Chris Farren is learning to play with others
By Ida V. Eskamani
"On tour, inevitably you have those dark moments of like, 'What am I doing with my life?' But when you have another person that you're dragging down with you, it makes it so much more of a pleasurable experience ... there's way, way, way less darkness."
"Chris Daddy'' is waiting to enter the Zoom room, and learning to play with others. The larger-than-life power-punk singer Chris Farren is currently in his new bandmate's apartment, preparing for tour.
"OK, right now. We just got back from a 10- day U.K. tour yesterday. We're in New York right now. My best friend and drummer Frankie is sitting right here. She's putting gaff tape on her little drum pad thing. We're in her apartment. It is like 150 degrees outside in Queens, New York. We both feel crazy, because we are jetlagged."
That Frankie is Frankie Impastato of Long Island's Macseal, and the newest recruit to the Chris Farren multiverse.
Chris Farren and The Chris Farren Band have, until now, been one and the same: a one-man act releasing solo records that sound as if they were made by a 12-piece, and putting on full-scale pop-up productions across the world of what Farren lovingly calls "my little trinkets and doohickeys and bells and whistles."
The artist is notorious for mythmaking merch, door-busting and oft-haunted promos (featuring explosions and ghouls), and a gleefully dark sarcasm. (Speaking on merch cuts and corporate monopolies, he says, "I love when these guys come to me and take all my money from me. It's kinda my kink.") After chatting for a whirlwind 20 minutes, we can report that Chris Farren is assuredly Chris Farren. But with the release of Farren's fifth album, Doom Singer, on Polyvinyl Records, produced by Jay Som's Melina Duterte and created alongside his new bandmate Impastato, the way Farren plays has changed.
We asked him about his shift from solitude toward collaboration.
"I wouldn't always be like a dark solitary crow looming in the shadows," he laughs. But the pandemic left him a lot of time to reflect on his journey as a musician and performer. "I think everybody had a version of this," he says. "There was a point where I was like, 'OK, when shit gets back to, whatever, am I going to be doing the same thing?' Am I happy with what I've been doing? And do I want to keep doing it the exact same way? Or do I want to figure out exactly what I actually want to be doing, and not hiding behind anything?'"
Speaking of previous solo tours, Farren shared the loneliness of the road: "It sucks that I have no one to share this with ... no one to high-five at the end of the night. You can only be so proud of yourself."
On record production, Farren shared similar sentiments. "When I make this record, I don't want to just be like tinkering away and just going 'No, no, no.' I want to be tinkering away — with somebody else going, 'No, no, yes! That's cool.' And then I go, 'Oh, that's cool.'"
Farren doubled down on that point with sincerity, sharing how hypercritical he is of himself to an unproductive degree and how much easier it is to celebrate his latest record because it is a project built in collaboration with artists he admires so deeply. "It is nice to not just personally be alone all the time," says Farren. "But to talk about Doom Singer is easier because I'm proud of what we all did. It's easier to celebrate that, than to just be like, 'Yeah, I'm a genius. I made this record and look how cool I am.' Nothing could be more boring to me."
Doom Singer is a lot of things, but boring isn't one of them. It is a rollercoaster of sound. Alongside some epic merch [we were promised huge, giant totes], Farren vowed a similar show for Orlandoans.
"We've got a giant projector screen and we're running two or three projectors every night and kind of an immersive visual experience, as well as the musical experience with Frankie on the drums and me on guitar, and all sorts of backing tracks going off," Farren says. "I'm probably going to jump into the crowd at some point. All sorts of stuff like that. Climb, gonna climb over all sorts of stuff. I want to roll around on the floor. It's gonna be pretty gross. But it's gonna be nice."
We also asked Farren if he had any Orlando memories that haunt him. Florida-grown, he's got quite a few, but in Orlando it was feathery foes that stood out. "There were those sandhill cranes," he shudders. But darkest fears be damned, Farren knows that showtime is nigh and recovers quickly: "Hey, I love Orlando. And I'll see you at the gig, baby."
Ida is an Iranian-American from Florida who grew up with the Beatles, and came of age in the pit. She will talk to you about music for as long as you will pretend to listen. She is founder of Bandifesto, a little blog with a big heart.