Published May 25, 2010It's been 12 years since Sacramento, CA's much-loved post-hardcore gents Far released their final album, 1998's influential Water & Solutions, and although the band broke up the following year, At Night We Live is hardly a tired comeback record. Both insanely accessible and moodily aggressive, a decade-plus of grounding adulthood sends songs such as "Burns" or "Fight Song #16, 233, 241" soaring into the upper echelons of radio-ready pop punk, while "When I Could See" and "The Ghost That Kept on Haunting" stay sparse and weird, recalling similar structures that made the band an important figure in the origins of emo. Singer Jonah Matranga maintains his status as one of the best voices of the genre, swinging wildly and more strongly than ever from clean melodies to his deep, guttural growl, often in the same song ("Are You Sure?"). As is standard in the Far camp, weighty personal topics are given an infectiously positive treatment and the outcome is nothing short of exuberant. To say the band have aged gracefully is accurate, in that they don't come anywhere near pastiche on this record, but the passion and spirit demonstrated here sound younger, fresher and more confident than they ever have.
How have things been?
Matranga: Things are great, a little bit busy and crazy, but all for good reasons.
What have you guys been up to?
Well, I've just been writing a lot myself, really, and doing lots of interviews and stuff. Just being really excited about the record coming out and just trying to celebrate that.
Have you been doing Far full-time leading up to the album or still sort of all working on solo stuff too in the meantime?
Yeah, always working on all sorts of ideas. And we're all in different places, so we are working on stuff, but it's a bit different than the way most people work on stuff together. We're all sort of doing our own separate little parts to make everything go as well as it can, and then going out on tour will be what that is, you know?
It's been 11 years since Far ended. Was there, amidst all of your own stuff, ongoing communication between the band members?
Not really, we were in touch more I think as friends than as people who were in a band together. I'd be gone from time to time, and there'd be emails going back and forth every once in a while about whatever. Generally something to do with the website or how best to deal with what was, at that time, just stuff that was in the past.
And the album ended up coming from you guys getting together just for a couple of shows, right?
What was the impetus for those initial few shows that spawned the new record?
Those were just us playing all old stuff and sort of seeing how that felt, just much more casual. We're actually still just taking it day by day, but this feels different too, in the sense that we obviously put a lot of time into making the record and I want to do everything within my power, within reason, to talk to people about it and let them know about it, for those that care about it. So this is a different level of commitment, for the time being. I can't even recall the day that it was decided that this was going to happen, but, really, one thing just kept leading to another. I'll have to place most of the credit and/or blame on Chris [Robyn, drummer], because he was the one, amongst all of us, that really saw us making a record. I didn't see that happening, but here we are!
Had there been an ongoing or active fan base that you were aware of online? Did you know there'd be people excited for this record?
We knew that at least a few people would be excited about it. We were never a particularly popular band, but the people that liked us really liked us and were really vocal about that, so we knew that someone would be into it. We still don't know if there will be any sort of new, larger audience, but that really, honestly, isn't what it's about. Not that we mind if people listen to it; we'd love it if everyone in the world bought the record. But it's really just much more about us having fun. I think that's sort of the point of making art. And I don't mean fun like in a blasé, "oh let's just goof around!" sort of way. To me, it's got to be the joy of it and if there's an audience for it, that's genius. But the minute you go sniffing around for an audience before you've thought about the songs, I think you've really lost the plot.
I'm curious about how the dynamic has possibly shifted, if at all, between you guys together?
No, the strangest thing has been that even though so much time has passed and we're all in different places and everything like that, we're still just, musically and personally, we're just Far. It's strange; it's humbling, actually. We just interact a certain way together and it makes this noise that is still interesting to us, which is great.
So then you picked right back up where you'd left off?
We really did; it was really weird, actually. It was maybe even a bit surreal, but great.
Do you find there's less pressure on the band at this stage in your personal and professional lives?
The only pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves. I think we've been lucky enough to have a real good trust with the people that like the music we make. So, if we just stick with what feels exciting to us... I mean, we've always been good ― some would argue too good ― about not letting the outside world matter [laughs].
No real expectations for the record then?
Nah, at least for me. I've certainly made enough records at this point, in enough different ways, that I just try to check in on whether I'm proud of it or not.
Was there any sort of worry that, because you had the success with the Ginuwine cover before talk of this album started, people would see this as a weird popularity opportunity or a novelty kind of "comeback"?
That's a good example, actually, that you just never know what could happen. There are plenty of bands that try to do what we did, as in try and cover some famous song in order to get attention. Some bands have had great success with that idea and some bands have tried and obviously failed. All I knew was that we had done it for fun, so whatever came of it felt perfectly safe. If we had tried to do that and it had turned into that, I probably would have felt a little bit sick to my stomach. But knowing that we purely did it for fun, that's what makes it all sort of feel better. And that's exactly why I think it's important to stick to what you know you want to do in the moment as an artist, because you never know where it's going to go. If all of a sudden everyone's clamouring for you to play this song that you never liked playing in the first place, that's just a bummer.
I have to be honest; it made me a little sceptical! But don't worry, the album redeemed you!
[Laughs] I'm super-super-happy to hear that! I think that, when we were making the record and no one had heard any music and all they'd heard was the Ginuwine song, and we said we were making a new record, I am sure that as a listener, I would have been sceptical myself. That's why I'm so excited to finally have the record out. Not that everyone has to love it, but I think now it's really clear that this is what we mean when we say "new Far." The Ginuwine cover was fun and all that stuff, but, frankly, it was never meant to get the exposure that it did. I mean, we're not ashamed of it; I really love that song! But it wasn't this thing we sat around and thought, "This is what we want to show the world." But we did spend a lot of time thinking, "who are Far right now, this place we are now," and that's this record. And now I think people can relax and hear the cover the way we hear it, which is just fun.
Which is maybe why it makes sense to tack it onto the end of the album?
To be honest, I didn't want that, initially. I didn't even want to call that song a Far song, even though everyone knew it was a Far song. But I think you're right. We've always been a band that are as serious as we can be sometimes, but we actually have quite an odd, dry sense of humour. We knew it was absurd, us singing that song. I do like that it's there now because I feel like it has its place. Like, here is this body of work and then here is this inside joke between friends. Except that the inside joke became everything for a second and that became scary [laughs].
It's interesting too that you say you want this to be representative of the band as you are now, because I don't at all hear a "comeback" record. I hear a continuation record.
I really, honestly, couldn't think of a better way I'd want someone to see the record. I hope a lot of people think like you!
I think there always was with you guys, and still is ― and I can really hear that just even speaking with you ― a real sort of clear intention that way.
I'm glad you say that; it's always nice that it gets through. That's always where it's coming from, but with rock, things can get really confusing really fast, so I'm glad it gets through.
The title track: I know it came from the dream you had about your friend, so what made you choose to give the overall album that meaning or feeling?
I can mostly just chalk it up to a feeling. We were tossing around ideas for this record title. I think the coolest thing about that was that when Shaun [Lopez, guitar/producer] named that song, I hadn't written any words yet. So he just made the piece of music staying up really late one night. He's kind of a nocturnal person, so, for him, the title was saying that he felt creative and excited at night. And what that turned into via the words and the dream and everything was this whole other animal. I'm always interested in ideas that seem totally random and then all of a sudden seem to make perfect sense without trying to make sense ― that's always been interesting to me. When I named Water and Solutions, that came from literally flipping through a chemistry book and that was the title of a chapter and I thought, "oh, what an amazing and evocative set of words that is," but it wasn't like I was looking for it. So that's what this title sort of feels like as well. It wasn't like we sat around and thought and thought and thought about it and thought like, "Oh, we're going to make this for Chi [the currently comatose Deftones bassist]; it's going to be so awesome," it wasn't like that at all. It more just came to us, which to me, is the best way for things to go.
I really hear that. Whether quiet and broody or sort of balls-out rock, this record feels and sounds so positive and satisfying. Would you say that's accurate for how you guys feel coming out of making it?
Absolutely, that's super-well said on your part. It obviously has lots of different moods, but I'm not interested in making music that's about wallowing. I'm interested in making music that is more about catharsis and processing things and getting through things. To me, the record, making the record in and of itself and the feeling behind the songs, I hope it's one that, even if it sounds spooky and/or sad and/or angry, that it has a redemptive quality to it.
How has it been playing the new stuff live?
So, so fun, and I wasn't sure it was going to be, because we didn't even play these songs together at all in the process of writing them or recording them. It was all done at separate times because of the way our lives are right now. And plus, it's always scary for me to play something after recording it because you get used to the way it sounds, and it's never going to sound like that live. But we've been playing "Fight Song," "Deafening," "Give Me A Reason," "Dear Enemy" and "At Night We Live" so far, and all of them feel so good. I was really scared it wouldn't. So, it's fantastic. (Vagrant)