It’s hard to believe that Orenda Fink has never played a show in Columbus as a solo artist, as the co-leader of Little Red Rocket or Azure Ray (both with Maria Taylor) or as a touring member of Rilo Kiley, but neither of us can remember a tour stop throughout the prolific singer/guitarist’s 20-year musical career.
On Monday night, Fink makes her Columbus debut, not at Ace of Cups (the title of the first song on her 2014 solo album, Blue Dream), but at Skully’s, with her husband/bandmate Todd Fink (The Faint) under the name Closeness opening for what promises to be on the interesting shows of 2018 – The Heart Bones (Har Mar Superstar and Sabrina Ellis of A Giant Dog) performing the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, cover to cover. Doors for the show, presented by Celebrity Etc., open at 7:30 and admission for this once-in-a-lifetime show is $20.
Plan to arrive early to the show to catch Closeness performing songs from their 2017 stunning, 6-song electro-pop EP, Personality Therapy.
I caught up with Orenda as she and Todd where en route from Milwaukee to Chicago just a few days after Thanksgiving. We pushed the interview back a few hours so the Finks could eat lunch with a friend so, of course, had to open the interview with a question about food.
What do you do in terms of eating when you’re on the road?
It’s probably a mixed bag. When it’s an option … like, we were just in Milwaukee with one of my best friends and he took us to this great vegan, gluten-free, health food place and that’s always amazing. I’ll do that if I have the opportunity but sometimes it’s gas station food. We’re pretty flexible, we try to eat healthy but we’ll eat anything if we’re hungry.
Laura Snapes tweeted that she would love to read a feature on tour laundry where questions like “Do musicians have multiple of the same outfit?”, “Do they launder clothes daily?” or “Do they wear the same thing every day and deal with the smell?” When you’ve been on longer tours, how do you handle laundry?
It’s the worst! Generally, when your socks and underwear run out, that’s when you have to either find a laundromat or go to Target and buy all new socks and underwear – I’ve done both many, many times. Your regular clothes you just wear everyday and don’t worry about the smell. That’s why even better that people don’t smoke indoors anymore because when you had to wear the same outfit every night for two weeks and you were in smoky clubs, man, it did not smell good.
We’re so far removed from being able to smoke in clubs that I had forgotten how awful it was as a non-smoker who would come home reeking of smoke. I’m so glad we don’t have to deal with that.
It’s so weird, every once in a while I’ll find myself in a place that still allows it and it feels so crazy but that’s the way it was every night for years and years. So weird how things can change so much.
Am I right in that Closeness isn’t an active touring band but, at least for the time being, mainly a studio project?
We haven’t been too active after the EP mainly because we kind of got busy some other projects but we’re going to start being active now. We’re working on a new EP when we get home from this tour and then we’ll do some touring.
I can’t decide whether the Har Mar Superstar & Sabrina Ellis tour that you’re on where they are covering the Dirty Dancing soundtrack is brilliant or completely absurd.
(laughs) Probably both! It’s amazing, they are knocking it out of the park. Everybody loves that soundtrack and nobody has thought about it in so long – or at least I haven’t. It’s pretty fun, you can just see how much fun everybody is having hearing these songs being played live.
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How did Closeness wind up on the bill?
We are old friends with Sean (Har Mar Superstar), he opened for The Faint in the old days, before anybody knew who he was. We just always kept in touch. We ran into him in Omaha when he was doing the Sam Cooke review and he brought up that he was doing this and asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, “Yeah, it sounds fun.”
While I’ve been a casual Gary Numan fan for a while, I finally had the chance to see him live for the first time this year. Listening to the Closeness EP, I feel like you’d be a great opening act for him. Are you a Gary Numan fan?
Todd’s a huge fan, he actually just saw him play. The Faint has talked about playing with him for years but for whatever reason, it’s never happened. But, I feel like Closeness could work too.
Because it’s just you and Todd on this tour, are the logistics any different than when you’re traveling with a band?
We’re in our Jeep, our regular car, so that’s nice. It’s easier to drive and better gas mileage than a van.
And because you’re married, it’s more like every day life rather than trying to manage relationships with people that you don’t spend a ton of time with.
It’s paradise. I mean, I love everybody that I tour with but they aren’t who you are married to and you have different eating habits and different things you like to do. Everybody has certain things that they really need. When you’re touring with five other people and you’re trying to manage everyone’s needs and wants, it becomes very stressful. For us, we have such a rhythm together and we generally want to do the same things.
You have a unique job in that when you’re on tour you are in a different city nearly every day for days, weeks, sometimes even months at a time. You’re playing in cities that you otherwise would never have the opportunity to visit. Does it every feel like a working vacation or does it feel like a job where you clock in every day but just at a different office?
With us it feels more like a work vacation because, like I said, the element of managing other bodies is not in it. That’s when it feels like work. But, without having to do that, it’s pretty fun. There’s the driving and logistics but we love playing. With me and Todd, it feels like a working vacation but generally though I wouldn’t say that across the board with most tours. Sometimes they can be really brutal.
When you’re not touring with Todd but touring with others, how would you describe your role? Are you the band mom? The cheerleader? The follower?
It depends on which group but mostly I’m like the band mom. There have been a few groups where there’s been more of a control freak than me and they overpower me and I’m like, “This is great! I didn’t even know this could happen.” I’ll just sit back and let it happen and it’s amazing. But, generally, I’m doing all the stuff. With Todd and I, we’re pretty equal – it’s just easier on that front because we tend to make the same kind of decisions.
As you mentioned earlier with how smoking in clubs has changed as have many, many other things, the way you promote your band and interact with fans has changed. How much do you use social media and do you feel like you have to use it to promote what you’re doing?
I hate social media, I wish it didn’t exist but it does. I probably don’t use it as much as I should because some people can use it really masterfully to promote. I appreciate that. I just do the bare minimum. I should do more but it hurts my soul.
It’s a weird thing as a fan. When I was growing up, rock stars had this sort of mystery to them, regardless of whether they were in an arena band or were a touring band playing small clubs. You saw them on stage and, maybe if you were lucky, could get an autograph as they left the venue. Now, I have musicians following me on Twitter, leaving comments on photos I’ve posted, etc. It sort of blows my mind.
As a fan, I’m totally fine with not knowing the artists and I kind of prefer it. I’d rather them be a mystery. As an artist, with that part of social media, I’m happy to connect with people. I don’t have a problem with that. What I don’t like is the kind of forced content where you feel like you have to prostitute yourself every day with some kind of image or a thought so that you can get ‘likes’ and comments and keep your stuff in peoples’ feeds. That, to me, is very dystopian and Black Mirror-like and that’s the part I don’t like.
I’ve been following you since Little Red Rocket. Closeness is a bit different than what I’m used to from your solo work or from Azure Ray. I hate asking questions about the writing process but did you go into it with Closeness writing the same way you go into writing material for other things?
We went into it with a different approach. We sat down and talked about it and talked about what our individual strengths are. And, what do I do better or what does he do better. Then we structured the writing process around that. He does the sonic palette and initial melody and I’ll take that and refine it and do the lyrics. Then we’ll come back and refine everything together and then make it into our sound. That’s not how I usually work. There have been different songs that have added a little different process for whatever reason. Like, I do a melody or he does the words. But, generally, that’s how we try to work it and I think it’s been working pretty well.
I think the Closeness material fits nicely into your catalog and gives fans a little something different than they may be used to.
Thanks. I feel like it’s going to be the future for me for a while. Closeness and Azure Ray are the projects I’m narrowing down to focus on.
While those are your focus, anything else you are working on or have on the back burner to pick up in 2019?
Just those two musically. I’ve been doing some writing, not sure exactly where I’m going with that – somewhat memoir, somewhat narrative, non-fiction. I’m thinking about some fiction too. I don’t know, I just like the idea of writing a book and I’m trying to figure out what that looks like for me. It’s a totally different process than making a record and I like that about it. It’s like using a different part of your brain.
You can say so much more with prose than you can a song because a song is a 3-minute poem. You can say a lot in it but a lot of it is deeply coated in a few words where in prose you can really open up and dive into these bigger thoughts.
Can you tell me more about the new Closeness EP that you’ll be working on once this tour is over?
I think we’re going to try to put it out in April. The idea is to have it done by February and put it out in April.