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The Loop

Published: 2013/12/20

Lo Faber Fabricates Henrys House (From The Jambands.com Archives, 2001)

Today we ran site editor Dean Budnick’s interview with God Street Wine’s Lo Faber. Here’s a look back to his 2001 conversation with Faber.

For more than a decade Lo Faber energized audiences as the principal singer/songwriter in God Street Wine. God Street achieved a good measure of notoriety through multiple national tours and went on to release three discs on major labels {Geffen and Mercury), before electing to call it quits with a three night stand at Wetlands in December of 1999.

After taking some time off from his own music, Faber has returned with an ambitious new project, Henry’s House. This “jam-rock opera” relates the adventures of a young boy and his friends who need to vanquish a series of foes (Busby Beal, Crafty Fox and Volcano Boy) to liberate a valley. On this double-disc Faber collaborates with a number of musicians including three Ominous Seapods alumni, Ted Marotta, Todd Pasternack and Tom Pirozzi. The release itself includes a colorful, detailed insert with artwork by Elliott Mattice and additional text by Faber.

Meanwhile, as plans continue to mount a Henry’s House stage production, Faber is touring with his new band. In addition to the Podly trio, the group also includes vocalist Angela Ford (a opera singer making her rock debut with the group), classically-trained Dave Eggar on keyboards and cello, and Splintered Sunlight alum Devin Greenwood on keys.

Tour dates, Henry’s House album credits, purchase info and images of Lo’s daughter can be found at www.lofaber.com.

DB- Before we talk about Henry’s House, let’s jump back for a minute to the final days of God Street Wine. Looking back was there any precipitating moment that led to the final decision to stop gigging or was it more of a slow accretion over time?

LF- I’d say a slow accretion although I do remember one conversation between myself and Aaron [Maxwell] where we made a final decision. But it wasn’t any one incident. Really it was just the fact that we hadn’t played very much for a lot of ’99. I found it a little depressing, the thought of slowly trickling away, staying together but just playing gigs here and there and possibly not having them be up to our usual standards because we weren’t touring all the time and staying fresh. I didn't like that scenario so we said, “Let’s play three big shows, lets do it at Wetlands, let’s make it a big family reunion and it will be great.” [Editor’s note: highlights of these shows from December 21-23, 1999 are captured on the band’s Good To The Last Drop double-live release].

DB- In part was your decision dictated by your experience with the major labels?

LF- Well definitely our label situation was really bad at the end. We were signed to Mercury and we had a three album deal. They were guaranteed albums, they had to pay us for each album. We had delivered two and had a third one coming when Mercury was sold. [Mercury’s parent company] Polygram was sold to Universal and we knew they were cutting two thirds of their roster and that we probably were going to be dropped. In fact when we turned in our third record they didn’t want to pay us and they tried to say the record wasn't finished, which it was. Finally we did get the money and the record remains unreleased to this day which is a shame.

DB- Do you think it will ever see the light of day?

LF- At first we were thinking if it doesn’t come out on Mercury maybe we’ll get it back and put it out on some new label. We didn’t know what we were going to do. I’ve been trying to think of a way to put it out over the past couple of years because Ted Marotta and I remixed the while thing, and it’s a really good record, a really good God Street Wine record. I was thinking I could press it and give it away free with every copy of Henry’s House because I know that some people would then run out and buy Henry’s House nudge nudge wink wink (laughs)

DB- God Street performed a reunion show during the last month of Wetlands. How did that come about?

LF- It came about very quickly because Chris [Zahn] and Jake [Szufnarowski] called me and said, “The club is closing its doors would you guys like to play?” I said, “Definitely.” and everyone else from the band said the same and it was really nice. Tomo is living in Ireland so we had to fly him in. It all happened so fast that there wasn’t any time to get worked up over it and everyone was really cool. We got together the day before and ran through forty songs and then we played the show.

DB- After those final God Street shows back in ’99 when did you start in on Henry’s House and what else were you focused on?

LF- I moved up here, a converted barn four hours north of the city. It’s a mile down a dirt road, totally rural, totally different from being in the city which I was for eight years. At first I really just did nothing for a few months which was great (laughs). I just spent some time with Lisa, enjoyed the house and was Mr. Domestic for a while. I did a couple albums, I did Jason Crosby’s solo album I did another album for a girl named Kika. So I had a bunch of new projects going on but I wasn’t into touring in a band, that was the farthest thing from my mind. Then I guess in September we got the positive results of a pregnancy test, realized we were going to be parents and that sort of made we wonder what I was doing in life. So in January I just decided that a year a half of not really doing anything was enough time and I started Henry’s House.

So I started in January and I finished the last song on May 4th the night that Lisa went into labor. I wanted to finish the writing before we had the baby and actually she was a week past her due date, so I was late. After I wrote each song I recorded my guitar, bass and vocal parts and the other guys came in and replaced or overdubbed drums and keyboard. But all my parts on Henry’s House are pretty much my original parts when I wrote the songs.

DB- T.P. [Tom Pirozzi} mentioned that he isn’t on the entire album.

LF- Yeah, he’s on about half. I actually played a lot of the keyboard parts too because it was a lot of work going around and getting guys to replace parts (laughs).

DB- I’ve heard you say that when you started writing songs you didn’t know that it would become a rock opera, so how did it come about?

LF- The first song I wrote was “Magic Days” and the second song I wrote was “When We Were Very Young.” I’d say that after those two songs I had an idea that there might be a story. It wasn’t like I sat down out at the very start and said, “I’m going to write a 2 CD rock opera,” I just wrote songs to see where it would take me. I think any songwriter has their library of song ideas that float around in their heads for years. You rely on the inspiration of the moment but then you go back into that little library to see if there’s anything sitting around in there that might work for the present task. The sort of grandiose big concept thing is something everybody wants to do. So having been free of any supervising authority, that’s what I did.

DB- When did you know that it would be two discs?

LF- I was maybe three our four songs in when I decided that two discs would be a good amount of time to tell the story. Maybe I could have told it in one but I wanted to throw in all my Lo Faber instrumental craziness or it wouldn’t be a Lo Faber album. I decided that I was going to err on the idea of things being too long rather than too short and I definitely did. (laughs).

DB- What was the process of putting it together? Did you outline the story and then work on the songs?

LF- No, I never outlined it. I never wrote anything down on paper at all except the songs. I had the basic story in my mind early on but I wasn’t sure how to get from point A to point B. At times I don’t really explain how we get from here to there. When I wrote the lyric book I added the narrative in-between the songs to put it together a little bit more but the story-type rock albums that I've enjoyed, Joe’s Garage, Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, don’t always say, “This is what happened.” You’re kind of just going from song to song mood to mood scene to scene and letting the listener fill in with their imagination.

DB- By the way I buy into the whole story of Henry’s House except the kids trusting someone named Crafty the Fox, particularly given the way that he talks (laughs).

LF- Well that’s Henry’s personality, he’s very credulous

DB- It really is an interesting world that you’ve created, with kings and queens and demons and magic and yet Henry and the kids travel in a VW bus. It sort of bridges the gap between more traditional fantasy worlds and our own.

LF- Although a VW bus is a mythical icon in a way. It’s not like they had a Ford Taurus (laughs).

DB- What was your biggest challenge in assembling these songs and linking them thematically?

LF- Making myself keep working on it. That’s the challenge for anybody doing anything I guess. Linking them was no challenge at all, actually that helped me write everything because I got to the end of a song and I thought, “What would sound cool musically here and where does it lead me in the story?” For instance I wrote “When We Were Very Young,” and I thought, ”The end of this tune is in C major if I was playing live with a band I’d jam it in to C minor.” and that’s what happens on the record. When I played with God Street we had a number of jams that really could go any number of places and I tried to think in that mindset- if I had been jamming with the band and the whole album was a jam up to this point where would I be trying to take it right now?

DB- You haven’t played the album with your band in chronological order yet though, right?

LF- No, we haven’t been doing it in sequence because on Henry’s House we were trying to create the feel of a live show but then to go out and do that literally live isn't what I mean. The sequence and flow of tunes is an idealized version of a live show feel but when you actually put it live on stage it might even need more a little bit more exaggerated dynamics in parts.

DB- So do you have plans to create a staged version of Henry’s House?

LF- I’d really like to. I think it would be so much fun for me to because all I’ve ever really done is play rock clubs. I’d have to collaborate with someone who has theatrical experience and brought some enthusiasm, that’s really what I need. I’ve spoken with a few people who might be able to help in that regard, we’ll see what happens.

DB- In terms of your current band, when this project developed did you think that you’d put together a group and tour?

LF- Not at first but by the time I had finished the last song I was trying to make plans to put together a band to play it. So between the start and finish I guess my mind changed on that or I got talked into it by the other guys. I have to give all the credit in the world to Ted, Todd [Pasternack] and T.P., and particularly to Ted. None of it would have happened without those guys being a motivating force. They were on the road with the Seapods and then came home to record with me during two or three day sessions between their tour dates. I had written a couple of songs, they would come home to record their parts and then it would be up to me to write more songs. They would call me from the road and say, “Have you written more songs for us to play?” and I would say, ”Oh shit I have to write more songs for those guys.” So they definitely kept me going and provided the motivation to form the live band.

DB- How has the band evolved?

LF- Well, we put it all together with very little rehearsal. In June we did dome shows opening up for the Seapods playing forty-five minute sets from Henry’s House. We had Jason Crosby and Peter Levin on keyboards who played on the album and I thought they were going to be the band but unfortunately not. So I had to find two new guys on keyboards and learn a whole lot of material in a short period of time. The guys I got are good readers and everything’s charted and they learn pretty fast but for the band to actually start playing confidently and sound like a band takes a few weeks on the road.

DB- How did you find Devin and Dave?

LF- Through the network of everybody knows everybody. I was lucky to find them. Devin played in a Pennsylvania Dead band called Splintered Sunlight and Eggar I’ve known for a long time. He’s an incredible musician and I’ve waited a long time to do something with him. He’s another classical guy who hasn’t played that much rock but like Angela, he has such good chops and with a little mental adjustment you can do anything.

DB- Speaking of Angela, has it been difficult for her making the adjustment from opera performances to rock gigs?

LF- Not as nearly as difficult as I thought it might have been. I think for her the technical challenge is just getting used to singing on a mike with a monitor and approaching it that way rather than just standing in front of a stage and filling a concert hall with her voice. She’s a tremendous singer and very musical and picks up stuff really fast. When we were recording it was a little harder for her, she had to match my phrasing on all my vocals and when you sing opera you’re taught to sing a certain way and enunciate. Eventually I had to tell her that when she’s singing my stuff, no more enunciation. Slur more (laughs).

DB- So she’s taken to the slurring.

LF- Yeah now she’s on the road with a rock band.

DB- With Todd you have dual guitars which is a similar to God Street. Did you write the Henry’s House songs with that dynamic in mind?

LF- No, I just like Todd because he’s a good musician. If I was the only guitar player it might be one kind of band and that would be cool but having Todd involved I wrote a lot of dual leads. It really doesn’t matter what people play, it’s not about having a set line-up or instrumentation in mind. It’s just a bunch of good musicians who work well together and complement each other. If one of them played bassoon and one of them played kazoo, that wouldn’t matter. Although actually, come to think of it, that would be kind of interesting

DB- Final question. I know that a lot of your old fans are psyched to see that you’re playing some God Street Wine songs as well. What was the selection process in terms of those tunes?

LF- There really wasn’t much of a detailed process. I just handed everyone a list of about a dozen songs, the hits, so-to-speak, and asked them to learn them. I think in the future we’ll go back and learn some of the obscure songs, ones that people can associate with this new band and with me. I tell you though, while I’m real thankful that we have God Street fans coming out to see us, it’s also energizing to have new people coming out as well. People who read that the Lo Faber Band is going to perform selections from a rock opera and say, “That sounds kind of cool, let’s check it out.”

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