Interview – Eleanor Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces November 3, 2009

Going away, but not on vacation.

Eleanor Friedberger has been away for some time and has come back with a cold. The female half of the brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces talks to me just having returned from a long stint in Europe touring behind their seventh studio album, I’m Going Away. While the album starts with a title track and ends with the song “Take Me Round Again,” Friedberger is hesitant to assign the music parallels to her life touring the planet. 

“That’s certainly a nice way to think of it,” she says, but insists that the album was created with no thematic imperative. “We wanted to make a record that people have more fun making their owns stories for.” 

While every album represents a unique sound, Friedberger calls it the first equally collaborative effort in their catalogue. “The way we first started was I was telling Matt [Friedberger] a story, and we made up a song around that story. It kinda changed from him helping me make music to me helping him.” In her mind, the process has come full circle. “Now it’s kinda like we’re helping each other.” 

That philosophy of new songwriting approaches led to a series of intriguing projects that are now on the horizon for the band. In May, a post on the Fiery Furnaces blog put out a call to fans for “deaf descriptions,” for what they thought the new album would sound like without having heard it. The plan was for the descriptions to be turned into an album to be released simultaneously with I’m Going Away. Instead, they have been immortalized on the Fiery Furnaces website.

“I almost can’t read them because I feel overwhelmed and embarrassed because people spend so much time on something that has to do with us.” She continues, “It’s very flattering. It show so much about people who like our music, they’re so creative themselves.” Another project was dual cover albums of I’m Going Away, with all the songs redone individually by the Friedbergers. Eleanor says the albums are being mastered for an upcoming release. 

“The cover record is something I have wanted to do for a long time.” She credits the idea to being sometimes unable to recall how a song is played and making up new songs when she practices her singing. “I thought it would be funny to make a record, like a fake, folk ‘60s record called Eleanor Friedberger Sings The Songs Of The Fiery Furnaces. As if I hadn’t sung them all already.” She goes on to say her songs are mostly her vocals accompanied by guitar and Matthew’s are mostly his vocals accompanied by piano. These plans were joined by yet another projects, a so-called “silent record.” 

“We’re going to be putting out a book, but we’re calling it a ‘silent record’ because it is going to be a book of music.” The book, which will include sheet music, lyrics and graphic notation for improvisation, will hopefully be put out in both record and book stores. Between all these projects, turning shows into rallies for health care reform in the United States, a U.S. and Canadian tour and plans to return to Europe, the Fiery Furnaces may indeed need to go away for some rest in the near future. 

The Fiery Furnaces will be performing at the Red Room (Vancouver) November 17.

As seen in Beatroute Magazine.