Fixers: ‘I feel incredibly creative right now’
Oxford band Fixers write so many songs they used to give them away for free. Now they’re having to slow down a bit.
By Micheal Hann.
FIXERS are preoccupied by the passage of time: by their inability to keep pace with it, by the way their current situation – with an album recorded but half a year from release – leaves them stranded, by the way it can shape fates. “It could be,” suggests singer/keyboard player Jack Goldstein, “that the success of the most successful musicians could be down to the fact they move at the right pace.” He ponders one of his heroes, someone who never saw success in his own lifetime. “Arthur Russell is an incredible example of someone who moved so quickly that success was never going to see him.”
Goldstein and guitarist Roo Bhasin often return to the issue of music that is new to their fans already seeming old to the band. “Talking about the future, for us, is talking about the past,” Goldstein muses. “I feel incredibly creative right now, like making a bunch of songs, but I have to not think about when those songs are ever going to see the light of day, because we’ve just recorded a bunch of songs and they’re not going to see the light of day for another six months.”
It’s an odd situation for Fixers, who generated excitement by putting their music – lush, faintly psychedelic pop songs full of rich and sometimes unsettling harmony singing, reminiscent of Smile-era Beach Boys – on to the web for anyone to hear. Signing to a major label, Vertigo, put paid to that. “That’s one of the things we learned quite quickly after we signed,” Bhasin says, “that you can’t just do everything you want to do, when you want to do it. But that’s part of the responsibility that comes with signing to a label, any label.”
They have to find other ways, then, to keep people on their toes. That’s what they’ve managed with their new single, Swimmhaus Johannesburg, which eschews the sunshine pop for sleek and streamlined house. Does that mean the Brian Wilson sound was a red herring? “I like the way you use the term red herring,” Bhasin says with a smile. “It wasn’t meant to be that way, but we do want people to realise we’re not headed down one particular path.”
"I didn’t even think it was that different," Goldstein adds. "The people who have embraced us because of that Beach Boys thing – that’s fundamentally what we do. We’re not trying to push them away, but you do have to expose people to everything you want to do."
"It’s hard to do that before you have an album, because you’re just giving people little snippets," Bhasin says. "You want them to understand as much about you as they can, which is why we decided to put that out."
Fixers’ last single, the EP Here Comes 2001 So Let’s All Head for the Sun, fit more squarely into the Beach Boys template (and when it was released in the spring, Goldstein was already worrying about it being"very stale"). It was also a sign of Fixers’ restlessness – it was the culmination of a fascination with UFO religions and cults. “I always find it interesting when something’s really reviled and people don’t like it but they don’t really know anything about it,” Goldstein says. I always think: why is it so bad?” He picks up the example of Scientology. “I know why it’s so bad, because I went and found out about it,” he says. “We went to the Church of Scientology in Liverpool Street and it was pretty scary. We got put on an E-Meter – it’s like a cheap, plastic lie detector. They didn’t seem to work on me. I actually felt for the Scientology lady – she was falling flat on her face.”
Freshly selected as BBC Introducing’s Oxford Band Of The Year, psych-rock quintet Fixers first got together a couple of years ago, coming to prominence as part of local live collective Blessing Force, which also counts Chad Valley and Trophy Wife amongst its one-time affiliates. The band reconciled Beach Boys-style group harmonies with kaleidoscopic drifts of retro electronica on their debut EP, ‘Here Comes 2001 So Let’s All Head For The Sun’, which came out earlier this year. Now signed to Vertigo, the band’s latest single, ‘Swimmhaus Johannesburg’, is out now.
Aside from a slot supporting Crystal Fighters at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 14 Sep, Fixers’ next live appearance will be at the SWN Festival, which takes place in Cardiff on 20 Oct. With all that yet to come, frontman Jack Goldstein spent a few spare moments in the sparkling company of our Same Six Questions.
Q1 How did you start out making music? When I was a kid I used to do shows during lunch break at primary school, I’d stand on the step leading to the swimming pool changing rooms and I’d have a stab at a few songs. I couldn’t play my guitar but it naively sounded amazing in my head, the fact that no one watched me is testament to how much I must have sucked. Shortly after that I got bought a 4-track cassette recorder. I didn’t have a clue how to operate it and spent about two years just putting music tapes in it and using the EQ to make them phase weirdly.
Q2 What inspired your latest album? The process was so primal. We were recording for a month, and it didn’t feel natural to constrain ourselves to any preconceived notions. So the inspiration is quite literally the time we took to record, the environment we recorded in and the manner in which we drip fed ourselves parts of our regular lives whilst recording. It seems strange to me that many artists take this for granted, there is so much conceptualism in it. To put it within context, I don’t like the idea of going back and doing the same process again with a bunch of newer songs.
Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track? Our tracks don’t really have meanings, they are more about the relationship of words. We align lots of words which we think correlate well together. How our audience react to them is fascinating, if people conjure their own meanings then who’s to argue with them?
Q4 Which artists influence your work? Brian Wilson, Arthur Russell, Mark Leckey, Van Dyke Parks and Kate Bush.
Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time? You might not like it, I hope you do though. Don’t worry if you don’t, we won’t be offended.
Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future? I just don’t want to repeat too much. We have had some great experiences, which we’ve learned lots from, but I’d always like to try new ways of approaching things as opposed to simply revisiting the ways you nurture and become attuned to.