I identify with Brighton’s Fear of Men to a degree that borders on both comedy and tragedy. They began as the art school film project of guitarist Daniel Falvey and vocalist/guitarist Jessica Weiss (I moved to The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection eleven years ago to attend our very own UArts.) They’ve been known to cite Anais Nin, de Beauvoir, and Freud as major influences (For the past half a decade I’ve been a humanities professor at Temple.) And… those of you who know me know that I have, let’s just face it, a fear (and loathing) of the male species… In addition, sonically, they resemble a twee tribute to post-punk (A sort of channeling of my favorite band, Belle & Sebastian, paying homage to my favorite genre, post-punk.)… Oh, and apparently they have a healthy appreciation of the French New Wave… Last month they released their first official studio LP, Loom, which sounds along the lines of a contemporary indie pop take on Joy Division… sugary and morose to the nth degree… They’re currently on tour with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and will be playing Johnny Brenda’s on May 19th. I recently got a chance to chat with Daniel Falvey about the band’s history, what they got out of the recording and releasing of a proper full-length, and the “artists” and “great minds” that get them off.
Izzy Cihak: Fear of Men have been around for a while now, despite the fact that you just released your first official LP. What have been the highlights of the project so far?
Daniel Falvey: There have been so many highlights. It has been really fun going through the milestones – our first cassette tape, first 7″, first 12″ and now our debut album. I was really excited when I saw the CD digipak of Loom, because we’ve never had a proper CD release before, so things like that are always a thrill. Being flown to play Seaport Festival in New York and FYF Festival in LA was something we didn’t expect and we were very grateful for. Probably our favourite show so far has been playing Festival Nrmal in Monterrey, Mexico. We went on stage just as the sun started going down so there was a lot of excitement in the crowd for the night ahead. There were people singing along at the front and it was just a magical night for us. It was an amazing festival, too. We came off stage and watched Mac De Marco, DIIV, and Ariel Pink that night.
Izzy: And how do you feel as though Loom compares to your previous (shorter) releases?
Daniel: It was our first time spending a decent amount of time in a studio, so it allowed us to go a bit deeper and experiment more with sounds and instrumentation. Before we’d just spend a weekend in a studio to record a single, so this was more immersive and I think that is reflected in the album we made. I think it’s darker than people might expect and we played a lot more with texture than we have before. We’ve always been interested in exploring contrasting fidelities and we’ve pushed that on this record – juxtaposing Jess’ crisp, clean vocals with dissonant and degraded sounds. We did things like record a string quartet in the studio and then bounce it on to tape very hard so it would start to warp and distort. It’s quite a painstaking process, but it was also a lot of fun and it was good to have the time to be able to experiment like that.
Izzy: In the US the album got released on Kanine Records. What are your thoughts on the label? Any particular favorite labelmates? (Beach Day are probably currently my favorite people in the world of music… although as much for personal reasons as musical ones…)
Daniel: Kanine are brilliant. Previously we’ve only really released music on DIY labels and we weren’t sure what it would mean to release our music on a bigger label, in terms of controlling what we want to do, but in many ways Kanine are a DIY label. They have a really small team. It’s really just Lio and Kay, who are husband and wife and they do everything. They are very open to listening to how we want to do things. They don’t keep us in the dark on anything, so we know what is going on, which is important to us. The label obviously has a great history of finding and working with new exciting artists – we loved that first Grizzly Bear record. They also just signed our friends, Beverly!
Izzy: I’m curious what you would consider to be Fear of Men’s biggest non-musical influences, especially considering that the band started as a film project. (I saw on your Tumblr that you’re a fan of Masculin feminin, which is actually my favorite Godard and third favorite film of all-time – after Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? and Salo.)
Daniel: Yeah, that’s an interesting film. In terms of non-musical influences I know that Jess was reading a lot of Anais Nin’s diaries, Phillip Larkin, Walter Benjamin, and Freud when writing her lyrics. We’re generally influenced by classical literature and myths a lot too. We’re very interested in the relationship between past memory and the collective, and we like to link these themes in with our artwork. I think Goshka Macuga’s visual art picks up on this too, and is a favourite of Jess’. We’re big fans of the works of Fassbinder and Douglas Sirk; the subversion of the “feminine,” domestic format of the melodrama by these male auteur directors is an interesting furrow to explore, as well as Fassbinder’s reappraisal of German history in his films in the years following WW2.
Izzy: You’re going to be in town on May 19th with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. What can be expected of the live show? (I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen you in Philly before.)
Daniel: We like the live show to be quite dynamic and generally pretty fast paced, so we can move a lot and have fun on stage. The live shows are quite cathartic for me. I try to put everything of me into them.
Izzy: And what are you hoping and planning for the rest of 2014?
Daniel: We’re going to be doing a lot of touring. After the US tour with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart we come back home for a couple of weeks to play a few shows and then head out again with Pains to Europe for a month. After that we’ll be playing some festivals and going on our own headline tours in the US and Europe, so we’re going to busy! We’ll also start thinking about a new album. We’re always excited to get started on new songs.