Chris Farren recently announced his new Jay Som-produced album, Doom Singer, to early praise from the likes of NPR Music, Vulture, Billboard, Stereogum, Paste and more. Following lead singles ‘Cosmic Leash’ and ‘Bluish,’ Farren shares another taste of the record with ‘First Place.’
The song rules, but that wasn’t always the case. Take Chris’ word for it: “‘First Place’ used to be very different and I hated it, but Melina (Jay Som) said it was too good to not put on the record, so I figured out everything I hated about it (the old lyrics, mostly) and we changed it to the beautiful single you hear today. My friend Jeff Rosenstock plays saxophone on it.”
The song is accompanied by an amazing video directed by comedian, actress and writer Mitra Jouhari (Big Mouth). Jouhari said, “Chris went full method. It was really scary at first but ultimately so inspiring to see him dive so deep into his character (a singer named Chris Farren).”
Farren made his name recording with Jeff Rosenstock in Antarctigo Vespucci and now-defunct Floridian punk band Fake Problems, but all work under his own name has been created by Farren in self-described “miserable” isolation…until now. Doom Singer was produced, engineered and mixed by multi-instrumentalist/producer, and Jay Som mastermind Melina Duterte (who also performs on the record) in her Atwater Village studio. It was also written entirely with live drummer Frankie Impastato, and features Rosenstock on the occasional bass and saxophone. “Looking back on those records… I have no good memories of making them,” Farren says of his previous solo output. “It’s always been a lonely, doubt-ridden process.” This new, collaborative method breathes new life into Farren’s songs, which are huge, cathartic, catchy as hell, and inspired by what Farren describes as the “sixties-tinged girl group vibe.” And the result is as genuine, empathetic, and of course, funny, as Farren is, and though he claims nihilistic tendencies, it’s the dogged optimism that shines through.
Chris Farren UK Tour Dates 2023
Aug 29 – Exchange, Bristol, UK
Aug 30 – Yes Pink Room, Manchester, UK
Aug 31 – Hug & Pint, Glasgow, UK
Sep 01 – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, UK
Sep 02 – The Lexington, London, UK
Sep 03 – Le Pub, Newport, UK
Sep 04 – Port Mahon, Oxford, UK
Sep 05 – Hope & Ruin, Brighton, UK
Chris Farren – Doom Singer album tracklist:
2. All We Ever
3. Get Over U
4. Only U
5. Doom Singer
7. First Place
8. My Beauty
9. Cosmic Leash
10. Statue Song
More on Chris Farren and Doom Singer:
Ask Chris Farren how he feels when he finishes an album and he won’t hesitate to respond with: “Miserable. Miserable. Miserable.”
At least, that’s how it’s been over the years he’s been writing and recording solo. It’s surprising to hear this, knowing Farren’s reputation as a prolific songwriter. In 2014, Farren started releasing music under his own name all while continuing his project alongside Rosenstock, and his first album, Like a Gift From God or Whatever endeared him to fans of the now-defunct Fake Problems and new listeners who had yet to experience the delight of a new Chris Farren song. Like a Gift From God or Whatever was followed by Can’t Die and Farren’s Polyvinyl debut, Born Hot. Last year, Farren wrote what he describes as a soundtrack to a spy film he invented that will never be committed to film. Inspired by Marvin Gaye’s soundtrack to Trouble Man, Death Don’t Wait (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was a creative exercise, one Farren completed in mere months that stands apart from the extensive, at times arduous, process of making a Chris Farren album.
After releasing Born Hot in 2019, Farren knew he needed to make changes to the creative process, but he wasn’t yet sure how to. Enter Frankie Impastato, drummer of Macseal, who Farren met on tour and who became one of his dearest friends and confidants. He told Impastato about the misery, the barely-bigger-than-a-closet studio, the barren memory chest, and together they hatched a plan: they’d make Farren’s next album together. So, Farren got in touch with Melina Duterte (also, a Polyvinyl labelmate), who invited him by her studio where she’s collaborated with a steady stream of notable artists since first opening it in 2020. That’s where Doom Singer would be made.
“Looking back, I feel bad, because Melina brought me in to show me her space and was describing the gear to me and I was totally checked out,” Farren says. “I mean, the space is amazing, she’s super talented, but I told her: ‘I don’t care about any of this stuff. I just want to make a record with you and have fun. I want to make a record and have a good time.’”
Collaboration not only untethered Farren from his misery (fun was had) but also his overbearing need to control every aspect of the creative process. While on previous albums like 2019’s Born Hot or 2016’s Can’t Die Farren might’ve spent hours on end tweaking a single canned drumbeat, Impastato’s live drums offer a spontaneity that breathed new dimensionality into the Chris Farren project. He wanted this new effort to be “bombastic,” to sound like it could fill the immense negative space of an arena. “I wanted to open these songs up, make them less frenetic, and not feel the pressure to cram every moment,” he says. You hear that impulse on lead single ‘Cosmic Leash’, which opens with a wall of sound that careens to a halt, as Farren delivers his interlude over the slight strumming of a guitar. That sense of reprieve lasts only a moment, before the enormous chorus shreds through the silence as Farren wails: “Change your heart/ Wait your turn.”
Farren says Doom Singer communicates an “optimistic nihilism,” and that lyrically, he’s trying to embrace nuances inspired by films like TÁR and I’m Thinking of Ending Things. “In these movies, the truth of the narrative isn’t handed to you, and it’s not easy to figure out where your sympathies should lie,” he says. Against certainty, Doom Singer opens with a confession.
We’re made to believe aging makes you wiser, but as Farren has grown into the prodigious songwriter you hear on Doom Singer, he’s only grown less certain. “I’m constantly processing the way I feel about things, and I didn’t want any of these songs to sound sure of themselves, or to communicate any clear message,” he says.
Citing My Bloody Valentine, TV on the Radio, and Camera Obscura as clear influences, Farren says he can’t listen to much music until it’s time to make a new record, but when it’s time, he submerges himself in music that moves him. “I wrote between fifty and eighty songs for this album,” he says. The final cut is as genuine, empathetic, and of course, funny, as Farren is, and though he claims nihilistic tendencies, it’s the dogged optimism that endures.
“There will be struggle in everything. I’ll always be fighting with myself, and I need to find a certain peace with that,” he says, but on Doom Singer, Farren rejects closure, and he’s still seeking that sense of peace. Maybe we all are, whether we’re bold enough to sing about it or not.