Kool Kat of the Week: October and Beyond; Mary Fahl & the Wolves of Midwinter

Posted on: Jun 10th, 2014 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Eddie Owen presents Mary Fahl in concert Saturday, June 14 at the Red Clay Theater, in Duluth, GA at 8 pm. For tickets and additional information call (404) 478-2749 or go here.

Mary Fahl’s soaring contralto vocals first gained public notice with her debut album as lead vocalist and co-founder of October Project, with their self-titled album (“October Project),  on Epic Records in 1993. The combination of Julie Flanders’ lyrics, Emil Adler’s melodies and Fahl’s controlled “banshee wail” created an unforgettable musical storm of an LP which spawned the hits, “Return To Me” and “Ariel.” October Project toured in support of Crash Test Dummies and Sarah McLachlan to positive reviews. The band’s second album, FALLING FARTHER IN, showed artistic growth and was well received critically, but failed to chart significantly. After a headlining tour of the U.S., the band was dropped by their label and parted ways. The band has since reformed without Fahl, and is now a trio with Flanders, Adler and original OP keyboardist and vocalist Marina Bellica.

Fahl went on to a solo recording career, releasing  THE OTHER SIDE OF TIME in 2003, FROM THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON in 2011 and LOVE AND GRAVITY in late 2013. Though she frequently plays in the northeastern states, Saturday’s show at the Red Clay Theater in Duluth marks her first performance in Georgia since her days with  October Project.

ATLRetro: October Project played a great show at the Buckhead Theater and had a memorable live performance on 99x radio in 1994. What took you so long to come back to the south?

Mary Fahl: It was logistics mostly. Atlanta is a long way from home and with the loss of 99X I was not sure I was getting any airplay in the region. 99X broke October Project in a really big way and that show at the Buckhead Theater was amazing for us.

Is your show on Saturday with a backing band, or a solo acoustic setup?

This will be a solo acoustic show.

Tell folks about your songwriting process. What comes first, music or lyrics?

In most cases, the music comes first. That being said, I keep notebooks all over my house just in case I hear something interesting or have an idea. Those notes often end up in my songs.

You’ve talked of your love for Dusty Springfield, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan in the past. What new music are you listening to?

I listen to a lot of film score composers mostly. My current favorite is Alexander Desplat. As for singer/songwriters, I love Laura Veirs, Sufjan Stevens, Gillian Welch and Ane Brun. There are so many!

First Aid Kit seem to be influenced by you and by your own influences (their song “Emmylou” covers similar ground to your “Like Johnny Loved June”). How do you see your legacy asserting itself?

Interesting you should mention First Aid Kit. I just discovered them! As for any legacy, that is so hard to say. I suppose time will tell. Sometimes all it takes is one person who listened to you when they were young. My sound grew out of the British Folk sound of the ‘70s with Sandy Denny, Linda Thompson, that sort of thing. Nobody sounds like that now.

Youtube is full of videos of you singing with OP and solo singing covers and originals as well. What will fans see at your show at Red Clay Theater?

I will do some OP, lots of my own songs, some covers and of course some DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. I like to give my audience the performance equivalent to a full, rich meal.

How did you get involved with Anne Rice and THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER? “Exiles,” the song chosen for Rice’s audio book of the novel, is on your latest album, “Love & Gravity”. What else should we know about the album?

Anne wrote me a letter two years ago after she discovered that October Project had hoped to get a song into the movie version of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. When my album was nearly complete, I asked her if she wanted a copy and she said she did. She was going to be in New York City, so I sent my publicist over with a copy. Afterward, Anne handed her a galley of  THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER inscribed to me, with, “Tell Mary she’s in the book.” My publicist immediately volunteered me to write a song for the audio book version of the novel. Only later did I find out that I only had 10 days to get the song written, recorded, mixed and mastered. Needless to say, much nail-biting and nausea ensued, but Anne’s writing is so powerful and vivid, it made it easy for me to immerse myself in the world of the characters and the song kind of wrote itself. I was also fortunate to have John Lissauer as my co-writer/producer. I brought the lyrics to him and he came up with a fabulous, very moody and dramatic melody that perfectly evoked the mystery and sensuality of the book. I haven’t heard anything about a film version of the book, but I think it would make a fabulous movie.

As for the rest of the album, most of the songs came out of the life I was living for the past six years. They were songs that I had to be able to render with just myself and a guitar if need be. You have to realize, I write a lot of songs, but I shelve a good portion of them. Any song I do on a regular basis has to be one that has stood the audience test and I have to find something new in a song every time I sing it. A song has to get to me every time or it just won’t make the cut. That being said, I love “How Much Love.” It’s one of the few songs on the record I didn’t write. It was written by Patsy Foster.  I heard the song in a record store in Philadelphia 20 years ago and always wanted to cover it. It’s really special when you hear a song for the first time and immediately fall in love with it. I also love “Gravity: Move Mountains, Turn Rivers Around.” There’s a line in the song “I’ve seen you move mountains, turn rivers around, defy the force of gravity with both feet on the ground.” It was written for my husband, who, in the words of the wonderful author/healer Caroline Myss, “defies gravity.”

Time heals all wounds. Any chance of a reunion with October Project?

Time does heal, but a reunion is difficult to fathom. We’ve all moved on. I sincerely doubt they’d want it and me with all the wonderful experience I’ve garnered since OP broke up, could never go back to that kind of a situation.

Step into the time machine and give some advice to eighteen-year-old Mary Fahl.

Hmmm, “Believe in yourself – and practice your guitar!!”

Anthony Taylor is a writer and an expert on retro-futurism, classic science fiction and horror films and television, and genre collectibles. He is the author of ARCTIC ADVENTURE!, an official Thunderbirds™ novel based on the iconic British television series by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. His website is http://Taylorcosm.com

 

All photographs are courtesy of Mary Fahl and used with permission.

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‘Tis the Season To Be Bono: Yacht Rock Revue Kicks Off St. Patrick’s Day Early at Park Tavern and Muses on Stepping Into the Shoes of So Many Rock Icons

Posted on: Mar 1st, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Shamrock with Yacht Rock Revue kicks off Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans early this year with the ultimate U2 tribute experience on Sat. March 3 at Park Tavern at Piedmont Park. The event, featuring one of Atlanta’s most popular classic rock cover bands, kicks off at 2 p.m. and live music starts at 4 p.m. with special guests Saturday Night Beaver presenting a glamorous stage show that celebrates the artists that brought sex appeal to popular music such as Rick James, Rod Stewart and George Michael. Then U2 tribute band Uno Dos Tres Catorce performs followed by two sets by Yacht Rock Revue. Drink and eat up with an ultimate Bloody Mary bar, green beer and plenty of hearty fare. ATLRetro caught up with two of the six members of Yacht Rock Revue, Nick Niespodziani and Peter Olson to find out more about the Gaelic goings on and what it’s like to step into the shoes of so many classic rock icons.

What do you have planned for March 3? Will it be an all-U2 show?

Our plan starts with Irish Car Bombs. Then Uno Dos Tres Catorce – starring Bueno and the Wedges. I play Bueno, everyone else is a version of the Wedge. Then it’s a long block of soft rock in our Yacht Rock Revue persona. Actually two long blocks. That’s a lot of music, especially after doing Led Zeppelin IV and Dark Side [of the Moon] last night at the 40 Watt and Sgt. Pepper’s tonight at Smith’s.

Yacht Rock Revue does so many specialty shows from Beatles tributes to Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon played in sync with WIZARD OF OZ at the Strand last fall. Fans of different bands can have high levels of scrutiny, so what do you do to prepare in general for gigs that focus on a specific band? And what will you be doing to prepare for stepping into the shoes of Bono and The Edge?

Each of the shows requires a totally different approach. It’s a lot like being an actor in the theater. Led Zeppelin is the guns-blazing action star. Yacht Rock is the like-able bad guy in an ’80s movie. How do you play Prince and MJ without coming off as a perverted prick who can’t dance as well as those guys? How do you pay tribute to the Beatles without coming off as a smarmy mop-top wanna-be? These are the questions that challenge us at our job.

U2 is the unironic one-dimensional sci-fi hero.  It’s not much of a stretch for me to play the self-righteous, self-aggrandizing social activist role of Bono…  since it’s basically who I am in real life, without the religion and millions. Their music definitely gets your adrenaline pumping. Vocally, it’s a real workout. So I’ve been increasing my throat push-up regimen in preparation.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Is there a particular U2 song you are especially looking forward to playing live?

We’ve never done “Pride” before, and we’re trying it this year.  It’s impossible to sing, so we’ll see how it goes. It seems especially appropriate to play it in the home city of MLK.

What’s your favorite tribute show you’ve done so far?

Purple Rain and Thriller was pretty epic last year – we had a 25-person choir in purple robes singing all of the backing vocals. We’re all big Prince fans, so taking on that album for the first time was a very fulfilling challenge. And then we played Thriller in Storm Trooper outfits.

What’s been your most challenging gig? 

The most challenging gigs are the ones where the music isn’t the reason people are there.  We’re spoiled, in that every time we play a show in public we get so much positive energy back from the audience.  When we get into some (not all) of these corporate event situations and we don’t get that vibe back from the crowd, it becomes a lot more difficult to do our job.

Is there a tribute show you’re really dying to do but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

Queen’s “Night at the Opera” versus Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814.”  Also, some of our guys have a project called “Dwight Snake” that re-envisions White Snake’s best tunes through the lens of Dwight Yoakam.  I can’t wait for that show.

How do stay fresh while working with classic cover material?

We always try to put some of our own stank on the tunes – it’s the only way to make it happen.  The key is not to treat the music with kid gloves, you’ve got to smack it around and roll with it in the dirt.  We treat these tunes irreverently, as if they’re our own songs.  That’s the attitude that makes the music and the show compelling.

What are your parameters in terms of what qualifies as a Yacht Rock Revue song?

Whatever we say goes.  And it can’t be written by Jimmy Buffett.

What’s the story behind how Yacht Rock Revue get started?

We were doing a variety show at the 10 High called the Surprise Party where we did a different show every week, including classic albums, comedy, our own original material, etc.  We thought a ’70s AM Gold Show would be hilarious.  It was spearheaded by our drummer Mark and our guitarist Mark.  I didn’t even know half of the songs.  And now it’s the joke that keeps on giving, as the saying doesn’t go.

St. Paddy’s Day is still coming, so do you have plans for any more U2-inspired shows?

Not this year – Park Tavern is the only one.  So catch it whilst thou can.

What else does Yacht Rock Revue have planned for this spring?

We’re recording a studio album, mixing a live album, planning more national-scale tours, launching another Summer Series at the Park Tavern, and cloning ourselves.

What question do you wish someone would ask you but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer?

Q:  Where’d you get your boots?  A:  I’ll never tell.

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