Fol Chen (Asthmatic Kitty Records) is a bit like the old Churchill quote: “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Of course he was talking about the Soviets, but one can only assume he had a rascally California outfit in mind. While Fol Chen’s charm is partly based on their shroud, their pop sensibility and musical diversity shoulder the artistic load. Nevertheless, their good-natured stunts are notable: live Craigslist-invited auditions for a new singer; having the metal unit Viscera perform their songs live instead; sampling their audience for source material for a third album. Fol Chen is supporting their 2010 release of , the disjointed, post-apocalyptic narrative follow up to Starting Sept. 22, you can catch Fol Chen touring with !!! and Oct. 27 they will tour with Apples in Stereo (tour dates are listed after the interview). For now, members Samuel Bing and Patrik-Ian help shed some light on their bizarre, yet fluid lyrical manifestations, their love of Prince and Boards of Canada, and more.
Los Angeles-based musicians Fol Chen have released three studio albums of fractured electronic pop, drawing praise from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Wired, and Pitchfork, as well as from the godfather of experimental pop music: David Byrne. Fol Chen have remixed and/or been remixed by David Bowie, Liars, Baths, and legendary club producer Junior Vasquez. They also covered Prince for SPIN’s “Purplish Rain” compilation. The band teamed with electronic interface designers Monome on a limited edition gestural sound toy, and have presented projects at LACMA, the Walker Art Center, Machine Project, and the Annenberg Space for Photography.
Fol Chen upset the expectations of a pop/rock music audience during a 5-week performance residency at The Echo, a popular live music venue in Los Angeles. On the first night of the residency, singers who were found through a Craigslist ad auditioned to replace me in Fol Chen, meeting and performing with the band for the very first time that night in front of a live audience. This exercise in chance, translation, and self-erasure resulted in one of the auditionees replacing me on the next series of Fol Chen performances.
Fol Chen makes soundtracks to a future that never was. To listen is to leave the comfort of nostalgia and land with both feet in a bolder 21st century.