Monday, March 26, 2012

A Song Is Something With Words In It

Or is it? My mother certainly thinks so. Although she can go on and on about instrumentation and vocal timbre, she cares primarily about lyrics. And as a non-native speaker, she has trouble with the anglais, especially when sung with careless abandon. In short, she's sent me several emails that go like this: "I want the words!" All of them? I couldn't be bothered. But then, earlier today, I received another such email. An old friend now living in Buenos Aires told me that he's passed along our songs to several of his Argentine friends and they've asked for the lyrics. "Lots of my Argentine friends use those lyrics websites to learn a song or be able to follow along (helpful for non-native English speakers)," he explained. How can one resist such a charming long-distance request? Therefore, in honor of our many international fans, I've added all of our lyrics to the bandcamp page. Click on whichever song your heart desires to more fully comprehend.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inside Pushing Out

For the past ten days or so, I've been thinking. Meanwhile, Stefan has been listening to Hype Williams. He says their music feels like London. I'm not sure if I've got that right. It feels like his feeling of London. There's something about the wobbly, scratchy graininess of it that evokes and makes manifest an internal reality to which he strongly identifies. So I've been thinking. Fiona Apple just performed at SXSW. I read Nitsuh Abebe's review of the show and nearly wept when he quoted a Tori Amos lyric from "Silent All These Years." When was the last time a hip music critic like Abebe mentioned someone like Tori Amos? I had to stop reading and breathe as a tidal wave of Tori nostalgia hit me hard, as in, excuse me but can I be you for a while my dog won't bite if you sit real still I got the anti christ in the kitchen staring at me again you bet your life it is oh honey you bet your life dropped off the edge again down in juarez pandora pandora's aquarium here there must be something here all the world is all I am the black of the blackest ocean and that tear in your hand... Uh oh. Back to the article. Abebe makes a crucial point about a certain crop of 90s female performers as compared to the recent onslaught of hyper referential fantasy bands:

A lot of the acts around us in Austin right now are interested in dreaming up alternate realities, collapsing different sounds and styles from the world around them into something new. But this is another reason Apple’s shows here stand out: They have a distinct and overwhelming sense of taking something that’s going on inside her and giving it form, filling up a venue with it, letting it seep into the listener.

FEZANT is often accused of sounding too much like the 80s (and often, I'm the one doing the accusing). This is our alternate reality. We don't like now, we're scared of tomorrow, so let's go back to the pretend 80s and dance around in neon leggings! Stefan even wore eyeliner and a tight bright green sweater for our first ever photo shoot. And then his cousin called him my gay sidekick. Stefan won't be wearing that green sweater again. Not that he doesn't love the gays, but, well. Anyway. My point is that we're not really about the 80s. Sure, we use analog synthesizers and drum machines, but we're actually more like Fiona Apple in our intentions: sincere, self-critical and reaching for the raw. There's something going on inside to which we're trying to give form. Inside pushing out. Granted, we don't always succeed. Inside sometimes gets lost along the way. Too many fog machines. Still, it's important for me to remember: inside pushing out. I'm not interested in newness or oldness. I'm interested in nowness.

Tori knows
all about the pretend 80s:

And then when it all seemed clear, just then, you go and disappear...

Saturday, March 10, 2012


the property of being animated; having animal life as distinguished from plant life

The acoustical quality of a live room.

In information security, liveness refers to the transmission of data that is happening now and not a replay of a recording of data sent previously. Liveness is introduced into secure transmissions by mixing in a number that cannot be duplicated again (see nonce). See replay attack.

This is the recorded version of "Commander." The song started as a melody accompanied by three chords on my dinky nylon string guitar. The recording evolved to include several synths, upright bass (Jason Hoopes), cello (William Ryan Fitch), alto saxophone (Jacob Zimmerman), and a sampled beat courtesy of the one and only professional fundamentalist Hassan Nasrallah. As you may be able to tell, we were going for brutal, epic, and possibly disturbing:

This is the live version of "Commander." We recorded it last week. It includes me, Stefan and two synths. We can't be dragging cellos, upright basses, and whatnot with us to gigs, not to mention the talented specimens who play them. So. Liveness. It comes down to this:

Friday, March 2, 2012

People Pay To See Others Believe In Themselves

You ask: will FEZANT ever perform again? I reply: once someone offers us a fucking gig or two, we'll decide whether or not we're too good for that shit. I kid, I kid. We'll perform anywhere, anytime. Well, not anywhere. A decent sound system is a must. And generally, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are no good. I'd like to perform again and a lot. Stefan is more reluctant. He sends me videos like this:

Which makes me think of this:

On one hand, you have imperturbable British dudes carefully wielding electronic sounds. On the other hand, you have disco-loving Palestinians willfully ignoring the police state in which they live. That's where we come in. Obviously, Stefan is the imperturbable British dude and I'm the desperate dancing girl. Somewhere in between clinical precision and physical abandon lies the metronomic heart of a good synth pop song. Kim Gordon wrote an article in 1983 about the function of the performer in a rock concert. At least, that's what I think it's about. She says something slightly confusing about Laurie Anderson, i.e. body mediated by machine mediated by body amounting to a neo-heroically masterful techno-woman-voice thing:

"The notion of merging avant-garde and popular culture (multimedia technology) by an artist is found in its most successful form in Laurie Anderson's recent performances. The position that Anderson represents, as one who has transcended the isolation of the art world, involves a different kind of heroics from that of the rock 'n' roll persona, who represents, even if mythically, a sense of real sexuality, real life or death. Anderson's androgynous appearance and mechanical voice create an impression of organized perfection, expressing the ideal as nonsexual. She has created her own atmosphere of mastering and mimicking a technology that is usually mystifying. Wherever she performs, she accomplishes what clubs cannot; she manipulates the audience by the unseen, creating moments that change and move along effortlessly. As in the multimedia presentations of religious organizations and corporate business, Anderson's seduction suggests, 'Sit back and relax, don't think, let us do it for, let us show you how.' She is identifying with a higher order of technology-power. "

So rock 'n' rollers are real, sexual, and messy while machines are unreal, nonsexual, and perfect. Maybe. I've always found Laurie Anderson to be a bit too clean and a bit too smooth, despite all her unabashed weirdness. What I'd like to figure out is how to juxtapose the real with the unreal without losing any of the heroic human rock 'n' roll mess. Ian Curtis and synthesizers. Like that. Because when I'm up there on stage, and Stefan is dealing with the machines, and my voice is running through four different boxes, and the audience is staring at us, and the sound system is all we've got to push our sound through, and our fragile bodies are sweating and my feeble voice (which is actually quite loud, but not compared to three synths) is shaking, I begin to think, how can my humanity remain intact amidst all of this rigid noise? I like the rigidity of electronic music, but sometimes, it scares me. I can't compete. Except for when I get my head around it just right. Then the machines begin to make me feel more human. And isn't that what you want to experience? Someone being human on stage? Someone being human in ways that make you believe in yourself?

"People pay to see others believe in themselves. Maybe people don't know whether they can experience the erotic or whether it exists only in commercials; but on stage, in the midst of rock 'n' roll, many things happen and anything can happen, whether people come as voyeurs or come to submit to the moment. As a performer you sacrifice yourself, you go through the motions and emotions of sexuality for all the people who pay to see it, to believe that it exists. The better and more convincing the performance, the more an audience can identify with the exterior involved in such an expenditure of energy. Performers appear to be submitting to the audience, but in the process they gain control of the audience's emotions. They begin to dominate the situation through the awe inspired by their total submission to it. Someone who works hard at his or her job is not going to become a "hero," but may make just enough money to be able to afford to be liberated temporarily through entertainment. A performer, however, as the hero, will be paid for being sexually uncontrolled, but will still be at the mercy of the clubs and the way the media shapes identity. How long can someone continue to exert intensity before it becomes mannered and dishonest?"

Here's to exerting intensity on stage and beyond. And surviving. One time, after he had forgotten my name for the third of fourth time, Roscoe Mitchell said to me, "You know, the ones who were all about themselves and their thing, they lasted about ten years. The ones who were about the MUSIC, they're still going strong."