Michael Feuerstack

Michael Feuerstack
If the name Michael Feuerstack doesn't ring a bell to you, it might be because we're used to seeing him under his Snailhouse moniker. Or perhaps it's the opposite, and you're familiar with the many other Feuerstack contributions ― to the Luyas, Wooden Stars and Bell Orchestre (among others) ― but you weren't aware of his solo work. Either way, music fans on both sides of the fence can take come together for the Montreal artist's latest solo effort, Tambourine Death Bed, an album that showcases both his strength as a singer-songwriter front-man and as a collaborator, with a lengthy list of guest appearances. We called up Feuerstack to discuss his name change, collaborating with others and how he finds time to do it all.

So why did you drop the Snailhouse moniker?
It's the most obvious question and it's the vaguest answer. There are a few reasons. One of the things is that I wanted to give listeners the chance to approach things with fresh ears because I felt like some things have changed in my approach to my own music. I didn't want people to compare it to my records in the past. I wanted to shake it up a little and just come to terms with the fact that I am a singer-songwriter.

Were you afraid of using your own name, initially, because of this stigma of being labeled a "singer-songwriter"?
Yeah, I think that was the initial impetus to not use my own name and I don't want people to just automatically jump to that conclusion. But the name Snailhouse ― I'm a grown man in a band, and I don't want to use that name anymore. People ask me what my band's name is and I just have to get into what that meant and why that was my name and it doesn't have that much resonance with me anymore.

Well now you have to explain the name change all the time instead.
But at least, for me, it's a fresher conversation. A lot of people know me and all the other projects that I do, so when they hear Michael Feuerstack, some people will be surprised and be like, "Oh, I didn't know he did solo music too." A lot of solo performers have done it in the past, just change their names every few records because it feels like a new project in some way or something fundamental changes either in the songwriting or the artist's relationship to the songs or maybe the whole style has changed; for me, it's a little bit of everything.

It's interesting that it's billed under your name, but there's a long list of collaborators who helped out on this record.
That's not unusual. If you look at any singer-songwriter, people want to have an ensemble to perform their music. They're just putting it under their name. To me, it's like Snailhouse was always my project anyway, but if you look at the liner notes, it changes on every record and it's me as the artistic director of this project. It's still a solo project and I think, now that I'm using my name, I'm just coming to terms with that and owning up to that. I feel like it's a mature step.

Does the album cover, featuring a photo of yourself, reflect that change as well?
I just thought it would be a nice move to go with the name change. If I'm going to do this, then I'm going to step it up and do it all the way.

When did you finish the album then and was the timing worked out to fit in with your schedule with other projects?
The record has been finished since late last summer/fall, so there was quite a bit of time spent working out dates. It came out a little later than I would like, but it's still within a reasonable amount of time. There's a lot of summer imagery, though, so in a way, it's kind of perfect that it's coming out now.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all of your projects?
Usually, the bands aren't all active at the same time, so it's not as stressful as it sounds. The Luyas and my new record have been keeping me busy and it's kind of a scheduling nightmare, but it's manageable. It's always a shit show!