Berlin by NYC trio of Fenster, just released their new album, The Pink Caves on Morr Music today, and debut their video for “In The Walls” from director Bryn Chainey. Imediately following the premiere, the trio of JJ, Jonathan, and Rémi give us the breakdown on the process of recording Caves in Cottbus, East Germany in a wood burning stove heated cabin. Their makeshift home studio out in the rural town lent much to the menagerie of playful sounds found on their recent single, “Mirrors“; to the day in bed reflections and odd afternoon events that comprise the adventures that await on, “In The Walls”.
Fenster dabbles in synths and the spring of the harpsichord chamber notes as director Bryn Chainey takes us into the intimate, and ornate, alabaster bedroom quarters. Caged dried flowers, broken vases, broken glasses, paintings, and the lace veil of white sheets surround as the aristocratic comforts of actress, Gloria Endres de Oliveira. A lock of hair is plated at the dining table, as Gloria’s attention follows the motion of reflected light in a spaceship-like shape that sails around the room to the music’s zapping warp effects. The light cast image carries on its voyage, the flower motifs continue, as things become more mysterious as Ms. Oliveira disappears from the cushioned dreamland of bed. And with the entire surreal setting coming to an abrupt end, the time keeping tick of the harpsichord continues on it’s conversation with the modern keys in the mind of the listener.
Fenster was kind enough to take us in discussion to the woood cabin recording process of making The Pink Caves, the stimulating blue film inspirations and origins that contributed to the video for, “In The Walls”, and more.
What can you tell us about recording the new album, The Pink Caves?
The Pink Caves was recorded in a wooden cabin in Cottbus, a rural town in East Germany about an hour outside of Berlin. It was April 2013 and the ground was still covered in snow. There was a shortage of gas in the area due to the endless winter so we had to heat the house and the bathwater with wood burning stoves. We brought all our gear out there — two van loads full — and our producer Tad Klimp and our percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Rémi Letournelle spent the first few days building up a home studio, cabling the whole house and setting up different rooms upstairs – one with a bass amp, one with a guitar amp, one room with synthesizers and then the analog mixing board and drum setup were downstairs. They made it so we could all play and record together in different parts of the house with headphones. We only had three weeks to lay down 12 tracks, so we made a little schedule and got to work quickly. It was an intense time for all of us, living and working together. We tried to incorporate the sounds and the mood of our surroundings as much as possible, using the house as an instrument as well. We made field recordings of doors slamming, the water from the well beneath the house, and the animals in the yard and things like that. We took advantage of the set up and after laying down the basics of each song, we spent the last couple of evenings drinking whiskey and taking various objects into different rooms – clocks, vacuum cleaners, hangers, radiators, synthesizers, and made spontaneous collective overdubs for different songs. By the end of April the snow had melted and it was spring. On May 1 we packed up the house and left for a month long tour.
What were some of the guiding lights and guidelines that were at work during the process of arranging and writing the new full-length for Morr Music?
After recording our first album Bones we ended up touring a bunch for about a year and a half. We decided at some point to take a break from that and work on a new record and found ourselves in uncharted territory. One of the first things that came was the album title – the idea of creating a sort of alternate universe that is maybe some kind of imagined heaven, or unseen place called The Pink Caves. When we started to write the songs, we tried to place them all in that world, both sonically and conceptually. The world we imagined was colorful, broken, wobbly, frightening and new – somewhere unfolded that we ourselves had never been before and we just tried to let ourselves be taken there. Bones is pretty minimal and basement-y so we wanted to challenge ourselves and explore different sound worlds – sometimes with more flowery arrangements, warped vocals, processed found sounds, and more spacey cavernous kinds of moods.
What was the electro-harpsichord inspirations for “In The Walls”?
We found a broken organ on the street and started messing around with it. It has some really irregular habits and a nostalgic but sensual sound. We had been listening to the composer Francis Lai around that time, particularly the soundtrack to a soft erotica French film called Bilitis, and the delicate creepiness grew like flowers in our subconscious until “In the Walls” was born.
Dig the high art video from Bryn Chainey to match your guys’ sound, what was the conceptual framework for this? Was it like based on an Alexander Pope mock-heroic poem of some sort?
This is the third video we’ve made with Bryn and what can we say, the boy has vision. I think his concept for the video was a sort of soft-core, vaseline-lensed exorcism, somewhere between the quirky and mysterious Picnic At Hanging Rock and 70s Czech surrealism. We shot it in our apartment in one day. It hasn’t been the same since.
Release plans and parties in progress and planning for The Pink Caves?
We just arrived in New York last night after a mega fun release party last weekend in Berlin. Now we’re gearing up for the NYC release show on Tuesday, March 4 at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn with our friends AM Gems and Imaginary Friends who are also based in Brooklyn. After that we’re gonna head to SXSW playing shows along the way. Lets hang out, America!
Fenster’s new album The Pink Caves is available now from Morr Music. Their album release party is tonight at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium.
04 Brooklyn, NY – Shea Stadium / Album Release Party
05 Philadelphia, PA – Johny Brenda’s
07 Baltimore, MD – The 5th Dimension w/ AM Gems
08 Greenville, NC – The Radio Room
10 Austin, TX – SXSW / German Haus at Lucille (10.30PM)
11 Austin, TX – SXSW / TBA (1PM)
11 Dallas, TX – City Tavern
14 Austin, TX – SXSW / TBA
15 Austin, TX – SXSW / Speakeasy (12am – 12.40am)
16 Hot Springs, AR – Valley Of The Vapors
20 Lawrence, KS – Replay Lounge
21 Des Moines, IO – Vaudeville Mews
23 Detroit, MI – The Old Miami
25 Columbus, OH – Double Happiness
26 Pitssburgh, PA – Thunderbird Café