Faun Fables

Faun Fables - February 2013

Faun Fables Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: September 7, 2012
Posting Date: February 11, 2013
Artist Hometown: Oakland, CA
Links: FaunFables.com, Facebook
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

A Fearful Name
Woolsey Street and the Lake of Fire
Your Ember Bell
ONE: Can you explain your concept of ‘songtelling’ that you’ve used to describe your music?
Dawn McCarthy: I was searching for what to call Faun Fables, because we’re always asked, ‘What’s your genre?’ and there was something theatrical in what we’re doing, yet it wasn’t a…presentational approach, per se, although we have done some straight-up theater things, actual shows with scripts, and we have done some puppet things in the past, but I think that we both feel a connection to the idea of playing music and performing it, digging into it in a way that kind of goes into some other dimensions, rather than just singing it. So, letting ourselves be channels for whatever the song needs to come through. I definitely feel strongly about the muse as something as something coming through me, and I’m just grateful for it, and enjoying it while it’s there, and try not to hold on to it, and when it moves on to something else, so be it.
Nils Frykdahl: A lot of our material has some element of storytelling in it.
Dawn: Characters…atmospheres
Nils: There’s characters, or there’s a whole situation, and it’s an excerpt from that—
Dawn: I just wanted to emphasize that it was music, basically, but to have some kind of theatrical place in there, to leave room for that. We’ve kept it really flexible over the years. Sometimes the shows are entirely musical, and sometimes there’s quite a bit of spoken stuff, we’ve had some dances and different things. We’ve had other people that we collaborated with. I wanted to come up with a term that would just…that would be vast enough for that, so, instead of ‘storytelling’ it’s ‘songtelling.’
Nils: Whereas ‘folk’ or ‘folk music,’ that’s misleading. We draw on folk elements, but we’re not doing a ‘folk revival’ thing.
Dawn: Yeah, the ‘folk revival’ people have a problem with us. It’s too strange for them! [Laughs]
TWO: What is it that draws you towards more traditional musical styles, rather than something with a more modern sound?
Nils: That’s a big one. There’s probably a lot of reasons…
Dawn: Yeah. It’s like, ‘Why like chicken and dumplings versus a good pizza?’ I think there’s something very resonant in a lot of folklore for us. If I could just kind of guess a little further, to analyze it, I would say that…I really love things that have an elemental resonance to them— meaning that there’s something of the fiber of life that’s in there, and not that I’m a traditionalist or someone who is just into old-fashioned things, but it’s more like…stuff where you can kind of hear some of that old structural stuff that we all draw upon continuously. The stuff that gets reinvented again and again. I think that the stories there really draw me into it. The folklore, the feel of it…what would you say, Nils?
Nils: Just from a musical point of view, from the view of harmony, rhythm, musical form, all of those things, in various kinds of traditional music and music from around the world, tend to be what the modern music is based on, but often have…a lot of elements that have been innovated in wonderful ways, and of course we’re not doing any sort of strict ‘traditional approach’ to anything, but we do take inspiration from sources that…Aesthetics are real. You know, every decade that comes along has its branches of aesthetics that push people’s thought in different ways, and I think there are things that have been lost in the…emphasis, starting in the 20th century and accelerating into the 21st century, the emphasis on the new, on the modern, on innovation, and a forgetting, almost as a matter of course, a forgetting of what happened yesterday. And so, to do the opposite, and to pull from some forgotten corners of tradition has an element of fire to it, which is part of what innovation is all about in the first place. So, when you grab something like that, it’s not necessarily being anti-modernist. I certainly consider myself a modernist in a lot of ways. But, also anti-modernist, in that there is a lot to be thrown up against that board into which we’re sort of ramming our heads, in the modern world, and one way we can do that successfully is through art, through aesthetics. We can’t actually live in the past, but we can learn from it and feel elements from it, and one of the most immediate ways that we can feel from it is through our musical vocabulary.
Dawn: I think I can also add that there’s really a pagan quality to folkloric material that we both respond to a lot. That’s kind of a simple way of saying just what we’ve been saying, but…Yeah, if I had to bring it down to a few things, there’s kind of a magic, an Earth magic…
DJ: As though modern styles are less natural…?
Dawn: It’s more man-made focused, kind of, man looking at itself in the mirror, as opposed to man being part of a bigger picture in nature.
THREE: What is it like touring with your children?
Dawn: Gosh, we’ve just had a couple of really difficult days, with the heat and some really long drives. It’s…you know, children love rhythm, so when the tour flow really kicks in, it gets quite easy with them, you know? And they like seeing new things. It’s really fun when we show them stuff. We’re an act that definitely loves to experience the places we go to. We try, if there’s any time off at all, a couple hours here, there, we try to see things around town and go to museums, take hikes, walks, whatever seems interesting in the town. But, I think the transitions are always difficult for kids. The first…about the first week is tricky, because they’re like, ‘Where are we?’ It depends what age, too.
Nils: ‘Are we going home?’ I’m like, ‘No, we’re heading east.’
Dawn: Every time we’ve travelled with them, it’s been different, because they’re at different stages, so we just have to keep open and on our feet about it, and be flexible and see what’s needed.
Nils: Mostly it works really well. The trickiest thing, as far as the ‘showbiz’ angle is concerned, is getting that time when— and they’re young enough. They’re 2 and approaching 4, and just getting that time at the end of the day, when they start to melt down, and they want to be put to bed by Mom, and if that happens right when we’re supposed to be hitting the stage, that can be tricky, so we try to figure that out. And, of course, we’re moving and going through time changes, so, it’s a little complicated.
Dawn: They’re doing very well considering it, but having just some of that open time…We’ve both got various songwriting, lyric-writing, song-finishing we want to be doing right now, and there’s some other things going on, but, before when we would tour, we could take those long drives and just think about this stuff or work on writing…There’s not that free time now. So, writing really has to happen in these little spurts and in the cracks and nooks and little bits here and there, but because you haven’t been able to have that kind of ongoing flow, when you do have a window for it, it really comes out. Also, they’re really feeding you in such an incredible way that it’s OK that you’re not able to indulge in the kind of writing and time you had before. There’s moments where I definitely feel like, ‘Oh, I’m not able to be the ‘professional’ that I would like to be able to be, but, so be it!’ But mostly, I wanted to be a mom and I really take it on as this incredible adventure, and it’s making me a bigger person, a better person, so it’s like, ‘So be it!’
– Interview and transcription by Dale Jones.