December 4, 2013

We're Trapped Inside The Song Where The Nights Are So Long: Clicky Clicky Speaks To Krill's Jonah Furman About Deep Shit Like Divisions Of The Self And The Beast Within

[Images by Jonah Furman and Noah Furman] Time And Relative Dimension In Space is a mouthful of words, which is why it is almost always acronymed, but it has some bearing here, so please indulge the introductory tangent. It's a fictional thing from a teevee series and series of books, the TARDIS is, and on the outside it appears to be a large phone booth (it's not a proper phone booth, but most of our readers are American, so let's just go with "phone booth"). The important thing to know for now is that while this time-traveling, spaceship thingo appears to be the size of a phone booth on the outside, it is (as a result of unspecified extraterrestrial magic/technology) impossibly larger on the inside. Which is a lot like the music of Krill, the Boston-based post-punk trio whose music angularly jangles and thumps while the fronter, the titular Jonah Furman whose name you see above, sings about bugs and fear and loathing and psychological mutineering and negating the self and Dostoevsky -- the harder you listen, the bigger (and deeper) it all gets. Which is, coincidentally, a lot like what we experienced when we cobbled the interview together.

Cards on the table: this was conceived as a bit of a perfunctory exercise. We're friends with the fine people at The Ash Gray Proclamation blog, who are hosting a benefit show this Saturday for Toys For Tots down in Plymouth, MA. So we thought, hey, let's see if we can help promote the cause by running a timely feature with one of the bands. Synergy! Shake your groove thing! Having vibrated heavily to Krill's 2013 LP Lucky Leaves [review here], the choice of who we wanted to interview was easy. However, the incredibly forthright and thoughtful responses below from Mr. Furman -- who is quick to emphasize he is but one of three dudes who comprise Krill, and that Krill is not "his" band -- exceeded our expectations for the feature many times over, and it became clear very quickly that this interview was going to outsize the convenient excuse upon which it was premised. Indeed, the exchange below prompts that jarring realization that, at least for Furman, the music of Krill is not as much about self-expression as it is a framework used to explore big ideas about philosophy and life. The ideas Furman spit-balls in response to our clumsy interrogation are so large and pure they potentially seep into everything, their ontological protoplasm sliming and absorbing by (our own excited) extrapolation things as far-flung as Bad Brains' I Against I and Silver Jews' Starlight Walker, not to mention works by David Foster Wallace and Dostoevsky, and on and on and on. The ideas extend, we are told infra, to Krill's forthcoming EP, Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears, which was formally announced today over at the Gum de Stereo. We're grateful to Jonah for the generous gift of his time and the focus and attention he brought to our exchange. As we mentioned supra, Krill performs this Saturday at the New World Cafe in Plymouth, MA as part of For All Good Kids, The Ash Gray Proclamation's Toys For Tots benefit show that also features Hallelujah The Hills, Guillermo Sexo and a special opening set from The Hush Now's Noel Kelly. The show will rage and all the details are right here. Now, on to the interview with Krill's Jonah Furman.

Clicky Clicky: 2013 was probably something of a mindfuck for Krill. Early in the year the band was confronted with the prospect of Lucky leaving, the band's future was uncertain, you lived in a mansion and then you didn't live in a mansion. Now, at the other end of the year, the LP is out to not-insignificant acclaim and you are signed to Exploding In Sound and presumably you are not homeless. If Present Day Jonah could pull some sort of tesseract move right now and go back in time to talk to Endless Winter 2013 Jonah, would you tell yourself "everything is going to work out?" Would that have been the most important thing for the band to know?

Jonah Furman: man, knuckle deep on the first one, good. yeah well hm, let's see. the whole story of krill's history is so tangled as to be boring and i always have trouble answering the q of "when did the band start?" but september/october 2012 was definitely our first tour and the first time that krill was our main thing. i was broke as hell and depressed and my girlfriend had just moved to siberia and i started reading a lot of dostoevsky that december, and listening to [Fat History Month's] fucking despair and thinking about will, commitment, suffering, weakness, and krill. i was constantly talking about breaking up the band and that was months before luke got into grad school. 'theme from krill' was [a] half painful cynical thing about the band breaking up, the twisted bug in me that tends to self-destruction, and then it was beautifully reinforced by 'lucky leaving,' which he announced in february. the other half i guess is the hopeful side, saying 'tho it's over this moment will be tattooed in time forever' and alluding to how we did sort of create a whole universe of meaning for ourselves, thus the self-reference (which i could go on and on about). anyhow i'm not really answering your question am i. what happened? so luke said he was splitting & at first we were thinking that'd mean a 'hiatus' but aaron and i didn't want to do that so we decided either we'd break up or we'd find a new drummer and then ian came along and moved out to boston and the engine churned on. without getting too personal about stuff, life is surprisingly, shockingly the same between November 2013 and November 2012 ~~ living in the Whitehaus (a different sort of mansion) with no heat (same as last winter) with USD $11 in my bank account, feelin sorry for myself like a chump. More blogs have written about the band and we play more and better shows now, and, yeah, like i said, the engine churns. So it's not like we're livin it up by any means, but yeah, I guess the external validation has helped a bit? How do I not sound like a whiner? But also what I wanted to say (god this answer is too long) is that the suffering and the is-krill-gonna-break-up thing was crucial to the whole thing, and for a while (to our detriment, in trying to get labels to release it) we called LL a concept album about our band breaking up. & truth be told, the next thing, Steve Hears Pile etc...., is also about breaking up ~~ so who knows? Good thing i can't teserract, i'd fuck it all up.

CC: In "Theme From Krill" we learned there is a bug inside the narrator. Lucky Leaves was initially sold as a USB lodged in a cheeseball. And the forthcoming EP is about two dudes who are apparently inside a Pile song, at least in a manner of speaking. All of which makes me think of the Silver Jews song "New Orleans," where in the coda Mssrs. Malkmus and Berman chant "we're trapped inside the song" over and over. That would be a great song for Krill to cover, incidentally. But it also makes me think about how Krill likes to think about things that are in other things, sometimes hiding, sometimes revealing. So far this is a pretty terrible question, right?

JF: this question rules. actually asking about like 'what are your songs about?' which is pretty crucial for a band that writes songs that mostly are about stuff. i don't know that Silver Jews song, I'm gonna listen to it now.

OK i got distracted and wasted 30 minutes on the internet. where were we. ah, yeah. that's a great question. i mean, maybe it's not a great question but it's talking about actual interests and yeah i'd say krill lyrics are deeply concerned with stuff 'in' other stuff, mostly split versus whole selves, being torn or being unified, which just today i was thinking about how maybe that'll be the next krill full-length theoretical scaffolding -- r.d. laing's 'the divided self', f.m. dostoevsky's raskolnikov, d.f. wallace's lane dean jr., drew beckmore's 'everything unseen'. i could go on and on but maybe won't. i'll talk krill theories all day long though, helps me figure out what they actually are. incidentally you got me back on one of my favorite songs, silkworm's 'couldn't you wait.'

CC: Before we jump topics, what else can you tell me about Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears? We know it's an EP, we roughly know the larger concept at work, and we know it will be released on vinyl and digital. Did anything surprise you about the EP, after you had recorded it and were able to sit back and listen to it straight through?

JF: i can tell you lots of things about the EP, way more than you'd care to hear. first to answer your q: i'm sick of the fuckin thing by now and can't really stand to listen to it anymore after mixing, mastering, all that. it's to some extent an artifact, being Luke's Final Act before he left the band. i don't think it's all that cohesive as a 'concept album' and there are 1 or 2 tracks that didn't make the cut that would've fleshed out the concept but basically... I ripped the title from this weird academic exegetical essay called "Dostoevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts Into Tears" by F. Laszlo Foldenyi (sp.?) that basically talks about how Hegel said history doesn't happen in Siberia and how Dost likely encountered that bit of Hegel while he himself was in fact in Siberia and the idea is that Malden is Siberia to Allston's Germany and Steve and Mouth are these two kids who live together in Malden and want to form a band and be friends with Pile but are so deeply in their own way and so outside of the 'scene' and 'conversation.' I mean it goes quite a bit deeper than that, and more tangled, in that the character's names and basic positions are ripped from a Pile song, "Steve's Mouth," in which there's this great line: "Steve woke up sitting on his own head, sobbing, couldn't breathe. He had a dream that Mouth died because Steve had to eat." -- which, yeah, again is about self-destruction, divisions of the self, your Mouth separating and being treated as a whole full entity... I don't know, the idea was that Steve is this infinite outwardness, wanting to form this band and go on tour with Pile but feels crushed by the external world, like he can't possibly match up, and Mouth is this infinite negativity, wanting to kill himself or leave boston or basically just abandon all dreams. which, you know, are two factors krill dealt with and deals with a lot... i don't know. it's not really a cohesive thing, like i said, but it's sort of about krill, pile, dostoevsky, boston, and depression, in five disjointed tracks.

[Here comes the worst segue you will ever read in an interview published in this or any publication in the post-Gutenberg-era -- Ed.]

CC: So you're playing this Toys For Tots benefit show Saturday. Can you remember as a kid having an obsession with a particular toy? In your experience, with regards to toys or otherwise, have you ever gotten something you wanted badly, and then realized that wanting it was actually more satisfying than having it?

JF: used to play a lot of magic cards as a kid. one time i bought a pack and told my parents, after the fact, that i didn't really want it and they asked why i bought it and i made up an excuse about how maybe one of the cards could be valuable and i could sell it and then my dad sort of tore me a new one about how gambling works and i remember him taking out a pair of dice and showing me what an idiot i was. what you say about wanting is more resonant, of course, and maybe a shitty thing for me to talk about as a person who comes from a privileged suburban background, the mechanics of wanting, but yeah, makes me think about DFW's thing about how there is no reciprocal feeling of success to match the aching desire of fame, addiction, achievement, progression, ascent. but fuck, jay, probably not cool to tell the tots the toys will solve nothing, that the beast is yourself and you cannot be sated, right?

CC: Clicky Clicky can magically turn you into Oprah. If we did, in fact, turn you into Oprah, and you were able to give a single gift, any gift at all, to an entire studio audience of deserving kids in need, what would you pick for them?

JF: funny how quickly, when ian asked me the other day what i want for hannukah, i blurted "$5k" and how deeply that resonated with all three of us. capitalism (or current dearth of capital to my name) has maybe temporarily sullied my capacity for appreciating/remembering the wonders of the gift economy but i really do think that's one of the Ways Out of the dilemma of the split, self-negating self. fuck am i talking about. crayons & paper should be enough.

CC: I'm intrigued by your speculation, or at least optimistic positation, which is surely not a real word, that the gift economy, or the wonders thereof, is a potential solution to the split, self-negating self. Because I think this is important. Do you think the solution for peace in the house of the divided self is... kindness? altruism? Or, I guess to stay more true to the line of your response, having the capacity to appreciate/recognize kindness or altruism?

JF: At the end of college i was working on this thesis that i abandoned, sort of about a lot of things, many threads of which have surfaced in krill stuff over the past couple years. I guess the idea, most broadly, was an investigation (but more navel gazing) into the move from ends to means, or "the eclipse of ends" (which is how I saw it put in a book just yesterday (this stuff still, as you can see, deeply occupies me)). so it was this elaborate thing about how economic/cultural/ethical/communicative translations have fucked up our relationship to any sense of value, and the next step would be to see maybe how one could maybe traverse these occluded paths to value w/o being naive or regressive. Or maybe by being naive/regressive, not sure, I'm still totally fuzzy on it. But the cheesy and simplest example i came up with is how currency translates objects into a commensurable value (exchange-value), overpowering the sense of the object as the thing that it is -- a chair = $ instead of a thing to sit on, yknow? All this stuff is hamfisted and overly academic, and part of my whole problem with the thesis itself was that what I'm interested in is mostly the human experience of these shifts (if they're even valid at all) rather than their intellectual history. Anyhow, through some twists and turns, largely centered on the totemic figure of David Foster Wallace (but other stuff in moral philosophy and elsewhere) i got hooked on the now-a-little-played-out idea that if you have a system of means that swallows all, the only way to destroy or overcome that system (w/o being naive or regressive) would be to turn it against itself; thus people talking confusingly about dfw 'ironizing irony' (& the other example that comes to mind is this metaethics thing that would take slightly longer to explain) and also, in my opinion, ideas about self-hate, self-incrimination, knowing-you-are-fucked, because your only tool against your fucked self is your fucked self, the self having eclipsed all other things.

Ultimately, tho, I'd say that dfw (and levinas and Dostoevsky and other important people i feel namedroppy for bringing up) resorts to something that maybe is naive or regressive but somehow i don't think it quite is ---- because it still is the form of self-negation, just reformulated, turned inside out, into other-affirmation, through love, god, 'the other,' communitarianism. i guess maybe the next thing, for me, would be that once you've revived this loving muscle and can flex it a bit, maybe maybe there is some place in the deep distance where the golden rule can be flipped, once you've already loved yr neighbor as yourself (and get over the embarrassment of typing that) you can turn it around and love yourself as your neighbor. So: eventually the split self becomes a way to come back to a liveable self-love (or at least non-self-hatred).

Oh, how we enjoyed doing this interview. There are a number of other questions we'd like to put to Jonah (1. there is an underlying presumption here that a divided self is necessarily a bad thing, and a thing that needs to be remedied -- what if it is the natural state of being? Is there a way that it can not be a negative? 2.) Where does religious faith fall in the mechanics of remedying the divided self -- which, again, we are not sure is something that necessarily is unnatural and needs to be remedied? Is using religious faith "naive" or "regressive?"). But we'll save those for another day. Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears has five songs and will be released by Exploding In Sound as a vinyl 10" and digital download Feb. 18; you can pre-order the short stack (as well as a couple rad t-shirt designs) via Krill's Bandcamp dojo right here. The blazing, punky title track was loosed to the wilds of the Internerds today as a preview, and for now you can hear it over at that big web site. Krill has a number of other confirmed shows on the horizon beyond Saturday's engagement at The New World Tavern in Plymouth, which of course you should go to, because we said so. For example, the trio is also part of Allston Pudding/EIS's cataclysmic New Year's Eve bill in Boston over at Pizzeria Regina in Allston, which also features Grass Is Green, Kal Marks and Two Inch Astronaut.

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