Musician Eamon Fogarty is somewhere in America, touring with his band in tow, when we speak on the phone. I mean to ask where he is, really, but we get wrapped up in conversation—about prog rock, DIY, the old days of punk rock and his salad days at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Fogarty's current tour is also his big move from New York City to Santa Barbara, California, where his girlfriend lives, so I know his time was precious. Still, I've been bumping his album Progressive Bedroom (out last year on Indiana label Joyful Noise Recording) practically nonstop since he sent it last week, ahead of his upcoming appearance at Zephyr Community Art Studio, and I can say without hesitation that Fogarty's got the goods.
A subtle yet comforting combination of proggy weirdness wrapped in an accessible pop 'n' guitar package, Bedroom is the kind of album that can phase from a pretty keyboard-laden instrumental intro like "Spannungsgesteuerter Nervenzusammenbruch" (don't ask us to pronounce it) to a soulfully groovin' bass line beneath Fogarty's Stephin Merritt-esque vocal work on a jam like "The Carrot" without feeling disjointed; if prog rock is the foundation, indie rock is built on top of that.
"[My] band in high school—we were really into progressive rock," Fogarty says, recalling a time in the early aughts when he eschewed the burgeoning and popular world of hardcore and screamo for weirdo bands like Can or Neu!, a time when he was developing his musical sensibilities. "We liked improvising and we liked writing our sort of Baroque song suites and instrumental freak-outs a la the first Pink Floyd albums, but it was a very insular period of musical development. Interacting with an audience didn't develop for us until later."
He'd go on to college at Middlebury to pursue environmental studies and nonfiction writing (journalism, Fogarty says, is for "people who have their shit together"—agree to disagree), a place where he'd also join the chorus and advance musically, picking up theory and better habits, opening his mind even further to the possibilities of classical music and jazz. After college, he went to work as as cheesemonger in New York City where, he says, "I was just trying to make music," but it wasn't until a fateful trip to Los Angeles that Progressive Bedroom really came together.
The musical aspects had been completed in a home studio in Catskill, New York—the instrumental tracks, overdubs and all—but Fogarty took his sweet time with vocals until a friend connected him with Psychic Temple mastermind Chris Schlarb in LA. They worked the vocals out quickly and Fogarty would eventually join Schlarb for a tour that subsequently led to his next album, nearly finished with the working title Blue Values. If Fogarty had enjoyed improv before, Schlarb's work in connecting him with more than 10 session musicians for the as-yet unreleased stuff brought it to another level.
"We only had two days. We almost didn't even rehearse half the time, but they were just bringing everything I could possibly want to the table," Fogarty says. "I could give them the vaguest instructions and they'd know exactly what I was talking about." It's unclear what the final product will sound like, but if Progressive Bedroom is any indication, it should expand on Fogarty's willingness to experiment with time and melody.
As for the title of Progressive Bedroom, Fogarty says it's a bit like a joke to himself. "It's my way of describing what I do because, for me, a lot of people these days might associate 'bedroom production' with a Mac DeMarco—someone who records everything in his bedroom," Fogarty explains. "But the first artist I associate with that is Elliott Smith, so it's kind of my way of starting to anticipate that question, 'What do you do?'"
Rest assured, Fogarty still plans to take full advantage of the professional studio world. He says he's learning more every day about what goes into making the albums he loves sound the way they do, even if he does have a background of home recording. Regardless, he's cultivated a lot of material and says the scope of a venue can dictate what he might play.
"Sometimes it's fun to just play something strummy. A folk song," he says. "I like to be adaptable. We'll figure it out."
Eamon Fogarty with Xanthe Alexis and Ry Warner:
8 pm Sunday Aug. 12. $5-$10.
Zephyr Community Art Studio,
1520 Center Drive, Ste. 2