"The first 16 years of my life I spent a lot of time around lakes. You see... I get quite passionate about things for a time, like reservoirs."
The passion, the obsession, the dissolution of intellectual rigour; heart and longing colliding with mind and matter; these are the recurrent themes of Fanfarlo. As aging instruments are brought back to life with a creaking aching beauty, a bizarre collection of characters join our midst, each an accidental Fanfarlo metaphor - the irrational pursuit of an otherwise intellectual mind. Case in point: Howard Hughes' decent into madness in "I'm A Pilot;" the delusion of Pellegrino Ernetti in "The Walls Are Coming Down" and the absurd writing career of "Harold T. Wilkins," all sweep from sweet murmuring melodia to orchestral pop.
Again and again the UK five-piece find ways to mirror the impotent fury of the words. Members Cathy Lucas (violin, keyboard, vox), Justin Finch (bass) and Amos Memon (drums) and Leon Beckenham (trumpet, keyboard) all conspire to ensure that Fanfarlo eschew a defining format. Reaching for less than obvious conclusions to musical conundrums: saws, clarinets, cellos, mandolins, ukuleles, melodicas, hands clapping and feet stomping.
There is no doubt that all of Fanfarlo are clever, bookish coves, but when they come together to make music, they function on a gut level. For a band that comes from all over - frontman Simon Balthazar (vocals) is himself from Gothenburg - there is that restless, furtive artistry. A keenness to avoid the constraints of home, battling with the longing of the heart, the distant locations of a burning house "Fire Escape;" a drowning village "Ghosts;" and the uneasy sensations of urban sprawl, "Luna."
Trapped and spiraling guitars, an insistently hammered piano chord, or an ominous stomp, the fervour with which they play is stirring and infectious... Fanfarlo Baudelaire's fictional dancer, impossibly desirable, an inescapable object of obsession.
"I always try to write accessible lyrics that people will get and understand, but it always ends up impenetrable," explains Fanfarlo frontman Simon Balthazar, "then I attempt to write deep, serious and difficult music, and somehow it keeps coming out as pop."
It is a nice problem to have and Fanfarlo benefit greatly. The wonderfully bewildering array of characters and scenes on Reservoir, comes laden with memorable hooks. Recorded over a month and a half with Peter Katis (The National, Interpol) at his home studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut, it is has been a formative process for the band.
Fanfarlo's early singles, combined with winning live performances had proved a sensation in the blogosphere, both in Europe and in the US. But as good as those singles first seemed; Talking Backwards (Fortuna Pop), You Are One Of The Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us (Fandango), Fire Escape (White Heat) and Harold T.Wilkins (Felt Tip), it was as nought to the leaps and bounds made in those few shorts weeks in New England.
Working with Peter was the first opportunity to properly explore what this full band could achieve. Cathy Lucas - the bearer of Fanfarlo's distinctive accompanying vocals - is convinced of the new ground the band has occupied, "Peter would find the right sound straight away and I started thinking that it could become much more than just a series of songs..."
"I always thought big with this band" enthuses Simon. "Wanting to make music that everyone would love, which always seemed like a realistic expectation, given the response we got to our live performances... it's an amazing relief to be able to say, yes, this is what it should sound like."
GARDENS & VILLA
High Noon Saloon (View)
701 E. Washington Ave
Madison, WI 53703
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