Close to a year after The Fontaines played their final show, half of the brother/sister duo, Hank Fontaine, is back with a show at the Troubadour and a handful of new singles ahead of a solo album. We chatted with the man about it all…
L.A. WEEKLY: Last time we spoke, you and your sis were preparing for the final Fontaines show — how did that all go? Do you miss it?
HANK FONTAINE: Playing with that band was fun, but I don’t really like to romanticize the past, or dwell on it too much. Not because I didn’t have a good time, but because I prefer to move forward. And no, I really don’t miss it at all. I enjoy playing my own music, and when the opportunity is right, I play guitar for other acts around Los Angeles (Communicant, Sorry and TwoLips are all acts that I’ve performed with in Los Angeles in the past few months). Usually I’m too busy freaking out over whatever I’m releasing next to think about the past very much. I also try to remember that I play rock music, I’m not curing cancer. The world goes on whether I’m releasing music or not, so I might as well just do it for myself.
Who are you working with on this new solo project? How does the sound differ to the band?
These songs were all recorded and produced by my friend Jason DeMayo (Street Joy). He also plays many of the instruments on the tracks — we made all of these recordings ourselves, other than having my friend Dylan Gardner (Communicant) play guitar on “Zebulon.” I love having autonomy in the writing and recording process. Not because I always have the right instinct, but because I feel more attached to the song that comes out the other end. My live band is comprised of Jason, Anna Carmela (of the band THRIFT), Dylan Gardner, his brother Mark Gardner, who builds effects pedals that people like Kim Gordon and Wilco use, and me. I think my songs sound a little rawer live. I was listening to ELO and ’70s Billy Joel when I made these songs, so I think they might be a little… showtune-ish sounding in some ways? But now that we’re rehearing for the show, they sound like a real rock band.
Any recorded music coming?
Yep! I’ve released four singles ahead of the show, beginning with “Bad Love” and ending with “Zebulon.” All these songs are about my experiences living in Frogtown, and thinking about globalization and how interconnected we all are. “Bad Love” was actually inspired by a girl cutting me off for a parking spot at the Trader Joe’s on Hyperion — I was like, “who does that? We live in a society.” “Zebulon” is about watching a guy have a midlife crisis at the bar/venue it’s named after — he didn’t say it, but I was getting the feeling he kind of resented his kid, because having a child prevented him from going out and partying more often. It’s not like I have a bad life in any way, and I’m not complaining when I write about these negative situations, but for some reason this year I really only felt like writing when I was in a bad mood. I love the lyrics of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” songs like that where a clear-cut story is told, and there’s details like the line about paintings from Sears. The day before my Troubadour show my debut record comes out! I’m very excited to release this — I have done very little in the past six to eight months besides recording these songs. I actually just moved out of Frogtown… but these songs are about the life I had living there.
What can we expect from this set?
I told the guy who designed my album art (Miles Wintner) that I wanted a piece based on the old school ride posters at Disneyland, and that sort of inspired what I’m doing for my set. I want it to feel like a simulator ride, and I’m going all out for the visuals with that. When I was a kid I wanted to be an Imagineer actually — I remember that I figured out the email address of a guy who did that for a living, and I emailed him, but I never heard back, so now I’m doing music, I guess. The band sounds great, too. I have only really legit people playing in the band, and they all have unique musical interests, and it all comes together in a cool way. This is actually our first show — really, my first show at all.
When it’s done, what else do you have coming up this year?
I’m planning to disappear for as long as humanly possible and write an album. And after that I’ll record it, and then tour it, and so on. But first, I’m gonna finish Frasier, cause it’s on Netflix. Right now I’m in season 9, and (spoiler) Daphne and Niles got together, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
Hank Fontaine plays with Cheridomingo, Joseph Luca and Serena Foster at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 at the Troubadour.