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Concert preview: Fanfarlo not monkeying around about creationism
Interview » Folk-pop band arrives in Utah, asking big questions.
First Published Mar 27 2014 12:56 pm • Last Updated Mar 27 2014 02:40 pm

How much time have you spent lately thinking about creationism and the Earth?

If you haven’t, don’t fret. British band Fanfarlo has been doing a lot of thinking about whether we are descended from Adam and Eve, or from monkeys named Adam and Eve.

At a glance

Monkeying around

Fanfarlo with Lilies on Mars

When » Tuesday, 9 p.m.

Where » Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $15 at SmithsTix

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"What do I believe?" asked Simon Balthazar, the Swedish-born leader of Fanfarlo. "Big topic. But the way I look at the world, it’s a big interconnected mess. … In its own playful way, the record we just [did] does toy with these ideas. Is a person a nervous system looking out from inside a brain or is it a way for billions of cells to organize existence? Should that make us feel bigger or smaller? What happens when people are gone from the planet? Where did we come from in the first place?"

The alt-folk-pop band will attempt to answer — or ask — the questions at an April 1 show in Salt Lake City in support of "Let’s Go Extinct," a concept album about the big questions.

Balthazar was asked some questions — some of them big, others not so much — in advance of the band’s Urban Lounge show. (By the way, it is just an eerie coincidence that the opening band’s name is Lilies on Mars. Life on Mars is another subject entirely.)

At what point did the concept for this album come about?

This record was done very much in a spirit of letting go and letting it happen. So at one point it became clear that the songs formed a thematic cohesive whole. Musically it was also all about creating our own little world and indulging our whims. I suppose "concept album" is a term with dubious connotations for some. But it’s all very playful, what we’re doing, really. Even absurd at times. Having said that, it comes from a very honest desire to talk about ideas of evolution, what the body and the mind are and could be, where life came from, where it will go next, and so on. And there is no reason pop music can’t be part of that discussion.

Many people believe in creationism, which in part is the belief that the world was literally created in six days and that the world is only a few thousand years old. What do you believe?

Crikey. This is a big topic. OK, in regards to creationism, I think it’s utterly misguided. One problem is its literalism. When someone comes along and tries to express something complex or new about the world, they use metaphors. Because you need rich, symbolic language to express something complex or something new. But when people start interpreting those metaphors in a literal way you really start going off in some crazy directions. So whereas I certainly don’t subscribe to the Christian faith — or to anyone else’s specific, delineated belief system — I’m still interested in the metaphors of Christianity and I think there is something valuable being said there.

"The Sea" EP, released five months before "Let’s Go Extinct," appears to have inspired the new album.

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They were actually recorded at the same time. We wanted to make a fairly concise album so we just had way too many songs and ideas, even if they were all coming from the same place. And we didn’t want some songs to be relegated to B-sides and "bonus tracks." So we decided to make an EP centered around "The Sea," which is a song about humanity deciding that our evolutionary past seemed like a better and simpler time, that the sea is our true home and that we should return there. I suppose the song in a way makes fun of people constantly talking about how the past was better. People have done that since ancient times; there’s always been a lost "Golden Age." If you take that to its logical conclusion, maybe our first mistake was to get up on land.

What does [new drummer] Valentina Magaletti bring to the band that perhaps was lacking before?

I feel like we’re using dynamics in the live show better. When it’s big it’s really big, and at the same time we have more of the confidence to let it get really quiet and minimal when it needs to.

How challenging is it to replicate the music and the spirit of the new album?

We’ve always based our records on pretty solid songs of the type you can essentially just play in whatever arrangement you feel like. And we’ve rearranged our old songs many times to keep things interesting. But of course some songs work better than others live.

Do you have any fond memories of Utah and/or the West?

We have toured so, so much in the States. So I feel nostalgic and can’t wait to come back. I remember [our] Salt Lake City [trip] last time. We were all really excited the night before because it so happened there was a Radiolab live show on that we went to. But then the next day, we’d been playing so many shows and I had a cold, so I lost my voice, but of course only realized last minute so we had to perform anyway. Getting up onstage with no voice and croaking your way through an hour is a pretty painful experience, but the audience was forgiving. Or drunk.

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