Chris Farren is….well where to begin? The Fake Problems frontman has stepped out from behind the full band setting, such as many punk musicians have before him, and created quite a name for himself as a solo-artist by doing so. Farren’s latest EP “Where U Are” is a dreamy, synth-pop masterpiece that pulls from his more punk background. I had the chance to chat with him about a new Fake Problems record, DIY recording, and the hardships of being a punk rock celebrity at the Philadelphia stop of his tour alongside Dave Hause and Rocky Votolato. You can read the full interview below.
DS: First of all, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet up with me. I know it must be tough being a punk rock celebrity at all.
Chris Farren: Thank you, I appreciate you saying that.
Is it hard being so famous and looked up to?
It’s the hardest thing in the world, to be honest with you. I wake up stressed out and go to sleep stressed out. It’s a tortured life for me.
Ah, the life of a celebrity. All joking aside, you’re crazy busy with your solo project, Fake Problems, and you just released an album with Antarctigo Vespucci. It feels like you’re constantly releasing new music and touring. How do you keep it all straight?
I try to stay as organized as possible. I think to the detriment of my less organized friends, or my friends who are a little more spontaneous. I make lists of things to do every day. I feel bad for Jeff Rosenstock because I email him like three times a week with a list of questions I have. He’s super cool and we’re great friends, but it must get annoying at some point. But I have stuff I need to know and I gotta stay organized. Jeff calls it docket clearing. I do a lot of docket clearing.
You’re probably sick of this question, but Fake Problems… I know you guys played Pouzza Fest a few months ago, but it’s been a little bit since you guys have released new material..
Yeah, it’s been a while. We are putting out a 7” pretty soon. I think in August, if everything goes according to plan. We have the records. I’ve held them in my hands. They definitely exist, it’s just about figuring out how to get them out there.
You’re currently on tour with Dave Hause and Rocky Votolato, who are two amazing solo artists. And for your own music it seems like you’ve been shrugging off some of your punk roots and have been writing more indie-pop songs, for lack of a better descriptor. Was that a difficult transition for you?
No, I think I’m writing songs the way I always have but I’m framing them differently, I guess. When I’m writing songs for Fake Problems, a lot of those guys, and the bass player Derek especially, has his head more in the emo/punk side of things, and the drummer is more complex and has a super brilliant drummer mind. It’s all about taking my songs and putting them through different filters. Fake Problems is one kind of filter, Antarctigo Vespucci is my songs through Jeff’s filter and they come out as these huge power-pop songs. My songs, without a filter or through my own filter, come out a little more singer-songwritery or indie-pop, or just whatever I’m really into at the moment.
“Where U Are” was recorded on the road, and then finished back at your house in Florida. What were some pros and cons of doing it in transition?
I think the pro was that I had total creative freedom and that the con was that I had total creative freedom. I had to discipline myself and I had to make sure I was working. It’s hard to self motivate at times. I have a lot of trouble with that. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot more stuff DIY or on my own. I just feel like I kind of need to. I’m tired of asking permission from a lot of people. I realize that there’s a lot of things I can do on my own. I think a big thing was working with Jeff, because Rosenstock is a brilliant person and so self-contained. If he doesn’t know how to do something, he just learns how to do it. That sounds so simple, but I feel like for years if I didn’t know how to do something, I would just go ‘No, I don’t know how to do that and I will never know.” It’s just like, “You idiot! Just learn how to do it.” We’re all just people who learn how to do things. When I started thinking about that in terms of recording, I realized I’ve been paying people so much money to record me and I’ve never really been that happy with anything. To start doing it on my own and with Jeff, it’s been awesome.
And Brian Fallon was even included on the record. How did that go about?
Well we were on tour and I was rushing to finish that 7”. I ran out of time basically. I had to leave for tour to go to Australia with Gaslight Anthem. I opened for them in Australia, and that’s when I ended up recording a lot of my own vocals. Brian and I would hang out all day every day and would talk about songwriting and music and I would have him listen to some of my songs. I asked him if he would sing on that song and he said that he would love to. He said the song was too long, but that he would sing on it regardless.
Hause mentioned that you guys were doing this current tour sober, and I gather that you have been alcohol-free for some time now.
Yeah, I don’t drink
How did that idea for doing the tour without alcohol come up? Was it your influence, or more of a collective agreement?
It was a total coincidence. We all just aren’t drinking, independently of one another. I didn’t find out that Rocky doesn’t drink until a couple days before the tour and I didn’t find out Dave wasn’t drinking on this tour until the day of the tour. I haven’t drank in two years. It’s just kind of a coincidence, but it’s kind of awesome. I can handle it, but it does get annoying to be around drunk people when you’re not drunk.
Obviously you’re a big supporter of the use of social media, and you talked about it at a CMJ panel a bit ago. As an artist it’s really hard to not be on one platform or another. What do you think about the recent backlash of bands refusing to use the social media platforms that are available?
I mean, anyone can do anything they want to do. For me it’s always been a great tool and a great way of directly communicating with the people who like my music and come to my shows. I like to stay in touch with those people because they like my music and I like to play music to people who like it. -laughs- For me it’s as simple as that. If you feel like you have to do it, it’s not fun. But I have fun doing it. I’ve come up with ways to make me happy and entertain myself. I’ve always kind of looked at it as a way to have fun and “EXPRESS MYSELF”.
Anything to you’d like to add?
Well I’m getting married! It’s not really a career thing, but the new Antarctigo Vespucci record is out, and it’s my favorite record that I have worked on. I love it so much, and I am so proud of it.
Is that something you guys did DIY style?
We went to a studio and recorded the entire thing in a room that’s probably about half the size of this one. We record differently than apparently anyone else records. I’ll come to him with a demo that is not fully-formed and put it through his amazing brain. He’ll come up with brilliant ideas and we’ll record them to a fake drum beat. Once we have everything else done, we’ll record drums last. It’s crazy. Not many people do it. But when you listen to it you can’t tell. Ben Horowitz is such a fantastic drummer though. And the record is free at quote unquote.