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The Fun Years Return

Patient guitar/turntable drone on their new album Baby, It's Cold Inside.

Baby, It's Cold Inside, the immersive new album of smouldering guitar/turntable drone by bi-coastal duo The Fun Years, came out late last month. I emailed some questions to Ben Recht and Isaac Sparks.

Dazed Digital: How is your music actually made?

The Fun Years: It's all very ritualistic.  We usually kick the night off by eating trashy food like hot dogs and fries. Then we proceed to drink disgusting alcoholic beverages. For years our cocktail of choice was Sparks malt liquor followed by port. Both are syrupy sweet and pretty disgusting. But we could nurse our drinks and spend hours fucking with sounds and loops. Lately, Isaac's been kind of fucked up with some stomach problems, so he's had to scale back on his alcohol abuse, but our process remains a delicate mix of various substances, baritone guitars (and an occasional Telecaster), MIDI controllers, records, electricity and chronic illness.

The TFY doctrine is pretty simple in that respect: from quantity comes quality. When we get around to putting an album together, we put the hundreds of hours we've recorded on our music players. After numerous listens, the few seconds or minutes of good material comes out, and we work to expand on that.

DD: One of the track titles on the new album is "the surge is working" - presumably an Iraq War reference?
TFY: Oh yeah, didn't you guys get the memo? Ambient rock is the new protest-folk. We're just like Pete Seger. We're playing a Code Pink show next week. I think that magical elf Dennis Kucinich is the keynote.

But to be more or less serious, when we wrote that song, every fucking Republican dittohead would come on the news shows blaring "THE SURGE IS WORKING! THE SURGE IS WORKING!" no matter what evidence they had to the contrary. It was clear that their only strategy was to scream "WE ARE TOTALLY WINNING" until the next president took over or everybody was dead. Apparently the second option won out.

But we really liked the way that phrase sounded. "The surge is working." Just like most of our titles, we like word packages that sound ridiculous when you say them over and over again. Usually we can get this sort of vibe by copying and pasting from spam emails. In this case, we just copied and pasted from Bush administration talking points.

DD: What gave you the idea to sell ringtones? Are ambient ringtones really that practical?
TFY: Well, just to clarify, we don't sell any ringtones.  Our ringtones are a community service project -- we give a handful of mp3 snips away on that people can hopefully use as ringtones if they're interested in respecting the public’s ears. Ringtones in general are so fucking annoying, and some folks use no discretion and have no idea how offensive they are. We're just trying to do our part.

As far as their practicality, Isaac has found ambient ringtones to be very effective and entertaining (Ben refuses to buy any cell phone that plays mp3 ringtones) - especially when used in combination with vibrate mode. Isaac works in an office environment, and currently uses a ringtone that is essentially just record static and a few clicks/pops. After a few times hearing the ringtone, his ear tuned to the sounds and he now leaves his phone on all the time (including during meetings). To everyone else, it's just some kind of environment noise -- like a bad teleconference spiderphone or something and nobody even looks around. So in that respect, we think they are practical.

DD: The press release mentions you making Halloween music for a friends' party - do you still do this? Do you do, like, Christmas music too?
TFY: The Halloween music project was sort of the beginning of TFY as it exists now. It was our one and only holiday project. And, let us assure you, that Halloween stuff is really terrible.  We haven’t worked on subsequent holiday music projects. We tried a Cinco de Mayo project once, but that devolved into a failed experiment with the bum wine Cisco, and probably won’t be released. TFY share a pretty mutual loathing of Christmas music: Ben’s a Jew, and Christmas records are the only type of records Isaac refuses to use for TFY projects.

DD: I've been to one or two drone/loop/turntable shows in London, and to be honest, although I enjoy the music on CD, I found the live experience unbelievably boring. What do you do to make sure your live performances are involving?
TFY: Yeah, in general these types of shows are boring. Ours are not really an exception in terms of performance – it’s one dude huddled over a turntable or two frantically trying to find a piano stab in the middle of a record and another guy shoegazing on the guitar or tending to the computer. In our defense though, we really like to blast our music loud at our live shows, and it can be a pretty dope experience if you want to be enveloped by high volumes of droney ambience and just want to be stoned and zone out.

Our tactic as of late has been to only play weird spots. The last tour featured a show on top of an air traffic control tower at the old Alameda naval base, and one inside one of those giant core-ten Richard Serra sculptures.  We're trying to figure out how we can play at some druidic ruins in the UK.  And we're always taking suggestions for new bizarre locations to drone out.

Baby, It's Cold Inside is out now on Barge Recordings.