|pretty mistakes of a young soul
Lauren Piper - September 16, 2008
Observation #1: Chris Garneau is a very busy man. Having
been on tour throughout May and some of June, living it up in Europe with his
pals Xiu Xiu, it was very difficult to correspond with him, especially after
he lost his cell phone. It wasn’t hard though, to imagine the inflections
in his voice, were he to be right in front of me answering my questions. The
openness and curt honesty in his answers leads one to see how modest and almost
unsure of himself Garneau is, despite his full-length release on Absolutely
Kosher and the fact that he is touring Europe, not for the first time, and with
Xiu Xiu nonetheless.
Fact #1: In reality (everyone’s but his own), Garneau
is one of those secret gems whose lack of a recent album makes his existence
that much more obscure. If one were to discover him, they would pick through
the pieces of his beautiful, whispery music and wonder what is next to come.
As an answer, Chris says that his upcoming release will be out some time this
Fact #2: Garneau is a Brooklyn singer/songwriter, who arrived via Boston, France,
and other cities. Having spent three years of his youth in France, he wields
the powers of classical piano training, which he uses cleverly in his own music.
“It was really the only major musical influence in my life at this time.
While of course other sources may have penetrated my consciousness, this is
the only one that I can say for sure was present.” He also attended Berklee
School of Music but only for one term before he split and moved to Brooklyn
to pursue a career in music.
Observation #2: Listening to Chris Garneau is like living
in Neverland, which most of us have probably always dreamt of doing. It is hard
to escape the dreamy quality of his gorgeously orchestrated indie-folk tunes,
despite the weight of sadness that is attached to them. In his music, he gathers
up a soulful vocal and instrumental quality of Jeff Buckley, the romantic, open
style of K Records artist, Tender Forever, and the orchestral techniques of
Sufjan Steven’s. Garneau’s own flavor is a raw classical style with
intense vocals and slender instrumentals combined with a softer, folkier side.
The lyrics flow through the strings and watery piano pieces and his voice is
soothing and restless. The atmosphere created with his twinkling music is really
light but the vehicle for this feeling lends the songs a darker quality. Perhaps
that is why Garneau feels that his only full-length, Music For Tourists, released
in January of 2007, is “eternally tragic” and promises the next
album will not be so.
“I struggle with its [Music For Tourists] naivety and
its partial ignorance, both in sonic and conceptual ways, but I do still feel
passionate about many aspects and certain songs on the record,” comments
Chris. It is the type of album that is beautiful and representative of a very
young soul the songs are tightly composed and well put together with emotional
and breathy singing, sometimes staccato and jumpy. The lyrics are simple and
sweet, as he sings of childish themes such as fireflies, Christmas time and
castles. These aspects in coordination with the melodies seem geared slightly
towards making older people feel young again.
Since Music For Tourists, Garneau has released the EP C-Sides,
the cover of which is a hand drawn boat chugging in the water, puffing the name
of the record in a cloud of smoke. Both the covers of his albums are hand drawn
by friends of his. The music is also a collaboration with friends and the people
he gets to play on his album and on tour. At the beginning, Chris had people
playing along to songs he had already written. “Most of the older arrangements
were pre-written and so they were taught to or interpreted by whomever I was
playing with at the time,” comments Garneau. “But when we went on
our first US tour, a lot of the arrangements or things we played were all created
together. Now I find myself more and more interested in what my bandmates or
anyone I play with has to bring to my songs.”
Pertaining to the upcoming record, Garneau says, “There
was a huge group effort on this. Many people played on it and it took a lot
of time, but we were careful to use our time with people that we love.”
He also notes that fans might be surprised that there is percussion on most
of the tracks, which is a contrast to just the few bells and tambourines that
are present in his previous releases.
Observation #3: Perhaps this shared effort and the conscious
decision to step away from music he feels is less mature than he is now, is
why his newest album has yet to hit the scene. It could also be that Garneau
is very hard on himself and doesn’t believe that either his songwriting
or instrumental skills come easily to him. His critical nature causes him to
constantly re-think what he has previously written, “I have been promoting
this record for two years now on tour and I find myself constantly changing
and re-arranging and re-working these very old songs, he writes. “I even
just started playing some songs on harmonium and screaming them because I got
so tired of singing so quietly.” This virtue of continually going back
to old works and eventually letting them go is what will cause him to mature
even more as an artist as time goes by.
Fact #3: Chris Garneau labors in total privacy, thus creating
mysteries without even meaning to. Hinting at the growth in his own music through
his loving spitefulness towards his earlier album is something that only makes
one really want to hear what he has in store. It is hard to guess and it’s
difficult to know what to expect of Garneau’s second full-lenth, other
than what he has told us. At this point, the only thing to do is to wait impatiently
for more facts to surface and to observe until he lets us in on the mystery.
Perhaps he will form some side projects “I want to start a band with
Caralee from Xiu Xiu. If she agrees, we will call it Busiest Witch,” and
that will give us something to enjoy while we are waiting.
“I struggle with its [Music For Tourists] naivety and its partial ignorance, both in sonic and conceptual ways, but I do still feel passionate about many aspects and certain songs on the record,”
"Music For Tourists"
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Magical music for grown ups