An interview is sort of like a first date: one should be drunk enough to ease the nerves and feel relaxed, yet sober enough to keep their wits about them. This was not the case when I sat down with Michael Fiore of Criminal Hygiene, the L.A. trio known just as much for their boozy on-stage antics as their stellar songwriting. Fortunately, I had the chance to dispel some of these pre-conceived notions when Fiore—full disclosure, a friend—recently visited Brooklyn.
The quick trip just so happened to coincide with the release of a brand new solo record created under the moniker of “Fiore,” Noticing A Stranger. Surrounded by mutual pals and plenty of sausages, we conducted a guerilla-style interview at a local beer hall that may have involved little-to-no planning on both our parts. The best laid plans, though, typically involve lots of beer. Is that how the saying goes?
Drunk jokes aside, Noticing A Stranger is much like its creator himself: charming, introspective, and politely self-deprecating. At 24, Fiore delivers pizza by day and plays music by night, penning lyrics that narrate the quotidien struggle in near-perfect detail. Love, Los Angeles, looking inward; it’s all there on Noticing A Stranger, a youth-induced stupor that’s comfortable to fall into.
On a scale from zero to the guy who tried to force feed me an open container of booze on the subway last night, how drunk are you right now?
Fiore: I’ll give myself a solid 4.8.
Cool, that seems like a safe level. Let’s proceed. I kind of feel like Christiane Amanpour right now.
I don’t know who that is.
Cristiano Ronaldo? For the record, I don’t watch TV. I don’t even have a TV.
Fair enough. Does not having a television inform your musical style at all? Do you live like a recluse in [Criminal Hygiene’s shared pad] the Barn?
I mean, I have Netflix. I wouldn’t say I’m a complete “recluse,” per se. I do like to stay in my room and record stuff without other people around.
Was Noticing a Stranger recorded at the Barn?
Yeah, it was recorded in my room.
What does the title Noticing a Stranger imply?
I was driving around after a really long night. The next day, I was delivering pizza, really hungover, and just thought of “noticing a stranger.” It’s about noticing a person within yourself that you didn’t know was there before. That shitty person that’s kind of just lingering: a depressed, drunk asshole. This guy that’s there without you wanting him there. There’s a lyric— “showing him the door”—that’s just getting rid of him. It was me during a really bad week, realizing that’s not who I want to be.
I noticed that a lot of lyrics are about struggle; not just within yourself, but also with concepts like living in the city, and the so-called “American Dream.”
We’re in New York right now, but L.A. kind of is the American Dream. I grew up here, so it’s definitely a thing: “What’s L.A. like? How’s Hollywood?” It’s this big thing. It’s sort of like manifest destiny, but I don’t think it’s true. It’s pretty much the same anywhere. Everyone’s still unhappy and trying to do their thing. Everyone’s trying to reach their dream which are really not plausible at times. It gets under your skin; it gets under my skin. Yeah, there’s sunshine and happiness, and we have a great time and party. But at the end of the day, I don’t like a lot of what’s going on.
This solo record is kind of a big “fuck you.” It’s just songwriting. It’s recording and songs. So if you don’t like it, fuck you.
But what was the question?
Michael Fiore’s Noticing A Stranger is available digitally on his Bandcamp.