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In The Studio With MY BEST FIEND

Fred Coldwell is without doubt one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and this band he’s in–My Best fiend–one of New York’s better kept secrets. Have to go back a bit, I was still in art school and, through my roommate at the time, was introduced to a young Fred fresh into New York by way of Philadelphia. We lived a few blocks away from each other and he’d often be around. Not much going on, mostly just listening to mod soul classics and wasting away evenings. We lost touch when the roommate moved out. Then one night I happened upon what must have been one of MBF’s first shows. I remember being really happily surprised by their classic, elegantly, somehow less blotto Spacemen 3/VU songs and being stoked that Fred was getting up to good things. So, when we got wind they’d been in the studio working on something, we had to use the opportunity to reconnect and ask him about it.

all Photos by Jonathan Forsythe

THITH: You guys have been off making a record? Is it done now?

FRED COLDWELL: The record is done! I think… It can be hard to tell. You know how it is.

THITH: Yes. Yes I do. Especially if you’re working on things slowly and building things up It’s hard to know where things end. Did you feel over the course of making the album you got better at learning when it was time to stop working on something?

FC: Sometimes it just happens really easily. A track resolves itself in a very clear and definitive way and when you put the final pieces in it has an obvious sense of completion. That is a very beautiful thing. It feels like the song already existed in the ether and you just pulled it through the speakers.
Other times, however, it seems a particular song can be articulated in so many different ways and you’re searching for its true identity. Like figuring out the right palette for a painting. It is crucial to express certain songs in the right tone. Having the right vibe to a track is essential. And that takes time. And important decisions need to be made. Your artistic instincts start to dictate the shape and feeling of the final version of the song.

FC: I remember seeing this interview a couple years ago on the news with a kindergarten teacher who had just won an award in a competition of student paintings. When asked if she was just lucky enough to have a classroom full of Rembrandts or if she had some secret teaching technique, she replied that she just new the right moment to take the paintings away from the students. Like there is one moment in the development of an artwork when it is perfect and just needs to be left alone in all its glory. Like the final version is just a fragile moment left to itself.

THITH: Where do you end up working on the record?

FC: It was recorded at Vacation Island Studio in Brooklyn with the very talented and never grumpy Matt Boynton. We worked with Matt in the past and have a very good creative relationship with him.

THITH: Did you all approach this album as a single work or as a collection of songs?
Are there differences for you between working on individual tracks and an album?

FC: Some of the songs that will probably make the full length were recorded earlier. But I think we all approached it as a complete and coherent album. I think it’s somewhat unfortunate that the current market is so heavily focused on singles. I think a lot of magic can be lost when not hearing songs in the context of an album. By taking the time to listen to a entire album, it allows you to connect with the artist on a more intimate level, getting a more distinct picture of their purpose and identity.

THITH: Are there things you felt you could do on this album that are maybe departures from things you’ve tried before?

FC: We were lucky to have more time to experiment with things, try different versions of songs, experiment with different harmonies and sounds. we were also lucky enough to work with some very talented additional musicians (Shannon Funchess, Leah Cary, Anni Rossi, Danny Bensi, Sasha Vine and others) who devoted a lot of their time and considerable skills to the effort.

THITH: That’s hilarious. We just did a thing with Shannon. I didn’t know you knew her! What a stupidly small world. So, Yeah, Light Asylum is awesome… what else have you heard recently that was good?

FC: Black Ryder, ZaZa…

THITH: Have You started thinking about artwork and who will make it? We always have stacks of reference pictures of things we’re getting excited about. What Ideas in general have you guys been thinking of and talking about?

FC: Damian keeps a scrapbook of artwork ideas. I think. I feel like many of our influences come from things that aren’t necessarily music. Personally, I get inspired and motivated by paintings and sculptures, both contemporary and from old masters. I try to hit the Frick museum, the Met, NUE Galleries, and other galleries around town on a regular basis. The Frick in particular is one of my favorite spots in NY. It has an incredible collection of works from some of my most loved artists such as Whistler, Turner, and many Dutch and Flemish masters, among others. Also, I am a big admirer of Marcel Proust. it is impossible to overstate the influence that reading Proust has had on the way I look at the world and just about everything I do. After two years of pretty intense reading, I’ve finally finished the last book of “In Search of Lost time”. Proust has a unique genius and sensitivity to the world that is very rare. Anyone who’s spent time with his works knows what I’m talking about. And anyone who hasn’t may want to carve out some time in their life and check it out.

THITH: And in the end, what is the biggest thing you learnt making your LP?

FC: Stay healthy. Making a record is exhausting.

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