todd photo

Title of interview with Todd Fancey September 2008

He is a guitarist/multi-instrumentalist with the New Pornographers
and the creative force behind "Fancey" and "Solar Convoy."

Rolling Stone Magazine calls him the songwriter who shows us that
"pop music can be feel-good without being saccharine."

When Fancey is not on tour or in the studio, he works with street youths
from the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, B.C.

Punk Globe caught up with Todd during mixing sessions for his upcoming solo project Solar Convoy to talk about music, politics, and the state of the universe.

By The Floydian Device

Punk Globe: I once read in your bio you said that in the early days of your career, you used to start each morning with "a tall glass of failure". In the past few years, your bands the New Pornographers and Fancey have both been given rave reviews by the music press, fellow musicians, and fans around the world. Fancey, what do you start your day with now?

Fancey: I start my day with a lot of grumpiness on toast and annoyance juice but I eventually turn pretty grateful. The New Pornographers saved my ass. So did working in the group home field. I love both jobs (music and working with the kids). I don't love them all the time, but I do love them.

Punk Globe: In 1986, the infamous television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart called music 'the new pornography.' Soon after, Swaggart met with officials from Wal-Mart and persuaded the chain to remove all rock magazines from its stores. Fancey, wouldn't it have been better for the world if Swaggart had condemned Wal-Mart jeans as the 'new pornography'? And on a related topic -- It's now 2008; what's the new 'new pornography?'

Fancey: The new 'new pornography' may be a combo of the celebrity bullshit scene and our self-obsession culture. I think we should blow ourselves up and let the animals have it back.

Punk Globe: How did you fall into music as your life's work?

Fancey: I just loved music so much so I kept working at it, and moved to Vancouver from Nova Scotia. Then Nova Scotia became the place to be just after I left! So I struggled in Vancouver and played on the street and started my own bands. Eventually I ended up in a band with Kurt Dahle, and when he left that band he asked me if I could play with him in the Pornographers which he had already joined. It really has made a huge difference in my life. Even though we're not millionaires, I can't believe all the stuff I've been able to share in with those guys. Not only that, but doing it playing music that is actually timeless and in a band that (knock on wood) has longevity. If I hadn't been asked to join this band, I would have felt all my efforts were a waste.

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Punk Globe: In an interview for the Pitchfork Music Festival, New Pornographers' lead vocalist A.C.[Carl}Newman called you "a real secret weapon on the newest record" when discussing the "Challengers" recordings. How did you feel about your contributions to this album compared to the past three releases by the Pornographers? What are your favourite songs on the new release?

Fancey: My favorite song on "Challengers" is "Go Places" because I find it very moving. It is one of Carl's best which is saying something. He can't write a bad song or even a mediocre one. Another favourite for me is Challengers. I was very happy with my contributions for Challengers. There was some banjo and mandolin along with lots of guitar. It is definitely the album I contributed the most to; and I felt there was some real magic a couple times during that cold winter stay in Brooklyn.

Punk Globe:

The New Pornographers' earlier releases such as "Mass Romantic" were a full-on-non-stop-melodic/harmonic-everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink-wall-of-sound.Influences ranged from The Kinks to Seventies Bowie; Squeeze, XTC, the Cars. . . sometimes all in the same song. The newest release is a marked change from this style; with several slower, quieter songs that seem to be more about creating mood and atmosphere. Has the band made a conscious effort to shift direction on this latest disc?

Fancey: I think Carl describes it as "morphing." He wanted to do something a little different and I think it added a lot of depth to the catalogue. In a way it is a natural progression.

Punk Globe: Fancey, why do you think it is that naked, overweight women are often considered art; while naked, skinny women are considered pornography? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Fancey: I'm sure that there are many websites dedicated to every shape and size be it art or pornography or both. Women of all "sizes" are beautiful. Men are disgusting. Any man exposing his feet in public should be executed.

Punk Globe: Speaking of feet: I've heard differing accounts of the state of Paris Hilton's feet. What's your take on Paris Hilton: A bad girl who needs to be punished; or a bad girl who needs to be punished by Todd Fancey?

Fancey: Paris will be punished enough when she gets older.

Punk Globe: You handled lead vocals on your first 2 full-length solo albums ("Fancey" and "Schmancey"). On your upcoming release, the amazing Anastasia Siozos is singing lead vocals. How did you find Anastasia and what is it that she brings to the new material?

Fancey: I met Anastasia a couple years ago at Fiasco Bros. studios, where I do all kinds of stuff. She was singing a Shania Twain song and I wanted to get her involved in my solo stuff. She brings a lot of fun to the music, an upbeat feeling and co-writes all the new material with me. I wanted to step away from lead vocals for awhile too so I could concentrate on producing instead of worrying about how unhappy I was with my own vocals.

Punk Globe: Your solo project is now called "Solar Convoy." Why the name change and where did it come from?

fancey and anastasia

Todd and Anastasia

Fancey: We just felt it didn't sound like Fancey and you only live once so I wanted a cool new name that I could also chuckle at. I made that name up on the spot originally to be a duo featuring Kurt Dahle on ukulele and me on acoustic when we jammed in that formation on the tour bus. I just thought it was funny to have two people represent a convoy. And all our songs or most of them have the word sun in them.

Punk Globe: What are your favorite soothing sounds of the seventies and why does this decade have so much influence over your musical style?

Fancey: I love the highly crafted gems that were on AM radio in the seventies. It seemed like the shadow of the Beatles still policed the quality of the airwaves in terms of melody and production. The lyrics may seem cheesy now but there was an element that was touching in that supposed "throw away" music. I never threw it away. Homer Simpson was correct, we peaked in 1974, attained perfection. The hits in the seventies had funky beats and interesting melodies that soared. I have a theory that the assassinations of the '60s infused the music of the '70's with a lot of sadness.

Punk Globe: James Blunt's song "You're Beautiful" was one of the biggest singles of the last few years. In the first verse of the song, Blunt sings: "She smiled at me on the subway, she was with another man, but I won't lose no sleep on that, 'cause I've got a plan." Then he spends the rest of the song moaning "I don't know what to do, 'cause I'll never be with you." That doesn't sound like much of a plan to me. Fancey, how would you have handled this situation differently?

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Fancey: I can't believe he says that. It is brilliantly written in some ways but that's pretty silly. You're right it doesn't make sense. I would have handled it differently by ignoring the woman and would have kept my eyes in whatever book I was reading. Women are awesome but you can't waste too much time feeding attention hungry monsters. At the end he should have had sex with her and then changed his phone number before she dragged him to Ikea.

Punk Globe: I understand you recently read George Tenet's book, "At The Center Of The Storm." Do you believe that the Bush administration were victims of Tenet's sloppy work, or was he just another fall guy for a dangerous administration?

Fancey: I don't think his work was sloppy but I could easily be wrong. I think the climate after the attacks on American soil was different and easy to judge now. If you're the prez and that happened on your watch, would you let a guy like Saddam sit there? We all thought there was going to be subsequent attacks. But there is no excuse for not having a plan. James Blunt had more of a plan. I must say that in the end if one kid (American or Iraqi) loses their arm or their life then war was not worth it. Unless it's all of us in a painless atomic flash. In retrospect containment would have been better and leading by example. I would be excited if Gore ran again.

Punk Globe: In the late 90's, we lived together for a short period. One day when you weren't home, I looked in your room at your record collection. There I found Abba sandwiched between Black Sabbath and the Tygers of Pan Tang. Tell me, Fancey, what kind of life experience leads one to enjoy such extremes? Also, tell us something we might not know about Bjorn and Benny.

Fancey: I don't know much about Abba other than their sheer perfection which is so incredibly intimidating but the extremes in taste are shared by a lot of people I think. It's all brilliant pop music really. Black Sabbath and Abba are both Beatle by-products in different ways. Black Sabbath are very melody driven AND riff driven.

Punk Globe: A 2004 issue of Rolling Stone gave a glowing review to the first Fancey disc. They describe your music as. . . "layers of sun-drenched Beach Boys' harmonies, bouncy Wurlitzer, and the requisite escapist lyrics about leaving town or going into outer space." I was recently at Disneyland and noticed that everywhere you go, you hear the Beach Boys playing in the background. It seems that the soundtrack for 'the happiest place on earth' was created by a man who had a nervous breakdown and spent many years in isolation in his bedroom. As someone whose musical style has been compared to Brian Wilson, does this seem ironic to you? Or does it actually make a lot of sense?

Fancey: It makes sense that Brian Wilson and other greats make sunshine music. Maybe people that are sad or confused need to create a happy place and that's in their music. Somewhere they can idealize. On a related but separate note, I think it is far more courageous to create and release music that is light and direct lyrically than to hide behind heavy guitars and tough guy lyrics. When I see and hear white mainstream rock I just fucking cringe because the jocks have taken over music.

Punk Globe: New Pornographers played Conan O'Brien's show on a night that Lara Flynn Boyle sat next to Steven Schirripa (Bobby Bacala from "The Sopranos") on the couch. If you were stranded on a desert island, and had not eaten for weeks, which one of those two guests would you rather be stranded with?

Fancey: Lara for sure. Actually I exchanged greetings with her which made my day. She said, "Good show!" and I said, "Thanks," and then she purred: "You're wellllllcome." I also had a short conversation with Conan which was great. He loved my guitar that I had for the show.

Punk Globe: In about half the time that it's taken Axl Rose to come out with a new song, New Pornographers have put out four discs of complex, melodic, stream of consciousness songs that almost rival The Beatles output in the late '60s. You've been on Rolling Stone and Spin Magazine's top bands of the year lists. In addition to this, you're gearing up for your third full-length solo release. Tell me Fancey, what will the world see first: Real Democracy in China; or Chinese Democracy as delivered by bad boy Axl Rose?

Fancey: Axl should drop the G and R name and go on his own, do a country outlaw thing. I love him. I want him to cover "Indiana Wants Me," by R. Dean Taylor. He's so talented and I'm mystified how he can't seem to let go and let us hear some new shit. The cover he did of the Charles Manson song is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Yes the NP have delivered thanks to the ideas behind the band. Sometimes it's a little discouraging to work with people who are so brilliant but it is really the way to go because it just pulls you up and makes you rise to the Challenge(rs) cough....

Punk Globe: You recently recorded a song for the "Dinner Party" episode on "The Office." How did you get involved in that project; and what was the recording process like? And how did you get that incredibly strange guitar sound in the solo?

Fancey: About a year and a half ago I met a music supervisor for NBC. She's become quite involved in the indie rock music scene and I met her at a New Pornographer show. I mentioned to her how much I loved "The Office" and a few months later she presented me with an opportunity to write and record the music for a song in the "Dinner Party" script. It was by no means a shoe-in that they would use what I wrote; and there were others asked as well. It was really fun to do and there was some back and forth. I received some instruction from Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupinsky who wrote the words, and in the end they really liked it. The guitar did end up sounding weird and classic too. I do not know how I got the sound, I just plugged in to one of Len Osanic's Strats at Fiasco Bros. studios where I recorded it. It ended up sounding really cool.

Punk Globe: Any other soundtrack work coming up?

Fancey: Yes, I was offered another project and completed it successfully. I can't name the show until it airs but it will be really cool. It was a totally different style, like techno meets death metal.

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Punk Globe: How do New Pornographers function as a band with members spread across North America from Vancouver to Chicago to New York? And is it true that one of your members now makes toys for kids on a farm in Saskatchewan

Fancey: Yes one of our members lives on a farm in Saskatchewan. It's not all that difficult to function because New York has become the nerve centre and we fly wherever we need to be. We never rehearse until we have to in which case we all fly there and rent out a rehearsal space.

Punk Globe: We used to work in a group home together, taking care of street youths. I once heard when I came to work that earlier in the day there was a sketchy drug dealer who was acting like a predator around some of the kids. He was sleeping in a cardboard box beside the group home. The kids told me that you chased him off the property and threw his cardboard box at him. Fancey, is this true? And if it is, was it a powerful feeling to chase someone while holding their home over top of your head.

Fancey: Well I was very protective of our kids and their home. We used to live there with them as you know and it was like family. I miss those times, the kids and the others we worked with. You saved my ass by getting me into that work because I never had kids of my own. So it is very rewarding being able to give a word or two of encouragement to them whenever possible. It is also just a great job, and without that I would still be a security guard employment-wise.

Punk Globe: What bands or songs have changed the way you think about music?

Fancey: Black Sabbath and the Association have done that. And the greatest band of all time. I will give you a hint, they named themselves in a tongue and cheek reference to Buddy Holly's band The Crickets.

Punk Globe: John Lennon once said that all creativity comes from pain. Do you think this is true; or was he just being a negative Nelly?

Fancey: I don't know, elation can be creative as well but who the hell am I to argue with JL?

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Punk Globe: Fancey, you're a man who understands the lost art of romance. When Sting says that years of tantric sex have trained him to hold off his ejaculate for fifteen hours at a time, are you impressed? Or do you think to yourself, man, just play your music?

Fancey: He is entitled to expound, I guess.

Punk Globe: Now for a shameless-pop-trivia-life behind the irony curtain-question: A chesterfield, a llama, a K-car, and an eight-ball. . . What do all these things all have in common? You know, that question is too stupid even for me.. . . .

But in a related question: Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page was recently arrested in New York for cocaine possession. He has maintained his innocence and has vowed to fight the charge. Fancey, do you think that in this case, the judge might be justified in letting Mr. Page off with a conditional discharge if Barenaked Ladies promised not to play or record ever again?

Fancey: I cannot believe the GOTCHA culture now. We should not even know about this. He has written some great music and I hope he sorts this out and gets back into the studio as soon as possible.

Punk Globe: Being in the audience at a New Pornographers show, drummer Kurt Dahle occasionally looks like a wave has just hit him, and he takes over the stage and the crowd, and seems to push everything into another world for as long as the wave lasts. It's really quite amazing. Do you feel the supreme powers of Mr. Kurt Dahle when you are on stage with him?

Fancey: I love watching Kurt play. He really is the entertainment at our shows in a lot of ways. I know that because I can see where people are looking during our shows. He and Carl (and Neko and Kathryn) sing like birds together too.

Punk Globe: Before the Pornographers, you also played with Kurt Dahle in another great Canadian band (Limblifter -- led by Kurt's brother Ryan Dahle). Limblifter once played with Oasis in Vancouver. During that show, it seems that someone 'accidentally' hit Liam Gallagher in the head with a shoe. When he cursed out the crowd and left the stage after only 5 songs, the crowd began chanting for Limblifter to return. Question: Who is the last band that you wanted to throw a shoe at?

Fancey: Stereolab.

Punk Globe: Fancey, many people believe that drugs are the key to the door that has all the good music behind it. How about some advice for all the kids who are just starting out in their first band. How does a musician keep drugs as a useful tool and not get sucked into the dangerous trap?

Fancey: Honestly I don't think drugs help creativity at all, they just make you think that's the case. Carl and Dan don't do drugs and look at their output. Case closed your honor.

Punk Globe: Your band is infamous for their supreme mastery of the underrated sport of drunken karaoke. Spin Magazine recently interviewed the band late-night at Tinga Tinga, a karaoke joint in Manhattan's Koreatown. The article stated that you do "a killer Neil Diamond impression that goes from 'warm' to 'touching warm' in just seconds." Fancey, what is your best song, and do you sing it straight or go for the comedy gold?

Fancey: I have only done karaoke three times and sing it straight which is the comedy. I usually sing "How Deep is Your Love," by the Bee Gees.

Punk Globe: The world seems to be sharply divided between Bush haters and Bush supporters. I think that Bush haters still believe that there is room for negotiation in the world; that if you start treating people fairly, they will treat you fairly in return. Bush supporters, on the other hand, think that the world has already gone so far in the wrong direction that there is no more room for talking things over. You have to go out and destroy them before they come to destroy you. What do you think, Fancey? Is it too late for a little love?

Fancey: I think the polarization is bad, but that's no revelation obviously. I see intolerance on both sides. Like if I admit I like watching Bill O'Reilly people will hate me for it. If you go to left leaning websites there is all this venom and name calling. If you happen to believe in God, you're "stupid and misled." Then you have idiots who think homosexuality is a sin. There is no love from one side to the other; in general I'm afraid. But some of us are somewhere in the middle.

Punk Globe: McCain or Obama. . . What is your prediction? And with so many enormous problems looming for the U.S., who will be better for the country?

Fancey: Well my opinion is irrelevant because I am Canadian but I love American politics. If Obama loses I would be shocked. He seems to be a man of destiny and they rarely lose elections. I don't know who would do a better job because the office is so complex and events can dictate the outcome. I think Obama is going to win by a huge margin relatively speaking no matter how he chooses to fight the other side. Hillary would have won, too. I'm afraid McCain doesn't represent the energy that everyone agrees America needs to face these problems around the world.

Punk Globe: There seems to be a consistent thread running through much of your solo work that revolves around the planets, seasons, nature, and escape. Why are these themes such a big part of what you are writing about?

Fancey: It is the influence of some of the bands I love and it makes me feel good to hear about big things like seasons. More than that it is a reaction against blue collar lyrics. I have nothing against them but I figure music is a form of escape. I love grandiosity and I also find it humorous. So when I listen to grandiose lyrics, I get enjoyment AND a little laughter.

Punk Globe: In an interview for Mania TV's "The Daily Indie," you professed your love of late 70s/early 80s bands such as "Witchfynd," "Angel Witch," and "Witchfinder General." You also suggested a satanic version of "Where Are They Now?". . . Fancey, if you were lucky enough to host the satanic "Where Are They Now." who would be your first feature, and what would you want the world to know about them?

Fancey: I would want to have Steve Bridges of Witchfynde on the show. He was on the first two Witchfynde albums. They were really cool when they started because they were like Satanic pop music. It was a little bit wacky and not so serious. I love those three bands (Angel Witch, Witchfynde, and Witchfinder General) because they could not have possibly expected commercial success yet they made the records with all their hearts.

Punk Globe: Witches come up on both of your most recent albums. In the olden days, they used to dunk witches under water for several minutes. If they died, they were cleared of all charges of "being a witch." If they lived, however, they would be convicted of "being a witch" and burned at the stake. Fancey, doesn't this seem like a pretty raw deal? And what in your life has helped you identify with the plight of the witch?

Fancey: That was sexism at its most vicious. I love Halloween, who doesn't. It comes at a great time of year and Witches are like the presidents of Halloween.

Punk Globe: In 1989, do you think Jani Lane or Brett Michaels could have envisioned that in two years, most rock stars would be on stage in baggy shorts, long johns, and their dad's lumberjack shirts? What rock fashion would you like to see make its' debut in 2008? Also-- ever wear a pair of spandex (on or off stage)?

Fancey: Those guys sure never saw it coming. I definitely hated spandex at the time. When it comes to metal I'm a snob. I like good metal like Sabbath. People are so desperate to wear a "metal" badge, but that '70's and early '80s metal was way more punk than metal, and was a LOT less popular and way less concerned with fashion.

Punk Globe: What is coming up for the New Pornographers in the next few months?

Fancey: Well we are going down under, mate, Australia and New Zealand in October.

Punk Globe: Did you know that Australia was originally settled by British convicts to ease overcrowding in British jails and to stop the spread of disease? Knowing this fact, would you take extra precautions if you were to take an Australian lady back to your hotel room (i.e., hiding your wallet under the mattress, locking the mini-bar, "double-wrapping" when you are about to hide the kangaroo)?

Fancey: I love Australia and Australians! We were there before and I was very surprised to find it is the best place I have ever been. I think that they are so far away from the rest of the world that they bend over backwards to make you feel welcome.

Punk Globe: It has been rumored that you were asked to consider starring in next year's season of "The Bachelor." Fancey, what competition would a woman need to win to show that she had what it takes to be Mrs. Fancey? And in the end, is it really better to be rich and in love, or poor and alone?

Fancey: I think poor and alone because it is best to be prepared for the end now so I can get used to it. If she wanted to win my heart she would have to forget about gifts and turn to Santa Claus for the material things in life. I hate materialism, and I hate shopping.

Punk Globe: A bio of you on the internet said you once played in a band called "Virgin Lust." Fancey, how did Virgin Lust fit into the patchwork of your multi-faceted musical quilt?

Fancey: Virgin Lust was a fun if short-lived band. I was sixteen, and we played a couple gigs in Halifax, one at a high school. We did Angel Witch and Ozzy covers. My cousin Kevin was in the band as well. I quit after we did a gig where we played a Twisted Sister song twice. That made me angry.

Punk Globe: One song on the new release ("Smooth Sailing") was co-written with J.D. Ryznar from New York Channel 101's hilariously strange show "Yacht Rock." How did this collaboration come about?

Fancey: Well I am such a huge fan of J.D. and Hunter and Hollywood Steve and all the YR guys so I emailed them a couple years ago and we met up in L.A. at a couple NP shows. So it came to be that J.D. sent me lyrics to a verse and it inspired a whole song. When I discovered Yacht Rock I was blown away by these guys and their ideas.

Punk Globe: Another song on the new disc is titled "Koresh and the A.T.F." How did the 1993 disaster in Waco, Texas work its way into the smooth, grooving sounds of the Solar Convoy?

Fancey: Well I had the song for a while in another form and I was appalled at how that went down. It really turned me off from the media and watching TV for awhile. I wasn't there and I do not know what happened; but it was a tragedy on all sides.

Punk Globe: The songs on your first 3 solo releases are filled with more melodic ideas and vocal harmonies than many bands conjure up in an entire career. Fancey, is your writing process more like a calm, relaxing day at the beach; or a long, tortured day at the office?

Fancey: The initial ideas are easy and fun, but the development of the ideas is torture.

Punk Globe: Finally -- The hot dog has gotten a lot bad press lately due to its' being made from intestines, fecal matter, and stuff on the floor. Everything considered, though, hot dogs still taste pretty great -- once again proving that the end justifies the means. Fancey, you've lived through some high highs and some dark lows; and you've written a lot of great songs that will be around for a long time after you are gone. At the end of it all, do the ends justify the means?

Fancey: I don't think they do after all. I don't think we need to be here. We should get over ourselves. We're just not that great, quite the opposite. Life can be magical but I hope God won't be mad at me for saying: we shouldn't exist.

Punk Globe: Thanks for the interview Fancey. Any last words?

Fancey: Thanks for the questions, Marc! To the young musicians out there, listen to the golden era(s) and it's about the music. Don't be fooled by the fashion or the "fame." MUSIC is the reason.

(Fancey's new solo album "Solar Convoy" is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2008. New Pornographers begin their next world tour September 19th in San Diego, California.)

ALL PHOTOS BY MARC FLOYD (heynowfloyd@hotmail.com)