Experimental indie-pop group Fanfarlo has already had quite the 2014 with the release of their third full-length album, which touches on existential matters that continually cross the minds of contemplative humans. The album meshes these ideas about existence with synth-riddled pop hooks and the swirling vocals of the London-based sextet made up of Simon Balthazar, Cathy Lucas, Justin Finch, Leon Beckenham and Valentina Magaletti.
Let’s Go Extinct manages to touch on these themes intelligently and without pretentiousness, fine-tuning the subject matter to reach and impact audiences universally while also leaning heavily on 80s-inspired melodies.
Wednesday April 2nd, Fanfarlo will head to the Mile High City for an intimate show at the Larimer Lounge. Vocalist and songwriter Simon Balthazar took some time out of his relaxation in London to answer some of our questions. We talked about crazy weather patterns, lofty aspirations for pensive pop music and microcosmic recording tactics.
303 Magazine: How’s it going? Are you currently on the road?
Simon Balthazar: Well I’m on a bit of micro downtime I suppose. We came back from a month around Europe and we’re back for a few days before we head off to the U.S. Fake spring has just arrived in London and it’s rather wonderful.
We’ve been experiencing that in Denver a bit, beautiful weather for a few days then snow then beautiful weather again.
A little bit of sun now and again is good. I think people in this kind of climate get very excited about the sun coming up, so we managed to have this big garden BBQ hang out yesterday at mine. Then a few of us went to this art space that a friend of mine runs and they were performing some sort of very strange gong ceremony there. Just a huge room with a bunch of gongs being played and people laughing on bean bags.
That sounds interesting, I’m sure your ears are still ringing from that.
Gongs are really powerful instruments. Just beating on this giant thing got my heart rate speeding.
[Laughs] I’m sure they are. When’s the last time you all played Denver?
It’s definitely been awhile.
You guys released your new album in February and the artwork, the subject matter and the title [Let’s Go Extinct] all seem to tie into pretty heavy existential ideas about extinction and evolution, so where did you draw the inspiration for this album?
It’s not heavy to us. The approach is a little bit like science fiction. It’s not an album about space adventure though. We get questions from people about what these types of ideas are doing in pop music, but they’re not heavy questions. Ideas about who we are, where did life come from, how do we interact with the world around us in a meaningful way and, you know, what will happen when we’re going are really quite fundamental questions.
They aren’t academic, they’re very much a part of everyday life. So I think to me, it makes sense to marry the two. Like why can’t pop music be a part of things like science or the planet?
Coming from afar and heading for the sun, I think of us when we were molecules.
And you present the ideas in a way that’s not overarching or too theoretical.
The role of art isn’t necessarily to provide answers, but rather to ask questions. And I guess our approach with this record—apart from making good music—is about hinting at perspectives that you might not have thought about, like your place in the world or how you interact with things. And we’re not suggesting a clear cut answer but rather pointing at different perspectives.
And when you, as a songwriter, are making an album as cohesive as this, where the tracks are all linked to bigger picture ideas, does that make the songwriting easier or more difficult for you?
Well it makes it easier I guess. But songwriting when it’s right is quite an intuitive process. It’s quite a solitary process. It starts out as melodies and words. And then I take these to the band and it becomes a lengthy process arranging and deciding which things work and which don’t. It’s really this process of pulling things out of thin air.
Oh definitely. And your music has a pretty dreamy aspect to it and the sounds are often echoing, making your music sound like you’re in a separate world. What draws you to these sounds?
Well I guess that has to be the thing that you strive to do when you’re creating things, to create a world around it. I guess that’s one of the things I was quite happy about when making this record was that we were really good at creating a bubble for ourselves or creating a separate world, as it were. We’ve always experimented with going away and living together while recording.
With this record we did the recording in this house in the Welch countryside that had been sitting empty for 20 years and we built a studio in there. It was a great way of creating this bubble around ourselves and it really helped us to just let things happen and not worry too much about what everyone else would think about it.
That sounds great.
It was. We really have a “kid in a candy store” approach to making music and so this made for a very eclectic record with lots of layers and a lot of detail. Having too many ideas and wanting to do too many things at once are always the things we struggle with.
What can people who have maybe never heard your music or seen you live expect from a live show? Lots of instruments, lots of vocals?
Well, I mean, I don’t know–what should people expect? [Laughs] I guess it would depend what they’re used to. But we always try to tell a story. It’s very much about some idea we’re trying to get across but also about dynamic music and exciting music. There are big loud songs that go into disco then quiet acoustic moments. We really try to turn it into a show.
Be sure to check out Fanfarlo at the Larimer Lounge on Wednesday, April 2nd!