Although, as a band, Faun Fables look to be something that could be considered postmodern, as storytellers, they embrace a traditional folk aesthetic. At the heart of Faun Fables is Dawn McCarthy, a writer, singer, and theatrical performer interested in not only the physical bodies that roam the Earth, but the body of the Earth itself and the impact it has upon its inhabitants. Her work is inspired by traditional art forms of the most inspired working-class aliens and, itself, is something at that embraces Rock’N’Roll, traditional balladry, and performance art. Faun Fables began a decade and a half ago around the time when Dawn met Nils Frykdahl, a mutli-instrumentalist from Oakland (Faun Fables boasts his love of the flute, the guitar, and the voice), who would go on to become Dawn’s partner in music and life. The band has produced four full-length albums for Drag City Records and numerous theatre projects. The band are currently on tour and this Thursday, October 4th, Faun Fables will find themselves at Johnny Brenda’s for a relatively intimate performance, supporting Rasputina. I recently got a chance to chat with Dawn about what fans can expect, what she thinks of her tour-mates in Rasputina, and what Faun Fables has planned for the future.
Izzy Cihak: For the better part of Faun Fables’ career, you have been collaborating with Nils Frykdahl. How would you characterize your process of working? Do you find the two of you balance each other out in an especially poignant manner?
Dawn McCarthy: Nils has always provided a different approach to music writing, something I admired terribly and felt would add so much to my writing. He is a kind of instrumental arranger that I am not. But I think now, after all these years of working together, we have taken on the influences of the other that we didn’t have ourselves. I think we came together, knowing we wanted to learn from the other, to be under the influence, parts of ourselves to expand into. I’m pretty sure I taught him more overtly emotional and melodic songwriting and he taught me dynamic and expansion in arranging. It was essential for me to feel that he had some right to be in my inner-world, to have permission to contribute to it. He sees it, he lives there, but it also is different from his.
IC: What are your ultimate goals for Faun Fables? What do you want to show people, or inspire in people? You have a very wide array of influences and you also tend to take on different forms, depending on the given setting or project.
DM: Creatively, I’d like to live out all our visions with flying colors… That includes travel, collaborations, interactions with others. It’s always been a wholistic vision of travel and lifestyle, influence, and conversation, spending time in places and with collaborators that excite us. It’d be amazing if our kids wanted to do a family project at some point, but no pressure. Business-wise, I’d like to make a better living from it. Not sure that’s possible. We’re committed to making art true to us and have been around for awhile… But I often wonder if we’ve connected with our strongest audiences. For example, it was a total surprise that one of our strongest followings is in Israel. I heard whisperings about Turkey as well. There just isn’t much Western music biz set up in places like that. I don’t know how one would go about organizing a tour in Turkey.
IC: On your upcoming tour you’re playing a variety of different settings. Are there any types of venues or spaces that you like most, or that you feel best evokes the feeling that you want for your live performances?
DM: I really like a variety. If I had only rock venues or performing art centers or house concerts, I’d get bored. I like the different muscles the different places work. I’m very into the art and exercise of being a performer. I’ve taken pride in trying to be a good one, and feel best when I’ve achieved some magic on the stage with the audience, especially with challenging situations/shows. It’s my job to make the magic anyway.
IC: What should fans expect of the live show on your upcoming dates? You’ve gained quite a reputation for ambitious and elaborate performances.
DM: Oh my! We’re digging in with some exciting old world folk influences in subject matter, research, and presentation. It’s just a lot of notes and words and melody… But we try to deliver a rich, elemental place with the shows and material. Hopefully that’s exciting to people. It’s what really feeds us in life.
IC: You’re playing a number of dates with Rasputina (Including your local Philly stop), who you’ve played alongside in the past. What are your thoughts on Melora and her project? Any particularly fond or entertaining memories?
DM: I really love Melora and her writing. I’ve been a Rasputina fan since my first band saddled up next to them in a Brooklyn art warehouse gig in 1994 or so. I forget how it happened that we did a few shows together before being asked to tour with them, first in 2004. She is a storyteller extraordinaire and I love her world. I always feel like I’m spending time with a magical eccentric childhood friend when in her midst and music. She’s brilliant, a visionary, and has absolute conviction in what she creates. We’ve been trying to find a way to collaborate, somehow, for a few years now. I played in Rasputina for one tour; as a singer and percussion player. We opened for Siouxsie (of Siouxsie and the Banshees). During that tour I was unknowingly pregnant; it was only a few weeks into it. But Melora knew I was pregnant, somehow.
IC: What’s next for Faun Fables? Is there new music in the works? If so, care to share what direction your sound might be going?
DM: I’ve only just begun to open the flood gates of my experience of Motherhood… I stepped into this portal 4 years ago and have just been living it, not writing about it. Can’t wait to do that. That’s next. It’s so practical to keep the project as a duo for now, with the girls still little. I just try to remain open to sounds, inspirations. I’d like to work on the Polish art song album that’s been chipped away at for years, now. I think we found a choir and director to do it with. Zygmunt Konieczny’s material is just majestic and brilliant… The originals are amazing. There’d be no need to re-record them, except that we can offer English language versions and thus expose whole other audiences to his work. It’s a true treasure, and such a joy to partake in. I met him in Krakow and received his blessing to sing his music.