"Odyssey," the long-awaited follow-up to NYC art-pop duo Fischerspooner's groundbreaking debut, #1, is out now, April 5th worldwide. Odyssey, so named for the emotional and artistic journey it took to make, is a vast musical leap forward. Inspired musically by classic and psychedelic rock, the familiar Fischerspooner sound is now suffused with analog sounds, live instruments and a lush new ambience. Like the albums that inspired it, Odyssey is a bona fide headphone record, layered with hidden nuances that reward the close listener. For Odyssey, Fischerspooner's Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner recruited a list of contributors that includes hit songwriter Linda Perry, music and visual artist David Byrne, French producer Mirwais, pre-eminent intellectual Susan Sontag, producer Tony Hoffer, and others. Due to overwhelming response from Radio 1, KCRW, KROQ and DJ's and clubs around the globe, Capitol Records has commercially released a remix 12" of lead single "Just Let Go" featuring mixes by Thin White Duke (aka Jacques Lu Cont) and Tommie Sunshine, out now.
#1 was a shot heard around the world, an end-of-the millennium musical statement of pure digital and visual style, written in part to accompany Fischerspooner's epic pop performances. Rolling Stone called it "an alternate galaxy hit" and NME called it "the best thing to happen to music since electricity."
A daunting act to follow, but Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner had something even bigger up their sleeves. Odyssey would be a vast musical leap forward, and its realization would take over two years and stretch the duo to their physical and creative breaking point.
For their second album, Fischerspooner had a new agenda - to create a cohesive album of songs that were more expressive and emotional than their predecessors, aiming for a rich, warm sound in contrast to the crisp surfaces and digital conceptualism of #1. Inspired musically by classic and psychedelic rock, the familiar Fischerspooner sound is now suffused with analog sounds, live instruments and a lush new ambience. Like the albums that inspired it, Odyssey is a bona fide headphone album, layered with hidden sounds and ideas that reward the close listener. "I was thinking of songs I remembered hearing on the radio as a kid," says Fischer. "That warm seventies FM sound coming off the radio from bands like The Beatles or Pink Floyd."
To that end, Fischerspooner created a "virtual band," bringing session musicians into studios in Brooklyn where Fischer worked with longtime engineer and collaborator Nicholas Vernhes (Fiery Furnaces, Black Dice). In a similar departure from the previous album, Spooner began to reveal more emotion and personal perspective in his lyrics and vocals, thematically pulling from classical and romantic ideas from all eras.
The pair also decided to creatively step outside of their inner circle for the first time with a wish list of likeminded collaborators. Fischer traveled to Los Angeles to work with producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air) at the legendary Sunset Sound Studios. And Spooner reached out to the unlikely pairing of hit songwriter Linda Perry and pre-eminent intellectual Susan Sontag in a bid to reflect the twin pillars of their inspiration - high art and pop culture.
"When I approached Susan, it was September 2003" says Casey. "I went to her house and had this fantasy that we would pick something to work on together from my notebook of ideas." Instead, after a brief discussion, she disappeared into her library and returned fifteen minutes later with a printed sheet of lyrics titled 'We Need A War.' "I read them and said 'I don't think I can say the word 'war.' I'm not comfortable saying it." Sontag responded, "You need to get comfortable saying it. Your president approved eighty billion dollars for a war in Iraq yesterday."
But as the emotional and physical toll of many months in the studio began to take hold, tensions over creative balance began to swell. Where #1 was created sporadically, the Odyssey sessions found the two working together intensely in the studio for long stretches, constantly pushing each other further. "We both went a little crazy making the album," says Spooner. "We really had to grow and change as artists, and change is never easy."
In the album's finishing stages the two looked to French producer Mirwais (Madonna's Ray of Light, among others) to help with the final touches. Also adding to the final inspiration was a weekly, private Salon series hosted throughout the summer of 2004 to preview new music, visual ideas and choreography to the Williamsburg art scene that originally spawned the project.
Odyssey, so named for the unexpected emotional and artistic journey it took to make, is a sonic leap forward -- sounding like nothing before it but still unmistakably Fischerspooner.
1. Just Let Go
3. Never Win
4. A Kick in the Teeth
5. Everything to Gain
6. We Need a War
9. Ritz 107
10. All We Are
11. Circle (Vision Creation New Sun)
"JUST LET GO"
The propulsive lead single picks up neatly where #1 left off and notably features psychedelic-sounding percussion instrument the Vibraslap, made famous by Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower."
The vocals, in contrast to most other tracks, were written and recorded on the spot in one day, an apt reflection of the lyrical idea. Casey explains: "This song is about battles -- battles between the mental and the physical, between the rational and the intuitive, between mortality and greatness, timelessness and relevance."
Casey: "The ideas of the Romantics became a huge influence on the album because they were basically the roots of rock 'n' roll. The Romantic Hero led directly to the modern idea of a rock star. 'Cloud' relates to that as the a tale of a mad, obsessive genius who gets so caught up in his creation that he completely loses himself in it."
Co-produced by Mirwais, the track was based on a song idea by NY artist Jon Wolfington and influenced heavily by Warren's love of the Cure's unique chorus/post chorus song structures.
Co-produced with Mirwais and the last song written for the record. Warren: "There was this moment around 1980 where disco and rock intersected and produced songs like Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall' and AC/DC's 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.' This was our tribute to that era of danceable hard rock."
Casey: "Creative tensions were at their peak when we wrote this song, and the lyrics are the most personal on the record - written about frustration in general but more directly about the struggles between us."
"A KICK IN THE TEETH"
Casey found the chorus lyrics in a randomly-worded spam email that he happened to see while in the grips of some teeth-grinding personal anxiety making the record.
With some melodic input from Linda Perry and production touches from Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air, The Thrills), the lush vocal approach was influenced by Steve Miller and Pink Floyd. That superhuman sound is the product of nine extremely soft vocal tracks of Casey and longtime backing singer Lizzy Yoder layered together.
"EVERYTHING TO GAIN"
The first song to be written for the album and a turning point in Warren's writing when he found a touchstone for the album's production - marrying the orchestral Mellotron rock of the Moody Blues with Stooges-like proto-punk.
Lyrics inspired again by an especially well-crafted spam email advertising a diet pill, remarkable in its sheer crassness. Casey: "Spam is definitely a link to the new collective unconscious - it's a constant, resonant low-grade input of subliminal messages."
"WE NEED A WAR"
With lyrics by the late Susan Sontag, the song they inspired finds Casey portraying a wistful warmonger while Fischer's music builds to its ferocious crescendo. Warren's production approach began as an experiment to see what the busy percussion of "Sympathy for the Devil" would sound like recreated digitally.
This psychedelic, digital rock jam is sonically most indebted to the more hypnotic end of goth ala Bauhaus, with Warren's lyrics about being unable to escape a bad cycle in your life.
Casey: "This is about my relationship with New York City, a place that has come to define me. It's a fickle beast that can take you to the heights of greatness or the depths of dispair, both tragic and exhilarating. We had several different versions of the song but the final album cut was finished with some help from Linda Perry who also makes a vocal cameo."
Another early track that set the album's sonic tone, Warren is attempting here to update Simon and Garfunkel's mellow, intimate seventies sound with some goth atmosphere.
Lyrically based on Casey's stay at the Ritz Paris, room #107, on his birthday. That night he kept waking from a recurring dream of being in a field with his father to a 'light white spinning noise' in his ear. The second verse is Casey telling the ghostly visitor to leave him alone.
"ALL WE ARE"
Musically the most acoustic track on the record, Warren was trying to make a slow burning, timeless rock anthem via Philip Glass's style of repeated minimal patterns. To that end he traveled to L.A. to record the musicians with Tony Hoffer and Nicolas Vernhes at the legendary Sunset Sound Studios.
The song was the beginnings of the Linda Perry collaborations - she took the unfinished instrumental and added melodic ideas, which Casey made his own with new musical touches and lyrics inspired by images of light, creation and the collective unconscious
"CIRCLE (VISION CREATION NEW SUN)"
A blistering cover of "(Circle)" from the "Vision Creation New Sun" EP by Japanese noise merchants Boredoms.
Warren: "There was something spectacularly beautiful about that album's aggressiveness. It was the first time I heard dissonance and clutter in this beautiful transcendental way. I just heard this version in my head and programmed it in a day. We included it on the record because it reminded us of the ideas we were exploring about the occult and spirituality."
NYC art/pop duo Fischerspooner has added David Byrne to the list of contributors to their long-awaited sophomore album, Odyssey, which will be released on April 5.
"Get Confused," a last-minute addition to the album, was built around a set of previously-written lyrics Byrne personally contributed to Fischerspooner.
The song went through many incarnations throughout the Odyssey recording sessions, but Warren Fischer only recently hit upon the dark, sparse and psychedelic production treatment that befit them, and he and Casey Spooner decided to add the song to the album at the eleventh hour. The track's vocals are provided by Mira Billotte, lead singer of the band White Magic.
Byrne joins the ranks of Linda Perry, Mirwais and Susan Sontag as Odyssey contributors, along with noted culture critic, art theorist and MacArthur Fellow Dave Hickey, who has penned the album's liner notes (attached).
i-D magazine called Odyssey "a musical journey of classical proportions that sees them reborn stronger, better and sleeker than before with some of the best pop melodies, crushing synths and orchestral perfection you'll hear all year."
Odyssey is CMJ's #1 most added album at college radio this week.
A special edition digipak of Odyssey will also be released with deluxe packaging, a 24-page booklet featuring a collection of exclusive gallery images from the group and a special FS "visualizer" - a retina-bending music visualization plug-in for media players.
Lead single "Just Let Go" is currently Top 10 on Billboard's dance chart, was recently NME's "single of the week" and is available on iTunes and other digital download services. The song's retro-futuristic video, directed by Jon Kane, can be seen at www.fischerspooner.com/video.asp
The song's digital release is now available with a free download of "The Cave" - Fischerspooner's otherworldly documentary soundtrack that explores Odyssey's creation. Edited by legendary hip-hop producer Steinski, "The Cave" offers an unusual insight into Fischerspooner's creative process, and will ultimately become the audio soundtrack to a short film. Cameos include Factory Records founder Tony Wilson, comedian/actor Jimmy Fallon, songwriter Linda Perry and photographer Mick Rock, among many others.
Fischerspooner has also announced a weekly summer live residency at Manumission, the notorious Monday night party hosted at "the biggest club in the world," Privilege, in Ibiza, Spain
There they will debut their new Odyssey live show, which features a live band and new production design, costumes, choreography and other surprises, and perform every Monday from July 4th until September 19th.
Fischerspooner will celebrate Odyssey's pending release with a DJ set at the upcoming South-by-Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas on March 18 at Stubb's on a bill that includes Shout Out Louds, Kasabian, Bloc Party and the New York Dolls.
And there will be an Odyssey release party at Miami's Winter Music Conference on March 22 at the Shelbourne Hotel's Star Studios with Tommie Sunshine, John Selway and Mark Verbos.
"An epic rock opera fantasy." - Spin
"A musical journey of classic proportions." - i-D
"A bona fide concept record about the drama of the everyman." - Vice
"A great pop leap forward for Fischerspooner." - Billboard
The video for lead single "Just Let Go" can be seen here: www.fischerspooner.com/video.asp
Fischerspooner will also debut their new live performance, featuring a live band and new production design, costumes, choreography and other surprises, at a month-long NYC residency, every Thursday in May at the Canal Room.
They'll also perform at a weekly live residency all summer at Manumission, the notorious Monday night party hosted at "the biggest club in the world," Privilege, in Ibiza, Spain.
And Fischerspooner's long-running weekly "Excellent Workshop" salon series will conclude on April 7th with an Odyssey album release party at FS Studios, 110 N. First Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.