Friday, April 18, 2008

Band of the Week

The Fake Fictions

Close your eyes, picture that volcano you made in seventh grade out of glue and newspaper. You work hard on that, didn't you? Now picture the crowd of kids gathered around, staring, waiting for something, anything to be produced. You push the button, but nothing. Silence turns to laughter and you run from the gym. Ok, not your best moment, but close your eyes again. This time picture yourself pushing the button and there is an explosion of noise, "lava", and kids and teachers running for the exits. That is the sound of The Fake Fictions, and on their brand new concept album, Krakatoa, they draw upon this raw and volcanic middle school fear and anger.

The Fake Fiction formed by in 2004, and have released two previous albums. They consist of husband and wife Nick and Sarah Ammerman and Ben Bilow. Krakatoa is being released today on Chicago's Comptroller Records, and to launch the album they are performing tonight at the Empty Bottle.

Recently, Nick, Sarah and Ben of The Fake Fictions were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Your new album "Krakatoa" will be released today. This is a concept album about volcanoes, and we all know Chicago is known for its volcanoes. What else can you tell us about this album?
Nick Ammerman (NA): It is hard to talk about the album except in relation to what we've
done in the past, so for a second you're going to have to pretend like you've heard of us before. Our older albums were fairly diverse, with songs shooting out in all directions, the only restriction being that they somehow fit a broad definition of "pop." But when we were working
on songs for "Krakatoa," we realized that what with the concept and the storyline, we had a much more cohesive package of songs. So when it came time to record these songs for posterity, we decided we wanted the same sound through the entire album. We wanted the album to sound very much like we do live (i.e., awesome), so we recorded almost all music live, with almost no overdubs, and recorded on cassette tape to get the blown-out, loud sound that seemed necessary for an album about the world's biggest volcano eruption. We turned into annoying
dogmatic analog purists and alienated everyone and it was worth it.
Sarah Ammerman (SA): The word "Krakatoa" sounds fierce, a little rough around the edges, and a little silly too. The event itself of course was in no way funny. This album is not morose. It is more of a mockery of the daily nondrama that makes us sweat and leads to fetal position panic attacks. It is not the end of the world! It is just the beginning! One door closes and another opens. This too shall pass. In the meantime, feel free to bitch about it. We're here for you. We understand. We're bitching too. But also, we think you're just being silly.
Ben Bilow (BB): I have never been interested in volcanos before the experience of recording this record, but now I'm totally hooked. Really, the only fact worth noting from a drummer's perspective is that three of these tracks were recorded with broken drumsticks.

OA: You are on a small up-and-coming label here in Chicago, Comptroller Records. What has your experience with Comptroller been like?
NA: It has been mysterious but fantastic. The day-to-day operations of the label are handled by friends of ours (Jody of the Spectacles and Max of the Prairie Spies), and I (Nick of the Fake Fictions) hold a nominal title and help out whenever I can. The label line-up is diverse but cohesive and awesome, featuring the electronic girl-group sounds of the Spectacles, the pop mastery of the Prairie Spies, notoriously reclusive art punks Boner Jamz, and the captains of the proletariat Poem2Song. So we're really proud to be included with all these great bands.

The only thing that's a little weird is the funding. We've never actually met Phil Smithick, the CEO of Comptroller Records, and I guess he just keeps his distance and signs the checks when they're needed. I'm not really sure where he gets his money. We hear rumors that he's at shows but he refuses to come up and say hello … we probably shouldn't say much more about this in an interview. But apparently he's a big fan of the Fake Fictions so we deal with his eccentricities.
SA: It's been nothing but a constant stream of awesomeness and love.
BB: What label are we on? When did that happen?

OA: Is there a "Chicago Sound"?
NA: The long answer is an extended, red-faced nerd-rant about the effect of the Internet on musical regionalism and whether it's a good thing or a bad thing but the short answer is no, not really.
BB: I wish there were -- it would make it easier to write new songs.
Instead we have to be totally original. It's a lot of work.

OA: What is the Fake Fictions live experience like? I've heard you tend be on the wild side.
NA: We aren't exactly crawling in glass and covering ourselves in peanut butter, but I think that perception comes from us being tagged with the dreaded "twee" term after our first couple of albums. People hear there's a married couple in a band singing pop songs and expect the
whole show to be us staring in each others' eyes and cooing tender words. In reality, we have a lot of contempt for the audience: people who like us are suckers, and people who hate us are morons. So there's some audience abuse at our live show, both verbal and sonic.
SA: I thought we were staring lovingly into each others' eyes at shows? Now I don't know what to think about our relationship, about the band…
BB: I try to remain calm and cool during shows. I do my job and get out of there. I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard. My primary concern is to keep the beat, Nick can get crazy and act like an ass, that's cool, but Sarah and I are the engine that keeps this train on schedule.

OA: I saw your performance on Chic-A-Go-Go, what a weird and wonderful Chicago product, what was that like? Do you find that kids are drawn to your music?
NA: We aren't really a "career band." We are all hovering around 30 and we all have real jobs and serious relationships and responsibilities. We talk about boring stuff like books and mortgage payments and 401(k)s. Being in the Fake Fictions is what we do for fun. We like staying up
late and playing shows in bars, but a big part of why we're in a band is to experience weird things like playing on Chic-A-Go-Go, showing up at a TV studio at 11 a.m. on a Sunday and lip-synching our song while a bunch of kids dance around. Weird things like performing in a plexiglass cube at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of an exhibit. Weird things like driving 12 hours to New York to play CMJ and then turning around and driving back home. Things we wouldn't get
to do if we weren't in an awesome rock band, in other words. So basically being on Chic-A-Go-Go is the whole reason we're in the Fake Fictions.
SA: Totally.
BB: It is a lot harder to "lip-sync" drums than one would think. I will never do it again. That said, it is true that kids LOVE our music: my nieces and nephew are obsessed with the Fake Fictions so much so they have started their own band. I have helped them to write a few songs,
most notably "(If You Want to Look Nice You've Got to) Dress With Some Spice." and "(Mirror Mirror on the Wall) Who's the Cutest Pug of All." They seem to have adopted Nick's wordiness. They are looking for a good band name if you think of one. I keep telling them "Hannah Montana" is already taken.

OA: What's next for the Fake Fictions?
NA: We're going to become more insular and private, to the point where we are total hermits and only play music in our practice space and tell everyone we broke up and keep making new albums but only make three copies of each one and exist as a secret Howard Hughes-style band
until we die.
BB: Honestly, I just think we'll continue to do what we do without too much careful calculation. The real question is: can I see my self doing this when I'm 64? To paraphrase Mick Jagger, "Yes."

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
SA: Roasts darker than the deepest jungles.
NA: My favorite coffee spot is my house because I don't have to wear pants there.
BB:Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to eliminate water. I get easily dehydrated so I tend to stay away from coffee. I do like Filter on Milwaukee though; oh wait, it's not there any more...

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
NA: Chronologically the last great book I read was "Charlatan" by Pope Brock, which is a nonfiction book about a fake doctor who implanted goat testicles into men as a virility enhancer and almost become the governor of Kansas.
BB: Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma". If you really care about your health, your community, and the future of our natural environment you should read this book. And if you don't care you should read this book twice.

(I Cannot Get Any) Satisfaction / Lasers + Mirrors (mp3) / Enough Isn't Enough / Retrace Yr Steps / (Don't Drink the) Office Coffee (mp3)/ After Hours / Which Witch is Witch / Krakatoa / Pick Up the Phone / Radical Movement / No Attraction / Esperanto / TV Snow / Soiree

For more information on The Fake Fictions please visit their website. To order your copy of the album visit the Comptroller website.

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