After releasing nine albums with her brother Matthew as indie rock darlings The Fiery Furnaces, Eleanor Friedberger still feels invigorated.
“I’m more excited about music now than I’ve been in years,” says Friedberger. Her excitement these days isn’t due to a tenth album — at least not yet anyway — but to her debut solo one, “Last Summer,” set to drop July 12. The Fiery Furnaces have released albums almost every year since 2003 and have toured nonstop for the last seven years. So when a much needed break came about last year, Friedberger, 32, took the opportunity to focus on writing her own music.
This story first appeared in the June 10, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“It feels like I’m missing one of my limbs,” she says of not working with her brother, but “it was a really great learning experience.”
“It’s nice to go back to being brother and sister first and the band and business second and third,” she adds. Friedberger wrote the album last summer and recorded it in about six weeks. “I tried to put myself back into the mind-set of how I was when we first started playing together,” she says, referring to how she would often record demos on her own during The Fiery Furnaces writing process. “I just hadn’t done that in years.”
She returned to her demo approach, this time utilizing GarageBand on her Mac, and then used the demos as a template in the recording studio working with a producer and session musicians who recorded the live instruments for the tracks.
“I think it’s a lot more straightforward,” she says of the difference between her solo effort and The Fiery Furnaces. “Every lyric is true, it’s something that’s happened to me.”
Many of the songs are about when she first moved to New York 11 years ago. “I’d just come out of a long relationship, I didn’t want to write songs about that,” she reveals. As for the sound, “it’s definitely heavily Seventies influenced,” she says, “I really like classic singer-song-writer music.”
The Friedberger siblings also have other projects on their minds including producing a feature length film. “I don’t want to say too much about it, but I hope it’s the next Fiery Furnaces project,” she says. “We’ll be playing ourselves, but it will be exaggerated, fictionalized versions of ourselves.” The aspiration isn’t totally out of left field. She received the script for the 2007 Bob Dylan-inspired movie “I’m Not There,” but turned down an audition because she was “petrified” at the thought of playing a version of Dylan. She did get a taste of movie-making though, when she filmed a short for her designer friend Victoria Bartlett, whom she accompanied to the CFDA Awards this week.
“The whole world of fashion totally fascinates me, it’s so different than the music industry,” she says. In addition to regularly taking front row seats during New York Fashion Week, she’s appeared in advertising campaigns for Miu Miu, Converse and Philosophy Di Alberta Ferretti.
“I like playing dress-up,” she says. “I tend to dress more like a tomboy but I like wearing dresses, so it’s a fun opportunity to work a little bit different.” And although she’s considered to be among the most stylish of the indie music scene, Friedberger has been known to wear the same T-shirt almost every night with a pair of jeans while on a tour.
“I usually go through phases,” she explains. “Then I see the pictures and I’m like, ‘Why did I wear that stupid shirt for a month?’”
As for that tenth Fiery Furnaces album, they do plan on releasing one, but not until after Friedberger tours for her solo album. “I want to see how far I can go with this and I want to make another solo, too,” she says. “But I mean, The Fiery Furnaces are never breaking up, we can make a record in our 50s, I think it would be our best one yet.”