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Fen Fen: "Every Song on The New Album Clocks in Under Two Minutes and is on the Verge of Falling Apart"

Ahead of their first proper album National Threat, out May 3rd on Sweet Time Records (Wesley & The Boys, The Sleeveens, Satanic Togas), Fen Fen has shared with us today the music video to their latest single "Nothing to Say," a sub two-minute squirm of scuzzy mutant punk at its most demented. With the best new ugly sounds of the Motor City, we caught up with the band to talk all about the new song and the aim of making an old-school punk record that's loud and tough as hell.

PAPERFACE ZINE: What have you been listening to, reading, watching, or spending a lot of time doing?

LUKE: I'm in school for anesthesia nursing, so I've been cramming a lot of medical information in my brain and don't have room for much else. I try to feel more human by listening to loud, fast music (Dead Kennedys, Gee Tee, R.M.F.C.), but my taste is pretty all over the place and I've definitely been playing a lot of NEU! and Mulatu Astatke as well. I use my remaining brain cells watching a lot of horror and sci-fi movies/shows.

BEN: Summer is around the corner so naturally I've been spinning a lot of Kinks records at the bar I work at. Mostly I've been cramming in gobs of weird synth records (CV Vision, Traffik Island, YMO, Dick Hyman) oh and Pachyman! The new godfather of dub. All my free time is spent working on tunes in my studio or fixing up my motorcycle. I've been reading Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut and watching tons of B-horror movies on Night Flight when I go to bed. I've also been karaoking like a madman lately. I think I may need help. 

JOSH: Just finished book two of the Bloodsworn saga, by John Gwynne, some quality Norse inspired fantasy. Listening to a lot of Neil young and crazy horse, because we're all seeing him in a few weeks. 

JAKE: Hate to say it, but I've been watching a ton of Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. As for music, I've been religiously listening to the new Split System, Itchy & The Nits and PLEASANTS records.

PZ: Tell our readers about the origins of Fen Fen. How did you all meet and decide to start playing music together?

LUKE: Ben, Josh, and I met through other bands throughout the years. They started jamming on some punk songs with our friend Andrew Tamlyn which eventually became the songs "Insect," "Diplomacy Died," and "Abi." I was stoked when they asked me to sing on them because I've always wanted to be in a band like that and just go wild. We were only planning on having it as a recording project because I was going to move to Detroit. Thankfully, Josh and Ben decided to move out here as well and Jake ended up making the perfect edition.

BEN: Yea Josh, Luke, Andrew and I had all played together in some psych bands years ago (Heaters, Fyyrh) and we wanted to kick the Nasa ground control pedalboards to the curb and just play fuzzy power chords. Andrew departed just after we recorded the first EP and when I asked Jake if he wanted to fill in Andrew's shoes, he didn't need much convincing. 

JOSH: I wanted to go fast. 

JAKE: Ben and I have been friends for a while and when I met Luke and Josh I knew I wanted to play music with them.

PZ: What are the best things to do right now in the Motor City? Also who are some of your favorite bands in the scene currently?

JOSH: Amazing food everywhere. Favorite spot right now is Coriander. Sugar Tradition is definitely tops, Toeheads, and 208 are super great. MRKT is my favorite band to see live.  

JAKE: Go to Belle Isle and swim in the summer. There are too many great bands in the city to name, but I'd start with The Stools, 208, Shadow Show, Toeheads, Sugar Tradition, Day Residue, Werewolf Jones, MRKT, Briggance, and so many others, I could go on forever.

BEN: Eat shawarma, drink Strohs and catch our favorite bands at Outer Limits. Maybe check out the DIA every once in a while to stay cultured. 

LUKE: We're pretty new to Detroit (within two years) so I'm still learning a lot about the city and discovering all the awesome food/drink spots there are around town. My go-to activities are heading over to Belle Isle and working on my garden. The music scene here is well established and spans so many different genres that I'm still learning about new bands/musicians every day, and agree with what everyone already said above. 

PZ: What can you say about the making of your upcoming debut LP National Threat and when/where it was recorded?

BEN: We wanted to make a loud ass old school punk record. It was so heavy one of our chickens lost its life the first morning. RIP. Amps cranked all in the same room in our basement. Live vocals, warts and all. Minimal dubs. It made my life hell mixing but I'm still constantly geeking over how it sounds. One of our friends introduced us to Ryan Sweeney of Sweet Time last year and we were shocked when he said he would put this record out for us. He's the man and truly a pleasure to work with. And he's a kickass drummer! Can't say enough nice things about him. 

LUKE: I second that! Ryan is the man! The process of recording this album was really significant for me. I think it's rare in life to be able to separate from the outside world for a few days as a band in order to make something creative together. Several of the songs were written that weekend, and I think it made everything sound really cohesive overall. It was so fun I totally blew my voice out by the second day [laughs].

JOSH: It was really fun to take a few days and record everything. The driving back-and-forth from GR to DET alone, was not so great [laughs].

JAKE: Josh was still living in Grand Rapids (about two hours away) so we recorded it over a three-day weekend while he was in town. We came into the session with about nine or ten songs and wrote the last few while recording. Was an absolute blast and was loud as all hell.

PZ: What did you want to do differently this time around compared to the previous EP? What can fans expect from the 15 tracks here?

LUKE: The lyrics on these songs continue to reflect some of my personal observations on things going on around me; themes relating to politics, humanity, and generally just feeling like a freak. The vocals are a bit more frantic than the first album, which was maybe a reflection of how I was feeling at the time. I don't know if this is necessarily totally different from the intentions behind the first EP we put out, but I think I learned to lean into it a bit more.

BEN: The first EP I think was leaning more towards post-punk. A little nerdier with the riffs perhaps. When Jake came into the fold I feel like he added more old school rock 'n' roll mojo so we just kind of naturally transitioned into that territory. One of our old band mates gave us two free cases of energy drinks too so we were JACKED when we recorded this new record and you can tell!  Every song on the new album clocks in under two minutes and is on the verge of falling apart. I mixed the first EP live off an 8-track reel-to-reel and was crushing it through my old console while adjusting all the faders on the fly, and though I love being experimental I felt it was necessary to do all the mixing on my computer this time around and avoid the headache of not being able to tweak things after you go out and listen to it in your car. This time around I still used most of the same gear but it sounds a little more focused.  It’s still quite hairy though!

JOSH: Gotta make it faster than the last stuff ;).

JAKE: I can't really speak on differences since I wasn't there for the first EP sessions, but we wanted to ramp the energy up for sure.

PZ: We're premiering the video to the album's latest single "Nothing to Say." How exactly did this song come about and what were the inspirations for it?

JAKE: "Nothing To Say" was my first contribution in FEN FEN. The song was written around the bassline and the lyrics are inspired by the feeling you get when you're really frustrated and flustered and you get caught up in your own words.

LUKE: Jake wrote this one and I tried to change it and he said fuck off change 'em back. And he was right.

BEN: [Laughs] The song didn’t change much after Jake brought it to the band. It was already a hit!

JOSH: Jake's song rules!

PZ: The music video for your last single "Kill Your Parents" was totally unhinged in the best way. What can you say about the making for this new one?

LUKE: Both music videos were really fun to make! I upped my flailing game for the making of this one and it really fucked my back up. Afterward I couldn't leave the house or hardly walk for like two weeks. We had two different Brandon's working on this one and I think that really shows through in the quality of the finished product.

BEN: When in doubt get as many Brandon's as you can find. The shoot was a hoot! Brandon #1 (Fecteau) hooked us up with the green room and made a very solid and professional looking music video for us…. and then we asked Brandon #2 (Stacy) to make it look like Beat Club on trucker speed. 

JOSH: Super grateful to the Brandon's for helping get this one done. Both of those guys listened to the idea we had, and brought their own special, creative spin to things. Which is exactly what it needed. 

JAKE: Miming guitar in front of a green screen is way more fun than it sounds… and I think it sounds pretty fun

PZ: What are you looking forward to with your record release show next Saturday, April 27th?

LUKE: I'm stoked to play with all the bands on the bill. Womb Worm, Day Residue, and Timmy's Organism… I'd go just to see them play.

BEN: I'm looking forward to releasing this record in the same building that we played our first show together in Detroit. That's a real full circle sentimental gumbo we got cookin'. 

JOSH: I think what Ben said, is what I'm most stoked about as well. 

JAKE: I'm just excited to play with some great bands and hang out with my friends!

PZ: What else is on the horizon for Fen Fen this year?

LUKE: We have some great gigs after our Detroit release show. We're heading to Cincinnati with our friends in Sugar Tradition (May 3rd) and then Nashville with Wesley & The Boys (May 4th). Next album is already in the oven and Ben's working his secret sauce to fix 'er up.

BEN: 2024 is the year of the riff. The riffs are incessant. There is no escape!

JOSH: Another record… maybe. 

JAKE: Hitting some cities we haven't played yet and playing some local heaters with some bands we greatly admire!

National Threat is out May 3rd on Sweet Time Records. Pre-order the wax below.


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