The Fiery Furnaces
The Fiery Furnaces are an American indie rock band, formed in 2000 in Brooklyn, New York. The band's primary members are Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger. The siblings are originally from Oak Park, Illinois, a near-western suburb of Chicago. They are known for their conceptual, highly ambitious releases, which have frequently divided critical opinion.
The Fiery Furnaces
|Origin||New York City, USA|
|Genres||Indie rock, indie pop, psychedelic pop, art rock, progressive pop, experimental rock|
|Labels||Rough Trade Records, Fat Possum Records, Thrill Jockey|
The group has been on hiatus since May 2011, since which time both Matthew and Eleanor have pursued solo careers.
They signed with the Rough Trade music label in 2002, and recorded their debut album, Gallowsbird's Bark, the same year. Released in 2003, it was often compared in the press to The White Stripes due to the garage blues elements of the band’s sound and the fact that the members are siblings, which the White Stripes duo were originally widely believed to be.
Matthew is primarily responsible for the band's studio instrumentation and songwriting, while Eleanor handles the majority of the vocal duties. Drummer Andy Knowles and bassist Toshi Yano both joined the band for live performances in time for their 2004 tour. Beginning with a performance at the April 2004 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Camber Sands, England, the band's live performances took the form of hour-long, continuous sets of music featuring snippets from most of their recorded songs. Many times, several songs were melded together to create a conglomerate song that encompassed material from previously released songs, this producing similarly complicated set lists for the band to follow.
The Fiery Furnaces released their second album, Blueberry Boat, in the summer of 2004. It is also often interpreted as a multi-layered concept album. "Quay Cur," the ten-minute lead track on Blueberry Boat, switches from dirty, gurgling organ to slide-guitar-fueled ditties, pulsing electronic beats to abstract lullaby within a few minutes, highlighting the Fiery Furnaces' variety in songwriting. Some critics, however, interpreted this type of material as evidence that the album is unfocused. The epic nature of the majority of the songs made them unsuitable for radio play so the band prepared "Single Again," a take on a traditional folk song as a substitute.
This single, along with their previously released ones, was mostly only made available to the UK audience, so in January 2005 the band released a 41-minute compilation disc named EP (this confusingly being a designation commonly reserved for shorter discs). EP featured two new songs, all of the band’s singles and b-sides (with the exception of an alternate version of "We Got Back The Plague" found on the "Tropical Ice-Land" single), and was for this reason a contrast to the epic and, according to some, inaccessible nature of Blueberry Boat.
Their following album, Rehearsing My Choir (released in October 2005), saw the band return to an experimental sound once again. A concept album featuring the Friedbergers' grandmother, Olga Sarantos, narrating stories about her life, Rehearsing My Choir was met with widely differing opinions from both the press and the band's fans, being branded "difficult" even by those who rated it highly. Sarantos previously worked as choir director at a Greek Orthodox church, and her croaked reminiscences form the backbone to this peculiar, piecemeal storybook of an album. Jason Loewenstein of Sebadoh and Bob D'Amico took over band duties for the supporting tour, replacing Toshi Yano and Andy Knowles.
The band released their fifth LP, entitled Bitter Tea, in April 2006. In interviews they stated that the album was influenced by the sound of synthpop group Devo, and Eleanor Friedberger stated the album was "definitely the poppiest thing we've done."
Matthew Friedberger released Winter Women and Holy Ghost Language School in August 2006, two separate albums which were packaged as a double album. According to a press release, Winter Women is "intended to be a summer record, full of memorable, catchy, and un-ironic pop songs," while Holy Ghost Language School is like "Faust, the Residents, or the most 'out' moments of Brian Eno's solo records." Eleanor appeared on neither album and Matthew did not tour in support of his solo releases.
The band did a short tour in October and November 2006, supported by San Francisco experimental rock band, Deerhoof. This tour saw Matthew on keyboard, Eleanor on vocals, Jason Loewenstein on wah-wah pedaled guitar, Bob D'Amico on drums and the addition of Michael Goodman on percussion. The songs had a tropical/salsa feel to them, and most of the tracks from Bitter Tea were played as one long song, lasting 30 minutes—a medley format the band previously used while promoting Blueberry Boat.
In June 2007, it was announced in The Chicago Reader that the band had signed with Chicago label Thrill Jockey and their album Widow City was later released on October 9, 2007. Unlike their two previous efforts, this album lacks a central concept and has a 70s album rock feel. The band toured in support of the album throughout the later months of 2007 and early 2008. A live compilation album, Remember, was released on August 16, 2008.
The band's seventh studio album I'm Going Away was released in the US on July 21, 2009, on Thrill Jockey and the UK on August 24, 2009. A second album, Take Me Round Again, which presents many of the same songs from "I'm Going Away" in a new way, was released on November 10, 2009. These tracks were made individually by Mathew and Eleanor, resulting in some overlap. These songs have the same lyrics as "I'm Going Away", but consist of completely new instrument and vocal recordings that give a new take on the same material.
The Fiery Furnaces went on an extended hiatus following a brief 2011 tour. Their final concert before the hiatus was on May 27, 2011 at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona. Since then, each of the siblings has focused on their solo careers, with Matthew releasing a vinyl box set entitled Solos in 2011, and Eleanor releasing her first solo album, titled Last Summer, on July 12, 2011.
- Studio albums
- Heather Phares. "The Fiery Furnaces biography". www.allmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-05-26.. - In 2000 they moved Brooklyn... and began playing as the Fiery Furnaces late in the year. - Allmusic
- "Eleanor Friedberger On World Cafe". NPR. 2011-08-24. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
- BBC Review of Gallowsbird's Bark (dated March 11 2003). Retrieved on 8/22/2008
- "Fiery Furnaces Setlist (dated September 18, 2004)" Archived June 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-02-06. Retrieved 2005-10-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). Retrieved on 12 July 2007.
- "AllMusic Guide Review, retrieved on 22 August 2008"
- Pattison, Lewis. "Amazon.co.uk: Rehearsing My Choir Review". Amazon.com. Retrieved on 12 July 2007.
- "Stomp and Stammer - Bitter Tea review, retrieved on 22 August 2008" Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "Matt Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces readies solo debut, by Force Field PR, retrieved on 22 August 2008"
- "Tall Poppy Interview: The Fiery Furnaces. The Torontoist, October 31, 2006. Retrieved July 12, 2007.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Fiery Furnaces.|
- Official site
- NewMusicBox matter: David T. Little's analysis of The Fiery Furnaces' album Rehearsing My Choir
- NewMusicBox cover: Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger in conversation with Frank J. Oteri, July 16, 2007 (includes video)
- NPR article and downloadable broadcast
- Fiery Furnaces at Luckyhorse Industries
- 8/2009 Fiery Furnaces Interview at Stereo Subversion
- Indiepit Interview