Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Interview: Fulton Lights

MP3 - "The Way We Ride" - Fulton Lights
Brooklyn-based Fulton Lights take you on a layered, sonic journey on their latest record, The Way We Ride. Fulton Lights is the brainchild of Andrew Spencer Goldman, and the album was released last year on Catbird Records in pay-what-you-want fashion. The label's founder, Ryan Catbird, sums up the album nicely: "[T]here are some really intriguing juxtapositions going on with this record. It's like a team of robot scientists trying to piece together a Sergio Leone Western from dusty celluloid remnants, circa 2208 A.D." Since the album's release, Goldman has spent a good deal of time away from home, touring and traveling. On Wednesday, Fulton Lights make their Los Angeles debut with a N&UR-sponsored show at Bordello. While Goldman awaits the plane that will fly him to LA, he has been kind enough to answer some of our questions.

Where are you right now?
I am sitting at the computer in the Incheon airport (Seoul, South Korea), about an hour into a 22-hour layover before flying to LA.

How long have you been on this tour and where has it taken you?
I left New York on September 10th, and it's been a combination of tour and personal travel. I've done shows in Norway, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece, Turkey, and Australia. I also went to Egypt, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, but no shows in any of those.

How long have you been performing under the Fulton Lights moniker?

I think this project started using that name in 2007, or maybe late 2006? I can't quite remember, to be honest. The beta version of Fulton Lights went for a short period of time under my middle name, Andrew Spencer. That was before the first album was finished.

What was the process of creating The Way We Ride?
Hard and fast. Or at least relative to the first Fulton Lights album. Not including the songwriting time (I think all of the songs were written prior to the beginning of recording) I think TWWR took maybe 9 months once I broke ground on it? Maybe a little less if you don't include the mixing and mastering. That might seem like a long time, but keep in mind this was recorded in different places (my house, Godelstring studio, friends' apartments, etc.) and I was working at the time and learning how to use ProTools as I went along, so this was about as fast as I could possibly go. Believe me, I was not into wasting time or letting this album drag on forever like the first one did. The rate of working on the album also seemed well suited to the spirit of the songs.

It would seem you are not afraid to manipulate your voice in different ways - is that a conscious decision from the beginning or something the song eventually calls for?
I think it's somewhere in between the two. Sometimes I'll have an idea beforehand that a certain song probably wouldn't sound right with a very square vocal setting, but won't know exactly what type of setting the voice needs until I get in there and tinker until I'm happy, experiment with different types of takes, and so forth.

My favorite song is the title track - it is so badass. I also love how it mixes very modern effects with something more traditional like a banjo. That song, or others in general, what is the process of layering different elements and how do you know when a song is complete?
Good question. Everyone works differently. Some people get in the kitchen and they work strictly off of the recipe, or they have a very specific method and very specific ideas of what they want to cook and how the process will go. With Fulton Lights, and particularly with the most recent album, I've taken the approach of, "Ok, I know I want to make something that tastes spicy, that may be vaguely of this region or that region, I know I want it to have some vegetables and some poultry, and I know that these are the ingredients that I have to work with." And then from there, it's a bit of improvisation and constant poking, cutting and tasting until I'm happy. I know when a song is done just the way I know when dinner is done. The sauce tastes good, the chicken isn't pink, the onions are clear, and so on. Sometimes I realize there's an ingredient I need and I have to run out to the store to get it and ask a friend to tend to the stove. (It's dinner time as I'm typing this, if you couldn't tell.)

The release of your latest record was interesting - it came out via a blog label, had a limited physical pressing, and a pay-what-you-want download. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about different ways to release music and what has this made you think about how your future work will be released/distributed?
I do spend a lot of time thinking about it, but like everyone else I don't have any answers. And like everyone else, I've been both hurt and helped by the mp3, and making TWWR available on the pay-what-you-want model was me just trying to make the best of the situation, particularly in this case when I didn't have wide distribution and/or PR or anything like that. Ideally I don't think bands should have to do that; albums cost money to make, and the idea that every band can go out there and get paid from live shows is just ridiculous. Carrie Brownstein's recent blog post about the "tourist" culture that has evolved out of blogs and mp3s was spot on in my mind, and I hope we can somehow avert the continuing devaluation of music that is its unintended consequence. It's a race to the bottom. I don't know what the answer is.

You told me you don't keep up too much on recent music - what do you tend to listen to and draw influence from?
I think that my tuning out to recent music has a lot to do with what I was just saying. It's like my brain is just overloaded and disgusted with the rate at which bands are cycled through these days, and the criteria that seems to be applied or not applied to the bands that people tend to be creaming their jeans for at any particular moment, and how little respect is involved on all fronts when that's the case. Almost as a rule I tend to ignore things for a while and then catch up on them after the hoopla has disappeared. If it's really as good as people say, it will still be good. It's a good way to sift through so much crap. I do really like the new Q-Tip record, a lot, but that's not a shock. I've always been a fan. And, to contradict everything I just said, I just listened to the new Animal Collective record and my ears definitely perked up. But in general I tend to be influenced more by older stuff, things that have stood the test of time. There's a reason that people are still listening to records by Bob Marley, or Leonard Cohen, or whoever. My tastes are too broad to list just a few, someone inevitably gets left out and feels bad about it.

What does the future hold musically for both yourself and Fulton Lights?
That is the question, isn't it. I know that I have a lot of songs that I'd like to record, things that I wrote before leaving for this trip, as well as ideas that I was working on during this trip, and it's at least an album's worth of material, maybe two. It'll almost certainly be different sounding than the second record, just as The Way We Ride was different from the first. It's important to me to keep it moving. Aside from Fulton Lights, I've been producing other bands a little bit, and I'm hoping to keep doing that where I can. Also, Jason Zumpano (Attics & Cellars, Sparrow, Zumpano) and I are trying to get something cooking. We email horrible band names back and forth to each other, so I figure that's a start.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Great interview. I love hearing from musicians about the music-making process. It stirs feelings of awe and envy.