Mon, 16 Sep 2013 10:42:40
SWF, otherwise known as Stevie Weinstein-Foner, conjures up his own brew of styles on Let It Be Told—out October 8. The album artfully merges indie, pop, a little electro, and a whole lot of soul into one intoxicating musical gumbo. It's one of the most fascinating releases of 2013.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Stevie Weinstein-Foner talks Let It Be Told and so much more.
You have your own sound which is very intricate and unique, but at the same time, the songs are super catchy.
The sound was really a result of the process in the studio. I went down to Memphis to record the album at friend Toby Vest's studio down there called High/Low Recording. Memphis has this rich history of recording studios like Sun Studios, Stax, and Easely Studios where Sonic Youth and Pavement recorded some albums. At High/Low, they have some of the gear from Easley that got trashed when it closed. They spent some time with Jim Dickinson who produced some of the Big Star Records. He has a long history in that area in Memphis and the South in general. There's a lot of rich history down there anyway. It was cool to go down there and feel a part of that tradition. A lot of the sound of the record came out of the sonic palette of going down to High/Low. I'd been playing some of these songs for a while. A lot of them came to me out of the ether. Sometimes, to refine a song I'll sit down and work with it. A lot of times, the original concept, the hook, or whatever will come out of nowhere. With "Automobile Blues" and "Let It Be Told", I was just driving my car one day, and there it was.
What threads Let It Be Told together for you?
I have a tough time answering that question. It's definitely tied together sonically. We used a lot of the same elements in the songs. It was recorded in two four-day sessions. I did four songs in May 2011, which was "Black & Golden", "Let It Be Told", "Automobile Blues", and "Broken Glass". Then, I went back to Memphis in the very beginning of 2013 after a whole slew of insane life events that got me to go back and record the other five songs. Some of them were new. I had written them in that time. Others, I just hadn't recorded the first time. There were two batches, but we made sure to keep it consistent and maintain a similar sonic palette. In terms of the vision, it's a tough call because I'm so close to it. I see the thematic thread that ties it together. It's about a process of learning, growing, evolving, and strengthening. In terms of my writing, there's a lot of doubt expressed in the songs. There's a lot of uncertainty there, but with this intention that it's moving towards the completion of the album, in a way. It has a living energy. I listen to it still. I'm really proud of it. It's music I want to listen to, which is why I made it.
What's the story behind "Only Child"?
Right after I came back from Memphis the first time, I wrote that song. I was coming out of this weird period of time where I was traveling a lot. I was living in Costa Rica for a few months. Then, I left Costa Rica, and I came back to New York. I was like, "I need to get out of here". I went to California and then New Orleans. I was adrift in a certain way. My life didn't make sense to me. I landed back in New York after Memphis, and that's when I wrote that song. I was like, "I'm back, and I'm here. I'm on my own in this area, feeling a little bit stronger". I was examining relationship to myself as somebody without any sisters or brothers and someone who's always looking outward for self-recognition and shifting that energy to looking inward. We ended the record with it because "Broken Glass" was the closer at first because it's so anthemic and dirge-y. That's a low note. To close it on "Only Child", it's a little more of a light ending. It's a shorter song that does its thing and ends on a high note. It's the silver lining.
Where did "Saturn Returns" come from?
I actually wrote that in Boston at my parents' house, when I was visiting. I wrote the first line on the train. It has an almost Appalachian feel. It felt like a mountain song to me. It was the end of the year. I was coming out of a dark time. I'd split up with my girlfriend and I started to delve into some deeper spirituality. "Saturn Returns", as an astrological phenomenal, when you're born Saturn is in a certain place, and when it returns, it's coming back around to that place. It's a 29-year cycle. I'm 28. The couple of years leading to that are a volatile time. When you're Saturn goes direct, you come into your fullness. It's another stage of life.
You can see the music as much as you can hear it.
I appreciate that. It's a fascinating take on it. In the words, there's some visual imagery. It paints a picture, landscape, or lifeline.
If the album were a movie, what would it be?
Maybe Terrence Malick's Badlands? I really like that movie. It's from the seventies. It has that vibe to it. The album has a similar vibe to it. You've got a young Martin Sheen who's totally badass. He's this lovable rebel. It has that feeling of the record.
Take a listen to "Black & Golden":