Music » Interviews

Fiery Furnaces embrace '70s rock


Unlike the White Stripes, Matthew and Eleanor have stayed - brother and sister. - AMY GIUNTA
  • Amy Giunta
  • Unlike the White Stripes, Matthew and Eleanor have stayed brother and sister.

From experimental rock to indie pop, the one thing that remains true about the Fiery Furnaces is that you never know what to expect next. "Make it new, keep moving," says Matthew Friedberger, one half of the Brooklyn sister-brother duo. "If you're a musician, you always have to try to challenge yourself by doing something new all of the time."

Whereas previous albums have included songs ranging from heavy think pieces to airy pop, the group's latest effort, Widow City, found the siblings Matthew and his sister Eleanor exploring their bombastic youth.

"It took us to rock 'n roll nirvana," Friedberger says, laughing. "It had a rock rhythm section playing, and it had sounds on it that were actually '70s rock-records sounds, even if the record isn't a retro record, hopefully."

The band is also releasing a two-disc, 51-track concert recording called Remember, which is now being sold on tour and has an August street date.

Onstage, the Friedbergers continue to employ a revolving door of musicians from tour to tour in hopes of never presenting their material the same way twice.

"The instinct is always to have it be opposite," Friedberger says. "If it's a happy song, play it sad, and if it's a slow song, play it fast. If it's a song with a lot of keyboards, play it on the guitar."

Fans attending the Fiery Furnaces' upcoming Denver show will see a touring lineup that includes a lead guitarist as well as a musician with thimbles on her fingers playing a glockenspiel as though it were a piano.

"People who know the records, know the story, they'll get to see the songs from the opposite perspective," Friedberger says. "Hopefully, that'll be interesting. To go and play the song like you have it on a record, you know, that's cheating people who come to see the show if they have the record already."

Putting the power in the hands of the people is an ongoing Fiery Furnaces theme. While touring earlier this year during primary season, the outfit conducted its own polling operation by allowing fans to vote online regarding what genre its next album should explore.

An ABBA-meets-the Bee Gees effort involving a hermaphroditic love story and an album of Egyptian soap opera songs featuring John Bonham's drumming were interesting choices. But ultimately, people picked a funk record.

"So we're making a funk record, per the instructions of the people," Friedberger says. "Hopefully it'll come out in January or February, but the funk one doesn't have a story line. It's people getting evicted, mostly. That's kind of what's going on in the country now. It's all serious."

The Fiery Furnaces, with Grand Ole Party and the Knew
Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Saturday, June 7, 9 p.m.
Tickets: $16 in advance, $18 day-of-show; 16-plus; call 520-9090 or visit

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