Rachel Taylor Brown (photo by Rula Van Der Bergen)
Rachel Taylor Brown (photo by Rula Van Der Bergen)
Rachel Taylor Brown (photo by Rula Van Der Bergen)

Rachel Taylor Brown released her ninth album, Falimy, on May 6 on Penury Pop Records. Falimy and her six previous albums were recorded with her friend Jeff Stuart Saltzman (Menomena, Stephen Malkmus).  Per usual, most of it was done at Jeff’s house with the aid of his cats Ida & Franz and the pom, Gabe. 

Falimy is a natural successor to Brown’s previous albums, reflecting a continuing fascination with human behavior and her bemused (and frequently amused) struggle with it. She uses family as a framework to explore how we form and use groups to protect, comfort, identify and express ourselves in an often hostile and increasingly crowded world. She also openly wrestles with her own personal feelings about family.

Brown addresses the rise of the new cult of domesticity after the economic crash, the often insurmountable difficulties presented to those in a sick or dangerous family situation, the kind of family and love that saves, the historical exclusivity of virtually all families of religion, and the good and the bad that we can all, by turns, be to one another in the family of Man.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with her to discuss the new record.  This is what she said about it.

When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?

Huh. I’m not sure!  Probably around three years ago, but right up to recording, too. “Litany of the Family” I recorded pretty recently on my computer while slumped in a recliner at home. I was recording it as a scratch track but we ended up just using it. If you listen carefully at the end you can hear the tv in the background.

What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing?  Why was it so troublesome?

“Me Hurting You.”  I couldn’t get the vocal right. I’m usually fast with vocals and they’re my favorite part, but that song….   I also couldn’t get completely happy with the general vibe of the recording, even after mastering. So I ran into a local studio (The Magic Closet) at the last minute with the mix and stripped it and re-recorded stuff, mainly the bass and the vocals, which I finally felt better about. Then remixed and remastered. What a stomach ache!

Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?

Probably “Me Hurting You”. Agh!

Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?

Well, they were guests originally but now I consider them in my band. I don’t know if they know that…   Jeff Langston (Antony and the Johnsons) is mine now, far as I’m concerned. Ben Landsverk (Holcombe Waller and the Healers) has played with me a long time. Leigh Marble has his own thing going but has played with me as ‘guest’ now long enough that I claim him too. Thom Sullivan (The Pynnacles) did the drum outro on the first song. I don’t think I can claim him as I don’t know him so well. But John Stewart who played drums with me for years is playing the album release show, so I call dibs on him. Liz Savage plays drums on the album. Jeff Stuart Saltzman’s mom, Harriett, also guested as a singer on the album. And Lisa Stringfield (Ages and Ages). And my sister, Katie (Opera Theater Oregon). And a fabulous choir.

Who produced the record?  What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?

I produced the record with the help of Jeff Stuart Saltzman who I’ve recorded with for years. Jeff’s been an invaluable partner. He’s a great musician with great ideas and also knows so much about sound.  Like me, he has strong opinions about most things, which I value. Jeff’s a stickler about capturing and preserving real sounds. I still don’t know how he does it, but as a mixer he manages to keep the guts and thump of a recording while still bringing out the details in an unfussy way. He’s a real artist.

Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?

Yup–family, in all its forms. Family is everything, and anything that’s everything is dangerous. Especially when all this reverence and secrecy surrounds it.  Bad things can happen. The way people get about their families scares me–that territoriality and crazy pride. But on the other hand, my own family, at this point in my life, means more to me than anything. So I get that. I’m just very confused about it all. It was obviously on my brain, though, and that’s why the record happened.

Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?

Yes and no. Have played out most recently with a smaller group, so the smaller songs, yeah.  “Robin” always seems to get a strong reaction–people seem to gravitate toward it, which took me by surprise.

(Listen to her here: https://racheltaylorbrown.bandcamp.com/.)