Biscuits, Triscuits…


Chris Garneau’s youthful spirit and long awaited new album
June 16, 2009, 5:39 pm
Filed under: music and musings

I interviewed Chris Garneau to write a feature for the Deli Magazine last summer.  It was difficult because he was on tour in Europe with Xiu Xiu and hard to get anything in depth from.  I did think there was something special about him though. Looks like his new album El Radio is FINALLY coming out this July, which is about 6 months later than he mentioned but hopefully it’s mind-blowing and not severely disappointing. His earlier music/the only music out is extremely juvenile and has received horrible reviews on places like Pitchfork Media, but I felt like there was a truth in his music despite the fact that it’s very young. So here’s my feature, printed in the Deli and available here: http://www.thedelimagazine.com/FeatureView.php?artist=chrisgarneau

Chris Garneau
pretty mistakes of a young soul
by Lauren Piper

Observation #1: Chris Garneau is a very busy man. Having been on tour throughout May and some of June, living it up in Europe with his pals Xiu Xiu, it was very difficult to correspond with him, especially after he lost his cell phone. It wasn’t hard though, to imagine the inflections in his voice, were he to be right in front of me answering my questions. The openness and curt honesty in his answers leads one to see how modest and almost unsure of himself Garneau is, despite his full-length release on Absolutely Kosher and the fact that he is touring Europe, not for the first time, and with Xiu Xiu nonetheless.
Fact #1: In reality (everyone’s but his own), Garneau is one of those secret gems whose lack of a recent album makes his existence that much more obscure. If one were to discover him, they would pick through the pieces of his beautiful, whispery music and wonder what is next to come. As an answer, Chris says that his upcoming release will be out some time this fall.
Fact #2: Garneau is a Brooklyn singer/songwriter, who arrived via Boston, France, and other cities. Having spent three years of his youth in France, he wields the powers of classical piano training, which he uses cleverly in his own music. “It was really the only major musical influence in my life at this time. While of course other sources may have penetrated my consciousness, this is the only one that I can say for sure was present.” He also attended Berklee School of Music but only for one term before he split and moved to Brooklyn to pursue a career in music.

Observation #2: Listening to Chris Garneau is like living in Neverland, which most of us have probably always dreamt of doing. It is hard to escape the dreamy quality of his gorgeously orchestrated indie-folk tunes, despite the weight of sadness that is attached to them. In his music, he gathers up a soulful vocal and instrumental quality of Jeff Buckley, the romantic, open style of K Records artist, Tender Forever, and the orchestral techniques of Sufjan Steven’s. Garneau’s own flavor is a raw classical style with intense vocals and slender instrumentals combined with a softer, folkier side. The lyrics flow through the strings and watery piano pieces and his voice is soothing and restless. The atmosphere created with his twinkling music is really light but the vehicle for this feeling lends the songs a darker quality. Perhaps that is why Garneau feels that his only full-length, Music For Tourists, released in January of 2007, is “eternally tragic” and promises the next album will not be so.

“I struggle with its [Music For Tourists] naivety and its partial ignorance, both in sonic and conceptual ways, but I do still feel passionate about many aspects and certain songs on the record,” comments Chris. It is the type of album that is beautiful and representative of a very young soul the songs are tightly composed and well put together with emotional and breathy singing, sometimes staccato and jumpy. The lyrics are simple and sweet, as he sings of childish themes such as fireflies, Christmas time and castles. These aspects in coordination with the melodies seem geared slightly towards making older people feel young again.

Since Music For Tourists, Garneau has released the EP C-Sides, the cover of which is a hand drawn boat chugging in the water, puffing the name of the record in a cloud of smoke. Both the covers of his albums are hand drawn by friends of his. The music is also a collaboration with friends and the people he gets to play on his album and on tour. At the beginning, Chris had people playing along to songs he had already written. “Most of the older arrangements were pre-written and so they were taught to or interpreted by whomever I was playing with at the time,” comments Garneau. “But when we went on our first US tour, a lot of the arrangements or things we played were all created together. Now I find myself more and more interested in what my bandmates or anyone I play with has to bring to my songs.”

Pertaining to the upcoming record, Garneau says, “There was a huge group effort on this. Many people played on it and it took a lot of time, but we were careful to use our time with people that we love.” He also notes that fans might be surprised that there is percussion on most of the tracks, which is a contrast to just the few bells and tambourines that are present in his previous releases.

Observation #3: Perhaps this shared effort and the conscious decision to step away from music he feels is less mature than he is now, is why his newest album has yet to hit the scene. It could also be that Garneau is very hard on himself and doesn’t believe that either his songwriting or instrumental skills come easily to him. His critical nature causes him to constantly re-think what he has previously written, “I have been promoting this record for two years now on tour and I find myself constantly changing and re-arranging and re-working these very old songs, he writes. “I even just started playing some songs on harmonium and screaming them because I got so tired of singing so quietly.” This virtue of continually going back to old works and eventually letting them go is what will cause him to mature even more as an artist as time goes by.

Fact #3: Chris Garneau labors in total privacy, thus creating mysteries without even meaning to. Hinting at the growth in his own music through his loving spitefulness towards his earlier album is something that only makes one really want to hear what he has in store. It is hard to guess and it’s difficult to know what to expect of Garneau’s second full-lenth, other than what he has told us. At this point, the only thing to do is to wait impatiently for more facts to surface and to observe until he lets us in on the mystery. Perhaps he will form some side projects “I want to start a band with Caralee from Xiu Xiu. If she agrees, we will call it Busiest Witch,” and that will give us something to enjoy while we are waiting.

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