Bands to Watch: The Fiery Furnaces

Who: Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, an actualbrother-sister duo, based in New York. The pair share a thornyhistory of physical altercations, but now merely barb each otherwith their wry wit. Eleanor, 27, claims her older brother’sdemeanor is genetic: “Our dad is very critical, sarcastic, andweird. Matt’s all of those things.” Matt, 31, retaliates byrevealing that his sister is guilty of college plagiarism andtelemarketing for the Republican party.

Sound like: On their debut, Gallowsbird’s Bark,Eleanor’s stripped-bare vocals anchor the duo’s frantic folk blues.While she tosses off peculiar lyrics about asthma attacks, strongwinds, and snaggleteeth, Matt provides psychedelic guitar noodling andzippy keyboards, conjuring a demented but lovely carnival.

The gloves come off:Will one Friedberger emerge as a sexy, breakout star? “Not me,” scoffsMatt. “I don’t want to seem like I represent the band,” says theoft-photographed Eleanor. “Because I’m the boss of the band!” says Matttriumphantly. Eleanor shoots him one of many looks of disgust.

Go, Granny, go! The Friedbergers say their secondalbum will feature duets between Eleanor and the siblings’ 80-year-oldgrandmother, Olga Sarantos, a church-choir director who once delicatelysuggested that Eleanor take singing lessons. “She’s the best musicianin the family,” says Matt. “She doesn’t get to write her own lyrics,but she can make suggestions.”


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