„Multibird is the Word“
Seth Faergolzia is a whimsical wrangler of beautiful chaos.
He is essentially genre-less and hard to categorize. Even he is beguiled by his open-minded, multi-pronged attack. His band ‚Multibird‘ consists of Dominic Marini on drums, Shaun Jones on guitar and Stan Martinelli on bass
Seth Faergolzia is a whimsical wrangler of beautiful chaos. He is essentially genre-less and hard to categorize. Even he is beguiled by his open-minded, multi-pronged attack.
The leader of 23 Psaegz, a loop painter (recording vocal loops while painting at the same time), a solo artist, and a disciple of the profoundly odd, Faergolzia added yet another tentacle to his toolbox to deal with a deluge of material and inspiration: Multibird, a free-wheeling, at times abstract rock quartet.
But before we go and try to understand Multibird, we have to understand Seth Faergolzia and how he compartmentalizes his various projects. 23 Psaegz is a large band (anywhere from nine to 19 members) that’s been going for roughly six or seven years in Rochester. „It was formed to perform and record my puppet opera,“ Faergolzia says. „And it sort of turned into a band.“
Multibird consists of 23 Psaegz’s members Dominic Marini on drums; guitarist Shaun Jones; and bassist Stan Martinelli. The two bands aren’t identical, but they mirror each other, especially when it comes to Faergolzia’s quirk.
„I think it started two years ago,“ Faergolzia says of Multibird. „It was sort of a side project for 23 Psaegz.“ Faergolzia had other projects that needed tending. He was working on a 100 songs project and wanted a band that better served his needs with a more straight-ahead rock ’n‘ roll aesthetic of bass, guitar, and drums.
„I just needed to churn them out, sort of,“ Faergolzia says. „So I wrote 100 songs in four months and produced 50 of them over the course of the following year. So I guess Multibird was like a recording team.“
RELATED The Pied Piper of Psaegz
There is a difference between the two endeavors: 23 Psaegz has somewhat of a revolving door policy, welcoming musicians of all disciplines and stripes — it has a five-piece wind section and a lot of singers — Multibird, though, is strictly a quartet.
Whereas 23 Psaegz is downright orchestral, Multibird is more of a tight rock band adhering to traditional instrumentation. But it’s the weirdness at the heart of it all that keeps you guessing. Multibird is a smirk’s mating call.
„Our bass player once described it as conventional instruments playing unconventional music,“ Faergolzia says.
Multibird has been in the studio, but it is currently in a holding pattern due to finances. The album’s been in the works for two years now, according to Faergolzia. Multibird has worked with John Kilgore Sound and Recording in New York City, Faergolzia says, „and we’ve also recorded here at Black Dog with Multibird and 23 Psaegz. It’s kind of like two albums in the works simultaneously.“
There is consistency in Faergolzia’s chaos and creativity. That’s because, the man knows what he wants. „I worked for an artist a long time ago, named Donald Baechler. He and I would sit and have conversations and he’d never make statements. He would only ask me questions. He asked me once, ‚Do you want to be a pop star or an art star?‘ I said, ‚Both.'“
And the man did just that — both — at the 2017 Rochester Fringe Festival, combining music as a sort of fractured doo wop by singing through a loop pedal, while he painting an abstract piece of art. You could see the music; you could hear the colors.
„I like all forms of art,“ Faergolzia says. „I like mixing them. I realized that whenever I was painting I was singing.“
Faergolzia just got back from a month-long solo Europe tour, and now, he says, he is dividing his time between Multibird in the studio and the puppet opera.
„My priority, now that this tour is over is putting up this puppet opera,“ he says. „And that is really an extensive project. I think I’m going to release it in two- or three-minute webisodes because it’s an hour and a half long.“
Though Faergolzia is the figurehead of these disparate sights and sounds — he sings with a dramatic epiglottal push that punctuates his plaintive tenor — he says quality is the one common thread he strives for. That and confounding his audience, like the fan that approached him in Germany a few weeks back.
„He said: ‚I’ve been coming to see you for 10 years and I still don’t get what you’re doing.'“ – City Newspaper
„Pied Piper of Psaegz – Cover Story“
If you have never heard of Seth Hebert-Faergolzia, don’t blame him. The Rochester-based musician claims to have played more than 150 concerts — solo or as part of a band — in town since moving here from Ithaca seven years ago. And his output of more than 20 albums since 1995 is steady, if not outright prolific.
The leader of freak-folk act, 23 Psaegz (pronounced Sages), Faergolzia hands over a „Keep Rochester Weird“ bumper sticker and a copy of his latest CD, „Doubting Won’t Do,“ when he and his bandmate, Laura Lee Jones, meet me in Boulder Coffee. It’s a warm early-autumn day, and Faergolzia is lightly dressed. His blue T-shirt has the word „coach“ imprinted across the back and it seems to reinforce his persona.
Besides being front man of 23 Psaegz, Seth Faergolzia is an artist and father, and was a member of the New York City anti-folk scene during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
click to enlarge
PHOTO BY BOB CIVIL
Photo by Bob Civil
You could say 23 Psaegz is not a typical band. The group was established in 2010 to perform a rock opera that involves animation and 8-foot-tall puppets. „I’m slowly recording it,“ Faergolzia says. „I’m making paintings of what the puppets will be; once I begin the animation, I’ll start building the puppets. I’m hoping we can get some funding somehow.“
Up to 22 individuals performed on and offstage at one time during a 23 Psaegz New Year’s Eve show at the Bug Jar. The group recently „slimmed down“ to a 10-piece patchwork orchestra consisting of Faergolzia (vocals, acoustic guitar, bass drum); Laura Lee Jones (cello, washboard); Brett Gobe (tuba); Payton Marovich (drums, banjo); Shaun Jones (electric guitar); Colleen Sedita (keyboards, glockenspiel); Reilly Taylor-Cook (bass); Jessica Breen (flute); Joyce Britton (saxophone); and Joseph Schmidlin (tabla).
„Being one of the 23 Psaegz has always felt like being a little kid in a huge colorful playground,“ Laura Lee Jones says. „It feels really good to be consciously engaging in creativity. The music is the anchor; Seth is the instigating captain; and we’re all rocking this crazy raft.“
A 23 Psaegz concert usually begins with only Faergolzia. He records his voice into a loop station several times before each song is performed to bolster his solo performance. The a cappella loop effect is open-ended, multilayered, and dense: It fills the space like a symphony but sometimes oscillates in unpredictable directions.
As the evening goes on, additional band members are called up onstage until everyone joins in. Songs vary in style, but imagine a local freak-folk equivalent of Talking Heads‘ „Stop Making Sense“ tour.
Occasionally, Faergolzia’s performances — no matter the band he’s performing with — become interactive with the audience members themselves. „There was a show in a church; we were rocking the house and then the police came, and said they would confiscate our instruments,“ he says, recalling a Berlin gig with his former band, Dufus, where the group and the crowd switched roles. „We taught this audience all the parts to a song. We performed the full song and as the audience was doing the final chorus, we continued to play but backed our way out of the church and let the doors swing shut behind us.“
click to enlarge
PHOTO BY BOB CIVIL
Photo by Bob Civil
Seth Hebert was born in Utica, and adopted the name Quankmeyer Faergolzia in 1999. „I had been in meditation with a work of art as my focus,“ he says. „In the midst of this meditation the words ‚Quankmeyer Faergolzia‘ came to me. I realized that was the name of my soul. I decided to adopt it as my public name as well.“ After about a year, Seth gave up the first part of the name but kept Faergolzia as his last name.
His parents, Ronald and Irene, encouraged Seth and his brother to develop their musical abilities. Seth’s first paid gig was at age 6 when he sang in a choir at Grace Episcopal Church. „My mother told me that I was matching pitches at age 1 — I’m not sure if that’s true or not,“ he says.
Ronald Hebert taught at a music camp near the shores of Canandaigua Lake where his son climbed the ladder from camper to instructor. Seth’s 2007 album, „Bristol Hills Camp Experimental Orchestra“ — released on Seattle-based Whprwhil Records — was based on his experiences there.
One of the album’s tunes, „Cuh-Nuh-Ew,“ is pleasant but sounds like band camp on Mars. It uses a composition technique called „add-ons,“ which strings together unrelated melodies like a necklace made out of different shaped beads.
Faergolzia went on to study music composition at SUNY Purchase, and formed the band Dufus in 1997. The band picked up momentum a year later when he relocated to Brooklyn.
The „Weirdo Beardcore“ collective — as described in the Village Voice — was known for its revolving door membership and included performers like Jeffrey Lewis, Kimya Dawson and Jack Dishel (of The Moldy Peaches), Imani Coppola, and Regina Spektor among its ranks.
„It was a random coming together of cool musicians with disparate styles,“ Faergolzia says.
Dufus became part of the anti-folk scene that initially centered around a club called Sidewalk Café in the East Village.
The band’s music was placed in a couple of anti-folk compilations, and as a result of The Moldy Peaches touring in Europe with The Strokes, a door was opened for Faergolzia and Dufus to tour overseas.
The first foreign tour Faergolzia did was with singer and guitarist Jeffrey Lewis and drummer Anders Griffen — the trio opened for Cornershop in the U.K.
„We had a tendency not to do the same thing,“ Lewis says in a phone interview with City. „Each night we tried to figure out what to do, what songs we should try. Within that experimentation there were a couple of nights that were great — Leeds was a killer set and Sheffield also. The audience practically rioted when our set was over.“
Dufus would also tour the U.K. a few months later, and the band hooked up with actor and musician Herbert Russell. Dufus and Russell were invited by French duo, Herman Düne, to perform with them on John Peel’s iconic BBC radio program.
„Between songs, Peel was doing an interview with Herman Düne and my friend Herbert was cracking jokes,“ Faergolzia says. „Peel got silently pissed off at us. I tried to contact him months later and his secretary wrote me back saying that ‚Mr. Peel would like to have nothing to do with you. Your session with Herman Düne was unacceptable.'“
Other international tours followed; Dufus performed in places including Bulgaria, Liechtenstein, and Macedonia.
Faergolzia went to Japan by himself in the summer of 2001 — he met musicians there that learned his material and accompanied him on a month-long tour — and returned to New York City right before September 11. He was living in a squat on Avenue C in lower Manhattan when the planes hit.
„I went upstairs and saw one of the buildings was burning. I was pretty surprised,“ he says. „I went downstairs and when I came back up the second one was burning. At night the winds would shift and smoke would come straight into our neighborhood. You couldn’t see across the street, that’s how thick it was.
„It was scary and crazy. Everybody was acting so weird. I had a backpack packed with all my stuff and a sleeping bag. I was ready to run to the hills.“
Faergolzia noticed that the tragedy had triggered a sense of paranoia among some of the residents of the abandoned property.
„They barred the door, there was no in or out. They had, all around the top rim of the building, buckets full of piss — ready if police came to oust us,“ he says.
The strains of living in a squat were apparent. But there were good times, too.
„I was at that time extremely prolific, not only with music but with painting and junk sculpture,“ he says.
It was during Faergolzia’s residency in New York City that his fiber art project, „Celibacy Pants,“ was displayed between two works by Jean-Michel Basquiat at a Soho gallery. It received a positive mention in The New York Times.
The singer-songwriter relocated to Ithaca in 2004 and eventually to Rochester in 2007.
It was here that Faergolzia closed the chapter on Dufus, after the group’s final album, „Eth,“ was released in 2010. If nothing else, Dufus‘ albums blazed a colorful trail of positive reviews in publications like the The Onion, Vice, and NME (U.K.). SPEX (Germany) called the group „kind and scary.“
„I’ve always dreamed of having a huge band,“ Faergolzia says, recalling the final Dufus show in New York City, which featured performances by Spektor and Dishel, among others. „The band was 30 people or more.“
That evening, Faergolzia played a solo acoustic song when the building’s fire alarm went off during his performance. The musicians and audience filed outside and the fire department came. Dufus finished its song „Fire“ on the street as the FDNY was leaving — but the audience applauded the firemen, instead of the band.
Mean spirits, bad luck, or the lack of a radio-hit probably conspired against Dufus and kept it away from a wider audience.
Faergolzia says his current band, 23 Psaegz, plans to focus more on local and regional shows in the foreseeable future.
„I’m trying to take a year off from touring,“ Faergolzia says with a hint of sadness. „I have a 7 year-old daughter and it’s hard for me to go away. Physically I’ve been getting sick almost every time I tour. I’m a struggling artist. I don’t want to do any other job; I hope I won’t have to.“
Faergolzia’s home studio is called Whenland. It reinforces his free-spirited approach — a comfy couch, Tibetan prayer flags hang among the microphones and instruments. A framed photo of Faergolzia and two other musicians from the New York Times‘ Arts & Entertainment section sits stuck way in back as if not to brag.
Faergolzia is planning on producing other artists here. For now, he is plenty busy with songwriting — he is working on a project that will bring to life 100 tunes by the end of the year. He has also created a subscription service for his fans that can be accessed on his soon-to-launch website, faergolzia.com.
„Seth’s music always takes me by surprise,“ says local alt-folk performer Hieronymus Bogs. „His songs force me to reconsider what music is and can do, and always leave me inspired.“
Recently, Faergolzia was working at Whenland when a song by Regina Spektor came up on his computer. He was listening on his studio monitors and heard something in the production that he liked, but had not heard before. He texted Spektor and told her that there was a beautiful delay in her voice that „made her sound angelic.“
„The last time we had a conversation face to face was when I met her son,“ Faergolzia says. „It was right before my tour in May. I was flying through New York. The next day I went to see her and Jack (Dishel) and their new baby boy. He was asleep when I got there. I almost missed my flight because he woke up as I was about to leave. I thought, awww, I gotta hang out with him a little bit.“
Like many performers Faergolzia connects with people on an emotional level. While his music can expand boundaries, he is basically down to earth. And the lyrics are generally positive as if he is writing songs for his own kid.
„It’s not just a band, it’s a community,“ says Mary Lupien, a 23 Psaegz fan, during a recent concert at Skylark Lounge. „There are shows at Seth’s house or at Meddlesome Lab (a local house concert venue). The sounds that Seth makes with his voice are impressive; all of the instruments coming together make a beautiful creation.“ – City Newspaper
„The Onion, Village Voice“
„Dufus plays frantic fever-dream folk slashed through with rock stabs. The band has ties to the local anti-folk scene, but Dufus exploitations are bigger and more ambitious than those of, say, the Moldy Peaches. It’s hard to think of a style not at least touched upon by Dufus, but the group’s woozy delirium somehow makes it sound more cohesive than it probably should.
“Like an encyclopedia of so-called outsider music condensed into a Downtown pagan mystery meeting. Dufus’s recent “1:3:1” is the most unironically anarchic album I’ve heard all year. As giddy and inventive as it is pissed off, it’s the 21st-century equivalent of the Fugs at their finest.”
Richard Gehr – Village Voice, NYC – The Onion, Village Voice
„Fringe Festival Day 10“
Fascinatingly quirky acid rock. – WXXI – Jeff Spevak
„Dufus played his final show inside & on the street w/ help from Regina Spektor, Moldy Peaches & more“
As promised Adam Green showed up to sing a tune with Dufus (Seth Faergolzia and band) at Cake Shop on Saturday night, but he wasn’t alone. Fellow Moldy Peach Jack Dishel also sang, and so did two other members of the defunct anti-folk band: Brent Cole and Toby Goodshank, who both also play in one of the opening bands, Berth Control. Kimya Dawson, who now spends most of her time on the other coast, was not in the house, but Regina Spektor was and she also sang a song as you can see in the pictures (it was two nights before she headlined a benefit for Daniel Cho at MHOW).
Olice Juice Music points out:
„3/4 of the way through the Dufus show [Saturday] night the fire alarm at Cakeshop got tripped (rumor has it due to some suspect smoke inhalating). Everyone had to evacuate the building while the fire department came and reset the alarm. But this could not stop the show! The band took it to the streets and proceeded to perform it’s appropriately entitled song Fireman. Luckily, it was just a brief intermission for this, truly epic, nearly 3 hour last Dufus performance.“
You can see the street scene in the pictures too, and luckily someone grabbed the fireman incident on video, real fireman pulling up included. You can watch it, with two other videos and more pictures from the show, below… – BrooklynVegan
„NME UK, SPEX Germany“
„Fourteen members strong and phenomenal live.“
New Musical Express (NME), UK
„Kind and Scary.“
SPEX, Germany – NME, SPEX
„Fringe Fest Brings Energy Downtown“
Seth Faergolia marveled at the scene before him Friday night: No empty seats at Bernunzio Uptown Music. “We played it last year,” he said of the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival, “and there were 10 people here. Look at this!”
His delightful band, 23 Psaegz (that’s pronounced “sages”), had something to do with the crowd. A 14-piece progressive hippie collective, with rock instrumentation, tuba, strings, water jug, washboard, cello and plenty o’ percussion, created a joyous cacophony of harmony. Faergolia is an energetic, wild-eyed, bearded frontman. A quirky, compelling vocal chameleon with show-tune folk originals like the inexplicably celebratory “Murder at the Bug Jar.” The Psaegz, your high school marching band, if the band director was Jerry Garcia. – Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
„New York Press, Stylus, Splendid“
“Tender calm and epiphanistic lyrics.”
New York Press
“Seth Faergolzia could be the poster boy for anti-folk.”
“I have never heard anything like this before or since.”
“I fucking dare you not to love this band.”
Splendid – New York Press, Stylus, Splendid
„New York Times & more“
“Things to look out for include Seth Faergolzia’s “Celibacy Pants,” which shows fiber art going punk.”
Roberta Smith, New York Times
“They’re making this wonderful, wonderful noise, pure song-making without the baggage of clichés. How compelling, in these unromantic, unreal hollow days of packaged ‘extremes’ and punk rock boy bands. We need romantic, real-world dreamers like this. We need DUFUS.”
Organ Magazine, UK
“How to describe this stuff? Sort of like a marching band made out of acoustic guitars and monsters from the Muppet Show, their songs are largely about noise, chaos and incoherence, i mean – and it pains me to say – they really, really rock. There is a raw energy here the likes of which you rarely see anywhere. And…a close listen reveals substantial musical ability and craftsmanship. Dammit. Dammit!”
Ghetto Blaster Magazine
„Incredibly uplifting circus tunes.“
–Tokion – NYT, Organ. Ghetto Blaster, Tokion
„National Student Newspaper, UK“
„Rightly respected as one of the most prolific, original and influential bands to emerge from the anti-folk scene and in their ten years of being have been criminally ignored by wider audiences…Bands like Dufus are essential within the rock music spectrum to keep complacency and mediocrity well in its place.“
-National Student Newspaper – Mary Boyd, NSN
“Cartoonishly elastic and spastic vocals are the love-‚em-or-hate-‚em main attraction at this freakshow, but the double-take they demand also reveals whip-smart pop song writing, intricately clever wordplay, and a truly talented band as tight and precise as they are loose and stylistically wide-ranging.”
Brad Stark – KUSF/MTV San Francisco
“This is folk rock twisted and distorted into compelling new structures.”
“The unquenchable enthusiasm and daring of its delivery is enough to give you an aesthetic awakening.”
Jambands.com – MTV, Relix, Jambands.com
Dufus creates rock from a different place than anything on the scene today. Dramatically different song structures with more elements than a Phil Spector recording of the mid-sixties. The sound is reminiscent at times of 70’s European groups, Gong and Faust as well as Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. With a name like Dufus the sound would have to be unique or these folks would be nothing but a bunch of… oh well you get the idea. – Curtis Hawkins
„Audio Outliers: Rediscovering Recent Gems in Experimental Music“
Eth, released in September 2010 after ten full-length albums and more than a decade of music-making, sounds every bit the final bow for the itinerant freak-folk band Dufus. And yet in many ways, it is characterized by what it is not: Gone is the non-stop aggressive din of 2002’s1:3:1, the frantically earnest vocals of Ball of Design from 2004, the robust yet unadorned instrumentation of In Monstrous Attitude (2009).
Dufus’s Maestro Seth Faergolzia’s singularly spastic-elastic vocals are still ever-present–buttressed by vertiginous instrumental runs that seem to purposefully meander–but are now filtered through chamber pop that is above all characterized by a somber restraint. Eth finds the eccentric frontman’s timbre comparatively more sedated, which keeps the quirky instrumental arrangements from being overshadowed. And while this imbues certain musical elements with a welcome visibility, this decidedly more staid approach seems at odds with the band’s brilliant ability to cultivate eccentricity at will. „Life Is Empty“ gives us Faergolzia in full folk troubadour mode, while „Gracious Host“ is a kind of pseudo-tango–both lacking the panache of singularity that is quintessential Dufus.
The record is at its best when employing the focused, uncluttered arrangements in service of Faergolzia’s colorful vocal mania, and the most poignant moments come in bunches. First is the one-two punch of „Silence“ and „Dastard,“ which benefits from an innate sense of gorgeous melodic phrasing, buoyed by economical yet punchy brass lines. In the second half of the album, „Bcuz“ is a brilliant confluence of zany pointillist melodies, swelling choruses and clever brass licks. The subsequent „Purple Baby“ features wonderfully engaging interplay between vocalist and choir, before an ensuing storm of raucous rhythmic instability eventually settles into a concise and contagious waltz-like chorus. – Huffington Post
„Like Johnny Cash on 5 double-espressos“ – DIE RHEINPFALZ