Fanfarlo: Music For Book Lovers The members of Fanfarlo combine trumpets, violins, mandolins and cellos to create the deep, full sound on their debut album, Reservoir. There is a theme in their music — and in their approach to making it — of melding literary references with vintage instruments.
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Fanfarlo: Music For Book Lovers

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Fanfarlo: Music For Book Lovers

Fanfarlo: Music For Book Lovers

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GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

The obscure British writer Harold T. Wilkins was obsessed with the paranormal. He spent his life hunting for secret treasure and scanning the skies for flying saucers. Not surprisingly, few people these days remember him. But the London-based band Fanfarlo does, and on their new record, they pay homage to Wilkins in this song.

(Soundbite of song "Harold T. Wilkins, or How to Wait for a Very Long Time")

FANFARLO (Music Group): (Singing) You've been packing your bags for the tenth time. You've been up on the roof again. So you're biding your time, but it's all right. They're coming any week now...

RAZ: The five members of Fanfarlo combine trumpets, violins, mandolins and cellos to create the deep, full sound on their debut album called "Reservoir." The band was formed in 2006 by Swedish musician Simon Balthazar. And Simon Balthazar and violinist Cathy Lucas join me from London. Simon, Cathy, welcome to the program.

Mr. SIMON BALTHAZAR (Musician): Hello.

Ms. CATHY LUCAS (Violinist): Hi.

RAZ: This song that we're hearing, called "Harold T. Wilkins," it's about a man who spent much of his life studying evidence of ancient astronauts who visited Earth. How did you stumble on the story of Harold T. Wilkins?

Mr. BALTHAZAR: Well, I found a book - I mean, it's about flying saucers - in a charity shop. Yeah, it was from the �50s when it was, you know, still credible to actually call it flying saucers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: And I guess you chose him because he was this sort of oddball, in a sense. There's a line in the song: There was always a question hanging over you. And I guess that's sort of what it's about?

Mr. BALTHAZAR: Yeah, it's about sort of an outsider character, you know, waiting for something to happen.

(Soundbite of song "Harold T. Wilkins, or How to Wait for a Very Long Time")

RAZ: There is such a big sound in so many of these songs. It's a sound that kind of builds up in each track. And you hear it, you hear it very clearly on the song "The Walls Are Coming Down."

(Soundbite of song "The Walls Are Coming Down")

FANFARLO: (Singing) by one, the walls, the walls are coming down. The here and now is coming �round. It will someday let you down.

Mr. BALTHAZAR: We often have an idea of what we want to do with a particular song. You know, I think this song is a bit of, like, a marching band song, isn't it? We tend to sort of go crazy in the studio, as well. And I think with most of our songs, we'd stuck up at least 100-and-something channels. So - and, you know, I guess it's a combination...

RAZ: A hundred different channels?

Mr. BALTHAZAR: Yeah, yeah, I think at least.

Ms. LUCAS: Then we also tend to think in sections. So instead - we have one horn player, but we think about a horn section or a string section when we actually record.

RAZ: I'm interested to know about the name of your band, Fanfarlo. It's from another - yet another obscure literary work. It's the title of a book by the influential 19th century French critic Charles Baudelaire. Simon, why were you inspired by Baudelaire?

Mr. BALTHAZAR: I was reading Baudelaire and, you know, Verlaine, Rimbaud, French symbolists, and for me personally, it really ties into Beat poetry as well. I'm a big fan of Ginsberg. But it's more kind of reference to an interesting time and place more than a particular book.

RAZ: I mean, Baudelaire was this guy who sort of championed these Romantic artists of the time, Flaubert, Balzac and Victor Hugo and others. And I mean, this might be a bit of a leap here, but do you sort of see the kind of music you produce as sort of a Romantic type of music?

Ms. LUCAS: That's definitely what I like about the name. I feel like it really does suit the music. It has a kind of circus-y feel to it, maybe.

Mr. BALTHAZAR: I definitely think that, yeah. I mean, I think our music definitely has a romantic quality. And we're all, you know, we're all romantics at heart, although some of us more miserable than others.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

FANFARLO: (Singing) We can still afford...

RAZ: Cathy, how does the band sort of meld the music and the words? Do you, does Simon bring the music, the lyrics to you, and then you guys compose music around it, or does it work the other way around?

Ms. LUCAS: You know, we often do have the lyrics written out. But when we're writing together, I think we're following our tastes. And what comes out is quite lush and poppy, and often it's in contrast to lyrics that can be quite dark.

RAZ: I want to hear the second track on this record. It's called "Ghosts." But before we hear it, can you guys tell me about this song?

Mr. BALTHAZAR: Well, again, you know, "Ghosts" is - it's a story, and you know, it's a ghost story, as the name suggests. You know, the album is called "Reservoir." And it's a story about - essentially, a ghost story set by a reservoir. And it was - it's probably the oldest song in the album, as well. And I remember this time I went to this lake, this artificial lake in Finland, and you know, I was kind of talking to some people, some local people, and they were, you know, telling me all these, like, ghost stories about how, you know, there was a village that was flooded when the lake was created, and there was these ghost stories, and you know, people had drowned in it and all that, and I think that just kind of started me, I had a little phase where I was really just kind of interested in reservoirs and lakes, kind of mythology around that.

(Soundbite of song, "Ghosts")

FANFARLO: (Singing) There are ghosts by the reservoir, but no one wants them 'round no more.

RAZ: The song is called "Ghosts," and it's off the new album "Reservoir" by the band Fanfarlo. We spoke with Simon Balthazar, the lead singer, and Cathy Lucas, who plays violin. They joined me from London. Thanks so much to the both of you.

Mr. BALTHAZAR: Thank you.

Ms. LUCAS: Thank you.

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