Though Eleanor came to prominence recording with her brother Matthew as Fiery Furnaces in the early 2000s, she's recently proven capable of far more than just a family act. The husky-voiced singer's second solo release, Personal Record (Merge), features more of her introspective, literary singer-songwriter pop. Rich in narrative detail, the album has the warmly intimate charm of a campfire tale. A few days before Personal Record's June 4 release Friedberger spoke with SPIN about some of her favorite things.
Spiegeltents and Hideout
"I played in Sydney, Australia last year in a spiegeltent. It's a collapsible, mobile tent that was used for cabaret acts in Germany. It's very beautiful. They're mirrored — close to a circus tent but more elegant. That was very nice. There's also a very nice club in Chicago called The Hideout, which feels very much like what it's called. It's a backroom and feels very intimate."
Portlandia and "Dancing in the Dark"
"I did this tour with the show Portlandia. I was part of the house band. We were playing in big rock venues, and at the end of the show we'd do some of my songs and some covers. At our last show we covered the Bruce Springsteen song 'Dancing In the Dark.' That was one of those moments that on the surface sounds pretty corny, but when you're onstage it's pretty exciting. A lot of people got up onstage, danced and didn't want to get off the stage too."
World Within World
"One of my favorite memoirs is by the English poet Stephen Spender. He wrote a two-part autobiography, and it's set in the '30s and '40s. The first is called World Within World, which is a title I thought about stealing for the album, because it reminds me of the world these songs take place in."
"Recently I saw Goat at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. They're a Swedish psychedelic band — sort of Krautrock. They wear costumes so you can't see their faces. The guys in the band stand very stoically and straight, and there are two women singers dancing. It was a relentless sort of volume — very repetitive dance music although they're a rock band. Their album wasn't that exciting. But the show was really great."
"Visually, I had an idea for the Personal Record cover long before the album was finished. I have a friend who made an underwater film with me, Moses Berkman, and I knew he was the perfect person to do this. I wanted it to be underwater. For that cover, he was sitting at the bottom of a pool and looking up. We also took some pictures in a Rudolph Schindler house. My friend lived in one, in Silverlake, and we met at six in the morning, and took some photos there. It was pretty special."
Frank Lloyd Wright
"I'm from Oak Park, near Chicago, where Frank Lloyd Wright is from. Once I was driving and went past this gorgeous Lloyd house in town. I took a photo of it and put it on Instagram. The woman who lived there actually followed me on Instagram and commented on it. She invited me over, and gave me a tour of her house. It was gorgeous. There's the power of social media for you."