NoiseTrade One-on-One

PledgeHouse: Spotlight Interview with Ezra Furman

This year we’re excited to partner with PledgeMusic and Kenneth Cole to bring you, from Austin, TX, PledgeHouse – FOUR DAYS of day parties with over 40 bands across two stages. Taking place March 13th through March 16th at The Blackheart, we’ll open doors at 11:30am each day as we welcome 11 artists across two stages, with our friends at The Current live streaming our indoor stage performances each day.

RSVP for all the PledgeHouse shenanigans here:

To help get you ready for the musical melee of PledgeHouse, here’s our PledgeHouse Spotlight interview with Ezra Furman (playing Friday, 3/16 on the indoor stage).

NoiseTrade: You’ve described your compelling new album Transangelic Exodus as a “queer outlaw saga” and a “road movie or post-modern novel.” What all fed into your thematic songwriting filter for this album and what are your thoughts on concept records as a whole?

Furman: I hit on a situation I found fascinating – me and an angel fleeing by car from a hostile government, both of us physically wounded – and I just let it bloom. Instead of following my first instinct, which was to put those lyrics in a drawer to one day look back on and say “Huh, what a weird misguided attempt to write something ambitious,” I decided that, to me, it was too interesting to pass up. I have sometimes denigrated concept albums in the past, or at least been sure that I’d never write one, because I wanted to always be focused on writing a great song rather than a great record. I believe the way (at least for me) to make a great record is to write great songs. But I found that this concept of the angel and all that actually opened my songwriting up. It gave a focus to the bits of songs I was toying with and better brought out the emotion they were attempting to express. And then the piece as a whole started to speak beyond what the individual songs had to say. And with more work it became the careful whirlpool it is.

NT: Your connections to Lou Reed – lyrically, musically, ideologically, inspirationally – are readily apparent, so much so that you’ve actually written a book about his Transformer album set to come out in April. What sparked the idea to tackle this album in a book and what can you tell us about the finished product?

Furman: Around the time our record Perpetual Motion People came out, i was dealing with a lot of the weirdness of becoming more famous, watching an audience collectively form a coherent picture of who I am. And I was very uncomfortable with that, even as I was happy to find a larger audience. I was reading a biography of Lou Reed at the time and I was struck by how violently he struggled with a similar moment in his career – Transformer, his big break. His image at that time had a lot to do with gender and sexuality, as does mine today. And he and I, i slowly realized, have some things in common: we present ourselves in an ambiguous way, hard to coherently react to, full of contradictions. A friend of mine pointed out to me that 33 and 1/3 has an open call for submissions, so I worked hard and got my stuff together and submitted. I’ve always been an enthusiastic prose writer but I’ve published very little so I was excited for the opportunity. The book is about me almost as much as it’s about Lou Reed. It’s about why he resonates with me so much and what he might mean through all his contradictions.

NT: Shifting gears a bit… You’re certainly no stranger to SXSW, so what are you looking forward to experiencing again and what new experiences are you hoping might transpire?

Furman: Those are some very positive questions about what is usually quite an unpleasant experience for me. Being among Music Industry People in large crowds is not my idea of a good time. However. I do love playing shows with my band. So I am looking forward to doing that.

NT: Are you altering your normal setlist/show in any way for the SXSW audience? What song of yours are you most looking forward to playing live for the SXSW audience?

Furman: We are playing shorter shows because of sxsw showcases’ time constraints. I’m looking forward to playing “Come Here Get Away From Me” because it encapsulates the dueling impulses of me being at SXSW: “please pay attention to me” meets “this is not where I belong at all.”

NT: Are there any bands or panels at SXSW that you are planning to checkout yourself?

Furman: There’s so much good stuff going on that I’d love to see. But I have a lot of work to do.