Sizzlin’ siblings

for The Brooklyn Paper

Its members might be all grown up, but the brother-sister duo Fiery Furnaces still show traces of sibling rivalry.

“I’m more Geppetto than Pinocchio,” Matt Friedberger said of his role in the band. His sister Eleanor, who does most of the singing, is the face of the band, but Matt is actually the group’s musical director.

Since moving to Carroll Gardens together from Chicago in 2000, the siblings Friedberger have released five albums and countless singles through the British label Rough Trade, and have established themselves as major players on the indie circuit. This week’s release of their newest record, “Widow City,” is therefore hotly anticipated.

Despite early comparisons to faux family duo the White Stripes, and the new record’s allusions to Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin and early Brian Eno, Matt said that the band’s goal has always been “to make records that are ever so slightly different from any band you’d care to mention,” said Matt.

On the last album, “Bitter Tea,” the band used almost no natural rock sounds — it was full of spacey synth and processed drums. But with “Widow City,” they decided to switch it up — back to the future style.

“We only used keyboards that were made before 1974,” said Matt.

Though their records tend towards the quirky — the song “Rehearsing My Choir” from their second record features the Friedberger’s grandmother talking over their music — their live shows deliver the adrenaline rush of a stadium rock band.

Developing this unique style was made easier for the band by releasing singles on Rough Trade. The British music scene is traditionally much more accepting of out-there acts, and is an easier market for bands that don’t fit into American Top 40 pop formulae.

“You can sell 2,000 singles and be number 30 in the country,” Matt said. “So there’s no real tried-and-true formula for success. [Our songs are] an interesting kind of melodrama, but you definitely can’t drive your car fast to them.”

And there’s nothing more melodramatic than being in a band with your sister.

“Well, I always quit [bands] before,” Matt said with a chuckle. “But you can’t get rid of a sibling. You don’t really have to make up after an argument, either, since you’ve been calling each other names for years.”

It’s the sensibility that the two share that makes their music unique. “Guitar rock culture is very conservative,” Matt said. “People have very specific expectations that they want met and gratified. We’re not like that — we like rock songs that are full of little surprises.”

Until recently, they didn’t even have breaks between songs — they just played their whole show as one long medley.

“People can listen to their quiet, weird records at home,” Matt said. One of the things he likes about rock is you can talk while people are playing — there’s no expectation that you’ll speak in an “artist’s whisper.”

“That kind of stuff makes me ill,” Matt said. “Kids sitting cross-legged on the floor while some mandolinist sings like a billy goat. No, our shows are for yelling and drinking beer.”

The Fiery Furnaces are playing at 8 pm on Oct. 6 at Sound Fix Lounge (110 Bedford Ave., at North Eleventh Street in Williamsburg). Tickets are free. For information, call (718) 388-8090.

Reader Feedback

jo from montanna says:
what is this artical about again
March 31, 2008, 1:30 pm

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