IT'S ABOUT THE SHOW Future Clouds & Radar

The Austin
band’s frontman Robert Harrison on death, fame, test marketing, his old band
Cotton Mather – and even the Harlem
Globetrotters.

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

With 2008 finally winding down it seems fitting that we
close out the year with a feature on Austin’s
Future Clouds & Radar. In a sense, you see, it’s the same way we came in
this year, too; 12 months ago, when BLURT was still a little ol’ magazine
called Harp, we’d hailed the band
Best New Artist of 2008, additionally placing their debut album Future Clouds & Radar at number 4 in
our Top 50 records of the year. Life is rarely tidy, so it’s oddly comforting
when we can have a neat little set of bookends on display. Serendipity is like
that, I guess.

 

More to the point, however, Future Clouds & Radar –
frontman/guitarist/vocalist Robert Harrison, keyboardist Hollie Thomas, bassist
Josh Zarbo and drummer Darin Murphy, plus multi-instrumentalist Kullen Fuchs
(at times the band expands to as many as 13 players, but for the moment, and
certainly for touring logistics, that’s the core group) – is an inordinately
gifted and inspiring outfit, as evidenced by sophomore platter Peoria, issued as was its predecessor on
the band’s own Star Apple Kingdom label. (Definitely check out the SAK website,
particularly some of the group’s intriguing videos.)

 

Unlike the 2007 record, though, Peoria is not a sprawling two-disc set, but rather a single disc
clocking in at a tidy 34 minutes. Yet it’s no less ambitious in its musical
scope, which encompasses everything from ornate Beatlesque psychedelia to
‘80s-styled janglepop to glammy hard rock to jazz-tingled Prog. It’s a sonic
travelogue of vast proportions, testimony to both Harrison’s
encyclopediac knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll and the musicians’ abilities at
translating and elaborating upon the songwriter’s vision. (You can read a full
review of the album HERE on the BLURT site.)

 

With a solidly enthusiastic press reception for Peoria and plans being laid to ratchet up the touring itinerary, Future Clouds &
Radar holds immense promise for the year to come. Harrison is justifiably proud
of his project, yet he’s also got a long-range perspective that stretches back
to the early ‘90s when he fronted another well-regarded Austin band, Cotton
Mather; having lived through the alterna-era and (partly as a result)  already taken one sabbatical from the music
industry, he’s justifiably wary of the vicissitudes of the music business. But
he remains optimistic, just like his music is suffused with optimistic vibes,
and that’s to be admired.

 

Harrison settled in one evening on the phone from Austin to talk at length about
Future Clouds & Radar and sundry other music matters, starting with his
Cotton Mather days. He’s a smart, thoughtful, self-aware guy, and
self-deprecating too, punctuating his conversation with low chuckles whenever
he catches himself blowing his own trumpet. That’s okay, Robert; we’ll leave that part to the critics. See you in
another 12 months, if not sooner.

 

 

***

 

BLURT: You
disappeared from the music scene for a couple of years after Cotton Mather
broke up. If you wait forever and then come back, people say, “Who?”

 

 That’s right. And you
know, the place I really noticed was when – Cotton Mather never really had much
of a presence in the US
at all, but we were known. So in 2002 when I pulled the plug on that, I
disappeared for a solid three years before I started making any inquiries; I
had started to do some demos and stuff in 2005. I began to put out feelers to
labels and to people in the industry and
I got not a single response
. I didn’t even get a “Yes, send us some stuff…”
The only person that responded was Geoff Travis of Rough Trade. He said, “Yeah,
I’ll listen to something.” Because he remembered, although I knew he’d never
been a big Cotton Mather fan so I thought he was a little bit of a stretch.

   But I was shocked
that our currency was just nonexistent.

 

 

 Three years is several lifetimes in the music business.

 

 You know,
particularly now with the Web, it is. That’s why with Future Clouds the goal is
to just keep cranking with stuff.

 

 

 Of course, Little Steven remembers Cotton Mather; he put a song on the
first volume of Coolest Songs in the
World.

 

 Oh sure. We have big
fans who remember us. But we never had big fans in front offices of record
companies – and if we did, whoever it was probably got let go! [laughs]

 

 

 

What’s your take on
the band’s career arc? You were operating during a period where, initially at
least, there was a lot of expansion of and optimism for the whole indie milieu.
Was it a good experience for you?

 

 Cotton Mather was a
beautiful experience! Now, when you speak of them, there were really a number
of bands within the framework of that. The first band, I’d started my music in Austin as just this guy
playing with an avant-garde cellist, and we were playing this angular music
that was [laughs] kinda hard to digest! I’m not sure what the goal of that was.
But at some point I got a rhythm section, and we were all pretty much beginners
except for the cellist. Then one time I started writing this song that was not
so obtuse, it had verses, and choruses that were memorable, and people loved
it. So I began to change direction and write songs that were a little more
timeless and familiar and, frankly, a bit more generous. We retained our
quirkiness, but within two years Cotton Mather had pared down to just two
guitars, bass and drums, and a little bit more of a traditional garage
approach.

   The two most
important lineups were, one, the first band that recorded the first record, the
Cotton Is King record [1994]. That’s
a poor documentation; it was recorded awkwardly and suffered from a lot of
those failings that first records by baby bands can suffer from. We were biting
off more than we could chew. And then the last band that toured and did the
shows with Oasis, the shows in Europe, was put
together to tour on the record Kon-tiki [1997], although it didn’t record that album. That band was just a lights-out
rock ‘n’ roll band, a lot of fun; it was a sledgehammer, that one.

   And in between
there was a lot of shuffling around. The principal guy in Cotton Mather beside
me was Whit Williams. He and I started playing together in ’93, and once Whit
got in the group, the real signature in the group became what we were doing as
guitarists and him providing the harmony vocals. That gave the group its
signature sound for better or for worse – “better,” because it just sounded
great; and “worse,” because it could be tagged as retro. And the downside of
Cotton Mather was, without meaning to, we were painting ourselves into an artistic
corner. We began to be seen as revivalists and that was not what my intention
ever was. I thought Kon-tiki was a
very experimental record, but because the way it was recorded on 4-track and
ADAT, it gave it this old sound. People loved it, but it boxed us in.

   But Cotton Mather,
was a fun, fun band. Several bands! Always a good community effort and a lot of
laughing.

 

 

 Well, your voice is the obvious link between that band and Future
Clouds. It’s a recognizable quantity. Could Cotton Mather have done what FCAR
is doing now?

 

 Well, a way to answer
that is to say, Cotton Mather was always the manifestation of what I was doing
artistically from ’91 on. It was just this bizarre handle I took. And I did
debate continuing to call [what I later did] “Cotton Mather” with just
different people. All my buddies here told me, “Don’t change the name!” But I
was ready to be done with that moniker. It was a little dark and heavy, and I
always felt like I was waking up in a wet jacket when I had that name waiting
for me. I thought there’d been so much evolution in my personal and spiritual
life that a new name was required to embody the shift that I had undergone.

   Cotton Mather
tended to proceed along a kind of “dude-like” symmetry. [laughs] It had this regular feel to it: we’re four guys, we’re
doing to climb into the van, do this show, meet some girls. It had a very
normal shape. But in a sense it became a bit squared off for me, even that last
band that rocked so hard; it was still a bit “normal” sounding for what I tend
to go for. And I didn’t think that final band, as fantastic as it was, was
going to be able to do what I wanted to do. I was feeling very limited at the
end by what I’d created. Any one of those individuals in that final lineup
could have made great contributions to anything I was doing, but for some
reason, as a four piece our default position was “sledgehammer.”

 

 

 What you’re describing is similar to a lot of
artists when they choose to make a break with the past. In some cases, they
just call themselves “Neil Young” and it’s accepted they’ll be going off in a
different direction at any given time; others, I supposed that’s a tough
decision, and they feel they have to make it a literal break and ditch the name
entirely.

 

 Little Steven told me
not to change the name. [adopts Little Steven goombah accent]
“For better or for worse, you ARE Cotton Mather…” I was going to lose too much
ground. My point was, “What ground? How many records have really sold here? The
fans who are real fans are going to
come with me.”

    I felt it was as
much as anything an energetic shift, that there was a lot more light, optimism
and creativity being drawn into the name Future Clouds and Radar. “Cotton
Mather” just felt tired to me from the beginning: it was named after this 17th century Puritan dude!

 

 

 Then why didn’t you just call the new group
The Robert Harrison Band?

 

 First of all, no
offense to my family, I didn’t think it’s that exciting a name. I like it; it’s
a great name to have when I go to the store. “Hello, Robert Harrison…” [laughs] That works fine for me. But I’m
not a huge fan of “regular dude” names: The Dave Matthews Band. He’s great, but
I think it’s lacking in imagination, unless you have something that’s a little
more visually evocative as a name.

    Secondly, I wanted
“Future Clouds and Radar” to at least have the potential of a “community.” Solo
artistry, although I was approaching things from a solo artist paradigm, and
that’s what Cotton Mather was beginning to move towards, as I perceive “solo
artistry,” was never something that excited me very much. Even somebody like
David Bowie, I get a little tired of. Whereas something that has a communal
feel, the sound of people singing together, of throwing their all into
something, is more exhilarating for me as a fan. So I knew I wanted to build a
new community and I thought everyone could feel more a part of something if it
had a bigger name than I could lend it.

 

 

 Now, you made a decision to take a sabbatical
after Cotton Mather, and then according to Shore Fire’s [
the FCAR publicist
for the first album] press releases we
were told there was a car accident and a spinal injury that halted any momentum
you might have had?

 

 Really, what it was
was some residual effects from a car wreck I’d had that I never quite dealt
with. Just one of those things that life throws at you to indicate it’s time
for a change; you look inside for things that are not functional that are not
functional in your sphere. And I think anytime there’s a physical dysfunction,
there’s typically a little more to the issue than that and yo need to stage a
treasure hunt for what is going awry in the mind. So it really became a journey
of the mind to heal that… um… physical story. So I never put too much emphasis
on, “Oh, I had this thing happen to me…” It seemed only a clue to larger life
problems that I had come to face.

   I moved out to the
country and I thought what I required was some meditation, some quiet times,
some reflection. And as I began to go down that road, all this music began
coming to me, and all these people began gathering around me. So I healed
completely and did just fine. Too much of the story about the last record ended
up being about this “something happened to me.” But the reason I don’t like to
emphasize that is I think we’re all little overly oriented to “victim
consciousness” – “This happened to us.” And I never at all felt like a victim;
I felt like a blessed man! So what I really wanted the message of the first
record to be was, “I’m back, I have some great friends, and it’s a
celebration.”

 

 

We’d been led to
believe you’d had this terrible injury and while recuperating you came up with
this amazing trove of songs. My image of you was that of a guy in a full
bodycast or something, practically having to dictate lyrics and notes to
someone else so they could write it all down for you.

 

 Yeah. Of course. That’s
not what I wanted. I’ve never liked these kinds of excuses – playing the victim
role is not sexy – and I thought that
having too much of the story of our first record focused on this thing that
happened to my spine was a bit of a misfire. I didn’t think we needed to throw
down that card because it was not a truthful card; the injury was just such a
small part of what was going on. It got overemphasized in trying to get
everyone’s attention. Although at that stage of the campaign, I think the
people involved were just trying to get some attention [for the record].

 

 

 It worked…

 

 It worked, sure!
“We’ll write about him now! He had a terrible injury!” [laughs] My reaction was that you might get some ink about it, but
you might not get fans because, no offense, people always steer clear of the
handicapped toilet! [laughs]

 

 

 I will say, to their credit your p.r. people were very enthusiastic
about you, and when I was at SXSW in March of 2007, they dragged me to your
showcase, promising me I would love the show. They were right. I’d liked the album already, but seeing you live,
with the full strings and horns sections too, just floored me. I still feel like
I got a very special treat that night, to see the big band, because not that
many audiences out in the rest of the country will have a chance to witness
that.

 

 You’re probably right.
Although Future Clouds & Radar really is like an extended family, and
people want to do that if the money is there, for sure.

 

 

 

And that comes across
more fully live. When I looked at the stage, with all the horn players and
string players and others coming on and going off, I saw you as much as a
ringmaster and conductor as a guitarist and singer. And it seemed like everyone
had a collective purpose to make it all gel, too.

 

 Sure. Well, I think
it all starts with the arrangements. If people feel that what they are doing
isn’t just window dressing they feel perhaps more inspired. People need to feel
their role is meaningful. And with the large band there are enough juicy
arrangement for the horn parts so these guys can really sink their teeth into.
Or for the strings to do something creatively ambitious, almost more like a
Samuel Barber meets Phil Spector arrangement type of thing.

    In rock music
horns and strings are used in such a plodding way because recordings have to
come so accessible to so many people. And overdubbing has become so easy with
all the digital boxes we have that anyone can dress their record up, but most
songs don’t really need that kind of ornamentation and they become a pretext
for overdubs – and not very appealing.

 

 

 Is this something you learned being a fan of
music, or from making that album?

 

 I always thought I
had a pretty keen sense of what was lean and what was fat in music, ever since
I was a kid listening to stuff. When I was making Kon-tiki with Cotton Mather, the record was given to Brad Jones to
mix, and he wound up having so many ideas coming down the home stretch that he
ended up getting some additional production credit as well, and I think he was
able to impart a lot to me at that time. I’ve worked with a lot of people
who’ve been very astute. So it’s also a process of experimentation that one
gets a sense of that.

   But it all starts
with a song, and people tend to dress up a song that’s not very strong in order
to create something that’s more mesmerizing. But that typically doesn’t work.

 

 

 A random sampling of reviews of the first Future Clouds album and the
fact that it’s a double-CD set would tend to cull words like “audacious” and
“sprawling” and “excessive.” Individual songs, of course, all have their own
little universes. But did you ever say to yourself, “Uh-oh, I’m getting too
excessive here. I need to pull back.”

 

Never, never. It always works, or it doesn’t. The stuff that
was excessive didn’t make it onto the record.

 

 

 

 There was MORE? So you could
have done your Sandinista! Instead of
your White Album.

 

 Yeah. [deadpan voice] There was a lot more. It
could have been a three record set but I don’t think it would [laughs] have been very good! In terms of
individual tracks, I always have a good sense of when there’s one track too
many. “Okay, we don’t need that extra guitar. We don’t need that organ there.
That’s a nice horn part, but it doesn’t really support the story.” A lot of
those decisions get made in the reductive process of mixing. I typically hand
the mix engineer a little more than we need and then we sit there and make
those decisions. And I do work on a tape deck, so I do run out of tracks! [laughs]

 

 

 When the reviews started coming in, were you
surprised at the level of praise? Was it a vindication? What did you think when
you learned that Harp named FCAR “Best
New Artist/Debut” and the album #4 overall?

 

 Now that one: I’m going to show a little of
my ego here. I thought… “It’s about time!” [laughs]
I really did. I was surprised that there hadn’t been more reactions like that!
Because as a fan of music, I thought we’d thrown down a pretty powerful
statement and, with a good publicist behind it as we did, that more people
would stop and take notice of it.

   Having said that,
we had plenty of good press. The Harp thing
was a wonderful surprise. I was up in St.
Louis, it was really cold, and we had really come to
the end of the line with that record; we didn’t have any money that we could
tour on. So our publicist calls and tells me you’d given us this
acknowledgment, and I was really happy. Because my thought was, “We need
something else to bring people’s awareness to this record. It’s gone by too
quickly and it looks as if it’s going to be the sort of thing people start
discovering based on what we do next.”

   It took people a
little while to get to it, I think, because of the size of it. We tried to put
it out in England
and our publicist said, “No one will write about it because it’s a double
record.” And I think it would have been great to get a little more, but for a
band that came out of nowhere and had nothing going for it other than the
songs, to start from scratch in the U.S. and to land on those lists and to
suddenly present ourself to the world as a legitimate artist worth listening to
was a beautiful experience. And it gave us something to build upon. And I was
especially happy about the Harp mention because I thought [laughs] –
“Now listen, the REST of you need to study Harp. This is the right answer. Someone just aced their term paper and I’d like
everyone to take notes!”

 

 

 In a way, Harp got a lot of
mileage out of that too: a lot of attention was directed our way precisely
because we had gotten behind this unknown group. “Wow, who is this band, and
why is Harp into them? Is there
something we don’t know that Harp does?”
Judging by some of the feedback, we were looking like mavericks. It was an
interesting dynamic, a strange bit of synchronicity.

 

 So it appeared to be
a very daring call on your part. And I thought it was! I was like, “Hell yeah!”

 

 

 And then of course we folded three months
later…

 

 Yeah, I’m sorry about
that! But what have we just learned from the last election? “Mavericks don’t
always win.” [laughs]

 

 

 Well Robert, you know we do blame you directly
for our demise….

 

 And I have finished
off a few record companies, too. I don’t necessarily think of myself as rock
music’s version of Typhoid Mary, but let’s see who writes about this album and
who’s still standing next year.

 

 

 Okay, let’s talk about Peoria.
I understand that it was originally conceived as a collaboration with the Fiery
Furnaces?

 

 Right. I’m a big fan,
and we’re mutual friends. Eleanor used to come see us – Cotton Mather – in London. Then we did a
show with them at Emo’s here in town last November, and as I was listening to
them, I had this idea, wow, we should do
something.
This was when we were still on the first record – we’d had to
learn 27 songs! — so we hadn’t even started working on anything new. I
thought, watching them, I would love to
do a record with these guys
. Like where we were having a conversation. Because
they were already ADD anyhow, all over the map within their songs. So what if
they would do the first segment, we’d respond, and then we’d go back and forth.
I thought it was a great idea, and I went to talk to Matthew after the show,
and he thought it was a great idea: “Let’s do it.”

   So I began the
process of looking for someone to make the record, and Dave Fridmann seemed a
natural choice. Dave signed on, but then I never heard back from Matt and
Eleanor. They got sidetracked doing other things, I suppose, or maybe they
decided it was a harebrained idea; I’m not sure what went awry. I tried several
times to contact them, then let the matter drop.

   But then Dave
Fridmann [had gotten] the idea that we were coming up not in June, as I
originally thought, but in February, to mix the record. Somehow our signals got
crossed. I got an email from him in January saying, “Looking forward to seeing
you in three weeks.” I went, holy crap,
nothing is made, nothing is written
.

   So I called the
band, notified my family, “You’re not going to see me for a little while…” And
I got some coffee, got some groceries, and moved into this little house, the Star Apple Kingdom where we work, and we pretty much were just
going nonstop until we crated Peoria.

 

 

 I picture you and the band like some of your
videos: darting around, always in frantic motion…

 

 Well, let me give you
a musical backdrop them. The song “The Mortal,” the one with the little sped up
business in the middle? That’s the first piece I wrote, the frantic sped up
thing. I got the email from Dave, drank coffee, and wrote that. “Okay, we’ll
start with that.” It was describing
my mood: Oh my God, how is this going to
work…

   So that’s how it
went. But it was very immediate, and very fresh.

 

 

 One of my questions was going to be, Was it difficult to self edit,
compared to the last album? But obviously that’s not pertinent – you were
forced to pull out what you could, fast.

 

 Well, there were
three songs that didn’t make the record. A couple of instrumental pieces… one
song called “The Land of Flowers,” which was a nice track, but it didn’t fit.
It could have been a longer record, not doubt; it could have had a few more
instrumentals, and then there was also the song “The Bride Of Light.”

 

 

 You know, that song should be released. I’ve
heard it and it’s a wonderful song.
[Editor’s
note: “Bride Of Light” can be heard at the
Austin Chronicle website.]

 

 Well, thank you. I
think we tried to put that in almost as an epilogue, and it’s funny how
sometimes the song that doesn’t make it onto the album is the one you spend the
most time with. We actually recorded three versions of that song. One sounded
kind of like it belonged on the first album, while the second version sounded
like Super Mario Brothers on acid, very unpleasant, and I bailed on that one.
So for the last day of recording before we went to Dave’s I sat down with an
acoustic guitar and drum machine and Darin our drummer came in, and we knocked
that out, then dropped in the bass and the piano. I almost wanted to do that
more as a demo just in case we needed more tracks. I thought if it sounded more
casual and off the cuff, maybe it would serve as an epilogue on the record. But
what happened was, if it appears on the end of the record, it feels a little bit
like an apology for what we’ve just done [laughs]
so we all agreed the record was more whole without it! The Future Clouds & Radar
“theme” for both records is, we try to go with what’s whole, what feels the most complete from beginning to end.

   But we’ll
definitely put that out.

 

 

 Could you briefly articulate what the Peoria angle means to you?

 

 Well, we did this
little trip –  and we’re hoping to
release a film in the spring that might explain it all better – and it was a
side trip to Peoria, Illinois, where we did some interview with
people on the street about Future Clouds & Radar. Because, particularly
after the Harp thing, we were
thinking, “Here we are, the Debut Artist of the Year, no one knows who we are…”

 

 

 And of course Peoria is the Test Marketing
Capital of America…

 

 Right. We thought
we’d have some fun with that.

 

 

 Test market some Future Clouds in Peoria?

 

 Exactly. Get people
to listen to the record, tell us what they thought. And we got some great,
comical stuff. But. I don’t always think things through consciously when I do
art. I just go from… the heart. There’s typically a sub-plot and a sub-sub-plot
happening, and as we began to have this little experience of horsing around
with this notion of anonymity versus a claim, I began reflecting on Peoria as a
metaphor for material gain in America, as opposed to salvation – and how they
go together.

   So Peoria almost became a metaphor for bodily
attainment. So the songs, instead of being about death, are songs about life –
but indicating that there seems to be, at least to our way of thinking, a
stumbling block [laughs] at the end.

 

 

 Several reviews I’ve seen have referred to “dark subject matter” and
picking up on stuff in the songs like burials, mummies and coffins. But I take
it that you’re merely using these contrasting images to celebrate life, in a
sense?

 

 Exactly. And I would
challenge anyone who’s using those adjectives to describe the record to tell me
not what you’re thinking about when you read the words, but how you’re feeling
when you hear the music. There’s nothing about death on the record. It’s about
the misperception of death as the endgame. And in order to talk about that you
need to go to the source of that confusion, which is our over-identification with
mortality.

   So I was just trying to look at those issues
through many different prisms, and in a short period of time. I was probably
about halfway through the record before I realized what it was about. And then is when it started getting really
fun!

    But [the reviews
mentioning dark subject matter only take] a literal look. If you just got the
lyric sheet, you skimmed it, you didn’t get too deep, you could go, “Oh, this
is a grim reaper fascination…”

 

 

 We should take it all as a music and lyric whole, then? You can even
make subjects like suicide sound pretty cheery if the music is right.

 

 Yeah. I think it has
more to do, as opposed to the notes and the way it’s delivered, with the signal
– the energetic signal within the music. You feel someone’s energy when you
pick up a guitar; you feel who that person is. I can pick up a guitar in a pawn
shop and go, ohh, it feels so heavy and
sad…
I’m not going to play that thing. Their energy’s in there and they
were having a hard time. Then sometimes you pick up an instrument that
shouldn’t play wonderfully and it just sings. Songs are the same way. They carry a signal. The signal of this record is
exhilarating, it’s optimistic, it’s… challenging. It’s intended to challenge.
But it’s intended to do so with a hug.

 

 

 Funny: in the BLURT review I wrote of the record, the one word that
kept coming to mind was “ecstasy.” What you’re describing here: in my own way,
when listening to it, that came through. As a non-musician it’s sometimes hard
for me to articulate what I’m feeling from the song.

 

 The entire making of
that record, it felt like we were surrounded by light. We had so much cosmic
support coming in that it just created itself. There was no reason for that
record to come to us and show up in that form, and be that complete in that
time; it was kind of like a spoon bending experience, and then when it was
over, it was over. It was a beautiful experience.

   And I felt really
blessed by this band that I had around me. A very important point about Peoria:
the first record was a ramshackle collective when we recorded it and it was a
ramshackle collective when we toured it, because people would come and go more
based around me as the central figure in this big cast. This band, when it
locked in around the time of that Firery Furnaces show, had such a distinctly
engaged mind as one unit that that was the first time I thought, “These are the
people I want to record with and stake my claim with.” Because we just
understand each other so well. So this is quite a “band record” as opposed to
the first one.

   Hollie, our
keyboardist, brings a lot of classical influences to the picture. The pulse
that Joshua Zarbo brings, because he used to be in Spoon, has such a drive to
it; I told him that on this record he reminds me of Klaus Voorman. And Darin is
a force of nature: he can play anything, and he can sing. And of course Kullen
has been around awhile as well, doing horns, although he’s not as quite
integrated into the band as the four of us. Just to give credit where credit is
due, that whole last vocal arrangement at the end was completely written and
recorded by Kullen and Darin.

   So when you’ve got
people in your band showing up with things like that…

 

 

 I take it, then, that “The Robert Harrison
Band” would never have worked anyway.

 

 No. [laughs] That’s not what I wanted.

 

 

 Has touring the new record been gratifying for everyone in the band?

 

 Oh yeah. We haven’t
done all that many dates yet, but it’s really fun to perform live. So was the
last stuff. But the group has that remarkable quality that you can’t buy – it’s
chemistry. I’ve been in lots of bands, and sometimes you have that chemistry
and sometimes you don’t. But you make the best of it. This band, though, even
if we’re not playing so well, the chemistry is still there.

 

 

 Hollie in particular seems to bring a certain vibe to the group.

 

 Oh yeah. Once she and
I met is really where FCAR really began to take shape, because she was someone
who really seemed to understand where I was coming from musically and was
willing to lend her full talent and support to it. That’s a wonderful thing.

 

 

 One last question, this one a silly question: If Cotton Mather and
Future Clouds & Radar were sports teams, what kind of sports would they
play? I’m picturing the full-ensemble FCAR as a football team, and the
relatively more compact Cotton Mather as basketball…

 

 Oh, that’s a great
question! Actually, Cotton Mather, in the last incarnation, was much more like
a football team. That was like the Vince Lombardi-era Green Bay Packers, you know?
[laughs] Particularly if I were Bart
Starr, the part about him crying at the end, when he did the Quarterback Sneak.
I always just felt like with Cotton Mather, it was such a great thing, but
toward the end we were a band that was all about nonindulgence and economy and
a band that was also the most direct path between two points.

   Future Clouds &
Radar always feels a little to me like the Harlem Globetrotters! I don’t know
who’s going to do what or take what trick shot, but I do know that absolutely
anything goes and we could care less whether we win or not. With Future Clouds
& Radar, it’s not about the score. It’s about the show.

 

 

 Does that make you Curly Neal or Meadowlark
Lemon?

 

 Oh, I’m Meadowlark!

 

 

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