I’ve always thought of the sensation that happens when you get struck by lightning. If I escape such death, it could give me superpowers (like the boy in that film, “Powder). It could be exhilarating, like an electrifying entrance stamp to a dimension only accessed by selected souls. I’m imagining it’s a sonic realm that I thought didn’t exist before.
This is kind of feeling I had when I first listened to Amusement Parks on Fire. I remember it so vividly: I was just out of college; filled with all sorts of intense beliefs that transcended in the music I listened to, and at that time “Out of the Angeles” was one of my favorite albums. It was like a blinding blow to my brain: the heavy wall of fuzz, the tone of the tender-yet-assertive vocals and the emotionally-charged lyrics, the pounding drums, and many other spellbinding characteristics found in sonic shoegaze masterpieces. Their songs brought me some kind of comfort and resolution. After hearing their records, I felt like I was in a musical flight that went higher than heaven, so high that I felt I could have coffee with the cosmos. It really had that effect: APOF’s sound will keep you afloat as long as you wanted to.
To cut the story short: I’ve always been a fan of this band, and one can only imagine my excitement when news of their new single started circulating 8 years after their stunning record, Road Eyes was released.
We had the chance to talk to vocalist, Michael Feerick about the record, their influences, his style as a songwriter and vocalist, and what conspired in between the single’s creation and the past years. With a new single, a new record due out on April 2018, and a UK tour coming up, the band is gearing up for a comeback of all kinds.
How has the creative transition been from “Road Eyes” to this new record? What were the major changes you noticed?
Well, it was less of a transition and more of a cessation, followed by stagnation, followed by inspiration, followed by a kind of artistic reanimation. All of which resulted in the rejuvenation of creative determination.
MF: Well, it was less of an experiment and more of a predicament. An enforced hardship we underwent. It was a happy accident, the results of which were excellent. It felt like quite the accomplishment, much to my subsequent astonishment.
How long was the entire process? What were the things you realized, as a band, after everything was over?
I’m not sure if, as a band, we’ve ever realised anything. There is a certain collective consciousness in operation I suppose, but that would rely on every individual’s perception of actuality interacting concurrently.
Do you feel that the physical and emotional deprivation played significant roles in composing your songs? How?
Not so much in the composition of the songs, as that work was mainly conducted in my underpants in a box-room in Basford, antecedently. But most certainly it had a profound effect on the emotion and energy of the recording.
How was the recovery stage after the retreat, and do you feel that the experiment changed the way you create songs moving forward?
The recovery stage was not one that would have been advisable by any responsible individual. We immediately embarked on several lengthy international tours. The making of that album is, absolutely, something I’ll carry with me in any creative endeavour, always.
We always go to certain heights when making music, whether in Iceland or Mansfield, where we recorded the new 7″. The creative process is never the same twice, it’s always an adventure, but one that takes place predominately in one’s mind, free from environmental influence.
Who are your major influences as a band? Do you remember albums that you would listen to altogether when trying to draw inspiration?
There’s too much shared inspiration to mention. There is, however, a default recurring playlist we always seem to revert to after a night of libations, which might be telling due to the subconscious choices born of wild inebriation. It invariably includes Weezer’s Pinkerton, the heavier Idlewild stuff and Nirvana B-sides.
What are the influences behind the new songs? Any particular moment/s that were significant in creating this new material?
In an admittedly cynical way, the only influence behind the new single was Amusement Parks On Fire. It was my way of reconnecting with the analogue of it and working out if it meant enough to me to continue with it. I didn’t want to do it for the sake of it. The moment I heard it back in the studio [it] was thrilling and I knew I was back. So it was kind of a self-fulfilling, cyclical influence field.
I’m insisting, to myself if no one else, on much more organic tones, pianos and natural ambience. There are probably less ‘effects’ on the previous albums than you imagine, but the new album will be more decisive in that respect. I’m also planning on brass being a major texture.
It’s actually already out there! It was more of an anti-concept. I’m not a fan of ‘videos’ coming from ourselves as to me it only served to dilute the intent of the music. Luckily my co-conspirator Joe Hardy and I have a deep understanding and we moved forward with no preconceived idea. We shot it after I finished work one day in an alleyway in central London and I just air-drummed along.
You know, I’m not so sure. It’s a mystery to me and I think that’s the way it should remain. I often describe writing ‘automatically’, but that isn’t really the case. Especially with the last two albums, I have a definitive, if abstract, whole I’m working towards. I don’t sit down and force myself to write, that would feel disingenuous. Occasionally I’ll have an entire production looping in my head and I have to sit down with a guitar and work it out. I’m lazy, let your subconscious do the leg-work!
Stina Nordenstam, Trish Keenan, Elvis Costello, Daniel Johnston, Kim Gordon, Belinda Butcher…
It’s been a while since your last release. What kept you busy in the past few years?
Do you have side projects aside from APOF? What are they?
Yeah, YOUNG LIGHT is my other thing, with my musical brother Micah Calabrese, though we’re based in LA and I’m not always there ha! JCDX is Rafe, Pete and myself and is better music than the earth deserves. I’m lucky to play drums for several genius songwriters including but not limited to Joe Innes, Tom Grayson and Andy Wright.
Wow, I should have a go-to bullshit answer for this! The truth is it was a stream-of-consciousness turn-of-phrase in like 2001. It was originally gonna be a lyric for the song that became Eighty Eight. I’d hate to apply any definitive meaning to it. But yeah, I guess it conjures abstract, apocalyptic images which was the idea when I was 16. It still does the trick I guess!
Oh man, you’re killing me here! It would have to be the new single “Our Goal To Realise,” [to be released] on November 17th… not really. The short answer is no, but, off the top of my head, it would probably be “Inside Out” from the last album. Actually, it’s the best song I’ve ever written, especially in the context of an album and what that was supposed to be as a whole, and it’s the most realised production. Will Canzoneri’s strings were beyond anything I could ever have hoped for.
Just a quirky one: what was the first record you bought?
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis.