Based on the eerie, often twistedly melancholic debut album by Tu Fawning, I expected to be met by some strange, twitching and socially inept artist.



Based on the eerie, often twistedly melancholic debut album by Tu Fawning, I expected to be met by some strange, twitching and socially inept artist. Instead, I’m greeted with a bounding, enthusiastic and charming young man by the name of Joe Haege – the band’s co-founder, along with his female counterpart Corrina Repp who, with Haege, is joined by members Liza Rietz and Toussaint Perrault.

Stemming from Portland, Oregon, Tu Fawning are a band that have made a meticulously produced debut LP that is sweeping yet subtle, tristful but playful and when you think it may be about to divagate it retains its direction with force and intent. Put simply, there is a lot going on in this record.

“Corrina was already a solo artist and I was in my band 31 Knots,” explains Haege of how the project started, “and we both liked one another and we invited one another to sing on various things back and forth until our own projects had a break and that was the impetus to start something.”

So the name must have some mystical and subversive meaning to it, representative of the music itself?

“No, not really,” says Haege. “Corrina likes to look through National Geographic books and pulls out random words that she likes and Tu Fawning were two that came together, and she said, ‘do you like this?’, and I did, so that’s the name.”

The band have recently just finished their first tour of the U.S supporting Menomena (of whom Joe is also a touring member), which “went really well.”

“The response was great,” says the singer. “I was a little worried people would find it too weird or dark, but people really seemed to like it”.

‘Hearts on Hold’ is a densely atmospheric and multifaceted record, though and you’d think that translating it live must be a difficult feat.

“We try to recreate some aspects of it,” explains Haege, “but others we have to approach from a completely different angle. For the most part we try and stick pretty true to it and again for the most part it conveys pretty well.”

It’s the album’s opener and lead single ‘I Know You Know’ that’s particularly disturbing: warped and lingering, it feels like it would have been suited a 1950’s dance hall occupied only by ghosts, or something you may hear coming out of Tom Wait’s basement at 3am.

“I think that ‘spooky’ element organically happened,” says Haege. “First off I’m always prone to writing in minor keys, it’s what I’m drawn to and it’s what I play, but it did happen organically. I mean, I could see our next record not being as dark.”

But you do agree that Tu Fawning can (and no doubt will) be described at ‘spooky’?

“Yeah. I mean it definitely wasn’t our intent and it wasn’t like we were trying to be dark, we’re just doing what we do. I mean a lot of the feelings I get from it are the feelings I get from modern hip-hop, but nobody would ever call that dark. So in the context of non hip-hop music I guess it’s dark, but yeah, spooky is more apt than say Goth, because I really hate that stuff.”

The hip-hop comparison is an interesting one. Like many modern rap records, Tu Fawning’s material shares a refined and glistening sense of production combined with pristine and penetrating string parts and fragmented beats and rhythms. Also, most importantly, there is a sense of playfulness within the songs that counterbalances the weight of the gloom. The results are often of eloquence, at times sounding like an amalgamation of Joanna Newsom backed by the The National.

“The production was the most difficult part,” says Haege, “especially recording the drums, setting up microphones in different positions in different rooms to get the right sound. It was trial and error, with a lot of error! It turns out the kitchen was the best place to do it. Our next-door neighbours are these young kids who used to have parties all the time until the early hours, so we’d use that as a shield to record the drums through the night. A couple of times the police would come out and we’d be like, ‘it’s those kids next door, man.’ The production itself I laboured over for about five months.”

This undeniably shows. The record has a resonating crispness to it. The opaque sense of atmosphere makes the experience as textual an adventure as it does an auditory one, and it seems the coming together of Joe and Corrina has created not only an intriguing vocal duality and cementation but also the birth of something truly interesting musically that creates a dark, lamenting and enchanting world.

By Daniel Dylan Wray

Originally published in issue 24 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. December 2010

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »