To an outsider, a fully collaborative album can seem like a daunting task, especially one that features different vocalists on each song. However, if done well, the results can be quite impressive and leave a lasting impact.
One that immediately comes to mind is what many consider to be the gold standard of collaborative projects, The 6ths. The project of Magnetic Fields’ frontperson Stephen Merritt released two critically acclaimed records, Wasps’ Nests in 1995 and Hyacinths and Thistles in 2000, with a revolving doors of indie pedigreed vocalists including Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo), Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500, Luna), Mac McCaughan (Superchunk), and Mary Timony (Helium, Ex Hex).
It’s within this mold that Brooklyn’s Elia Einhorn conceived Fashion Brigade. After a tour accident led to the dissolution of his previous band, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Einhorn shifted his focus to writing songs for this new project, and recording them in various studios across the country.
The record, which is entitled Fvck The Heartache, is a decade in the making, and features a plethora of diverse talent, including Frankie Cosmos, Shamir, X’s Exene Cervenka, Thor Harris, members of LCD Soundsystem, and Einhorn’s own sister Emily, who performs as Kid Hawk.
As you can imagine, the record sounds great, and I was thrilled to chat with Einhorn all about it:
You’re originally from Chicago. What brought you to Brooklyn?
I came out from Chicago about seven and a half years ago. I do work for Pitchfork, and at that time, they moved their editorial team from Chicago to New York City. I toured here a bunch with my old band Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and I always thought, you know, New York in summer is great! You play and have a great time and then get out. But once we moved here I fell in love with it.
You were previously part of a great indie-pop band, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. How and when did you decide to end that project and start Fashion Brigade?
Well, we unfortunately got into a really bad tour accident in 2009 and half of the band members, including myself, were laid out in the hospital for a while and out of commission. During that time, I started writing songs. I thought they’d be the next batch of songs for when Scotland Yard Gospel Choir recorded again, but as it turned out two of the members had gotten pretty badly injured and couldn’t really tour anymore. So, we did a few more shows, but pretty much hung it up after that. I just started thinking, I’ve got these songs… maybe I’ll bring in some collaborators and make them my own project.
Eventually, we wound up recording all of the songs in like half a dozen cities like Olympia and Chicago. We finished it up at Hook & Fade Studios in Bushwick.
How’d you decide to pursue a fully collaborative project instead of just starting a new band in the traditional sense?
It’s funny you ask that because I never really considered starting another full-time band after Scotland Yard Gospel Choir ended. I suppose after having been in one for so long it just didn’t appeal to me. Also, I was kind of all over the place after that band ended. I lived in Chicago, then I moved to Olympia, Washington, for a while, then I went back to where I was born in Wales. So, I sort of didn’t know where I was going to be, so the thought of having anything steady like a band just didn’t cross my mind.
The songs on the record all sound very different – you can hear some dance punk, even a Manchester, U.K. influence. Did the places you live influence the sound of the songs on the album?
For sure! I lived in Wales, which is a couple hours outside of Manchester. Growing up, I had a friend who lived in Manchester who would always pass me tapes of bands from the area like the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, so it was hugely influential on me musically, but then I also lived in Chicago, where I was into house, hip-hop, and punk. It was definitely a result of coming from different locations and all of it getting thrown into the pot.
How did you decide to seek out certain collaborators? Did you write certain songs and think an artist would sound awesome on this track or did you write songs with a certain artist in mind?
I’d say the latter. For example, Exene of X came about on the track “You Made Me Dream Again” while I was living in Olympia and recording at Dub Narcotic Studios. I was in a record store and somebody had just sold a bunch of X records, so I thought maybe I should have Exene sing the song that I’m working on right now. I had heard from my old record label that she was a big fan of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. Even though I’d never met her, I reached out and we recorded a total of three songs, one of which is on the record.
With Shamir’s collaboration on “Punx With Ukuleles,” I was originally going to sing lead vocals on it, but I just never really liked how I sounded. I originally thought that this would be the song that was just me singing, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, I started thinking of who could handle the vocals on the track and I just keep hearing Shamir’s voice in my head. I called him up and we were in the studio within a couple of weeks! So, I guess I’ll end by saying I never wrote a song for anybody, it was more like I would write the song and then figure out who would be the best person to sing it.
You mentioned that the record took about 10 years to make. That’s a long time! What were some of the biggest challenges to doing a record like this? Would you do another one?
Honestly, I’m already back in the studio, so another one is in the works. I’m already working on new stuff in a similar aesthetic in that it’s a different singer for each song. Some of the challenges are just that it’s tough when you don’t have the infrastructure of a band as I had before with previous projects, like a manager, booking agent, etc. I don’t think I’d do it over the course of 10 years like I did this time around.
One of my favorite songs on the record is “Mine All Mine,” which your sister Emily sings on. Was this your first time recording with your sister? What’s your creative relationship like?
Thank you! Growing up, our dad played music a lot in the house, so we grew up singing and going to concerts and stuff. She previously performed with Scotland Yard Gospel Choir singing back up vocals when she lived in Chicago. Whenever we get together for family stuff, we’re all picking up guitars, playing keyboards, whatever. So, it was natural that we would do it in a more professional setting. I also produced the first single that she put out as Kid Hawk last year called “Turn The Volume Up” and she has a new single coming out soon that sounds awesome. Funny enough, we actually recorded the drums for “Turn The Volume Up” and the drums on “Fvck The Heartache” in the same session. We brought in Mike Johnson from Dirty Projectors, who’s just a fantastic drummer and a great friend of mind.
What current local artist are you listening to that you’d recommend to Bushwick Daily readers?
I’m really a huge fan of The Ballet. They’re amazing and I’ve been a big fan since they put out their first record about 15 years ago now. They just put out a great new record earlier this year.
Fvck The Heartache is available on limited edition vinyl via Gentle Reminder Records.
All images courtesy of Fashion Brigade.
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