We’re in a time where genres are just filler for what we don’t understand. Genres have always been a way to pigeonhole bands to make them easier for wide audiences to understand, especially in a time when you couldn’t just link the bandcamp to the article. Nowadays, listeners just have to press play to figure out if they like the music — we don’t have to sell it. We don’t have to put a genre on a band to make specific people listen to it. We just have to share it, and tell you why we’re sharing it.
The moment I heard Fear of Men, I was intrigued by their name, the way they explained themselves, and the way people were so excited about them. Their music is dark, depressing, beautiful, hopeful, and shakes you into place. They make music that will shake you and shake the stage of Swedish American Hall this Friday, July 15th.
Below is a Q&A with Jessica Weiss and Daniel Falvey of Fear of Men, but first, click play, decide for yourself if you want to go on and read the interview, and then obsess over them and buy tickets (if you still can).
The Bay Bridged: Have people reacted to your band name negatively before?
Jessica Weiss: Not really…People sometimes ask if we’re an all-girl band, but beyond that I’ve only ever heard good comments, really. I like that it can feel a little bit of a challenge.
TBB: As a band that was defined as ‘twee’ originally, when your music is much more complex than a simple genre, how do you feel about being defined as twee before?
JW: It wasn’t something that felt relevant to us then. There are twee bands that we like, but we didn’t hear that in our sound. People are free to interpret what we make however they see fit.
Daniel Falvey: We’ve just never thought in terms of genres I guess, so any tag has never sat well with us. From the start of the band there has always been elements of post-punk and shoegaze, for instance. We’ve always been interested in taking sometimes quite diametrically opposed sounds and genres and pulling them together to try and make something new and distinct.
TBB: What prompted the change in sound?
JW: Our sound has naturally developed over time, as we have as people. You can’t make the same record twice, and we particularly wanted to push ourselves as song writers and musicians to make something forward looking.
TBB: Your music holds a lot of emotion — it’s obvious that each song was written to help release or understand your own feelings, what is your technique when writing and how do you react to the fact that when music is out to the world, it’s open to different interpretations?
JW: I think that’s a necessary part of the process really — I want people to be able to find themselves in what I write, as well as for me to communicate something about myself and my world view. It can be really exciting to find different layers to the music through other people’s interpretations. It wasn’t something that I let myself think about when writing.
TBB: What’s your favorite part about being a musician? Is it the writing, the making it “complete,” performing, or touring?
DF: All of those things can be very rewarding and very challenging. A good thing about that cycle is that each element is quite different from each other. Writing and recording an album can be quite an insular experience — you are often confined to one building, either the practice room or studio, for long periods at a time. After that it is really nice to get out and tour and meet new people and see new places. Probably on balance my favorite thing is pulling the songs together and watching them take shape, but touring the world is also an amazing aspect of what we do.
TBB: Is music a coping device for you?
JW: Perhaps. It’s definitely a way of getting things out, but I’m not sure whether it helps or not. Sometimes it can feel like a wonderful release, and at other times like it drags you further down to be so introspective.
TBB: I know during the writing process for Fall Forever, Jess isolated herself to write, barely listened to any other music, but was there something else to keep you feeling sane or was there just the music?
JW: A lot of books…writing in my journal…it was a strange year, really. I spent a lot of time on my own.
TBB: The process in which you write and release music is very DIY. What are some of the steps?
Jess: I like to go away on my own to make little demos which are very introspective and submerged in reverb, then we all go off to the farm and work on rearranging them and deciding which bits to pull into focus. We also make our own artwork and get very involved in videos.
TBB: Daniel, what were some of the bands you listened to inspire you?
DF: I listen to so much music that it’s hard to pin it down. One of the first books I learned to read was a book my Dad owned that was a rundown of 1000 great albums, and I’ve kind of been obsessed with music ever since. That book taught me to see that there is good in any genre and it’s always worth exploring different music. I’ve always been really interested in hip-hop percussion, and we explored that more on this album, but tried to think about it through the prism of British post-punk. I was thinking a lot about how the individual instruments are really distinct in the mix of Joy Division songs. A lot of this album was also a result of us focusing in on parts of our sound and going deeper in to ideas we’ve had since the beginning of the band.
TBB: Favorite books, theorists, up-and-coming musicians?
JW: My favorite book at the moment is Chinese Takeout by Arthur Neserian. We’re really excited to play with Florist and Vagabon in New York, and our favorite California bands are Ablebody and Roses. We’ve been listening to Japanese Breakfast in the van on tour, too. All really great musicians.
TBB: Are you excited to make the stage shake with emotion in San Francisco? (The venue you’re playing at is one of my favorites, and the opening local band is one of my favorite bands with my favorite people, so I really can’t wait.)
JW: Absolutely, we can’t wait!
DF: The last time we played San Francisco supporting The Pains of Being Pure at Heart it was one of our favorite shows on the tour, so we’ve been really looking forward to coming back. The venue we are playing in is beautiful from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a special show.
Fear of Men, Puro Instinct, Plush
Swedish American Hall
July 15, 2016