Fathom Lane: These songs are about not having easy answers

Fathom Lane: These songs are about not having easy answers
Photo by Tony Nelson

In the dark lounge of the Pearl Recording Studio in Northeast Minneapolis, Michael Ferrier of Fathom Lane contemplates where his band was a year ago. "We had just released our first album and were excited to get back in the studio. We wanted them to be in quick succession of another. That's the beauty of indie-rock; we set our own deadlines." The beauty is also that a musician can move in a new direction without having to answer to anyone. On their sophomore self-titled album, the band comes back with songs that re-imagine the well-worn rules of pop music.

Before the album release at Icehouse on Saturday, Michael sits down with Gimme Noise to talk about his many stages of his songwriting and how music from his childhood bled into Fathom Lane.

Many of the songs on Fathom Lane have been around for years, having been kicked around to the point where Michael felt he just needed to make them work. He says, "I want to make records, because that's the part where I have the most fun -- the writing and recording. I have a son now who's two and every minute I'm away from him, I have to be productive."

Ferrier is not new to the music scene, having made a name for himself playing saxophone in his old band, Electropolis. That didn't deter him from eventually playing music that he felt he was always meant to make. The singer is a self-proclaimed late-bloomer, and at this stage in his life, feels like he has finally found his voice with Fathom Lane.

Much of what seeped into the sound came from Michael's childhood. Like a scene out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ferrier recalls standing in the kitchen, listening to '70s pop music on the AM/FM radio mounted underneath the cabinet while his mother did the dishes. Michael tried erasing a lot of those pop influences over the years with the Velvet Underground and new wave and jazz, but he admits that part of his life found a way back into his life. He continues, "I moved on from that music, but now, by accident, some of that stuff is coming out. It's interesting."

Wanting to focus more on his vocals, Ferrier made that a priority when recording. He admits, "I've never thought of myself as a great singer, so I try to maintain a delivery and be as simple as possible."

Ashleigh Still, Michael's vocal counterpart in Fathom Lane, along with the rest of the band (Ben Glaros, Shane Akers, Doan Roessler, Pete Henning) also played a bigger role in the shape of the new album. Still's ethereal voice lends another level to the music altogether. Michael shares that without Ashleigh, the project would be entirely different.
"When I originally started this band with Doan and Ben, it was something else. Some of these themes on this new album are about not having easy answers -- especially in relationships. In this case, because we have a male and female voice, we're talking about a male/female relationship. Ashleigh keeps the music honest. Some of the songs are not just my experience, but are also things she and I have talked about."

Ferrier's demeanor can be described as calming, the way he thoughtfully arranges words before answering, and it comes through in the music. He continues, "When Ashleigh sings, she pulls you into her, 'Let me tell you this story I have to tell.' I'm drawn to that, because that's how I sing. I want people to come over and sit down. I don't want to sing at people."

Within the first three songs, each tune is dramatically different from the next, allowing the band to stake a lot more territory and even including a cover of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" -- recorded before Reed's death. Ferrier concludes, "We're gonna make the music we want to right now; we experimented more this time around. For a long time, I played the music that I studied academically. When you know all of the rules, you are paralyzed. I wanted to get back to music where I was connecting with people. Instead of trying to hit all of the right notes, I now want to try to communicate with people -- whether it's people or my band -- who came to hear us play. It's more like, 'Oh, yeah. This is what music is about.'"

Fathom Lane will release their self-titled album at Icehouse on Saturday, November 23, 2013 with Batteryboy.
21+, $8, 11 pm

Purchase tickets here.

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