Ezra Furman is a slight, sometime-dress-wearing, gender-fluid Jewish kid from Chicago, and you need to listen to his latest LP (‘Perpetual Motion People’) right away.
Though hardly obvious hellraiser material, his beguiling fusion of rockabilly, doo-wop and pensive sulking made him last year’s de facto ‘saviour of rock’n’roll’.
On the eve of his UK tour, here’s some wit and wisdom from the great man, garnered backstage at a recent show in Bristol.
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Leonard Cohen is fucking dope.
He’s like a gangster rapper sometimes. He drops these amazing lines, like, all the time.
It helps to feel cocky and competitive.
I’m quite humble and shy. When I’m writing, though, I shoot for the fucking moon. I get pumped: ‘I can do this! I can do it better than the average person!’ If I can convince myself of that then it gets easier.
I’m really not a drug person.
But I took a powerful psychedelic this one time, and the only sound I wanted to listen to was singers with deep, low voices. I realised that’s my favourite musical sound. It’s so cartoonish, so absurdist. Imagine if you’re Salvador Dali and you hear a doo wop record for the first time. We used it on 'Lousy Connection' [on the Perpetual Motion People LP]; this song about alienation and absurdity, and it really kind of fits for me. There’s an oddness and madness. And purity. That sound is the greatest.’
I pray all the time.
I try to pray three times a day, although it’s tricky on tour. The more you pray, the more you realise it’s a lot like the rest of life. A ton of repetition, but if you don’t keep your attention focussed you’ll mess up.
Sadness is a defining part of my life.
Stuff gets put on a record and produced, then it’s out there on the radio. I hope people realise it’s still a cry, a cry from my heart.
I’m hopeful about what’s going on in gender politics these days.
So much progress has been made in the new millennium. I’d love to say I’m hopeful about racism in the same way, but I just read this thing which said: "If you’re asking what you would have done if you were alive during the civil rights movement, then don’t. We’re still living in it." Things are so bad now, there’s going to have to be a big change. Race relations shame America.
I respect not being OK with your body.
Love yourself, though. Your brain is a body part. Don’t be ashamed of your brain or you’re done.
There’s a lot of music that I love, and I wish I could be influenced by, but it doesn’t work.
I’m obsessed with tUnE-yArDs, for instance, but I don’t know where to begin making anything that insane or inventive.
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Words: Andy Hill
Catch Ezra Furman live at the following shows:
13 Bristol BBC 6 Music Festival, Colston Hall (7.45pm)
15 Oxford O2 Academy *
16 Birmingham Glee Club *
17 Sheffield The Foundry *
18 Brighton Concorde 2 *
18 - 21 Green Man Festival
27 Manchester Ritz
29 Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
30 Cardiff Tramshed
31 London Roundhouse
(* with The Big Moon)