Incendiary interview Fulton Lights

Brooklyn's Fulton Lights released their second album, The Way We Ride earlier this year to absolute rave reviews here in the Incendiary shed. A truly fascinating and rewarding record, it mixes a number of styles, references and ideas together but ends up sounding totally unique. It's a record that refuses to let go of you and seems to pick up on every little fear you have as well as tickling all those pleasure zones that get you all giddy and excited. When we heard that singer Andrew Spencer Goldman was in town for a few days, we simply had to make some time to talk to him, and we did. The results are here for your reading pleasure:


IN: I took the chance on the way into town today to have a listen to both Fulton lights albums back to back and it was intersting to do that. Then first one has this kind of urban sense about it. I don’t mean in a kind of urban, R&B type thing, but moe as the sound of a city or something like that.


ASG: Yeah right.


IN: And I think this latest one is very much a continuation of that, although it breaks into some different territory. The first album was a lot more comforting, whereas with this one, your vocals are a lot more distorted and disguised but there’s a lot there to get your teeth stuck into.I think if I had to describe the first album in a word I would say cool, because it has this kind of melancholy vibe to it and I think I’d say that the second album is confusing.


ASG: Confusing? (laughs)


IN: Yeah and I don’t mean that in a bad way but, well, let me explain it a little. You know like, you’re in New York, downtown Manhattan. It’s night and you’re stood on a street corner. You don’t know where you want to go, who you’re with or what you’re going to do and there’s just everything around you. There’s people, there’s the traffic and you can tell that there’s absolutely loads of stuff happening all around you and where you go and what you do next is entirely up to you and you want to find something cool but you know that’s it’s up to you. Well that feeling of nervousness and excitement and fear and that confusing state of mind. That’s the feeling this album gives me.


ASG: Interesting. Well, where to start? It’s an interesting way of describing it, just standing on a corner and not really knowing where to go, because a lot of the times when I’ve been, you know, personally conflicted about life and choices. Confusion about being a musician and, you know. That’s how I’ve described it, to other people. Like I’ve felt, you know, like I’m standing on a  corner or I’m standing in a  space with doors all around me and I don’t know which one to choose so it’s interesting in the way that you’ve just described it.


I think that there are a couple of things going on with this album that are different from the first one. I spent a lot of time making the first record I spent three years and really pushed myself because I was coming off my previous band, John Guilt, there were things that I had kind of grown a little tired of. Aesthetically I wanted to push myself in new directions and  also to absorb into my own music and writings, other influences and that. I wanted to try writing for strings, which I’d never done before and things like that so it was a very meticulous process. Coming off of that record into this new one I knew that, OK I’d done that now. I was very happy with that first record but I also wanted to do something totally different so one of the things I embraced with this record was….And I hate to say something as cheesy as chaos, but I really said, ok I’m going to make this record quickly. I may make mistakes. It may not sound as clean as the other one. Really I just, full on, embraced an aesthetic chaos, a recording chaos and the whole process was totally different.


Also I produced this new record on my own,  whereas with the first one I produced it with a tremendous amount of help from Steve Silverstein, who plays in a band called Christmas Decorations, and also with Rob Christiansen who does a project called East Ghost West Ghost. Steve and I started to work on this new record but we had to stop because he couldn’t handle the approach I wanted to take. He wanted to repeat that meticulous, step by step approach and I just knew that this wasn’t going to be that record. I knew that, again, I wanted to try new things, new sounds and push my voice in new directions and just work on a different level. So, you know, I don’t even know if I’ve answered your question?


IN: Well I think we’re back to what I meant when I said it was confusing, because there are some songs that are on this album that would be out and out athems in anybody else’s hands. They would, but you’ve almost covered them up. Things are distorted or camouflaged to an extent but not to the point tha they’re ruined, it’s just that you seem to have taken a completely different route to end up with the song as opposed to just sitting down with a guitar and belting out a few chords and singing over the top. Do you know what I mean?


ASG: Calling it confused is….I know exactly what you mean but that might not be exactly the right word. The songs do have a logic to them I think, but it was sort of, a lot more open ended, if that’s what you mean? They might not sound like it but all of these songs started with very basic, guitar and vocals or keys and vocals. Or some sort of core part of the song. Then things are added to it or taken away but this time around I made the process such as, that I was OK with just letting the songs take me to places where they wanted to go. And I’m really happy that I did that because every time that I allow myself do that I find that I’m capable of more than I thought that I was capable of before. I mean I never would have thought, five years ago, that I would end up making some of the music that I made on this record. Whether or not the listener will respond in the same way I can’t really say but from an artistic or creative standpoint it’s crucial.


IN: Well one of the things that I noticed is that it seems like there’s almost a complete lack of ego present in the album. You know, there’s no sense of you being the stereotypical front man here.


ASG: Right.


IN: You obviously don’t need your vocals to be clear and precise and upfront. What you’ve created is a very textural record. There’s so many layers to each track that you can completely envelop yourself in it and because things are distorted and disguised, it’s just not straight forward. It’s very rewarding to listen though.


ASG: Well I appreciate that because that’s what I’m hoping for. In as much as it’s an open ended process this stuff is intentional. The final decisions are intentional. The hope is, for me, to create something that maybe people with short attention spans are going to write it off and not know what to do with it. But for people who really have an open mindedness about the music that they listen to, that there’s stuff there in this album that will grow and will keep getting more and more interesting the more you listen to it because there’s so much there.


As far as the things I’ve been doing with, you know, my vocals and distortion I wouldn’t say that it’s a totally 100% conscious move. But to a certain extent it is a conscious move away from all the things that I’ve been doing before. Again just to try new things. I know what it sounds like if I just plug my voice up front but what happens to the song if you don’t do that? What if you don’t reveal everything the first time around? You back the vocals off a little bit, you make them a tiny bit more quiet or you maybe add, like, a strange effect on it. It’s nothing that you perceive immediately but if you take the time to listen to it you’re like, “Wow, that’s an interesting choice.” It maybe makes it so that your ear is drawn to other things in the song and then you have to keep coming back.


It’s not interesting to me to just lay all the cards out onto the table at the same time. I don’t think that I was doing that on previous records, at least not intentionally, but I do think that’s part of the difference between the first record and the second record. You can hear that there’s a lot of textural stuff to come back to but the vocals were up front and it’s a bit easier to digest but I know that this record it’s…a heavier meal. (laughs)


IN: Well I think the two records work very well together, but you can really sense the confidence at work behind the new one.


ASG: Yeah but it was just really important to me for this record to just, embrace the approach and to have the attitude that goes beyond the album and to use that approach to living and to just lay it all out and to go for it.