Ezra Furman & The Harpoons
Berlin, 29th July 2010
With that in mind, we wanted to talk to the clever young man behind these sunglasses and lyrics. Trying to figure out how much he wants to hide himself sometimes, we also spoke about scary fairy –tales, the joy of words, nervousness and what the new album has in common with Dostoevsky's "The Idiot".
Raw Investigations: Usually, you are giving each and every show an individual title. How did you name the acoustic gig yesterday and the full band show today?
Ezra: Tonight was called "Give yourself to green Light" which is actually stolen from a Jamie Lidell song. He was on my mind. I just name the shows with the band, it's the band's concept. If it's just me, I don't name them.
RI: How would you, probably?
Ezra: I would name it "Solo Show Number one Million".
RI: "In Berlin, Germany".
Ezra: Yes, then I write down the date and the city to keep a record of every setlist in case somebody asks me about all the shows I ever played and where and when. I would be able to show them then. (laughs)
RI: Sweet. Yesterday you played I don't wanna grow up by Tom Waits, I guess this applies literally to you?
Ezra: You know, I could get a little taller, bigger, stronger... I know I'm frail. I'm too frail! Nah, I do! It's just one of my emotional fantasies that I don't wanna grow up - impulse. I felt it a lot of times and I think everybody else, too. It's very relatable, not wanting to grow up. It's also just a good song.
RI: Erich Kästner, a German author, once said "Only who grows up and stays a child is a human being"; so I guess you agree with that?
Ezra: Yes. I used to be a lot more afraid of something essential in me was going to die out when I got too old. But I thought that age would be 20. (laughs) Now, being 23, almost 24, I'm not afraid. You just get older but you stay yourself. Of course not everybody does. Some people grow out of themselves in a bad way but I think I'm save, it won't happen to me.
RI: I'm certain you are. Once, you explained, "Our music has a lot of story telling. And it's nervous." What makes it nervous? What makes you nervous?
Ezra: That question makes me nervous!
RI: I knew you'd say that.
Ezra: I know, it's been the most predictable thing. Kinda sad.
For a long time I've been a nervous person. I was nervous about losing my identity. That's a big theme in a lot of our music so far. This nervousness is related to not wanting to grow up, I guess. It's something going to disappear from me; My soul will just escape somehow and I will completely lose track of myself.
I think I'm more nervous because I'm desperate. I feel desperate a lot. Desperate to try to explain something, I'm not sure what it is. You can hear it in a lot our songs, that I'm trying to shake people by the shoulders and explain something. It's not always clear what that is exactly. I just like this drama between how you act outwardly and how you really feel. This feeling - you can't ever explain yourself. That's what a lot of our music is about. This let me just explain!! Let me tell you what this is like!
RI: How far are you finishing your third studio album? What is it like?
Ezra: It's done. It feels really good. I think it's a lot better than the things we've done in the past. We made the other albums very quickly, that's the fun about them. Just having to do it in about a week. We did both in under a week. For this one we got to spend three weeks and made it. It's less nervous, less frantic. We were trying to get it all out. Previous songs I was trying to put my everything, my whole worldview into one song. But now the focus blasts of one feeling and they don't bleed into each other. I think the best songs feel like they weren't even written. A lot of the songs on the album, to me, feel like that. You can't see any stitching on them. You can't see where the nails were hammered in. They seem very natural. It's all around more confident, less nervous, really. As if I'm more confident that I can actually explain what I'm trying to explain!
RI: Is "Blood sucking Whore" which you played tonight on the album, too?
Ezra: It is!
RI: It's very 50s then?
Ezra: Yes, it's like a messed up sort of sick, twisted 50s ballad. I tried to write a classy, Buddy Holly style love song. I made it very sincere and really classy. At that time I actually was in a bad relationship that came out totally twisted, sort of creepy...
RI: You seem to write and record all the time. Your back catalogue must be massive!
Ezra: Recently in the past I realised it's better not to write all the time (laughs) just to wait for the really good ones. I used to write a song every week. Two even. I was always doing it. Maybe some of them that no one has ever heard are really good. Most of them are bad, I think. They should never been shown to anyone, they're like...
RI: ...letters you never send?
Ezra: Yes, like unsent letters. When I was in school people would ask me to do homework assignments a lot and I would rather write a song instead.
RI: If you have such a strong urge to write, what about writing something else such as short stories?
Ezra: I write a lot of poems. I probably should look at them; my friend is a publishing press. We're going to try to publish a book of poems.
I'm addicted to writing little phrases. They pop up in my brain; sometimes they end up in poems or songs. I like rhythm also. I'm addicted to phrases and rhythm... I write all the time, poems or songs or diary entries. Somehow I've been doing this since I was a kid. It seems I was born to keep writing until you find the good stuff. I think some good things come out.
RI: I'm sure! Are you sometimes also surprised by what you've written? As if you weren't the one who's written it?
Ezra: It's like you're a different person! When you're in the zone it's like a different person. I don't think I act though...
RI: It's our unconscious. For your live album Moon Face you promised to write an individual song for every person who'd buy it. How many songs did you have to write?
Ezra: 180 people ordered it. I still haven't finished. I have done 140.
RI: Isn't that extremely difficult to write about a person you don't know at all and only got a very few informations of?
Ezra: It's got really hard (laughs) I started holding it on to a high standard and worrying too much. I made something up and threw it out. Because this is this one person's ONE song just for them, it's gotta be good enough! I need to calm down and just accept some of it. It's really hard to do and most of them are three minute songs!
RI: That's very honest of you as you could just change the name.
Ezra: I didn't want to do that, that would cheapen it. Every song is completely different. I like when music connects two people, when it's intimate. One person talking to the other. I realised since we're not on a record label anymore, I could just do it, I could literally do it, person to person. I tried it for a while and got a little burnt out along the way. I do have to finish it, there are still a few people waiting and that's really a shame. It's been a many months...
RI: But it's such a sweet idea, I'm sure they will understand.
Ezra: I know, I like the idea. I'll get it done now.
RI: You received great response from European countries while you're hardly known in the US. Do you have any idea why?
Ezra: I don't know, I am totally baffled! It's hard to tell. Maybe the US seems cooler than Europe? I know that I am not really cool, I'm not the average cool American. I know all these super cool kids...
RI: The super cool don't make it here? Probably right, Adam Green for instance plays in front of thousands here and is hardly known in the US, isn't he?
Ezra: Indeed. He's not cool, he's more like a weirdo. Maybe the Europeans like the weirdos?
The other thing is a lot of radio stations here are playing our music. It's really rare in America that a radio station choses something a little bit weird and play it. They're mostly controlled and only a few things get played. There are some indie stations but they're dying off. They don't thrive as well as they do in Europe.
RI: I read that Mortimer (a plastic goose) got abandoned from touring?!
Ezra: We're just holding him back. Mortimer went on to start a solo career. He's a goose that lights up we stole from my mum's living room. She's missed him and he missed her! We had to put them back together. When we were going to we realised we love this goose too much! It's been a lot going on with him after all!
RI: Got stolen, got sent back...
Ezra: Yes! Basically... he's back with my mum again, I think he's happier this way. It's really about what's best for the goose.
RI: And probably safer! You didn't find a mascot replacement then?
Ezra: No. Unless you're volunteering! We hold auditions for whoever would like the role! Animals... people...
RI: Since I'm blonde and German as Kirsten I might have good chances, eh? Anyway, do you always name non-living things? Mortimer the plastic goose, Eleanor the minivan...
Ezra: (laughs) Eleanor... died. The engine died. Now we have Rita, our new van. Yes, I like naming things. I'm obsessed to put a personal touch on everything and make it something that you can call by name. I like memorizing thing's names. I love titles of songs and titles of albums and bands. My brain is a big warehouse of memorized names of things. Mostly rock'n'roll songs and albums. I've got a good brain for remembering names, not of people, always. I like names, I like naming things. I think it changes something when you name it.
RI: Last two random questions: What are you reading at the moment?
Ezra: Dostoevsky, "The Idiot". It's really good! I started reading it because I haven't even read it yet but felt that our new album was about the idea of someone who's a good person society can't accept. That's exactly what the book is about, too.
RI: It's a typical Dostoevsky conflict.
Ezra: Absolutely. Just the good man who feels the world is wrong and destroys good people. It's a little dark but that's how you feel sometimes.
RI: Your favourite fairy tale as a child?
Ezra: It's a good question! There is this story, Abiyoyo, is that even popular in Europe? It's about this guy and his son. The guy is a magician and he plays tricks, makes things disappear. He keeps tormenting the town, makes somebody's chair disappear right when they're about to sit down. Then they throw him out of the town and then this monster called Abiyoyo comes to destroy the town. So they bring him back and he makes the monster disappear.
All my nightmares were about this monster when I was a little kid. But I like the story anyway. It's the first book I ever read, I ever learnt to read.
More famous ones... I like a few of Grimm's Fairy Tales, but the originals, the really bloody ones. "The little Mermaid"...
RI: It's by Hans Christian Andersen.
Ezra: The little Mermaid is by Hans Christian Andersen? Alright! The scary ones are all good. I liked being scared as a little kid. I still like it. To look things in the face and learn it by an early age not to be afraid. Or to be afraid and face it.
RI: Thank you very much!
LinksEzra's mixtape for Raw Investigations
Ezra Furman & The Harpoons
Ezra Furman & The Harpoons on MySpace
Ezra Furman & The Harpoons on Facebook