Fanfarlo was here last back in December 2009 at the Brillobox putting on an amazing show. A little over two years later, they are making their second stop in Pgh, this time at the larger venue Mr Smalls. The band just released their second LP on new major label, Atlantic Records, entitled Rooms Filled With Light. It's a departure from their previous album, with more electric guitar and synthesizer compared to the folk sound of Reservoirs. We had a great interview with drummer Amos Memon, speaking about the new sound, recent performances in Seoul and their hope to create a soundtrack to a film. Also, don't forget we have a pair of tickets to giveaway to the show.
There was a good 4 years between your two lp’s. Why such a long gap? What was the band doing between these years?
Reservoir was recorded in late 2008 and released in early 2009. We then toured for the bulk of 2009 and 2010, before taking time off to write our second album, which we recorded in 2011 and released last month. Basically we got caught in the tour-record-release black hole!
You recorded Rooms Filled With Light for Atlantic Records. How has this transition been compared to your indie roots? Did you feel more pressure to create a more ‘popular’ album?
We had a lot of fun practicing songs for Rooms Filled With Light and didn't feel any pressure to create something we weren't committed to. Even if we weren't on Canvasback/Atlantic, our approach would have been exactly the same.
There is a real departure sonically on your new album compared to the last. There is more electric guitar and synthesizers. What made you change direction? Or do you feel this was just a natural progression?
As musicians, we'd improved at playing our instruments since the last time we were in a studio. We'd matured and wanted to try new things, setting parameters for the album's sound, such as abandoning familiar instruments (glockenspiel, melodica, acoustic guitar and clarinet) and replacing them with electronics, electric guitar and getting Simon to dust off his saxophone.
What was the writing process with the new sound? Did it change for this album?
It had changed. The songs on Reservoir were written by Simon about three or four years before we'd recorded them! We were all there for the conception of the songs on Rooms Filled With Light, so this is a band effort.
Has your live show changed compared when you were touring behind your last lp? Do you bring more musicians with you on tour?
We've been a quintet for two years. It's more manageable on stage, in the practice room and in the tour van. Our live show has evolved to include lights and projections, so much so that is does feel like you're missing a member when we don't have them.
You all have quite a touring schedule plan from looking on your website. How do the audiences differ from Europe to the US? And what about places such as Iceland? Any cities/countries you really enjoy playing?
Visiting Seoul, South Korea was an exciting city to play. We'd never been there before and made sure we could stay a bit longer to see the city and even travelled to border with North Korea. It was satisfying to finally play to our fans there. Last month we played our first show in Istanbul, Turkey and I think it's become our favourite destination, ever. European audiences can be brazen and high spirited, and depending on where you play in the States, it's almost the same. Popular gig cities like Paris, London and New York, I feel, always make you work harder to win over a crowd, I think because there's so much choice and competition. The other day we were talking about a summer festival show in a small fishing village, Borgarfjordur Eystri, in the east of Iceland that we performed at. People were acting crazy there! As the sun didn't set until about midnight, it had a debauched air to it. The next morning, everyone was very civilised and all went for breakfast together. I guess it's the norm there, go mad in the evening and be normal in the day.
Listening to the new album, there appears to be a strong 80’s new wave influence. Was this something you were attempting to capture?
Hmm, not intentionally, and not so much 80's new wave either. I know some of the band listen to a lot of 70's pop, bands like E.L.O. who married orchestral strings with the three minute pop song structure. We found a lot of minimalist composers inspiring and added their arrangement skills into the Fanfarlo pot.
What are your upcoming goals? What would you like to accomplish?
We keep talking about playing a live soundtrack to a film. We have a wealth of instrumental songs and jams we keep playing in practice. They wouldn't work at a Fanfarlo gig, so we just need to find a suitable film!
What made you want to dedicate your life to music? Was there a show or album?
I didn't grow up with a drum kit and I didn't start attending shows until I was out of high school. I just enjoyed listening to and watching people play the drums on TV or the radio. I travelled a lot as a kid, so now, I feel lucky to be doing both. I blame Adam Ant for using two drummers on Top Of The Pops. That must have been the catalyst for my young imagination.
Anything you would like to say to Pittsburgh?
That you CAN beat Steel heat. :)
Tickets are $15 and can be found here. Show is scheduled at 8p with doors at 7p. More information about the band at these sites: