The fuel for Eamon Fogarty's debut LP spans a lifetime of influences and chance encounters, savagely tied together by the artful, analog jazz-folk debonair.
Let's take things back to your childhood where your pre-broadband-internet southern New Hampshire self was getting into music. What were your first experiences developing a taste and cultivating interesting and unusual music influences as a kid? Did you have some friends or family stewarding you through what was cool or was it more of an independent kind of discovery?
One of the earliest memories I have of the internet is of trying to download "The Muffin Man" by Frank Zappa from Kazaa while in Catholic middle school. I had probably just started playing guitar at that point and mostly wanted to hear that guitar solo over and over again. I got frustrated when it told me it was going to take 2+ hours. For a long time all I had was my dad's record collection and a few of my own CDs: mostly lowest common denominator guitar-heroic stuff like Led Zeppelin & Weezer. Other people my age were generally into screamo and hardcore which I couldn't stand.
The first person I knew who made music that effected me in any real way was my best friend Degan's older brother Clint. Even though he only had a few years on us he had already released a couple of albums that were full of manic, grunge-y, but very song-centric music. There were skits too. It was very 90's, but it felt right to me in 2002. Clint was the first person I was aware of who really seemed positioned to make a go of it as an artist. He and Degan lived a few towns over right by some kind of Waldorf school, and they were friends with a lot of the arty bohemian types who either went there or probably should have gone there and just sort of hung around, including this guy Willie who looked like Jimmy Page and sang like an even more androgynous Jeff Buckley. The whole idea of making art your life was very alien to me, but Clint and Willie made it seem like the most natural thing in the world.
Degan had started learning bass around the same time I started on guitar, and together with Willie and another friend who played drums we started a band. We went deep into the very "uncool" rabbit hole of 70's progressive rock: King Crimson, Yes, Caravan, Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd etc. There weren't that many opportunities for gigs if you weren't a pop-punk band, so not many people came to our shows. Somehow we convinced ourselves that was confirmation we were surrounded by philistines.
I had to be proactive about my "research." This being before the dawn of YouTube guitar lessons, I had a ritual of combing through my high school library's collection of Guitar World back issues, and photocopying every lesson that looked interesting. For a little while they were giving Trey Anastasio of Phish a column. Unlike the other columnists, his were usually all text- sermons rather a bunch of tabs and "licks." There was one where he talked about the four records that had most influenced his playing and thinking: "The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery", Miles Davis' "A Tribute to Jack Johnson" (electric period with John McLaughlin on guitar), Tom Waits' "Rain Dogs" (with Marc Ribot on guitar) and "Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos," which is a tribute to the Cuban son composer and tres virtuoso Arsenio Rodriguez. I went out and bought them all immediately. They were all life-changing records but the Marc Ribot stuff really rearranged my molecules. He's so loose and noisy and even when he's operating in an idiom he really asserts his individuality. I still recommend that Cubanos Postizos record to pretty much everyone, and though I'm not a huge Phish fan to this day, I gotta shout out to Trey.
Around the end of high school is when I got a digital multi-tracker and began experimenting with recording my own musical ideas separate from the band. Another friend started getting me into more psychedelic stuff like Arthur Lee's Love, Nick Drake, and Tim Buckley and that's what I was trying to emulate. The "freak folk" thing was making its way into my ears then too, but it was never any more real to me than any of the old stuff because I never got to experience it live. It was all happening in another universe as far as I was concerned.
In college you sang in a chorus and composed for chamber ensembles in addition to performing with rock and free improvising groups. Did you have multiple paths you were experimenting with musically? It seems like the choral/chamber ensemble and the rock and free improv playing are on separate wavelengths culturally and musically. Were you studying music in college?
I was - college was very much an "everything happening all at once" kind of time. All the wavelengths that started there were very separate, but they informed one another nevertheless, and I'm glad I started cultivating an appreciation for different practices when I did. One thing that I learned later upon moving to New York is that the most interesting stuff is always happening at the intersections of worlds.
A lot of my horizon-broadening had to do with my realizing I could sing. I never sang in my high school rock band, and I'd been accepted to school with the expectation that I would be playing guitar in the jazz big band. I'd lost interest in jazz before I even got there, but if you wanted to study music you had to be in an ensemble, so I joined the choir instead at the suggestion of my friend Philippe, who had a very Bonnie Prince Billy-influenced project that I'd also started playing and singing in. That choir did a lot of challenging, modern stuff and it made me a better musician on a lot of levels.
Philippe was also a modern dancer and choreographer and he convinced me to take this dance and improvisation class, where we improvised music and dance simultaneously for the entire class as one ensemble. We got into some serious "flow state" territory. I'd done other purely musical free improv stuff at this point, even some live improvised silent film sound-tracking, but there is a kind of compounding tension that accumulates when moving bodies are part of the dialogue... You'll get to a place and have no idea how you got there or where to go next, and the only thing you can do is to keep pushing or change completely. There's nothing like it.
The biggest development in college for me was getting into composing. I'd always wanted to write for classical instruments, but now those ideas wouldn't have to remain theoretical- there were actually people around to play the pieces! I wrote a few things, including a string quartet and a brass quintet which were both pretty lyrical (I was very into Ravel and Messiaen.) I really thought that's what I was going to do for the rest of my life: write chamber music. Right out of college I was up for a composing fellowship at Bennington- my composition teacher had told me I was a shoe-in. She'd never recommended someone for the post and had them NOT get it. I knew this going into the interview and naturally, I went in under-prepared and I didn't get it. I also didn't have a back-up plan.
You moved to NYC after school. Was there something specific that brought you to the City? How has your music and recording been impacted by your time in NYC?
Simply put, New York was the first place I found a job (as a cheesemonger) where I knew there would be opportunities to experience and make music. I moved via Megabus!
Those first few years were rough. I was hanging out with a lot of the same people I'd known in college, only many of them were now moving "up" in the world- they had unpaid internships or were busy going to grad school. Meanwhile I was trying to make a living and pay off student loans with my dinky retail job. On the inside I felt like a failure because of the Bennington thing, but outwardly I got this classist chip on my shoulder, and I think I alienated a lot of people during that time. It was only later on when most of that crowd had moved on and I got a better paying gig that I started going to more shows at places like Issue Project Room and meeting more musicians and artists. One place in particular that meant a lot to me was the warehouse where my friend Michael Hammond (who played bass on Progressive Bedroom) lived in Red Hook called "Van Dyke Park". They had really eclectic shows there all the time. I met my friend Dave there the night he played this trance-like microtonal saxophone piece to a pure sine wave. Another time I saw a guy play a contact-mic'd snare drum with a bunch of those egg-shaped vibrators and tuning forks, all amplified to deafening volume. People were involving choreography and film. It was the kind of place I'd moved to New York hoping to find, and of course, it didn't last very long
Where was the album recorded? Was it a long process with lots of mixing and overdubbing or a simple and raw operation?
Progressive Bedroom was mostly recorded at Basement Floods in Catskill, NY in November 2015 by my friend Alex P. The band and I did most of the songs and overdubs over the course of one weekend, but after that first session the project was stalled for a long time while because I wanted to do the vocals myself and I was taking forever to finalize the lyrics.
Natalie Mering (Weyes Blood) had just moved out to the West Coast around this time, and asked me in an email if I'd ever considered living in Los Angeles. I had not, but I had some friends out there so that spring I made plans with my then girlfriend Amelia to fly out and see the city. Amelia ended up having to stay in NYC for a freelance job that was too good to pass up so I was on my own for a whole week without a car. I went to the Echo a couple of times (saw Quilt, Mild High Club, Cian Nugent, and Nap Eyes) and kind of learned how to surf. It was fun but I had nothing to do while my friends were at work.
Enter Chris Schlarb (of Psychic Temple). My buddy Jay Hammond (Michael's brother) had made a record with Chris earlier that year and suggested he could help me engineer vocals for the still-in-limbo Progressive Bedroom. I had plenty of free time, so I called him up and we banged out pretty much every vocal track, harmonies and all, in about two hours. A couple days later he invited me to his house in Long Beach to sing on a couple of tunes on his record and by the end of that session we made arrangements for him to mix PB as soon as I'd put the finishing touches on it. Not long after that he invited Jay and me to go on tour with him.
Touring with Chris was great. He has a deep and abiding appreciation for a good breakfast, and a talent for tracking down incredible breakfasts regardless of city or circumstance. He's also been at it for a while so he has friends (i.e. places to crash) stashed all over the place. Basically the usual tour pitfalls of eating and sleeping poorly were not part of the experience- It was all music. (And pancakes.)
With your first record behind you, what's next musically? How will your next project build upon Progressive Bedroom?
The new record is actually already done, and the concept for it grew out of that tour I did with Chris. I had been covering "I Am the Cosmos" by Chris Bell as part of my opening sets and Chris had the thought that we should do a record that would take the vibe of that album and marry it to an Alice Coltrane-esque cosmic/spiritual jazz approach to instrumentation and improvisational looseness. At the time I'd been really obsessed with Mark Hollis' lone post-Talk Talk solo record, so my contribution to the scheme was basically "Cool- but what if we trade a couple horns out for clarinet and bass clarinet??" We picked a weekend, Chris but a band together, and I flew out to Long Beach to make the record in Chris' new studio "Big Ego"
In terms of the production approach, it was completely different from the last record because it's the first time I'd ever made something with people I'd never even met, let alone played with before- some of whom happened to be musicians I really admire, like the bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Chad Talyor. It was a little nerve-wracking in the moment, but we got a great record out of it.