading recently? What is something in particular that interested you with one of the books?

(SB): At the moment I’m reading a Swedish writer named, Sture Dahlström. I felt a real need to read stuff in Swedish so I ordered a bunch of books which I’m going through now on tour. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to be translated in English.

(SFC): You guys have been touring a lot, what is one unusual or exciting moment from your tours?

(SB): Personally, I just enjoy the frame of mind you get into when you’re on tour, living very much in the moment and just embracing whatever comes your way. Even when things get really difficult it just washes over you. If we break down on the side of the road for hours, then we’ll just have a snowball fight.

(SFC): There are many sections (layers) on the album which must be difficult to recreate live. Is your live performance different?

(SB): Many of our songs are different live for sure. Playing live is an entirely different beast than recording in a studio, and in many ways just a different aspect of music. We try to embrace that, but we do try to pull off some pretty complicated arrangements that involve some instrument swapping.

(SFC): Have you come across any other interesting characters like Harold T. Wilkins (the title of a song on Reservoir) that have influenced your music, which might be the start of a new song?

(SB): I was reading about Lake Vostok, which lies underneath the surface of Antarctica and is believed to be a million years old. The idea of a lake hidden beneath four kilometers of ice is just mind blowing. That’s not a character – but I would love to write a song about that.

(SFC): I know in the past you’ve done covers of Neutral Milk Hotel, Smashing Pumpkins, and others, can listeners expect any new covers at your shows these days?

(SB): We’ve been playing this cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “What Makes You Think You’re The One” sometimes at shows lately. In fact, we also recorded it for the B-side of this Record Store Day seven inch we recorded when we had a day off in Berlin, so you’ll be able to get your hands on it at some point.

(SFC): What has been your experience with building an audience in the US? Are you satisfied with your coverage in the US thus far? Do you have a goal you’re striving for (VMA, Grammy, Rolling Stone, etc.)?

(SB): We don’t really set our goals in terms of commercial success, but in terms of what we can do creatively. Being played on the radio a lot sure feels good though, and we’re pretty excited that we’re playing on Letterman soon.

(SFC): Is there anything you’ve learned from your last US tour not to do, or are better prepared this time?

(SB): Lessons? Bring the snow chains this time, even if you’re in Arizona or California.

(SFC): You’re one of the few bands I’ve interviewed without going through a publicist directly. Why do you or Amos choose to be directly involved in the publicity?

(SB): We also have a publicist, but we’re always happy to talk with people. Loads of people email us directly and we try to reply to everything. People are just so loving and enthusiastic – all that heartwarming correspondence keeps us going.

(SFC): Can you remember one letter that stuck out to you?

(SB): The funniest story is probably about the colorful letter we got from a ten-year-old, saying “Dear Fanfarlo, you are my first favourite band. Lost of love.” It was possibly the most adorable spelling mistake I’ve ever seen.

(SFC): A lot of press was given to Fanfarlo for your DIY distribution and production. Was signing a distribution deal with Canvasback (Atlantic Records) an issue in consideration with your image?

(SB): We’re pretty pragmatic about the whole matter of how a record comes out. At the end of the day it’s about the music and not compromising with that. Being DIY or not isn’t really a matter of principals for us, and in any case there is a very blurred line between indie and major labels these days.

(SFC): Since most of the band members are multi-instrumentalists, you’ve completed your first LP, and with such a large group—will you continue to be the creative leader or will the process change?

(SB): I’ll still be the songwriter and I guess like you say, creative leader of some sort. We have continually moved in a more collaborative direction since the start though it started as just my recording project.

(SFC): Have you been able to put together any new material since Reservoir? Is there any date or goal for a follow up?

(SB): We have been writing new material sporadically, but there really hasn’t been much time when we haven’t been touring. We play new songs on tour already though, but a new record is still quite a way off. Especially, considering our album isn’t even out in most of Europe yet.

Fanfarlo performs at The Great American Music Hall on February 22nd. Tickets are $16. Doors open at 7pm. The show begins at 8pm.

This article is republished from SF Station.