As you may know, I recently wrote about my favorite albums of 2009, listing Fleurs by Former Ghosts as my #1 album of the year. For those unaware, Former Ghosts is the brainchild of Freddy Ruppert (This Song is a Mess But So Am I), who is joined in the band by Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) and Nika Roza (Zola Jesus). While the record is really a collection of synth pop songs, it’s also a brutally honest account of one relationship and its break up.
As my favorite record of the year by some distance, I thought it would be suitable if my last blog post of the year was an interview with Freddy Ruppert. Freddy was kind enough to agree to do this, and answered some questions about Former Ghosts, the record, and his plans for the immediate future.
Q: How did Former Ghosts come together?
A lot of the songs were written before Former Ghosts even really came together as a full on band. They were written as a way to communicate with someone in my life at the time. Once I had decided that this was going to be a new music project for me, having Jamie on board just came naturally. We had always talked about doing a project in this kind of style but both of our schedules were just too busy to actually do it, but then it ended up working out this time around. Nika got involved because I am a big fan of her band Zola Jesus and I asked her to sing on a song and when she sent it back to me I was so blown away that I knew that I needed her to be a part of this band!
Q: From what I gather the record was written in different places, yet it seems like a very cohesive work. How would you account for that?
Yeah, it was essentially recorded in different places. I currently live in Los Angeles, Jamie is currently in North Carolina, and Nika is currently in Wisconsin. I think maybe it works cohesively because the three of us all seem to approach music from a similar place. I would also put together a main structure of a song, then mail it to Jamie and Nika, who would then record parts and mail them back to me and then I would sort of piece everything together into a cohesive unit.
Q: Does it inspire you to be working with Jamie and Nika? Do their individual talents make you think about music differently at all?
I’ve been friends with Jamie for a very long time. In a way he has sort of been a mentor to me when it comes to how one should approach music and expression. Ever since I was doing This Song Is A Mess But So Am I he was always supportive of what I was doing and really taught me that it is always important to approach music from an honest place and too not worry about things ever being too personal. He also stretches my ideas and boundaries of what can be done in a pop song. Nika’s voice is completely inspiring and I find myself writing music specifically with her voice in mind. Both of them are completely inspiring and I am completely honored and flattered to get to work with them.
Q: With Fleurs being such a personal record lyrically, how do you feel about it now some time has passed since its release?
I’m not sure. The way I make albums seems to be a way of capturing a specific time of my life almost like a photo album. It’s weird, so I’m not really sure how I feel about it. It’s so strange to me because the songs were written simultaneously to desperation in a very intense relationship in which I was very much in love and now it’s become a weird break up record, which is something that wasn’t intended because at the time there was some hope in those songs. I’m sorry, I guess I’m not really sure.
Q: Although I find it can be uplifting, broadly speaking it seems as though you use music to express sadness. Could you ever see yourself writing about happiness?
I would like that. I think that would be nice. I guess I’ve mainly just used music as an outlet to express specific things. My happiness I seem to express in other ways that are non musical.
Q: I noticed on your blog that you’re working on new material for Former Ghosts, how is that going? What can we expect from the new album?
It’s coming along. I kind of just have a bunch of sketches of random things so I’m not totally sure what is actually going to be the album yet or not. Just starting to piece it together with initial ideas. I’m hoping to have the majority of it completed by the end of January for release next year. Some of the songs seem a lot poppier so far but I can’t completely say yet.
Are there any plans in place to tour Europe and the UK? If so, what kind of set up would that involve?
Yes! Definitely in 2010. I believe this is going to happen in April and May. Things are in the beginning planning stages right now! I’m not completely sure what the set up would involve yet because I know that both Jamie and Nika have a really, really busy year next year with Xiu Xiu and Zola Jesus. But Former Ghosts will be over there in some form next year!
Q: Finally, what are your own favourite records from this year? Feel free to gush, list or discuss in any form you feel comfortable with.
I’m not very good at picking out or listing specific records but all of the following have completely blown me away this year and I have been listening on repeat:
Download: Former Ghosts – Hold On