James P. M. Lee and Nick Link are two friends with similar interests, humor, and tastes in music.
Fittingly, they’re in a band together. James really, really likes Legos and Nick loves the Beastie Boys. Both are reluctant to pick a favorite color. Their debut album is going to drop sometime during this season’s high temperatures.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Furies are coming!
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Like the slow mist of melancholy on a cloudy Tuesday, you won’t know exactly what’s touching you until your hair begins to friz. But it’s all right, because before you can get too sad you’ll be hit with such ardent rays of audio sunshine you’ll be very glad it’s happening.
Together, singer/guitarist James P. M. Lee, and drummer Nick Link create a charming and lively patchwork of sound. Lee’s simple lyrics lay tender honesty over Link’s steady marching band-style rhythms. Dreamy chord progressions range from slow to quick-tempo, inviting listeners into some familiar dream world – a fun blend of 1950s romance and late 90s agitation. The Bushwick-based folkternative twosome is currently putting the finishing touches on their debut album, entitled ‘But First The Furies’.
Introduced by mutual friends the duo have been friends since 2008, when Nick arrived in Brooklyn hoping to make his living in television. It just so happens James was working at a post-production house and could hook Link up with a job. It didn’t take them very long to discover their similar tastes in music, and shared sense of humor.
I first saw The Furies live at Good Friend Electric on McKibbin near the end of 2010. Before that the band had played public stages at Bar East in Manhattan, as well as The Charleston, Trash Bar, and Don Pedro’s in Williamsburg. The Furies originated from James’ previously private recordings, and Nick’s willingness to learn and practice drums – an instrument he had not played before with former bands. The fellas began rethinking the material, and in November of 2009 The Furies became an official thing (as marked by the creation of their Facebook page).
Below, my Q+A with the guys. We cover the basics – creative inclinations, inspiration and motivation, pet peeves, aliens, and world peace. Enjoy! And be sure to follow these sweet smarties on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook so you’ll know when they’re playing next!
The Furies playing GFE
RuthNinke: How did the Furies Start?
James P.M. Lee: Well many of the songs started with me alone in my bedroom years ago. I never played in bands growing up but liked playing and writing songs. So The Furies started as a project I would just record and send to friends. Nick was the opposite, in lots of bands. It wasn’t long after we met in the lofts through mutual friends that he said, “Hey, lets be a band.” He really just wanted to be making music, he can’t go long with out making music. And I was excited by the idea [of] people hearing my songs, what a thought! We had similar tastes in music and a similar sense of humor which helps when having to spend a bunch of time with someone. Eventually we found our niche, our sound, and have a blast playing.
RN: Where are you from?
JPML: ROCKland County, NY
Nick Link: A small town in Northern Michigan near the 45th parallel. Higgins Lake which some say National Geographic once ranked it the 6th most beautiful lake in the world.
RN: What did you want to be when you grew up?
JPML: A director, though I didn’t really know what that entailed when I first came to that conclusion.
NL: I grew up to be exactly what I wanted to be. I didn’t know I was going to do this exactly, but I had an idea. I’ve been into audio/video as soon as found out how to hit record.
RN: When did you get to Bushwick? What brought you to Brooklyn?
JPML: Three years ago officially. All of my friends were there.
NL: I first showed up in Bushwick during the summer of 2008. I graduated from college the previous winter with a degree in animation. I knew if I wanted to have a job or career in that industry I had to either move to NYC or LA. I had some friend out here which attracted me to the area. I moved in with them and they happened to be living in the McKibbin lofts.
RN: What are your creative inclinations?
JPML: Legos, film, drawing poorly and music.
NL: Music and videos specifically. In college I studied animation, now work at a post production house making T.V. commercials. Sometimes I produce hip hop. I love playing around with loops and samples, making something new out of something old.
RN: When did you start at it/them?
JPML: Well I guess I should have said writing as well, because all (with the exception of Legos) have their roots in writing. I like story a lot. I like narrative film, my songs usually tell a story and when I do the poor drawings they usually have something pushing them, some reason or purpose. I like conveying a message, even if its doodle form. Legos, age 5, though that is not recommended. Chocking hazard.
NL: As long as I can remember. I grew up around musical people. there were guitars and bongos around the house when I was a child. I used to carry around a little Fisher Price cassette recorder and tape things. I got a four track recorder when I was 16. In high school I edited the school’s announcements show on two VCR’s and a video mixer. It’s been a slow evolution, but I’ve always enjoyed capturing moments.
RN: What is your ultimate passion?
NL: Music hands down. I’m really into vinyl, I have a huge collection of LP’s and 45’s that I’ve been collecting since I was 14. They take up a lot of room in my apartment, but it’s worth it. I also own several guitars, samplers, drum machines and turntables, cassettes and other devices. Music has always been a big part of my life. I grew up listening to oldies and hip hop. As an adult I have very eclectic taste. I can be heard listening to anything from dubstep to classical.
RN: Who would you cite as your greatest inspirations?
JPML: Joe Strummer, Kurt Vonnegut,Jr., and Bill Watterson are the three people who have shape me the most creatively. I think that’s what you’re after, right? I get inspiration from all over and from stuff and people I don’t even like sometimes, but those three made me the man you see before you today. That is, if I was before you.
NL: The Beastie Boys for sure. I grew up on those guys.Not only because of their music but their videos as well. Everything they’ve done has been innovative. I learned about a lot of music because of their samples. They were a gateway band for me. Whether they were playing punk, jazz or hip hop it was always great.
RN: Death, and disbanding, seem to be frequent/prevalent so far this year. Not to be too morbid, but considering your own mortality, what are some of your loftiest ambitions? What do you dream of doing assuming no delay, hurdle, or lack of resource or space?
JPML: I honestly don’t know and am a bit ashamed I don’t have a better answer. I’ve never viewed mortality as a deadline to get stuff done before. I’m not trying to finish the painting before the plane goes down, but if i can do what I want during the free-fall, great.
NL: I’m constantly trying to make something better than the last thing. I don’t have any specific ambitions other than making a better product than the last product I created.
RN: Tell me about some recent projects? Upcoming ones?
JPML: The Furies debut album! ‘But First The Furies.’ Very close to near completion. Keep an ear or two out.
NL: The Furies are currently in the process of recording and producing a full length album. It’s been taking a while, but we’re just trying to make the best album we can. No need to rush these things. We’ve got a few old friends backing us up. It’s been an interesting process. So far it sounds great. We’re really excited to release it.
Beyond that I’ve been doing this portable music project. I have a handheld recorder and I’ve been recording things around the city, It’s really just an experiment, but it may render interesting results.
I’ve also had a long time project (about 12 years now) called Funk Magnum Mother Fuckers. It’s basically a collective of people who are willing to rap or sing on over beats. I’ll make a beat and sometimes it’ll be months before I find someone who wants to lay something down on a track. Sometimes I’ll rap, but I prefer to get many voices. Some people are really eager and others I have to talk into it. Whenever a song gets finished it gets posted online. It’s more of a song by song project than a fully articulated project. With each release it gets better and better.
RN: Do you ever have times when you’re working on something or want to work on something, but it’s just not clicking?
JPML: All the time, I had an idea for a song about dying in a corn field just the other day. Prime Furies fodder. I was on the train coming up with lyrics, humming along in my head, but once I got home and played it out loud it was terrible. I just gave up. Not sure if thats the best approach but usually its the way I go. Start over. I hate the stuff that comes out when I try to force something that’s not working.
NL: My process is that whenever an idea comes to me I create it. I rarely sit down and come up with something. I’ll have an idea on the train or in the shower and I’ll think about it until I actually do it. Usually by the time I’m in the creation process I’ll have it fleshed out enough in my head that I don’t run into problems of having something not clicking. I’d say the biggest problem I come across is hardware issues. The computer keeps crashing or a sample is corrupted and wont load. Which can be frustrating, but there’s always a way to work around it.
RN: What’s your personal method for powering through these times?
NL: Set it down and walk away. Sometimes it’s easier to find a solution when it’s not staring you in the face.
RN: What is your favorite thing about living in Brooklyn?
JPML: Less people. I really like city living but can’t stand the crowd. I am rarely found in Manhattan on the weekend.
NL: There’s such a wide variety of music people listen to. Whether its the Indian Electronic music at the bodega or the Hot Salsa blasting from someones trunk. There’s also a lot of really cool and creative bands around Brooklyn. I love hearing anything I wouldn’t normally be introduced to. There’s so many people here and they all have their own musical tastes. I just absorb it all.
RN: What’s your favorite thing about NYC?
JPML: Buildings and bridges. I think giant structures are the coolest. Look up everyday. There’s cool looking stuff up there!
NL: If you want something here you can get it. You just have to be determined, confident and work hard. Nothing is out of reach here.
RN: What advice/encouragement would you offer someone with creative aspirations who’s heading to New York from a much less populated place?
JPML: A bit cliched but, just do it. I have no sage wisdom, just athletic shoe slogans. The people who get to do things are usually the ones who work the hardest or have independently wealthy parents. I you aren’t the latter then just bust your ass and have fun.
NL: I have no idea. I don’t know how I did it. You just have to want it I guess.
Nick & James being furiously silly.
RN: What’s your favorite color?
JPML: Don’t make me choose!
NL: rainbow (That’s a color right?)
RN: Favorite book? (or top 3)
JPML: The Sirens of Titan
NL: This is tricky because it’s not a book, but a series of graphic novels. It’s called The Sandman it was written by Neil Gaiman. It’s about the Lord of Dreams and incorporates history, mythology, religion, and even Shakespeare. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever read.
RN: Favorite Album? (or top 3)
JPML: Electric Warrior – T. Rex
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society – The Kinks
NL: Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique. I mentioned them being a gateway band earlier. Because of the samples and references in this album I found out about acts such as Bob Dylan,The Ramones, Bad Brains, Johnny Cash, Sly & The Family Stone, Public Enemy, and K.R.S. O.N.E.
RN: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
JPML: When people pronounce the ‘t’ in often. Both are deemed correct but I still don’t like it.
NL: I have a neighbor that blasts 2 pac in the morning. I like 2 Pac just fine as long as he isn’t waking me up early. I know it’s hard in the closed quarters of the city, but come on, it’s the morning!
RN: What do you think about aliens? Crop circles?
JPML: I am 100% certain aliens exist and 89% sure they have never visited Earth. We are on a speck of sand in a speck of sand in a speck of sand. We are hard to find and who says they are even looking. Crop circles are man made. Fact.
RN: Give me an arbitrary %…what chance do you think we have of seeing world peace in our lifetime? What chance – if any -do you think humans have of achieving it at all?
NL: I don’t want to sound like too much of a pessimist, but I don’t see it happening. People have been fighting each other as long as people have been around. And there’s a lot of people in the world. Not everyone is going to agree and there’s not much anyone can do about it except be more tolerant.