Fanfarlo: a band named not only after a French Symbolist novella but apparently a lesser-known French Symbolist novella. Clearly these people aren’t The Twang.
With their library card in hand, Fanfarlo have taken time off being bookworms long enough to record their hugely ambitious debut album ‘Reservoir’. Following on from a breathless flood of seven inches, the long player reeks of a band that just don’t know when to say ‘stop’. Another sweeping string arrangement? Why not! “It’s a really big sounding record,” admits lead singer Simon Balthazar in perhaps the understatement of the year.
Taking off to the United States, Fanfarlo soon found themselves at home with producer Peter Katis’ collection of vintage recording equipment. “He knows his gear; he’s only got interesting, vintage, analogue gear. Everything he does is old school, he’s got a bunch of organs that sound like they’re about to give up all the time,” claims the singer. “A lot of the gear is unpredictable and picks up local radio stations. The studio is literally in the attic of his house, so it had a really cool vibe to it.”
Releasing the album through their own imprint, Fanfarlo decided to shun advances from large labels in order to go it alone. “It says a lot about how things work these days. You really can do it yourself if you want to,” affirms Balthazar. “In terms of working properly with a label to do stuff, so far we’ve avoided that. We’ve spoken to a few, but labels are stingy these days and they don’t really want to take risks.”
He could be right. Attracting attention from the tight-fisted among us with a $1 download offer for ‘Reservoir’, Fanfarlo followed this with a lavish physical edition featuring cards, extra artwork and even a board game. Probing the motivation behind such outlandish plans, the frontman was unequivocal: “Because we could! Right now we’re in the position where we can do something really stupid – if we were working with a label there’d be no way in hell they’d let us do that.”
Taking risks seems to be a daily pastime in Fanfarlo. ‘Reservoir’ is chock full of new ideas, and while some don’t quite come off the band’s wide-eyed ambition sees them through. Rozenthal admits that the group are still coming into their own as a songwriting force. “We’ve been together for a few years now and we’ve all been on a bit of a journey together, exploring new ways to write. It’s funny because we were all into delicate folky stuff when we started playing. We have a much bigger sound now and I feel that our music has kind of grown up a bit.”
Words by Robin Murray