Originally published on Swizzle-Stick.com
As the Favez Disciples, the Switzerland band released three run-of-the-mill post-punk, loud rock efforts in Europe. Certain influences rang through, and the music, if not altogether memorable, was honest and delivered with a punch. After losing the Disciples part of their name, the five self-professed music geeks in Favez set out to write the slowest and most depressing album imaginable. In order to achieve a certain atmospheric sound, Favez retreated to a church, where they recorded ten songs that would make up A Sad Ride on the Line Again. The goal was met. On the instantly engaging ’99 release, Chris Wicky’s vocals float atop the band’s acoustic-driven music the way a raft floats on a tranquil caliginous sea.
While A Sad Ride proved to be a successful experiment – it landed Favez a deal with U.S. indie label Doghouse Records in Toledo, Ohio – the band recently spent some time in a New York City recording a ‘rock’ album with producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Triple Fast Action, Appleseed Cast). The new material should be released by Doghouse sometime in the spring of 2000.
After months of correspondence via e-mail, Swizzlestick was finally able to get Favez frontman Chris Wicky to answer some questions.
Why the name Favez?
It’s the name of a wonderful English actor from the thirties (Leroy Favez). He’s the guy you see running after the midget girl in The Man From After the War. He has an amazing way of walking; he sort of glides through the streets. Anyway, you know what I mean if you saw the movie.
(After exhaustive searching, Swizzlestick is unable to confirm the authenticity of Chris’s answer about the band name. We couldn’t find a single reference to either Leroy Favez or The Man From After the War.)
What are your non-musical influences?
Nothing. I’m afraid we’re really obsessed by music. I read a lot and go to the movies but it all seems to just go in and out again. Music stays in and grows.
How often is Radiohead mentioned in the press you’ve received for A Sad Ride?
EVERYSINGLEFUCKINGTIME! And always in the first paragraph. But then again, we were asking for it, right? We don’t really mind, we joke about it and call it the “R” word. We were going to call “Slow down” “We’re Pathetic Radiohead Copycats,” but somebody told us that the song was better than anything Radiohead had done. So we thought we’d try to bully Thom Yorke into calling the next Radiohead record The Great Favez Ripoff. Ahem, next question, please.
You’ve mentioned that you wanted to make the slowest and most depressing record possible when writing and recording A Sad Ride. You succeeded brilliantly. What was your goal for the new material? What emotions did you want it to invoke in listeners?
Well, we wanted it to RAAAAAAWWWWWK LIKE A MEAN MOTHA! We succeeded brilliantly, needless to say. In a “we try not to make the same record twice” rock interview clichŸ style, I can honestly say that we did not make the same record twice.
Is there a specific theme to A Sad Ride? All the songs are sad, slow, and depressing. Do they reflect where you were in your life when you wrote them? Did something happen in your life to bring out this side?
I’m embarrassed to say that it was one of my life’s brightest periods. I had just moved in with my girlfriend, the band was doing well, we were having fun, everything was great. It’s funny how in really poor countries, where peoples’ lives are a mess and they struggle to have something to eat, you’ll find the really happy salsa type music, and here we are, very content in Switzerland, bringing out all that sad stuff. Music is probably just compensating for the emotions you don’t have in real life, making you a full human being, giving you a wider spectrum of emotions. Well that’s how I see it for us, at least.
When you finished recording A Sad Ride, which I understand was a very quick session, did you know that you had created something special? Was it the same feeling as you had when you finished recording your other CDs?
This record went so fast, we wrote every song in a month and a half and we recorded and mixed in a week, so we were really discovering the stuff while we were making the record. The drum part for “Between the Dirty Halls” was changed after we heard the first take of the song, and we kept take no.2, that’s how fast and changing it all was. We recorded it all live, mixed everything as fast as we could, and when we finished, we weren’t bored with the stuff. We almost never play these songs live, so it sounds sort of like another band’s record. The other albums we made required much more work to get the energy right, so when we recorded or mixed them, we’d been playing the songs for months and we knew every little corner of the track, there were no surprises left. So yeah, the recording of the Sad Ride was really special and we were way more enthusiastic than we were for the other records.
Tell me about the best, most memorable, live show that Favez has performed.
Right. For me it was an acoustic show (one of the three good ones) in Bulle, Switzerland. Only 26 people were there, but the venue was an old movie theatre, the sound was wonderful, nobody talked. It was one of those moments were the next note is the most important thing in the world for both the band and the audience. It was magic. Electric shows are generally pretty cool, the most fun we had was in Munich, Germany, we’d been playing acoustic for a while, on a mini tour with Scottish band the Delgados, it wasn’t going too well, and we decided to play the last night electric, so we borrowed the Delgados stuff and we rocked. We hadn’t played standing up in two months, so we couldn’t stop jumping around and screaming and grinning like idiots. We sucked but it was really fun.
What about the worst?
An outdoor acoustic show in Switzerland, at some sort of village party. We were stuck between a puppet show and a Salsa group. People wanted to party, we played even slower than usual. Pretty amusing once it was over, but hell while we were on stage.
Where did you develop your love of music?
I had no friends in school, I hated everybody (and Switzerland is not LA, you don’t just go see a Black Flag show and find out you’re punk) and I just wandered into a record store and bought Mainstream by Lloyd Cole and Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. Those were my friends while I grew up and I still love them today. Like many of us, you first love music ’cause there’s nothing else for you to love.
What things have you given up in life to achieve your dreams? Have you ever passed an opportunity to do something outside of music because it would distract you from your real dreams?
Yeah, playing in bands is not something that people do in Lausanne, Switzerland. You get a lot of scorn when you say you rehearse more than once a week: “What do you think you’re gonna do, make records? Get signed? Tour? You’ll never get anywhere, go back to your studies.” Having different aspirations is not a good thing around here, journalists were especially amused… Anyway, we’re not much further now than we were then, but to them, we went to the US, we’ve got worldwide distribution, so we made it. It’s pretty funny. But you do sacrifice a lot as far as human relations go. You have less time, you’re obsessed and you can never make plans ’cause there’s always something coming up for the band. But it’s what we love and we decided quite a long time ago that everything was going into Favez. Music is not worth doing if you’re not going to give it everything you have, and anyway, life is always about making choices. And what better choice is there than making records and playing concerts. I haven’t regretted a second yet.
How important is it to you, and to the band, to be successful? What are your views on becoming a ‘famous’ rock band?
That is not on the agenda. It’s fun to talk with all these NY bands wanting to be on major labels. We really don’t care at all. We want to make records that we’re proud of, that’s it. If a great number of people buy it, great. We just won’t change anything in order to make it happen. I think that all truly great bands did it their way. Who wants to be Lit or Blink 182 when you can be Karate or Girls VS Boys? Record sales are so unimportant compared to making a record that means something, even if it’s to just a couple of people. Money? Adulation? If I wanted money, I’d go to law school. And I definitely don’t find anything attractive in having some stupid 13 year old yelling at your concert, and then being ashamed of it one year later. (“Oh my God, how can I have listened to this band!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PooPoo176 are soooooooo much better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”)
Where does Favez fit in in the European musical scene? Have you established an identity yet? What are your views of the bands in America? Do you feel a certain kinship with any American bands? Do you think there are other bands, either in America or Europe, who are doing the same things musically that you are?
We are a small band in Europe, but I think that we mean quite a bit to the people who like us. It’s going to be hard to establish an identity, being very soft sometimes and pretty hard the rest of the time. I don’t know if I really care about this identity thing. It’ll maybe come with the years, we’ll find something in between and stick with it, but right now we’re perfectly happy with being noisy or quiet when we feel like it. I feel close to every band I’ve met up to now, be it Errortype11, Bluetip, Spain, Fireside or any of the hundred of other rock band on the planet. You just have that same feeling of loving something and that something being everything you have. I don’t know if we have much in common with one band more than another (though the Sad Ride record does sound a bit like Radiohead …), but then again, we are five guys with bass, drums and guitars, so we’re not inventing anything new here, we’re just adding our personality to the universal noise of planet rock.
Any bands you want to plug ?
My brother’s band is called Chewy, and they’ve made the best indie pop album since the Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray. It’s called What Took You So Long and everybody should try to get it. We’re all into the three Karate records. We also feel like Chokebore don’t get the recognition they deserve. The Errortype:11 record really rocks. Incision by the Venus Beads is a fantastic album. So is Hollywood Town Hall by the Jayhawks, Joshua’s A Whole New Theory, Christie Front Drive, I don’t know, I could go on for hours.