Fanfarlo: Orchestrated Glory
Fanfarlo is one of England’s best up-and-coming bands. Their debut album, “Reservoir,” is one of my favorite releases of 2009. Fanfarlo vocalist and songwriter, Simon Balthazar, wrote in about re-creating his band’s sound live, touring with Snow Patrol, and writing a song about a UFO-obsessed writer.

Your songs have an epic, soaring sound. How does your songwriting process work?
The songs on “Reservoir” are very lush and orchestrated. Did they
start off more stripped down?
For me, the arrangement of a song is integrated with the songwriting
most of the time. So the various parts that go into a song will often
be part of the original idea that we then flesh out as a band
together. Occassionally of course, we’ll completely rework songs. I
guess one thing about being a six piece is that you rarely come out
with a stripped down song, especially as we all love big arrangements.

What is the story behind titling your album “Reservoir?”
I was going through this obsession with lakes, and in particular with
artificial lakes. There are some many interesting aspects to the whole
idea of constructing a lake. Actually originally I wanted to make a
whole album about a reservoir but the only song that made it to the album from that idea is one of the older songs, which is called “Ghosts” and is a ghost story
about a reservoir.

You recorded your album in Connecticut. Why did you choose to record it there?
Our producer Peter Katis lives there and his studio is in his house.
It was an incredible time, and really good for the creative process to
be holed up like that with nothing else to distract you.

What was the first song written for the album?
Like I was saying probably “Ghosts”. It’s not the song I’m the
proudest of but it does encapsulate a lot of things we are about in
that it’s based on a layered, obtuse form of storytelling, and it’s
very orchestrated.

You released some tracks as singles before you released the album. Did
you record new versions for “Reservoir?”
Fire Escape and Harold T. Wilkins were both released as singles before
and the versions on the album are reworked versions of the same
recordings. It didn’t seem right to re-record them from scratch, and I
also really like how those songs were recorded in a warehouse space
and also had elements recorded in my house, like the vocals on

You wrote a song about writer Harold T. Wilkins. Why did you choose
him as a subject?
I found this random book of his about flying saucers in a charity
shop. It’s almost unreadable, it seems the ranting work of a crazy
person, and I just found the whole concept intriguing. It’s not a
biographical song, it’s just loosely derived from reading that book
and we stuck the name on there almost for fun I guess.

Do you have a favorite place to write lyrics?
I always write songs and lyrics in my head, and almost always whilst
I’m walking or cycling somewhere. But I type them out as well.

What inspired “Luna?”
Spending time in Berlin, books and films about life in East Berlin in
cold war times. There’s a couple of museums dedicated to what everyday
life was like back then. Both Luna and Comets for me are
claustrophobic portraits of how polarised, adverse political
conditions brings out paranoia and suspicion.

What was the first thing your family members said when they heard your album?
It’s great. But you can’t hear the lyrics! In fact that’s what a lot
of people say. I just don’t like enunciating that’s all. I’ve given in
and posted the lyrics on our website now…

You recently toured with Snow Patrol. Do you have a favorite memory
from that tour?
Dancing to Johnny Cash in a cheap skanky indie club in Birmingham.

Did you find it challenging to recreate the full sound of your record onstage?
Yes and no… it’s a lot more rewarding to play songs live most of the
time. But we definitely don’t make it easy for ourselves with our
arrangements, we have to swap instruments a lot onstage, between and
during songs. Oddly this reviewer recently seemed to think we were
just showboating and seemed to think there was something music
studenty about it. None of us are music students or virtuosos though,
we just have this tendency to make it difficult for ourselves.
Personally I think it’s rarely justified when bands stick to a
guitar-bass-drums lineup through an entire song, much less an entire

When you look back on the process of recording your debut album, what
will you remember the most?
Probably recording I’m A Pilot. We did an insane amount of layering of
odd percussion to create all the textures in that song. It was
incredibly to hear it growing as we went along. I also wrote a string
arrangement for it, which was a first for me. Then again, our 24 hour
diner breakfast and bowling combo in the early morning before we
started working, when were still jetlagged the first week, were pretty

For mor info on Fanfarlo, check out

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