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APA sits down with Eugene Song, former member of the Francis Kim Band, to talk about the new (his solo EP "Gesture and Mumble"), the old (the FKB), and how they're able to coexist.
Asia Pacific Arts first encountered Eugene Song as a member of the Francis Kim Band more than a year ago upon the release of their Nobody Loves You EP. Now, the Francis Kim Band (FKB) is still together, but minus Eugene. He is now (and once again) a solo musician who relocated from Boston to New York and just released his self-produced debut EP, Gesture and Mumble, in early April. So why did he leave the band?
"My decision to leave the band was more a function of my decision to attend the MA program in NYC, not necessarily a desire to pursue solo work. I had always been interested in returning to a solo career, but it wasn't mutually exclusive with being in FKB. In fact, Francis never discouraged that course of action and if anything, encouraged me to continue writing."
Given that he has been playing and writing music since the age of 12, the majority of the songs on the EP are quite young.
"The songs on the EP are a collection of songs that I've written over the past few years. As such, some of them had been performed with FKB ('Easy on the Eyes,' 'Valentine,' and 'Standing Here'). In fact, 'Standing Here" is the oldest song on the EP by far, and I had performed it numerous times during my initial stint as a solo artist. However, the other songs had never been performed live before the album was recorded."
On the one hand, the first track, "Easy on the Eyes," betrays its history vis-à-vis the other songs as it seems to be a simple teaser for what’s to come through the lyric "who needs pills when you’ve got cutlery" that alludes to a dark, even melancholy side of the EP trembling beneath the pop hooks. On the other hand, Valentine ends the EP on a very strong note with its hard guitar riffs in the face of the otherwise pop chords bordering on the ballad that dominate the rest of the songs. The EP contains seven tracks and begins officially with the second track, "Fear of Flying," with lyrics and an overall melodic sound that recall the early work of Teenage Fanclub and Billy Bragg. Bragg, in particular, is an artist with the knack of creating great music running on the theme of love and relationships and Eugene is on that road, though the oldest track "Standing Here" is an example of how-not-to-write-a-love-song, despite an incredibly affecting and pleading chorus.
What saves the EP from falling into a circular trap of lyrics that resorts to clichéd expressions of lost/recovered love is "Drunk Man," where Eugene dons the character of a drunk man in a bar who, using sarcasm and irony and singing and spoken word, proceeds to describe the diverse characters in the place in a manner reminiscent of Lou Reed describing the Factory’s permanent and temporary inhabitants -- albeit in a softer way. One would have liked to hear some of the songs strike a harsher, cruder sound of which "Valentine" hints at to explore the sometimes sad, sometimes buoyant sides of the processes of composing, recording and performing, of which Eugene is obviously conscious.
"There are some songs that need that time on stage to be broken in. Other times, I get such a clear picture of how I want the song to sound on the album that it isn't really necessary to perform it first. In fact, sometimes it's more fun that way. You get to produce and record a song according to your initial vision and then later, onstage/in performance, you get to tweak it and toy with it, elaborate on what's been done already or strip down and distill the song to its barest essentials." In "Drunk Man," the listener can easily imagine Eugene in that role of the observer while performing in local venues -- alcohol level depending -- and even while attending classes, a juggling act that should have its share of inspiration. He admits that "most of the album was written before I really started getting involved in the music community here [in NYC]. But I will say that some of the material on the album was inspired by events that probably would not have unfolded the way they did if I had not moved here. New York has brought all kinds of challenges and joys... great songwriting fodder!" he says.
Indeed, but the influences don’t end there and even though Eugene has gone solo, his ties to FKB are still felt, especially when it was time to go into the recording studio. "Francis has definitely been a big influence on my development as a songwriter. I suppose working that closely with someone for that long will inevitably have some sort of effect on one's artistic development. I'd say the music from the EP is definitely different than the music FKB did, but certainly tempered by my experiences in the group. I definitely heard all three of the other members' voices in my head throughout the writing, recording, and mixing process. It's funny how each of them represented different facets of my internal songwriting and musical forces. For instance, Francis was always the voice of reason and the voice of the lyricist. Robin's voice was the heart and the strength of the music, while Chris represented the more experimental, theoretical side of my writing." On the more technical side of things, he adds, "I will say that I definitely drew some influence from the producer of FKB's last EP, Matthew Ellard. Working with him to record Nobody Loves You really taught me a few things about incorporating certain recording techniques and developing sonic ideas."
With songs like "Fear of Flying," "Ghosts" and "Drunk Man" as the most promising of Gesture and Mumble, Eugene Song goes beyond the hesitancy that the title of his EP implies to give the listener reasons to stick around and wait as he further develops more "sonic ideas."
Visit the following websites for more information on Eugene Song & to hear soundbytes from his EP:
Date Posted: 4/27/2006