Photos: Mike Massaro
You can tell there’s something special about Ezra Furman as soon as we pick up the struggling telephone line from the States; they’re a person packed with ideas, plans and dreams. We delve straight into chat about the sublime new six-track EP Big Fugitive Life which smoothly follows on from the somewhat breakthrough Perpetual Momentary People.
“They’re basically these orphaned songs because they were written for other albums but weren’t finished in time,” Furman says. In essence, these are tracks that got separated from their siblings. Furman holds for a moment before continuing: “They were lost creatures but they do form some kind of theme. It also feels like clearing out the last of a certain phase because my mind has already moved onto new places. They were too good not to release really.”
“I notice a theme in my music in general of running and not having a home”
It only takes a quick listen to lead single ‘Teddy I’m Ready’ to hear there’s something really poignant going on with this batch. They’re by no means left-overs – rather ideas that simply required some time and attention. It’s obvious that Furman loves a good analogy as they laugh, “They were sick children who had problems and needed to be operated on.”
The record has two sides – in more than the physical sense – as well: “One is the rock and roll part and the other is more downbeat and acoustic. It has a bipolar quality in many ways; they’re both emotional for different reasons. One is all excited and the other is sad, reflective and more bruised.” Needless to say, it’s the bruised parts which really grapple with your heart.
Furman decided to dedicate this release to the refugees of the world past and present. The urgent issue has some personal ties to the Chicago-raised musician: “It’s got this song about a refugee which is inspired by my grandfather who had to run away from the Nazi regime in Europe. He was on the run for years and that’s something which is strange to write about… It’s more of a poem with chords behind it for that reason. It’s a new type of song for me and, although it’s two years old, I was afraid to put it on a record.”
“They were too good not to release really”
Conversation naturally turns to their thoughts on the current problems in Europe: “I notice a theme in my music in general of running and not having a home. There’s this refugee crisis where wealthy countries are really stingy with letting people in; they have this xenophobia which is rampant and gets conservative politicians elected.” Furman even feels some personal responsibility, owing to his power of limelight, albeit indie: “I have to mention my sympathy for refugees. It’s grossly immoral for me to be against taking in people without homes.”
As Furman mulls between questions, it becomes clear that they really mean what they say, adding to the weight their songs carry: “I deal with themes that are difficult sometimes. I always like songs that sound fun and have some darkness to their lyrics. It’s important to deal with those things. It’s part of the point of having a release. The main thing is to go beyond what can be said in regular and polite life. You don’t have to be quiet and agreeable in music. Rock and roll is a place where you can express yourself. I guess the repressed energies in my life can come out. If you put words to music then you can make them have more impact than if you just said it.”
Getting to such a respected position hasn’t been an easy journey for Furman though. They’ve gone through some serious lows before arriving here today. In a fragile voice Ezra reveals: “I’ve always had self-esteem problems, self-hatred and other things like depression and anxiety. These were all impediments to me doing my best work. I’m not so good at speaking, as I’m proving as I talk. It’s a deep part of who I am, I find it really hard to speak the truth but music has given me a lot of time to choose words. I write carefully but I hesitate to speak because not a lot I say sounds true to me. Music brings it up to a level of intensity where it feels believable.”
“I find it really hard to speak the truth but music has given me a lot of time to choose words”
So with this release closing a chapter, what comes next? Furman takes the longest pause yet before saying: “I have a lot of swirling thoughts and a lot of stuff I’ve been working on. I’ve written a lot lately and it feels like I’m writing a novel in songs. I don’t think I’m going to make a concept album but it’s all like this large thing, with characters and narratives and I can see that it’s trying to become something that’s unlike anything I’ve done before.”
Ezra Furman plays Komedia Bath on 22nd August. Their latest EP Big Fugitive Life is out now via Bella Union.
Check out ‘Lousy Connection’ right here: