Music Feature: Jennifer Gentle (New York Press)

Making lemonade while biting the hand that feeds me.



Marco Fasolo of Jennifer Gentle attempts to explain himself

By Chris Ruen

If there’s a key to writing a 500-word music piece—such as the one you’re reading—it’s to keep one’s expectations measured. There’s no space for sprawling exposition, only the facts. Band Y is from Town X and their music sounds like what might happen if Band A and Band C had an emotionally abused child who was obsessed with Band Q. Band Y is on such-and-such record label, their new album has been received with Reaction Z, and now they’re playing a concert in New York. Then throw in a few quotes from the lead singer to keep things relatively interesting.

Given the above parameters, interviewing the musician—in more youthful days an exciting, ego-boosting, potentially revelatory opportunity to engage with an artist—becomes a surprisingly mundane task. Rather than discuss music in an open-ended fashion when the artist may actually say something interesting, you simply mine the subject for information relevant to the article’s seemingly impenetrable structure.

The aforementioned lesson having been learned—quite recently by myself—my lowered interview expectations were put into practice for the first time during my scheduled interview with Marco Fasolo, the sole artistic force behind Italian rock band Jennifer Gentle. There seemed to be plenty of interesting material to discuss. The enigmatic Fasolo was touring in support of Midnight Room, an album he wrote, performed and produced alone in a secluded house in Northern Italy (the previous owner of which had killed himself there with a rifle). Even so, I lobbied to hear his take via the cold, yet efficient medium of email. The chances of a more personal phone interview yielding better material were slim at best.

Seattle’s venerable Sub Pop, Jennifer Gentle’s record label, said no to my dreams of email, so I called Marco one Thursday afternoon, ready to type away at my computer as he spoke. He would answer my questions about the recording process of Midnight Room—a baroque, psychedelic, pop-infused, mysterious romp of an album.

But upon calling the musician, I learned still another lesson: Just because someone sings in English, doesn’t mean they know it particularly well.

Marco, a lifelong resident of Italy, had trouble both understanding questions and articulating answers: two rather crucial elements for an interview. Plus, he was talking to me from a tour van barreling down the highway. I could barely hear him.
I think I heard him say he likes playing New York because of the “great crowds,” and that it was “fabulous last time.” Also, he enjoyed making Midnight Room alone, because he liked having things “under control.” He has an easy time arranging songs. Lyrics are “the hardest thing” for him, and he regularly consults an English dictionary when writing. Singing in English rather than Italian, he said, “came naturally.”

Like Jennifer Gentle’s music, the interview was definitely weird, sometimes incomprehensible, but unique and unassailably amusing. This Wednesday at the Mercury Lounge, Marco and company bring their confounding mix of strange circus psychedelics to town. Be there, just don’t expect to understand much.

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