Mix Talks: Michael Feuerstack on Halifax Urban Folk Festival

Halifax Urban Folk Festival, or HUFF for short, kicks off in Halifax this weekend, running from August 25-31. This year the lineup features folk veterans such as Willie Nile, Alejandro Escovedo and Robyn Hitchcock along with a crop of rising stars in the folk scene.

On Monday, we posted our interview with Olympic Symphonium. Today, we get you up to speed with Michael Feuerstack, formerly known as Snailhouse. He headlines opening night of HUFF at the Carleton on Sunday, August 25. Feuerstack released the album Tambourine Death Bed earlier this year, his first album since ditching the Snailhouse name.

Mixtape Magazine: The name Snailhouse has been “retired” for a while now. Have people embraced the name change or has the old moniker been hard to shake?

Michael Feuerstack: I don’t know. I think people have been pretty easy going. It’s not like it was major international news or anything. Among those that know and follow what I do, there has been some minor disappointment, but for the most part people are encouraging and curious to see what it might mean in the long term. A lot of people will continue to think of me as Snailhouse, and that’s totally fine too. I’m not trying to reject what I’ve done before in any way.

MM: How do songs from Tambourine Death Bed featuring people such as Colin Stetson and Laurel Sprengelmeyer translate live when those artists aren’t playing with you?

MF: It’s interesting. Their contributions are huge on the recording, but for me the album versions are just one interpretation of the songs. I love the idea of playing with them constantly and always re-voicing the material. I’ve always enjoyed that, and that’s why it’s fun to play in differing line-ups from tour to tour. That said, on the rare occasions when we can perform the album as it was recorded, it’s an amazing experience. I’m still on a high from the launch shows we did in May.

MM: Has producing records for other people (example, Paper Beat Scissors) affected the way you approach your own music?

MF: Yes, for sure. I am perhaps a little more able to occasionally put on my ‘producer’s hat’ (which is actually just a beer-hat with straws) and listen with a new objectivity. I think I am able to remember the experience of producing other artists and step outside of myself to recognize some of my insecurities and neuroses – and either exploit them, confront them, or ignore them.

MM: What song or songs from the new album are your favourite to play live?

It totally depends on who’s playing with me, which I guess relates to what I was saying above. It also depends on the acoustics and the environment and the response of the audience and a million other little variables that can barely be detected or distinguished from one another. Every song has a time and place where is translates best.

MM: This past weekend you played at Arboretum Festival in Ottawa. Did you get to catch any other performances? Anybody in particular stick out?

MF:  Yes! It was such a great line-up. I loved Holy Fuck, Doldrums and a new young band from Belleville called Grime Kings. I also really enjoyed Claude Munson & the Storm Outside. I sat in with Sarah Neufeld, and watching her show from side-stage was a treat. Snowblink were great too.

MM: What are you up to after your Atlantic Canadian tour finishes up? 

Stay busy, stay happy. I’ll be doing a tour in Ontario with Michael Feuerstack/Paper Beat Scissors combo-pack, one-two punch in September. Then I’ll be hanging out and playing a few things at Pop Montreal, both my own music and some other folks. In October, I’m going to tour the West, the Yukon and the Prairies. And in November – there will be shows in old Europa – more on that as it draws closer.

I am also working on a fun collaborative record now, and that’s taking up all my “free” time.

Photo: Supplied, Scott DaRos

About Jonathan Briggins 71 Articles
Editor-in-chief of Mixtape magazine.

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