Eleanor Friedberger — one-half of the brother-sister duo Fiery Furnaces — has been busy ever since the band went on hiatus in 2011. Currently four solo albums deep, Eleanor released Rebound in May of this year — and it’s a gorgeous evolution of her sound. Written as a US expat in Greece, where she retreated after November of 2016, the album is named after an Athens disco; and the music would fit right in there, with romantic 80s-synth vibes tinged with undertones of melancholy. Lucky for us, she took her new sound to our Smith Street store last Thursday, kicking off our Dr. Martens Presents NYC tour with a 40-minute set played to a packed crowd. We caught up with Eleanor recently to talk about her love of playing in New York, the first show she ever went to, plus her first pair of Docs.
What’s unique about playing a show in NYC versus other cities?
I think New Yorkers are more spontaneous about going out. You might walk down the street and bump into a friend who’s going to a show and then tag along. That doesn’t really happen in other cities in the US. It keeps shows a little more lively and dangerous.
What do you hope people take away from your performances?
I hope people feel like they’re spending time with me and my brain. And getting the music a little bit differently than they would at home or in the car or on their treadmill. I try hard to make a live performance different from listening to a record by rearranging the songs so that it’s a unique experience.
What are you most excited about in your music right now? What’s working well? What are you looking forward to?
I’m playing with a bunch of new musicians; a new band for my US tour and yet another band for my European tour. It’s a little daunting to switch it up so much, but also really fun to see how different musicians interpret and reinterpret my songs. It keeps them changing and growing and just makes it all more alive. Now that the album has been out for a few months, I’m curious to see how the audiences react to songs they’ve been able to live with for a while.
Who did you see at your first music concert?
I used to watch my brother’s high school band practice in our basement when I was a kid; “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash over and over again. But my first real concert was Robert Plant at the Rosemont Horizon on the west side of Chicago when I was 13. I was obsessed with Led Zeppelin at the time and he had just started playing the old songs again.
What’s your fondest musical memory from the last year?
Playing shows in Athens last year with a group of Greek musicians who I had just met; they quickly felt like brothers and we got to play two shows that were polar opposite experiences. First at an abandoned hotel in the center of the city, with no heat, a makeshift stage, and bad sound and lights. About 1000 people were there and it was fabulous. Six months later we played at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, an incredible state of the art facility that houses the national opera. A “perfect” environment for music-making, with a small and very attentive seated audience that included my mother and Greek relatives. Both great!
Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens.
My first pair of Docs were classic lace-up cherry red boots. I bought them on my first trip to London when I was 15. My aunt took me to Kensington Market — THE place to buy Dr. Martens. (My dad is actually from outside of Northampton, not far from the Dr. Martens factory.) It was definitely on my list of things to do. I wish I still had them, but I have no idea where they went. Hopefully to a Goodwill and another teenage girl.