We spoke with Amos and Mark of the London based indie pop/folk band Fanfarlo about the recording of their debut album with producer Peter Katis at his studio in Connecticut and their plans for the future.
So you guys have just finished recording your first full-length album at Tarquin Studios in Connecticut. Tell us about the process. How was it working with producer Peter Katis?
Amos: Four full days of pre-production (or intense rehearsal and re-editting of songs) took place in London, after which we flew over the Atlantic with as many instruments as we could carry. We thought if we managed to record fifteen songs in six weeks, we’d have enough material to mould into our first album. We worked from twelve in the afternoon until eleven at night, sometimes later if we were on a roll. Weekends were spent away from the studio, mainly to relax and to give Peter Katis and his engineer Greg time to spend with their families or friends. Peter has a good work ethic and fed off our enthusiasm for our new songs (“Drowning Men”, “The Walls Are Coming Down”, “Luna”), so the more time we spent on them, the less we did on older songs (“Talking Backwards” and “We Live By The Lake”). Peter likes to experiment with dropping instruments out of a song, testing mixes on a daily basis (usually driving to and from his ice hockey games) and has an almost natural intuition when there’s something missing from a song and what could fill it. Countless times he’d swing round in his chair and exclaim, “Oh! You know what would sound great here?” It was fun working with him.
Any specific reason you chose to go with Peter Katis? It’s just not because he has a Donkey Kong machine at the studio is it?
Mark: Well, obviously there’s the fantastic albums he’s made with Interpol and The National, but the Donkey Kong machine was definitely the main reason. There’s this amazing film called ‘King Of Kong’ that Peter had, following these two guys as they battle it for the world record top score in Donkey Kong. It’s like an arcade game film equivalent of Spinal Tap, except that it’s actually real.
How immense has the layering on the album become? Do you guys know the total number of tracks recorded?
Mark: Ha ha, pretty immense in places! We’ve been careful not to over-do it just for the sake of it, though with all the crazy keyboards in Peter’s studio it was tricky to stop sometimes.
At one point he had all six of us in the live room together all strumming acoustic guitars – and then we overdubbed that another few times so I think that at one point we have 30 acoustic guitars playing at once… it sounds great though, when you hear the album you’ll spot it…
Amos: We recorded sixteen songs, though not all of those will make the final cut.
Best experience you had in America? Is there anything specific about American culture that you find interesting (besides our general arrogance)?
Amos: Aside from the fun we had creating the album, I was pleased when I didn’t come last at the local bowling lanes in Bridgeport, CT (Nutmeg Bowl). What else? After hours, we’d sometimes sit with Peter and laugh at the Colbert Report together (none of us had seen that before), the various Halloween parties we attended were colourful (it’s less character based here with emphasis on blood and gore) and watching Barack Obama get elected was a thrill. There’s a wealth of American popular culture I find interesting and it makes a change to feel it for yourself, rather than experiencing it through the eyes, ears or words of others. I could apply that to sitting in a diner and smelling the grits being served in the booth next to me, or noticing the cinema-goer’s reactions to Oliver Stone’s “W.” I didn’t come across any arrogant people. Should I have? Anyone I met was most welcoming.
How did Fanfarlo evolve into a band with 6 members?
Mark: It was kinda gradual – Simon and Justin started out playing together and the rest of us saw the band live and loved the original songs so much we had to be a part of it. Even with six members though, we’re each constantly trying to play two instruments at once.
What is your song-writing process? Has it changed at all as the number of people in the band increased?
Amos: Simon brings the lyrics and chords, or a rough demo of a song, to our practices and we layer that up with our ideas. Originally, he’d work on everything alone, so there’s now more scope for the band to shape a song from the bare bones of a demo.
So the album is recorded. Have you signed with a label for the release, or are you still in talks with various labels?
Amos: At this stage we’re not signed and are happy to talk to labels.
Is there a tentative release date or idea of around when the album will be release? Any other details you’d like to reveal about the album? Current working title? Can we expect any singles before the release?
Amos: The album will be self-released in time for a tour we’ve scheduled for February and March. I’ve lost count of the amount of working titles we gave it, but we’ve settled on Reservoir. There won’t be a single out before the album, but possibly an EP later, hopefully collecting some of the songs that didn’t make it to the album.
What have you guys been listening to lately? Has anything from 2008 really stuck out to any of you?
Amos: Cathy got into bands beginning with “W” – Why? and Women. Justin reacquainted himself with Norwegian black metal from the late 90s to mid 00’s. In 2008 I finally got to see Young Marble Giants, Deerhunter at All Tomorrow’s Parties in Cambersands was a defining moment and Sigur Rós as a thirteen piece band at Westminster Hall in London was quite the spectacle.
Any plans for touring in support of the record?
Amos: After our UK tour in February and March, we’re off to SXSW in Austin, Texas. We plan to be as busy as possible.
If you were to collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
Amos: I know Simon would say Sufjan Stevens. I’d only do it if it was fun, like when Broken Social Scene backed J. Mascis. In my wildest dreams, an EP with Burt Bacharach would be special. Imagine having him to arrange the brass and strings in Fanfarlo!