Photo: Courtesy of Ezra Furman
Photo: Courtesy of Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman is Excited About Lunch

Tomorrow, punk-ebullient artist Ezra Furman comes to U Street Music Hall with ex-Deerhunters and ex-Carnivores, Omni. Furman is still touring his 2018 record Transangelic Exodus, a work that rings of inspirations like Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen. However, his take on Americana is queer and it’s the good time we’ve been looking for.

Furman played a wild show at Rock & Roll Hotel last March, one of the funnest I’ve been to, so I jumped at the chance to talk to him, even if only via email. Furman was a fun pen pal though, and I got to ask him about his latest single, a cover of Vampire Weekend’sUnbelievers,” touring life and what excites him (SPOILERS: LUNCH! Also, Furman’s “Unbelievers” kicks the ass out of Vampire Weekend’s original. The difference is that you can tell he’s having a ball.)

On Tap: Tell me about this current tour. How long have you been on the road?
Ezra Furman: Technically this is day three of the tour. But to accurately answer this question, I have to tell you about how tours seem to run together. One ends and you begin preparing for the next one immediately. One begins and it seems like the last one never ended. This is day three of the tour, but also I have been touring for 12 years. It’s a ragged and beautiful tour. It’s a lot of work and often incredibly satisfying, especially in the evenings.

OT: Is the upcoming show the only one you’re going to play with Omni?
EF: No! We started on tour with them last night in Columbus, Ohio. They are playing all eight of these shows with us and I’m delighted about it because they are quite good.

OT: How did you get connected with Omni?
EF: Someone recommended them, can’t remember who. I’d heard of them but not heard their music. I loved it, they were down to do some shows together, and lo, a terrible beauty is born.

OT: Let’s talk about your latest release, because I didn’t see a Vampire Weekend cover coming. Why this song?
EF: First of all, because it’s a very good song from one of my favorite albums of the decade. Second of all, because it’s a song in dialogue with religion, which I am always in dialogue with. I have such a push and pull with my religion, Judaism. I love it so much and find it so fascinating, and also, it often bites, burns [and] rejects me. It’s an untrained dog made of fire. Sometimes I just feel like screaming about it, which this cover gave me the chance to do. Third of all, I could hear the punk song buried inside the Vampire Weekend version. I wanted to dig it up because lately I am persistently in the mood to play punk rock.

OT: Do you play covers often?
EF: Yes. I love playing great songs. Also, I think it helps a band become better – to have some standard of excellence, to study great songs, to see how they’re made and what makes them work. We’ve covered tons of artists: Beck, Kate Bush, the Velvet Underground, Arcade Fire, Little Richard, Madonna [and] more. It’s delicious.

OT: How do you incorporate covers into your practice?
EF: We rehearse them and create our own version and then we play them live. Once in a while we record them. We made an EP of covers a couple of years ago called Songs By Others. I think it’s only on vinyl – there might be CDs. It might not be online.

OT: Do know Vampire Weekend personally? Hear any feedback from them?
EF: My old band and I (Ezra Furman and the Harpoons) heard about them in 2007; they were a college band like us and we were talking about doing shows together. We were messaging on MySpace, I think. Anyways, they put out their first album and blew up so we never played with them. I met them briefly some time around then and we’ve sent some Twitter messages, but we don’t know each other. I heard they liked our cover.

OT: Are you working on any more music?
EF: Always. Been writing and recording punk songs. [It’s] very satisfying. I hope to show you them sometime.

OT: Let’s talk a little about DC. I saw you last time you were at Rock & Roll Hotel. Is there anything that you like to do while in town?
EF: We tend to blow in to town, sound check, have dinner and play music, and then blow on toward the next show. We don’t get a lot of time. But last time we had a night off. It was Shabbat, and I went to services and dinner at a great Jewish congregation called Sixth & I. I highly recommend it, if that’s your sort of thing or even if it might be.

OT: What have you got coming up that you’re excited about?
EF: I’m having lunch really soon and I’m so excited. I get excited about very mundane things sometimes. They’re just amazing.

Furman will be at U Street Music Hall Thursday, November 1 at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. Don’t miss the party. And don’t miss post-punk trio Omni either.

U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; 202-588-1889; www.ustreetmusichall.com

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Michael Loria

Michael Loria is a writer who focuses on art and music. For On Tap, his work includes a cover story on the Principal Conductor and Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Gianandrea Noseda, for the December 2017 print edition, and features like his interviews with Carla Bruni and with Thievery Corporation. Collectively, he's penned more than 40 clips for the magazine.