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Justin Curfman interviewed at:

Alone Music

(Italy)

The following interview with Justin Curfman, frontman for Feeding Fingers, is the English transcipt taken from the original Italian interview from Alone Music (Italy) in May of 2009. The original interview, in Italian, may be found here.

FEEDING FINGERS

Interviewed at Alone Music (Italy) - May 2009

 

INTERVIEW:

1. What is Your last release "Baby Teeth"?

"Baby Teeth" is the follow up to "Wound in Wall". I felt that "Baby Teeth" was a necessary step to take with Feeding Fingers as a proper band. "Wound in Wall" was more or less my own solo vanity project. With "Baby Teeth" I felt it important to involve Todd and Danny very closely as collaborators on this album to sort of give the listener and us a sense of what the group might sound like if I took a little bit more of a back seat and allow more of the their creative input and criticism. I felt that "Baby Teeth" needed to be shorter, tighter, and more a Feeding Fingers album rather than a Justin Curfman featuring Feeding Fingers album - if that makes sense.....
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I come out of an animation background, where I am used to controlling 100% of the creative process. That habit bled over into my music, and I have had to learn to let some of that go in order to give the listener a little bit more of an unpredictable experience from album to album, and to make sure that my mates don't get bored silly working with me. The process of creating "Baby Teeth" was very different than that of "Wound in Wall". ....
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We started to work on "Baby Teeth" in June of 2008 and finished it four months later in September. Stickfigure Records and my company, Tephramedia, released it officially at the beginning of this year. ....
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I typically write all Feeding Fingers songs on bass and drums first and then add slashes of keys and guitars, where appropriate. I then listen to the music hundreds of times, over and over again, and sing nonsense over it. Through this nonsense I find some recognizable pieces words and phrases and I translate them to myself phonetically until I find out what it is that I think that I am trying to say. I write lyrics in a trance. I later alter them through some alchemical process of association and eventually you have a song with lyrics that I intend for one to translate the same way that one might interpret a non-narrative painting or still image. I do not like literal language. I can't think lyrically like that. Thinking that way makes me feel like Robert Palmer must have felt. ....
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My mates listen to these song sketches and add their touches and suggestions and we fight a little until a happy medium is found between us. I have to do all of the engineering. I can't imagine working with a stranger in the room with us. The creative process, for me, is very personal. I can't work with someone not involved directly with Feeding Fingers in the studio. It gives me that feeling that you get when you are using the restroom at someone's house, you notice that the bathroom door is broken, and the whole family will be home at any minute. It is a terrible intrusion of privacy, and I can't do it. ....
I think that the album's name, "Baby Teeth", is both a reference to the lyrics of the title track:....
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"I would rather watch you up....
On a silent stage....
With baby teeth still in....
Still inside your....
Mouth…"....
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These lyrics were inspired by a dream that I had about a beautiful female singer singing to me on a stage. She finished her song, smiled, and I noticed that she still had her baby teeth, making her gums appear grotesquely enormous. And for some reason this sexually aroused me enormously. ....
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And I believe it is a reference to just the place of the album in its relation to Feeding Fingers', as of now, relatively short career. There are a lot of things brewing in the brain right now for the future. ....
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I believe that "Baby Teeth" is altogether thematically connected in some way. I think that this is the reason why it was decided to make this a 9 song album, rather than a 14 song marathon like "Wound in Wall" was. I like to think that the listener can put "Baby Teeth" in a CD player and listen to it in its entirety as one complimentary piece of music, which is why; admittedly, I don't think that there are nearly as many radio-friendly pieces on this one as was on "Wound in Wall". ....

2. What's Your favorite song of "Baby Teeth" and why?

I am not so sure. I like each of them for different reasons, otherwise I would not have included them all on the album, but I think that "She Hides Disease" & "Is Heaven All That You Hear" are the two that I think are the strongest.

I think that on "She Hides Disease" we were able to accomplish this nice thick and rich tone that I've been looking for in Feeding Fingers, which I don't think that we have been able to hit in the past, considering that we are a trio. But, I think we got it on that track.

"Is Heaven All That You Hear" was a very close collaboration with my bass player, Todd. I really was thrilled about the outcome of working so closely with Todd on that song. He gave me a very old recording that he probably scratched together on a cassette deck many years ago of some very primitive sketches and tones that were the blueprint of the song. I was able to structure them into something cohesive. I fell in love with the result.

I think that those two tracks, for me, mirror one another nicely.

3. What's the origin of the name "Feeding Fingers"?


The name of the band comes from the lyrics of the song, "Feeding Fingers", on our first album, "Wound in Wall".

I once dreamt that I was exploring a section of woods behind my childhood home. I came upon a little girl, wearing a white dress. She was faceless and she sat on a high-chair. She had a xylophone across her lap. She couldn't speak, but I knew that in my brain, literally, was a piece of music that she wanted to play on her xylophone. She telepathically commanded that I sit under her xylophone and under her feet. She reached into a pocket on her dress and she removed a knife from it. She then reached down and sawed the top of my head off, exposing my brain. She then took off her socks and shoes and placed her feet into my brain, as if soaking and massaging her feet in a warm tub of water. She felt the wrinkles in my brain between her toes, and she absorbed the piece of music through her feet by osmosis. She then proceeded to play the song.

I woke up from the dream and hummed the tune to myself all day, and finally recorded it. That song is recorded note for note on "Wound in Wall" in the song "Feeding Fingers", but the lyrics themselves are about the girl being duplicated into a dozen or so and showing up in another dream that came not long after her first appearance. All of the girls stand single-file and wait to put their fingers into small holes drilled into a perfect white wall in a perfectly white room, where behind the wall is a starving man waiting to eat their fingers. In this room, in this dream, I was a victim too.
This girl makes an appearance in most of my work, for some reason. I am not sure what significance there is. She just is.


4. It's evident that You have taken inspiration from The Cure, especially in the song "Is Heaven All That You Hear", have You ever meet them to talk about Your inspiration?

No. I have never met them.

5. Do you have other bands from which You take inspiration or have You wanted to create one style of Yours?

Everyone wants to create a style of their own, and I think that it is rather pretentious and a bit naïve when groups pretend to be ignorant of the influences that are apparent in their work. But, I think that in times such as these when we are all so easily and quickly connected through technology and are constantly bombarded with music, imagery, literature, tv, videos, etc., etc. it is getting increasingly difficult to maintain a voice of your own - and even more difficult to find someone that cares to listen to your voice in the first place, as a result of the saturation.

I make an effort to not listen to a lot of music while I am writing.

The collective consciousness is getting closer and closer and in some ways, smaller. But, I think that on the other hand, since we do have access to all of this art and information, we are able to draw inspiration from more sources than we have ever in the past.

Of course there are other bands and musicians that I draw inspiration from, though in a much different way now that I am in my 20s than I would have in my teen and pre-teen years.

Currently I draw most of my inspiration from bands that I am friends with. And maybe not always on a musical level, but based more on the psychological connections that I have to a lot of them that really transcend music.

I also draw a lot of my inspiration from our listeners that I correspond with now - some of them in your backyard.

6. What kind of emotions do You want to transmit to Your fans?

I don't know that I want to transmit anything. I just want to communicate something to them that doesn't work in language. I don't want to tell people how to listen to Feeding Fingers, or what they need to take away from it. That's their decision. I am just a narrator. This makes life more interesting for both of us. People interpret Feeding Fingers differently than I do, which is why I tend to stay away from specific and literal language. I tend to write in a vague and suggestive visual language. I am not interested in telling people what to feel. I am interested in inspiring a sensation or emotion.

I had a man write to me from Canada last week to tell me that our song, "Fireflies Make Us Sick", from our first album, was his and his fiancé's theme song - they make love to it. That interests me, because musically, the song evokes a certain sense of sensuality, yet lyrically it seems that the song is a testament to some sort of preoccupation that I have with sexualizing insects and a fetishistic fixation on mouths and fingers.

7. What's the critic which You hate above all?

I don't know. I am not really bothered by criticism. No one will discourage me from doing what I want to do. I think that the only thing that bothers me from time to time is when I see or hear something from people that obviously haven't listened to the albums, and just make assumptions about the group. There is information in this world that exists beyond Wikipedia. I think that a lot of people that call themselves "critics" or "journalists" forget that, from time to time.

8. How people react during Your concerts? Do You remember how was Your first gig?

How people react to Feeding Fingers concerts is based, sadly, upon what social circle they are seeing the show within. This usually determines how the reaction goes. America is a very clique-oriented society, when it comes to art and music. I have, at times, looked into the audience after and song and watched people in the audience look around at the rest of the audience to see if someone else is giving applause, to determine whether or not they should applause as well.

But, people that are a little less cattle-minded are usually very receptive to what we do. We have built countless amazing relationships with some great people here as a result of Feeding Fingers shows.

America is a very indie-rock/garage-rock crowd right now. Typically we make the audience feel awkward and a little disoriented here. But, I am sure that in Europe, where this music is not so alien, it would be a totally different story.

Of course I remember our first gig! That was countless shows ago. November 4, 2006 at the now defunct, ISP Space in East Atlanta was the first Feeding Fingers show. We played with a male/female electronic duo from Florida called Mad Happy (I believe they are, or were, produced by Tina Weymouth, formerly of Talking Heads) and with a hip-hop artist called Quan Star. I am not so sure where he was from anymore.

ISP (Industrial Strength Promotions) at the time, was a music and art co-op that was founded and managed by members of a music group called Elevado (also defunkt). The space is now a shoe store, I think. But, ISP still exists as a promotional group headed by a really great guy here named Eric Holder. He still helps promote bands through his ISP network and with his magazine here called Pine Magazine. He is a wonderful person whose ambitions sometimes over-stretch his means, much like the rest of us in the art world.

ISP space was about the size of a large master bedroom. It was small, cold, and raining. The other two bands were supposed the be at the venue by 8PM. Of course, they weren't. No one came to see them. The only people at the venue that were there, came to see us. And it was very few - some close friends and a couple of people from other bands that were interested in working with us, and one reviewer from Performer Magazine here in Atlanta.

It started to get late. The person managing the venue started to get a little anxious, because the other bands were getting later and later. I was getting a little angry, because it was getting late and the small audience that we did manage to gather together for the show was getting impatient and wanting to leave - understandably so. It was more than a little embarrassing and very unprofressional.

To make matters worse, the person managing the venue said that we had to play last because we were the local band hosting the out-of-towners. So, Todd and I just took matters into our own hands and set up our equipment and did our own sound and played to our modest audience on our own terms. I hated to be a bully, especially right out of the gate like that, but it had to happen. I thought for sure that we had ruined our relationship with ISP after being a bit beligerent, but we still work with them to this day.

A good friend of mine, and musical collegue, Jeffrey Butzer, happened to be in the audience for the show. He played a very short, impromotu, solo set to open up the night for us - since the other two bands were a no show at the moment. Afterward, Feeding Fingers played eight songs. At the time, we had not really incorporated keyboards very heavily into the live set. So, we played stripped down with no frills. It was a comfortable time and I think we played well. Now, Todd and I have to juggle three different instruments at every show! Things have spiraled from that small start quite a bit.


9. Which are the mainly differences between "Wound In Wall" and "Baby Teeth"?

I feel that "Wound in Wall" is maybe more musically diverse than "Baby Teeth". "Wound in Wall" definitely has a larger collection of music that may appeal to a more general audience. "Baby Teeth" is, I think, though shorter - is much more dense than "Wound in Wall". I think that "Baby Teeth" is more a singular, complimentary album piece. "Baby Teeth" is an album that one may listen to in one sitting and can be taken as itself as a whole, whereas, I think, "Wound in Wall" is more an album that one might listen to as a collection of individual songs, rather than as a album unto itself - if this makes sense.

10. A curious and weird question concerning Your childhood: did You have an imaginary friend when n You were young?

I remember seeing movies and television shows about other kids that did have imaginary friends. I remember wanting to have one. I remember trying to have one, but I don't think that things worked out between the two of us. I wouldn't mind having one now.

11. Justin, I know that You are an animation movie director, I saw Your little movies in Your web site, they are nice and very strange; do You want to talk about this passion? How was born it?

I have always loved stop-motion animation, and film in general, because it is really the only medium that we have that allows the artist to create his own complete world, which incorporates all of the senses (aside from smell… but I am sure that's on the way). Stop-motion animation, for me, is the pinnacle of this because EVERYTHING is a construct of your imagination from start to finish. Even as far as manipulating the puppets and the environments they live in. You are responsible for every element in that world - frame for frame.
For me, this is very satisfying, but at times, very frustrating and a very slow and tedious process.
I got involved with stop-motion animation around 1999 - 2000 when trying to put together the film, "Zugskin", because asking a real human-being to masturbate and ejaculate a grub-worm, crush it, and use it as shaving cream is not a very comfortable request of someone. I also turned more steadily toward stop-motion animation while writing a film script which later evolved into "Tephrasect". I initially wanted to make "Tephrasect" a live-action film, but the frustrations with raising money, building sets, and organizing crews became too discouraging. So, I marched along further into to stop-motion with that project because puppets usually don't have needy girlfriends, erratic work and sleep schedules, or car trouble.


12. Will You ever come to Italy for a tour?

I HOPE SO! We are working on Italy and Germany EVERY DAY. Whether we go or not is really based upon whether or not we can find enough listener support there to lead a promoter to believe that paying for three plane tickets for Feeding Fingers to travel to Europe and back is worth his or her while.

We hope to go there as soon as we are able. The vast majority of our audience is in your part of the world. It would be a terrible mistake for us to not get exported from the USA as soon as possible.

We are working with a young woman based in Rome right now… we'll see what happens.

Thank you for having me, guys. I'll let you know if we make it your way. Please stay in touch.