Tu Fawning return this week with their new album A Monument, their follow up to the hugely successful Hearts On Hold.
I caught up Toussaint from the band to talk about the new album and what lies ahead for the rest of the year.
- Your latest album A Monument is about to be released so what can Tu Fawning fans expect from the record?
To invoke the old cliche - "expect the unexpected!" Honestly we enjoy surprising the listener with cinematic plot-twists of rhythm and melody.
To fans of our previous recordings there should be a certain quality of Deja-Vu, a "this place feels familiar, yet I know I've never been here before" vibe. Lush and romantic at one stop on the journey, followed by sinister bombast at the next destination.
- You have been called apocalyptic ABBA in the past has people have tried to nail down your sound so how would you describe the sound of the new record?
A Monument can work as a musical kaleidoscope; vivid colors taking shape, then reforming in a new yet vaguely-familiar form on the next turn.
The hiss and crackle of vintage 78 rpm folk records swims alongside sparkling new wave synthesizers, R&B horn blasts interrupt gothic funeral marches, choirs of angels accompanied by demonic guitar distortion.
- Hearts on Hold was a huge success for you so how doe A Monument differ from the previous record - the new album does seem to be a little darker than it's predecessor?
We're happy that A Monument feels like a more evolved sound, with moments of darkness but also definite glimpses of bright light. Going into the studio we were definitely wanting to achieve a "huge" sound, while trying to avoid sounding over-produced or too glossy.
- How do you feel like you have developed as artist/musicians as you have put this album together?
Certainly with each recording we have grown as musicians, while deepening our understanding of each other as friends and co-conspirators. Corrina has certainly honed her voice into a fine instrument, and Joe has gotten more precise and hard-hitting behind the drum kit. Meanwhile the keyboards are getting more intricate, violin and horn arrangements more aggressive.
- You recorded the majority of the album at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco so how did you find your time out there working on the record?
Actually the brunt of the recording was at home in Portland at Type Foundry with our friend Adam Selzer engineering for us. Our time at T.T. in San Francisco as well as some recording at Aktivklang in Leipzig, Germany was invaluable though.
Each city is dear to our hearts, but the real Tu Fawning sound is borne out of the netherworlds of our imagination.
- You have penned the tracks on the album so how does the songwriting work within the band - sis there one main writer or is it very much a collaborative process? If it is a collaborative process how much is that something that you enjoy?
The songs on A Monument are a testament to our shared process, one that is more collaborative than ever.
Some songs may be inspired initially by a line of lyrics from Corrina's notebook, or maybe one of Liza's piano riffs floating out of the basement. Toussaint may sketch out a song on the cassette 4-track while Joe spends a sleepless night conjuring sounds from his alchemical sampler.
In other words, the process is different for each song. For many bands this would seem like a burden; with us, however, it seems to work out well, as each song is wholly distinct from the next.
- And how much is the making of an album and being in the studio something that you enjoy?
We've been lucky to not yet hit any big roadblocks in the studio, not to mention working with good friends who also happen to be great engineers. The fact that we've yet to bring on a producer is evidence that we all have a bit of studio nerd in us.
It's wonderful to use the studio as a canvas, and introduce each guitar tone a drum tambor as colors to paint with. The real challenge is in bringing the beautiful studio sound to the stage, injecting it with the blood and grit of a live performance.
- You will also be playing a whole host of European dates over the coming weeks, including a show in London, so how excited are about being back on the road?
Playing Europe and the UK has been amazing, and only gets better with each tour. People here are so passionate about music, and the hospitality is mindblowing. And now, after a couple of tours, it's great to fly halfway across the globe and see some familiar faces. We certainly feel blessed to do it and want each live show to be an expression of that gratitude.
- And for anyone who has a ticket to one of your shows but has never seen you live before how would you describe a Tu Fawning show?
There is no shortage of energy at a live show! Don't worry about catching any of us staring at our trainers (who wears trainers on stage anyhow?!) or idly strumming on a guitar. If anything, imagine a troupe of Chinese acrobats assembled in a human pyramid atop a speeding bicycle.
- So where did you love of music start and when did you really made the decision that music could be more than just a hobby?
We all share a deep love of music from childhood, be it hippie parents with guitars, high school orchestra, or basement punk rock bands.
It's doubtful that making music was ever a decision, really. More of a "calling," bordering on a sick compulsion to create and to perform.
- How did the band form?
Joe and Corrina began collaborating on Corrina's last solo record, The Absent and the Distant, around 2007.
Liza joined Corrina on tour for that record, playing shows all over Europe. Toussaint solicited both Liza and Corrina's help on his own solo album around the same time, while contributing horn parts to Joe's band, 31Knots. Once Joe and Corrina began writing songs as Tu Fawning, our musical fates were intertwined.
- What sort of bands/artists are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
Of course our musical influences span the spectrum, which is hopefully evident in our music. As for contemporary bands, some no-brainer choices would be Liars, Bear in Heaven, Suckers, John Maus, Ty Segall, Zola Jesus, Theopholus London... and of course all of our fellow Portland musicians, of which there are many too many to mention (and we're afraid to forget mentioning).
- You have a huge fan base so for any of those fans reading this interview do you have a message for them?
If you don't have a record player, steal one from your grandparents - they don't listen to their old Black Sabbath records anyway. Or steal a Technics 1200 turntable from a "DJ," they don't seem to use them anymore either.
Now feel free to pick up a copy of our new album A Monument, or recent 7", Anchor, available on City Slang!
- Finally what's next for you?
Looking forward to a few weeks of touring in Europe, and we're firming up a stateside tour in July and August with our good friends AU. Hopefully we'll be back to the UK and Europe before long, so stay tuned!
Tu Fawning - A Monument is out now FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw