JH: Victor first I’d like to say obviously we know each other pretty well, but for those out there who aren’t familiar with you or your music, how would you describe yourself?
VF: Quiet, anxious, and dedicated to the art of the 4-track folk tradition.
JH: You’ve had a few releases in the last couple of years, most recently with Borderline you have transitioned to a more 4-track lo-fidelity type sound. Any particular reason for that change? To keep more with tradition?
VF: Well, I have always recorded with this small 4-track recorder, an H4 Zoom, but mostly limited myself to only single tracks of vocals and guitar because I felt like I wasn’t ready. Before you can paint you gotta learn how to draw, I guess. I’m not the best singer and I’m decent enough with guitar but if I could get lyrics down right, then I got my way to connect to the listener (which I hope happens).
When I felt comfortable enough as a writer, then I began exploring what I could do with those other 3 tracks. I love working within limitations because it forces you to be creative. I tried working in studio environments but could never get the sound I wanted because so much time is spent preparing everything. Some musicians love that but I can’t overthink things. I love lo-fi recordings made on the spot because if I get an idea, I can have it out and ready within 30 minutes. Much of the things I have out are kind of made up on the spot because of that.
Maybe it’s a bad habit but I want to capture what I want when it’s still new and unknown to me.
JH: that makes sense, that’s how lots of great albums have been made
VF: Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks was made in like two days. Crazy, right?
Same with Velvet Underground’s debut album. They were so broke that most of the final cuts on that album were first takes.
JH: That’s surprising to me, I’ve always thought VU&Nico sounds so concise and specific to me, weird… Like the Velvet Uderground the art for all of your records are pretty fantastic, a lot of people have told me they like your album art. I know you’ve used a Picasso for one, but where does the rest of your artwork come from?
VF: Whenever I begin work on an album (and the bulk of the time is writing the lyrics), I have a good sense of the mood and tone of it and I keep a lookout for whatever passes by me that best represents that sound. Like recording, you just know when it shows up that this is the one. The one for that single I released last year was from a zine some dude handed me at a party I went to while living in New York. I kept staring at it because I spent the evening there alone in a corner feeling weird and stupid. It’s the I’m So Happy You Found Me one.
But for other times, museum trips and tumblr
JH: Who would you consider some of your key musical influences or inspirations?
VF: Oh boy. Early Mountain Goats when he was screaming into his boombox because it showed me that you didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars recording and mixing/mastering an album when you could just do it at home. It really opened the door for me to embrace DIY folk.
Fionn Regan, especially his first album The End of History. It was the first folk album I listened to way back when I was like 17. I listen to that album at least once a week since.
Bob Dylan (duh) because he’s pretty much the Shakespeare of modern songwriting. He showed us all that you don’t need a pretty voice to be able to say something. But his live album at the Royal Albert Hall is where it all started, me trying to be a folk singer. I would lay awake all night listening to the acoustic section of the performance where he would sing these impossibly long and complex songs in this giant hall and you could hear a damn pin falling by how quiet everyone was. I had no idea what he was singing about but I knew it was fucking magic. It got me to start thinking about language as an art, got me working shitty service jobs to buy an acoustic guitar, got me on a plane to NYC to play as many live shows as possible while there.
And Elliott Smith because he showed that with a 4-track you could make songs that equaled with the Beatles on perfection.
JH: While some of your earlier work seems to have a more song-and-dance folk element to them, your newer work, particularly Head Full & Heart Full, Making Ready seems to lean more towards the ambient and abstract type sounds, creating a very unique and powerful atmospheric listening experience… Why’d you move in that direction?
VF: Good question. I wanted to explore mental illness and what I could do within the confines of the album format. People keep saying that the album is dead but that’s such a boring stance to take on the subject. It’s meant to be a companion piece to Borderline where I take the subject of instability and zoom in on it. It’s a folk album, just like the rest of my stuff, but I’m using music software to create songs that will hopefully connect with other people.
It started with the idea of how talking to someone on the phone is such a strange experience that only people of the last hundred or so years have encountered. When you talk to someone on the phone, you are literally talking into their ear as if they were intimately close to you yet they are not there. What you hear is a connection and a slightly distorted voice. When you corrupt that voice we experience a sense of confusion and dread that is very new to us in some ways. I think it helps you understand that feeling when you’re listening to someone you care about just garble out insane shit and how helpless you feel when you see that you’re losing them.
JH: That’s beautiful… I like that. Lastly, What are you working on right now and any parting words for readers?!
VF: I’m working on a few things now: the first is another album that will hopefully finish up the Borderline series. It’s very noisy and violent, which is something both albums only hint at but never fully delve into. The other is a collection of folk songs titled I’m Tired of Making Sad Songs.
I’m also saving up money to buy a synthesizer…
Parting words? It’s okay to feel small and insignificant in this world because we are small but that only means that everything we experience is even more special.