- What: FUR's Image on the Reverse release show with FAWN and Pewter Cub.
- When: 9 p.m., Dec. 15
- Where: The Loving Touch in Ferndale
- What else: Providing between-song soundtracks is DJ Pinknoise of Strangeways Radio. More info on the event here.
When I say that local band FUR is in-tune, I don’t mean something tonal - I mean a kind of creative conscientiousness. The truth comes out rather quickly with this band.
That they’re so aware of how they operate, what works best for them; that they’re keen to have kept sifting different sounds, textures and styles to employ in their experimental, new-wave pop-style and, particularly, that in being such down-to-earth fans of music, they’re thus wary of the pitfalls, clichés or impeding illusions typical of every musician's first big band.
“Every band says this, but…” Ryan O’Rourke, singer/guitarist prefaces one of his answers with that with self-depreciating satire towards music culture. “Everything is so precious when you start out in a band. It’s such a learning curve that can take years, that’s why so many bands dissolve around here.”
But let me tell you about this band: bassist Michael O’Connor and drummer Zack Pliska set the rhythms while keyboardist Johanna Champagne and her husband O’Rourke layer in atmospheric melodies.
Guitarist Steve Thoel (of Savage Seven) joined in the spring to flesh out the sound - a sound that’s always orbited a new-wave groove and dream-pop dazzled aesthetic.
Yet, over their first five years they’ve dialed from pristine power-rock balladry to stormed-out distortions, oscillated echo-effects ebbed and then flowed with cleaner tones. But there’d always be a hook to grab you, there’d always be a fine rhythmic furrow to glide through…
On their new album Image On The Reverse, the band seems to have found their natural niche…for now, anyway: a synth-centric, more pop-minded sensibility that finds the balance between the more epic-airy and aggressive aesthetic of neo-industrial alternative-pop and the darker, night-drive cerebral-soars of just-about-danceable new-wave.
And so, O’Rourke says: “Every band says this, but I think everything we’ve done is a reaction to previous things. Our last EP (Devastate the Details) was especially a reaction to the more polished, refined sounding songs we’d done.”
“And,” says O’Connor, “we were only just becoming songwriters on that first EP (Here’s to the Angels). When we were done with Devastate though, we still weren’t sure, myself at least, about what was there…”
The band set down bones of Images 12 tracks at Ferndale’s Tempermill Studios and then spent many months meticulously experimenting with Pliska’s set-up in his home studio.
“It shifted,” O’Connor says, “in the time it took to make Image, while just constantly tinkering with things to perfect them; that can wear on you. Ryan, to his credit, didn’t stop the creative process. He kept writing and three quarters of the way his sound started shifting.”
“I got dead-tired of the guitar,” O’Rourke sighs. “And just started writing on keyboards.”
“And it was material,” O’Connor continues, “that Ryan wasn’t even sure, at first, was even FUR-related but ended up becoming a couple songs, then, on Image.”
It’s telling of the band’s sound that they once did a fine job of rocking a Cure cover song; that, coupled with O’Rourke’s admittance to learning his guitar style from Trent Reznor and O’Connor’s formidable favoring of a Radiohead aesthetic.
Yes, there’s all that, but…consider the potential when you take that recipe and sweeten the upper crust with what O’Rourke deems “cheesy 80’s stuff…” Halfway through recording Image, O’Rourke, as a songwriter, started mining older records by Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and even Madonna.
The band still strove to keep on the same page – even if the proverbial sonic/stylistic page turned a few times throughout the recording process. O’Connor is quick to nod to the amazing work of Champagne’s keyboard contributions and Pliska’s percussive arrangements as well as his production assistance. Going further, O’Connor was sure to credit the encouraging and insightful collaborations with Jim Kissling at Tempermill Studios.
“A lot more layers,” O’Rourke says, “and this sort of range of influences, it’s very different than our other stuff.”
“So I think we all, now, just don’t quite know,” says O’Connor, “after going through a process like that, what’s gonna come out of it. We’re kind of in a state of limbo, now, leading up to this record release show, of not knowing what’s going to be…”
“There is a resolve to this record, though,” O’Rourke surmises. “We could’ve made different decisions in the mixing room but I think we’re definitely at the top of our writing game with these songs and with ourselves as songwriters.”
“Making music…you never lose it,” O’Rourke says later.
For some people it’s a fantastical fixation, like wanting to grow up to be a cowboy or something. But he and his band, FUR, are well aware of “the odds” stacked against any average band or musician. This band never lost “music” in terms of a passion but yet never “lost” themselves in any deluded fantasy. That seems to be the distinction. So, then, on Image, you can hear a band not trying to be anything they’re not.