Nov 4, 2009

Interview with Findlay Brown!

Compared to CMJ's past, I found this year's schedule to be a bit tame. Despite this, there were some highlights, and Findlay Brown's show at Bowery Ballroom on October 21st was definitely one of them.

Findlay Brown at Bowery Ballroom - 10/21/09

As Findlay emerged from backstage solely with keyboardist Rob Gentry in tow, I was momentarily concerned since all the prior times I'd witnessed Findlay perform he was accompanied by a full band. However once the pair began, my initial worry immediately dissolved as the stripped down set-up allowed Findlay's talent for delivering beautiful Fifties & Sixties-influenced tunes to shine. Despite revealing that he was "scared shitless" to be playing without his band after the first few songs, Findlay effortlessly delivered track after track from his sophomore album Love Will Find You (out January 12th on Verve). I was fortunate enough to catch up with Findlay a week later to discuss the show, the new album, and much more. Check out the full interview below:

I saw your show Wednesday at Bowery Ballroom, where you said you were scared that entirely true?

I was. I was totally unprepared to not have a band. It was a bit like, what are we doing? Remembering how to come in and what the arrangements were - I probably shouldn't say it, but I think I smoked too much weed when I was a teenager and I just have such a bad memory, especially for words or things like that. If something changes like that, it's very hard for me to get my head around it. I'm good at repeating things over and over and over again and then I get it. It takes me weeks to remember the arrangements and even my own songs, the chords. If I don't play it every day, I just forget it.

Had you rehearsed with Rob (the keyboardist) before the show?

About an hour.

Well, you really couldn't tell. I've seen you perform before with the full band and it was obviously different, but you didn't seem uncomfortable.

Well I wasn't uncomfortable when I was actually singing. Once you sort of get carried away by the feeling of the song...I got into it. I enjoyed the majority of it, but yeah, I was a little nervous. I'm quite a nervous performer really, or, I can be. I get very nervous before I go on, to the point where I can't imagine actually doing it. I just think, there's just no way. How can I get up on that stage? Do you know what I mean? And then, as soon as you get up there, some calm sort of comes over you somehow. You know, it's a bit like, well I've got to do this. Where am I going to go? And it must be something along the lines of you realize, that you know it's not that bad.

I know you used to be a boxer. Did you have the same kind of nervousness before matches?

I wasn't actually a boxer as such. I used to fight a lot. It's a bit blown out of proportion. I did do some kind of organized things when I was a teenager, but it definitely wasn't on a professional level. It was actually a kind of street thing, but it was organized.

When you did the other show on Sunday at Littlefield, was it set-up the same way, with just you and Rob?

It was just me, but Rob did get up and play a couple of songs. There was a piano there. I actually prefer it that way. I used to do a lot of acoustic shows in London when I was first starting out on my solo thing. I almost prefer this attitude - I don't know if I'm going to play tonight, type of thing. I'll think alright, I'll do something and not have it planned and it be very sort of off the cuff and go with the mood and then if I get someone else up to join me. It feels like the pressure's off. I'm not very good under pressure. So I was actually a lot more comfortable that night because it felt more unrehearsed in a way.

You recently toured with Duffy and Au Revoir Simone. Did you notice any difference in the way you were received by their fans? Were either of the acts' fans more receptive?

I think they were both equally receptive. We've been really lucky with touring of late with this sort of new sound. The difference is, when I was playing with Duffy, we were playing to around 4,000 people every night, sold out, and it was a bit of a more mainstream audience. I think that the atmosphere was probably different on some nights, but it went down well. People enjoy it. There's not that much of a difference really.

When we played with Au Revoir Simone, some of the nights there were only 10 or 15 people there but it went down well every night and it was more of a kind of muso sort of crowd with Au Revoir Simone, who were, I would think, harder to impress in some ways, but they really enjoyed it. With the Duffy crowd you've got more of the sort of hecklers and things like that, which I really thrive on. It's that thing we talked about before - it's more, kind of an improvised element. If I think, oh I've got to think of something to say between songs, or say something witty or charming, it's not very good for me, but if somebody shouts something at me it's inspiring. We can get something going. We can get some banter going.

Has there been any difference in the way you've been received at home in the UK vs. in the US?

I think people are a bit more enthusiastic here (US) for the kind of music I'm making. I think people are a little less cynical here. They like the classic thing. They don't mind if you're ambitious, if you've got an ambitious kind of sound. I think a lot of the music scene in England, especially London is very, sort of left-field. It's got to be quirky. It's got to be indie, sort of thing. I think it's gone down actually slightly better here, the new record. My first record wasn't released here. It was more of, like a folk thing and that went down really well in England.

Talking about the last album being more folk-oriented, was the move away from that sound to the more Sixties sound intentional or did it just kind of happen?

Well the thing is actually, the folk thing I think was a bit more of can I put it? That was me going away from my natural sort of style, I think more than what I'm doing now. I've always been into a sort of bigger sound, a more produced sound. I was in a group before I did that first record and it was a very full sound, but it was more of like a psychedelic, sort of Sixties psych meets early electronica, kraut-rock sort of thing. I've always been really into strings. The Beatles have been my first love and still my greatest sort of love, so that kind of production.

But I broke my leg, I got run over by a taxi between records and things I'd been getting into a lot were like Phil Spectre and Roy Orbison. I didn't have any of my record collection with me because I was staying at my sisters house, so I just listened to a lot of stuff online. I was downloading a lot of stuff off of iTunes. I think it was mainly that kind of music, but I think this record is actually more true to the kind of music that I will make for the rest of my life than my first record.

My first record, I'd almost given up on the trying to make it, type thing. I had some records out with my other group, but it was a very indie left-field thing. I'd sort of given up on chasing the big deal and the success and things like that and I was going through a very turbulent time with my girlfriend. In fact, she was living in Denmark and we pretty much split up at that point. She's now my fiance actually. I've been with her, like 10 years.

Basically that record was almost like glorified love letters. Poetry, love letters, put to music. It was just like, look this is how I feel and I wasn't in a band. The band had split up, so I just had a guitar and started doing some demos and it kind of happened by accident, if you know what I mean. I wanted to do something intimate and beautiful just for her, so I wasn't going to do my old sound with loads of guitars and loads of noise because it wouldn't have had that quality that she could have really related to. And that's probably why I got a record deal and things started going well for me, because it was just a pure thing and I had almost given up on the commercial aspect of music. I was just doing this purely for her and then people heard it.

I think that's life in general. Even if you think about Buddhism or these zen guys. You've got to desire enlightenment to start with, but as soon as you stop desiring enlightenment, that's when you've become enlightened. You almost can't want something to get it. And I think that's why, in some ways, I don't know if you find it, but you seem to get things at the wrong time. It's like I'm not bothered about this thing anymore. It's like, god, two years ago if you would've told me I'd have had this I'd have been over the bloody moon, but now it's just like yeah, alright. Now I want this other thing. It's when you stop wanting it, that's when it happens I think.

You obviously have a strong connection with older Sixties music. Is there anything more contemporary that you're into?

Well actually I really like a lot of the sort of new disco stuff that's around at the moment. You won't hear it in my music apart from, I did do a track with Andrew Hodge and Lee Douglas. Andrew Hodge is Lovefingers. We did a track, last time I was in New York, together. It's going to be on a twelve inch. I don't know, hopefully it's going to be released here. It's kind of like a side project thing I wanted to do because he did a really good remix of one of my tracks. I'd been a fan of his for a while. I know he hasn't done that much stuff, but I know all his edits, I'd been a big fan of and like DJ Harvey, people like that. So I thought, oh well I'd quite like to do something similar, so we did a track with him and I also did a track with Brendan Lynch who's a great producer in Britain who's worked with Primal Scream and people like that. So I like all that type of stuff.

I think the modern stuff that I like is generally more experimental. People like Kieran Hebden - Four Tet, Warp's stuff, you know, glitchy music and other things like that. I think in my last band I was into so many different styles of music - a lot of exotica and world music and things like that and I'd try and put it all in one song. That can sometimes work. Some people can pull it off. For us it was a bit too much at times and what I realized from starting the solo project was what I'm really good at is melodic music - things with nice melodies. So it was like, I'll concentrate on that, and I'll embellish that melody and make that melody come out more and everything that I add to it has got to be pushing that melody and the voice and if I want to do any crazy stuff I'll do that in another scene, another way. It's been great just doing those two tracks recently. I want to do more of that, more electronic music - some stuff like Vangelis type style. I want to do some Bladerunner kind of music, but with vocals as well. Ballads with just synths and stuff at some point.

From the current record, you never would have guessed that.

Exactly, exactly. But I deejay sometimes, I used to deejay a lot and it was a lot of different music - electronica, African stuff, psych, funk, disco. I've got a very varied taste but like I said, with my own thing I've kind of realized what I'm good at and I just want to stick to that and make that as good as possible, rather than diluting it with lots and lots of influences. As far as stuff that's similar to mine - there's a guy called Richard Hawley from England who I really love. He's very much influenced by the Everly Brothers and Santo & Johnny and the whole Fifties/Sixties thing. I love the Fleet Foxes record. I know everyone did - it's nothing original. That got me big time. Around my first record I was listening to a lot of Will Oldham, Iron and Wine, James Yorkston, people like that. A lot of the kind of contemporary folk artists, but I generally listen to more old stuff.

I was surprised to see there were a lot of remixes of your tracks. What is your view of the process of remixing in general? Do you view it as a positive thing?

Yeah, I do. I think it can really add something. When you write something on your acoustic guitar at home, it's very exciting to think about how it's going to turn out when you record it, when you add some guitar, when you add some drums. Then there's another bit of other excitement when you give it to someone else and they do something completely different with it and it can keep just growing and evolving. The exciting thing is, possibly it can never stop. It can just keep going. People kept doing covers of it. People kept remixing it. It's got a life of its own. I think, anyway, where that song's come from isn't necessarily me. I think it's come from somebody else. I won't use the word divine or anything, or the word god, but I think it's come from somewhere. I've got like, this friend that's feeding me stuff when I need it. Sometimes he's not around and I'm like, look mate, what's going on? I'm here. I'm ready to go. I'm doing my part, what about yours? Come on, give me a bit of help here. Cause I feel like you have to almost coax it. Sometimes you sit there with your guitar and there's just nothing. There's just nothing and other times it's just coming. It's like going for a good shit. You have to brew it. You can't just fuckin' pop it out. You have to wait. Get it all nice and bubbly.

With the remixes, did the label pick who was going to do them or did they go to you for input?

They go to me for input. My label back home is owned by my management and they're a sort of dance-orientated outfit really. They've got A-trak and Simian Mobile Disco and a lot of other stuff like that and they actually know more about the deejay and the dance scene than I do. I'm a bit out of the loop on that stuff these days. So they definitely come up with a lot of the remix suggestions, but I had a couple of my own like Zongamin and Lovefingers was my first choice. I heard an edit he'd done of a John Martin song. I think it's called Summer of Lovefingers and it was just like, who is this guy ? I think I discovered him through the Beats In Space radio show and just thought this guy knows his shit. This guy's got taste.

Were there any other remixes that you were partial to other than Lovefingers'?

There was a Dimitri from Paris one that was really good. I did a cover of Joe Smooth's "Promised Land", you know, the house hit. It was for a B-side. I wanted to do something in my style but not like a Gene Clark song or an Elvis-type tune. I wanted to do something that's completely out of my genre, but do it in my style and then Dimitri From Paris did a mix of it and I actually prefer it to the original.


Yeah,it's wicked.

I've heard it.

Oh you've heard it. Which one do you prefer?

I kind of view them as separate things.

They're totally different. He's pretty much replayed all the instruments.

It's so bubbly.

So poppy and not yet, summery. Yeah, I love it. I was really surprised. And he's done this weird tuning thing with all the harmonies and made all these chords with the voices. Really good.

Did you go to a lot of events during CMJ?

I didn't go to any. I went out with friends to places and got extremely drunk, but I don't think I went to one other gig when I was here.

The new album is coming out in January. What are your plans after that? I'm sure you'll tour...

Well, I'm moving here in January. We're doing the Letterman Show on the 12th. I think that's the same day as the album release and then we go on tour pretty much after that I think. I think I'm getting a couple of new band members from the States because I don't think the whole English band can make it.

Are you going to be touring solely North America?

I think for now. I think there's an east tour planned, all penciled and then a west coast and then maybe we'll work our way up to South By (Southwest).

Are you thinking about a new album?

Yeah. I recorded the new album that's coming out in January, a year ago, so it's been a while

Do you have an idea where the next record's going?

At the moment it's going to go more into the sort of spaghetti western kind of vibe, but with songs. Still very melodic. Still with similar influences. You know late Fifties early Sixties kind of thing, but big tunes. Big productions. I'm even thinking I might, going against what I was saying before, bring in a few synths, but it will be very subtle, like mood based things. Some kind of subby sounds, just to give it a bit of drama, a bit of darkness.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP