A brief conversation with FACS...

by Jon Burke Rating: Release Date:
A brief conversation with FACS...
A brief conversation with FACS...

Negative Houses, the new record by Chicago's own, FACS, is arguably the best debut album of 2018. We spoke briefly with the group last week to discuss the band's formation in the wake of the break-up of Disappears (their former band), their musical influences, wild sax solos and how to maintain sanity while on the road. It was a great exchange and, we hope, the first of many interviews we'll be conducting with this incredible new band.

Soundblab (SB): Disappears always struck me as having the sound bands like Interpol dreamed of making but lacked both the necessary talent, and edge, in order to do so. With FACS, you seem to have moved from Disappears’ post-punk sound toward a more experimental or post-rock style. Though I’ve read comparisons of your sound to PIL, I was reminded a number of times of Baltimore acts like Lungfish and Wilderness. How did your collective music appetites evolve between the disbanding of Disappears and formation of FACS? Were there any specific bands, records or sounds that influenced Negative Houses? In a pinch, how do you describe your music to the uninitiated?

FACS: I'm glad you picked up on the Lungfish thing, they're a really important band to myself and Noah. I don't think our tastes evolved after Disappears per say, but we tried to focus on some specific aspects of what we'd been doing with that band. Sound wise we wanted to focus on bringing the negative space to the front, almost like linear playing - meaning we're playing around each other instead of with each other. But we also wanted to just let things happen and not over think them, let the ideas come as they did and not define the sound before it came out. I think we fall under the "art rock" umbrella, it's minimal...I don't know. My friend recently told me that this is what punk music sounds like in 2018 which made me fell pretty good hahaha.

SB: How did Negative Houses come about? Was the goal always to make a record? Did you workout the songs live before recording them? Were any of the songs in existence prior to FACS or are these all FACS originals? How long between the dissolution of Disappears and the recording of Negative Houses?

FACS: It was really natural, we played for about 6 months with no real goals in mind other than making music. We wanted to be productive and have some internal momentum but we weren't interested in rushing back into doing shows. I used a bunch of the lyrics from the last batch of Disappears songs but musically everything was new. One song has some elements from one of the last Disappears songs but it's pretty unrecognizable. It was about a year between Disappears breaking up and us recording Negative Houses. Everything was worked out before we hit the studio, mainly because we weren't on any other time line than our own so we were able to take our time and get things where we wanted them.

SB: Do you have a favorite(s) song on the record? Did you have any songs from the recording process you wish had made the record but got cut? Can you talk about the experience of recording at Electrical Audio? How did the singles get chosen? The “Primary” video is exactly what I was expecting from that song, visually speaking. “Skylarking” on the other hand, though rather minimalist and haunting, features a dancer—which was unexpected. How did the video come about?

FACS: I don't know if I have a favorite song - I love how the drums turned out on "Skylarking", and the sax solo on "Houses Breathing" is really amazing to me. That's Nick Mazzarella - he did two takes and we used the second one, he's so talented. We left a song off the album, it didn't seem to match the mood of the others and I didn't think it was that good. Electrical Audio is a really amazing studio, we did a lot of Disappears stuff there, it's a really nice facility where everything works and you can feel comfortable and experiment. Singles get chosen pretty randomly. "Primary" wasn't going to be one but the guys who were making the video requested to use that song instead of the original choice. I had the dancer idea for "Skylarking", I'd seen some modern dance and was really inspired by it and thought it would be cool to have a dancer improvise something to one of our songs. Luckily we had some friends who had worked with a choreographer and our other friend who is a great director, everything fell into place.

SB: It seems impossible to remain on the sidelines in this political climate. Given that your formation coincided with the beginning of our new national nightmare, how did politics inform the creation of Negative Houses? As a band playing dark, edgier music, have you noticed any changes at your live shows in terms of audience behavior or how you’re received? As a group are FACS united behind any specific ideolog(y/ies)? Are there any issues that divide the group and, if so, how do you manage those situations? How have your line-up changes impacted the group dynamic?

FACS: I think we're really informed by the consciousness of politics. Musically, focusing on the energy in politics is more important to me than the idea, I'd rather try and interpret a feeling and translate that into the music than be explicit on some issue. I haven't noticed much of a change in our live show, the people who we relate to and the issues that we share have always been there, everything is just really hyper right now. As individuals we come at issues from different perspectives, which is helpful for me in understanding how we connect, but I wouldn't say we disagree on anything too important. The line up changes have helped keep things fresh, you lose some of the collective references and language you've developed over the years but you gain an outside perspective on those references which can be just as helpful. 

SB: Will you be hitting the road in support of the record? Who plays that insane sax part from “Houses Breathing” during your live set? Do you have any favorite cities or venues you’re looking forward to playing? What does your live show entail? Is it minimalist or do you have a visual component? Do you play only FACS songs? Any covers or Disappears tunes in the mix? What music do you bring with you to play in the van/bus while you’re traveling? Do you ever get annoyed with each other’s musical choices?

FACS: We've got an east cost tour with Suuns in May, some west coast dates in July and then we'll be in Europe / UK in the fall. No live sax unfortunately, although that's something I'd love to explore more. We have some visuals we use if the situation is right but we try and think about the room and decide from there what the presentation will be. There are so many places we're looking forward to getting back to - we've got a lot of friends we only see when we're out doing shows so we're looking forward to seeing them. But this is a new band, I don't know what is going to be the same and what will change in terms of where we feel welcome, it's part of the exciting thing right now about being "new". No Disappears songs, although we have been working on a Eurythmics cover I'm excited about. We don't always play music when traveling, it's nice to spend time in our own heads. But we listen to podcasts and interviews, try and talk to each other and keep on the same page about what we are doing together. 

SB: After the tour, what’s next for FACS?

FACS: We're getting new songs together, hopefully we'll get something new recorded by the end of the year.

 

Watch the video for Primary and stream Skylarking below.

Debut album Negative Houses is released Friday March 30th on Trouble In Mind Records and can be purchased here.

Photo by Zoran Orlic.

 

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