Fir Cone Children is one of those lovely acts, that I may refer as Last Day Deaf ones. Why? The man behind this great indie project is “our” Alexander Leonard Donat. He’s been supportive to LDD since the very beginning, and this is more than an honour. But let’s get back to biz, and let you read this wonderful live chat that Alexander and me had a while ago. Ideal soundtrack: ‘No Gravity Girls’.
Hi Alexander. Although Last Day Deaf’s readers should be familiar with Fir Cone Children, nevertheless please introduce the project to us, and why, when, and under what circumstances it started…
Fir Cone Children started in summer 2014, a year after my first daughter was born. I remember everyone telling me I wouldn’t have time to make music with a child. “enjoy your last moments” was one of the dramatic sentences that almost made me angry because I think you can always take the time for anything in the world if you really want it. so instead of discussing personal views of how to live a life with a child I started this band. from the beginning I knew what I wanted: short songs with a length of not more than 2 minutes, fast songs, noisy songs with the distortion pedal turned on almost all the time. I wanted to make the fastest music I’ve ever done, so it would become punk music with fuzzy, atmospheric guitars. another really important thing was a catchy chorus, I wanted to create noisy pop music. In the beginning there was a huge garage rock influence, now it’s more indie and the amount of shoegaze has increased too.
Hanging onto your words, was it more a reaction then? Or something that came physical? Reaction to the inevitable for the majority?
Good question. I make music all the time so I guess the warning of the people that I wouldn’t have enough time for music any more made me record even more songs than before. still, I’m pretty sure I would have started this kind of music without having kids, but in a completely different context with a different band name and totally different lyrics. here the lyrics are all about the experiences of a child. I am thankful that people forced this kind of reaction, though, ha ha!
You refer to Fir Cone Children as a band, right? I will be shitty now. Aren’t you on your own?
You got me there! In fact whenever I talk about any of my projects I try to avoid the terms “project” or “one-man-band” because it doesn’t sound as romantic as the term “band”. and especially Fir Cone Children sounds like a band to me. on the other hand, I have never called Vlimmer a band for example.
Great! Let’s come back to the present. And this is gorgeous, since June 30th, the 3rd album ‘No Gravity Girls‘ has been released. What should fans expect, and above all newcomers? Why should they invest time (& money)?
In way Fir Cone Children is contemporary music and doesn’t look back. It’s music for people with a short attention span who can follow a short verse and want a chorus to sing along. pop is a great thing as long as you put it in a certain context. In terms of Fir Cone Children everything is super catchy but it’s all lo-fi and noisy, although, this time, I added some less noisy songs in between. In general, listeners can expect intense 28 minutes of wild, slightly melancholic sounding atmospheric punk rock. after these 13 songs I hope people start right the album all over again because they want to listen to that song again and ask themselves, jeez, why isn’t that song longer? – by the way, this 2-minute mark was mainly an influence of Touché Amoré‘s ‘Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me‘. It’s one of the three best albums of all time for me and I loved the idea that you can write intense songs which aren’t long. Sometimes it’s all about that one moment, that one melody. So, yeah, a hardcore album had a major influence on fir cone children.
Big Star? No power pop influences?
No, not at all. maybe it seems like that because I use so many power chords. I’m not even into the Ramones, a band that I always have to think about when reading about bands using power chords. So it’s basically just an attempt to make a faster and more abrasive version of shoegaze which I would consider being my favourite music genre. this genre just has the blemish that it mostly stays mid-tempo . I wanted to change that while sticking to pop harmonies and melodies.
I will focus now on some songs of your latest gem! First our premiere ‘I Care For You’, and thank you again for trusting Last Day Deaf. A lovesong? Where does this one refer?
The lyrics were written, like most FCC songs, from the perspective of one of my two daughters. It’s about the fact that the younger one, aged 2, would leave the bed where both are sleeping in every night at a certain moment. But she would bring her a bottle of milk before she went to our bedroom, and she put the bottle directly into her sisters face, which is really sweet. She cares for her, even when she’s sleeping.
Being a dad of two boys, I can say you are a happy man!
I am. Having children is a great experience. And it’s incredible when they start singing Fir Cone Children songs! Two songs, ‘We Will Never Die’ and the self-titled one Krissy Vanderwoude from excellent shoegazers Whimsical makes a guest appearance. These two and a third song called ‘Parents Driving, Kids Sleeping“, yes.
Yep! How come? Did you know Krissy?
Not in person, unfortunately. I’ve met Krissy on Facebook where you can find a sworn shoegaze community. She is a very positive person, like me, and if I remember correctly it was a Fir Cone Children song that she commented on. I contacted her and we had a connection from our first chat on. She also has kids and is very busy making music and collaborating, still it’s not her first job. We have a lot in common when it comes to these things. It wasn’t until 5 or 6 months, however, that it crossed my mind that some of the album’s songs would sound cool with a female voice. So I approached her, told her about my idea and said ‘I have these three songs, please pick the one you feel comfortable with’, she answered ‘I might as well sing on all of them’. Ha-ha, she’s adorable.
And what about ‘Open Hand‘? The most “different“ song in the album…..A bit darkish too…
It has become a kind of tradition that there would be one more electronic song on every fir cone album. Again, this one is written from the perspective of my younger daughter who wakes up at night with tears in her eyes. Her sister would just sleep on no matter how loud she was crying. The open hand refers to the parents because she often needs to hold a hand while sleeping. Perhaps the song sounds a bit darker because it’s a song about night time.
Wanted to ask this before. Going personal. How can you combine running a label, four projects, working, being a husband and a dad of two? Does sometimes get a bit pressy? Be honest…
One kind of stress kills the other!
That’s it then?
Honestly, I don’t know why it works but I hope it never ends. one reason might be that I don’t need much sleep. Whenever my family goes to bed I enter the bat cave and become batman, sort of. In my cellar I lead a second life, my life as a musician and label owner. At the moment I don’t sleep more than 4 or 5 hours a night. All the label’s work is taking more and more time but I love it and keep releasing albums every year. As long as I feel the absolute urge to be creative it will go on like this. It even makes my life as a teacher easier because it keeps me in balance, no matter how annoying pupils might get, ha ha! Admittedly, it’s not easy all the time because all the promotional work for a label is taking a lot of time and my wife has to be very tolerant and patient.
Teacher? Primary school?
Yes. This is also one of the reasons this is working. originally, I worked at a grammar school but I soon recognized that it takes a damn lot of time to get prepared for your lesson, and even more to correct tests when you are an English and German teacher. It was the best job decision in my life to change the type of school. Total equilibrium since that.
Even though its dream-punk, its still punk. So there is or should be some political edge, right? I would like to have your opinion on what’s been going on lately in UK, Germany, and Belgium with all this “ISIS“ thing…
It’s terrible, now that also Berlin is among the cities that directly suffered from a terrorist attack this whole thing has arrived at our doorsteps. Now, it’s necessary that we just live on and don’t live a life in fear. There have always been terrorist attacks around the globe; it’s only now that Europe is in the focus. I simply don’t understand why people would kill themselves for an idea.
Going a step further, do you believe that the real enemy is ‘‘ISIS’’?
The real enemy of what? The western civilization?
Yep! Exactly… Or is it deliberate, incontrollable? And why now all this tension?
This whole conflict started a really long time ago, and I think that some centuries ago a lot of European countries made a lot of mistakes and killed innocent people trying to conquer different continents forcing them to live a different kind of life. It feels like terrorists seek revenge or something. But I guess people in general are not really a peaceful species and as sad as it sounds, there will always be wars no matter who’s in charge in whatever country. People are violent by nature; it’s just that the degree differs from person to person. Some just shout in their car because they are unhappy about the other drivers or a traffic jam, others spit at people, hurt them physically. I am not particularly proud to be a human, people are capable of doing horrendous things, like torturing other people, killing animal for sports. I decided to go vegetarian 5 years ago. It’s just a little contribution, I know. – talking about music there is one political reference on this album.
When Donald Trump said “from now on it’s only America first” I changed it to “from now on it’s only sisters first“, you can hear it in ‘I Care For You’. He is a joke and a danger to earth. He doesn’t believe in climate change? I mean, come on! Hopefully we’ll be lucky to see him impeached.
I prefer Donald Duck to be honest…Shall we be lucky enough to feel the energy of Fir Cone Children on stage someday soon, then?
I would love to play FCC songs live, but I don’t have the time to rehearse let alone find suitable band members. Most importantly I wouldn’t have the time to record all the songs that keep falling out of my head these years. I feel very comfortable living the life of a studio musician. But who knows, you just need to meet the right people. – I got to admit I miss the times when I was on stage with nothing but a microphone in my hand while the rest of the people on stage played instruments and created a thunder storm which I would dance through. I could freak out and didn’t need to worry about making mistakes on whatever instrument.
So, are you in search of any band mates, or leaving it to luck?
I am not actively looking for members. but if any drummer out there can play really fast and keep a blast beat, hit me up when you are reading this. Other than that I would need one or two guitar players, no bass. Ha, now I’m planning stuff again. I guess I’m just open for whatever is happening in the future.
Have to thank you for this lively chat, and hope you enjoyed this one too. Won’t try to differ from the rest, so finish this the way you wish…
I have to thank YOU! for your time, your effort, your good questions. Let me give you a virtual hug.