by Helen M. Ryan
Blue October is a little more colorful lately. The hard rock musicians are glad to be making music and have a new album, “Approaching Normal“, set for release March 24, 2009. The emotionally-honest fivesome is already marking its territory on the music charts, and begin touring the U.S. this week.
While you might not know these boys from Texas, you may have heard their music. The group’s last album, 2006’s “Foiled,” was platinum plus-certified, due in no small part to the band’s deep, dark and heartfelt track, “Hate Me,” which ultimately reached the no. 2 spot on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart.
Their music has also apparently carried enough impact to motivate Stephenie Meyer, author of the best-selling “Twilight” books. Meyer has credited several of Blue October’s songs as providing inspiration for her while writing the popular book series.
One Bad Month Was All It Took
Blue October began life over a decade ago one October when singer-songwriter Justin Furstenfeld had a very bad month. He stated to Texas Music that “It’s like one of those months when you realize that you either have to change your act, get your shit together or you’re not going anywhere.” But to his credit, the young artist realized that it was “also a stepping stone. I knew I had to name this project after that.”
The band slowly grew in popularity. Their honest depictions of life set well with fans and they developed a loyal and passionate following. As luck would have it, Blue October was picked up early on by Universal Music, just to be dropped a few years later. Now back with Universal Motown Records, Blue October has been steadily making their presence known.
Joining Forces Creates Power Album
Their new studio album, “Approaching Normal”, is produced by multi-Grammy® award winner Steve Lillywhite, a powerhouse who has worked with U2, Peter Gabriel, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Morrissey. Their collaborative effort is already making inroads, moving up the charts while featuring a new side of the darkish band. The first single, “Dirt Room“, has an edgier, harder sound and demonstrates how the band has grown along the way. “Kangaroo Cry“, another release from the album, will be featured on the NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack, along with artists like Bob Dylan, Oasis, Seether, and Dashboard Confessional.
On the Road with New Tour
Blue October is kicking off their new tour this week, with stops in Los Angeles Saturday, March 21 at Club Nokia, and Anaheim on Sunday, March 22 at the House of Blues. Feeling less blue, the band of pseudo-brothers are reaching out as artists, and are excited for fans to hear the new spin on their sound.
Says drummer/backup vocalist Jeremy Furstenfeld, “Not that many people have heard our new album yet. It’s nice to put a new piece of art out there!”
Blue October is: Justin Furstenfeld, CB Hudson, Ryan Delahoussaye, Matt Noveskey and Jeremy Furstenfeld.
Read LA’s the Place’s interview with Jeremy below.
Words from the Band
Before hitting the road, Jeremy Furstenfeld, drummer and backup vocalist, spoke to LA’s the Place about life on the road, their new album and on being Blue October.
LA’s the Place: When you formed the band, how did you know you were the right mix for each other? Was there instant chemistry or did you have to work through differences early on?
Jeremy Furstenfeld: Well, Justin (lead singer/songwriter) and I are brothers. We lived in the same bedroom, so we had to learn how to deal with each other. This lineup has been together since about 2001. We all get along. Like family.
LATP: When did you know you wanted to do music?
JF: I didn’t know! I had no idea. I graduated high school, went to college. I was going to do the college thing, get a 40-hour a week job. I had lots of fun in college, but I had no idea why I was there. Then I began hanging out at Justin and Ryan’s rehearsals. They said, “You’ve got rhythm, why don’t you try to play drums?” So I did. I never had any idea that I wanted to be a musician.
LATP: Matt has said that one of the best parts of being in the band is being in studio and finalizing a song or an album, seeing it come to life. What, for you, is the best part?
JF: Making the record is great. For this album I loved sitting in control room, soaking up knowledge from Steve (Lillywhite)…being drawn into that creative state where you don’t even want to go outside. It was great.
But with the live aspect, there’s a mass of people singing the lyrics to your song passionately and that’s amazing. People come up to us all the time and talk to us about our music. With “Hate Me” Justin got a lot of, “Man, you really saved my life.” It seems like we are making a difference.
LATP: Your new album is a little different. It’s more of a collaboration?
JF: Justin is our main writer. He bring songs to us in form of acoustic guitar or keyboard. With Foiled he had a vision for the album, for the concept. The vision was already laid out and he brought it to us like that. With this one, he brought acoustic guitar, piano, lyrics, and we built around that.
We were able to do that with Steve Lillywhite in the driver’s seat as a producer. He really let us do what we do best. Steve gave us direction, but it was our ship to steer. We grew as musicians, as a band and artists. If you can’t grow into music, what’s really the point anymore? We had a great time with this one. So much fun.
LATP: Do you remember the moment when you suddenly realized, “We’re Blue October.”..when you realized that you had “made it”?
JF: It gets a little bit like that when you’re driving down the road and then you hear your song over and over again on a radio station. Not just once, but repeatedly. That’s kind of surreal. “Wow, I am in that band.” This week, the audience for our new cut, “Dirt Room” was 4.8 million. This week that many people have heard our band. That’s cool.
LATP: Were there moments you doubted yourselves as a band? That you wouldn’t be able to accomplish what you set out to?
JF: Early on, some days we packed houses of 500-1,000 in some towns, and then in other towns only 50 came. That was disheartening at times. But the fans were always so passionate, so loyal. They believed in us and our music. Fans make their own meaning out of our songs. Something special is happening when we are on stage, so it doesn’t matter how many people are at the venues. We just kept on doing it.
We were signed by a huge label early in our career, but got dropped quickly because we didn’t sell. We did our own thing for a long time, touring around aimlessly, playing, scraping by. Then we made another record with Brando Records in Dallas. Got a wonderful management team which we still have. We put out a record and Universal came around and picked us back up again. This (Approaching Normal) is our third record back with Universal.
LATP: How do you stay sane and grounded in the crazy and hectic world of music?
JF: Besides making the record we’ve been home for about a year with our families. We come back from the road with lives and families. We live two completely separate lives. (On the road) people are getting stuff for you. It’s a whole different way to live. Waking up to a different city, different place, visiting three or four radio stations before shows. I sleep really well on the bus, though.
We are lucky that we have families. My wife and I have been together for years. She’s the one who had the job and supported us while I wasn’t making anything.
Rock life is not always all people think it is. We had rehearsal space at a warehouse. Our landlord stopped by and said, “You guys have totally blown my image of rock stars. You get here early, you rehearse your music.” (laughs) And my wife does a lot of charity work.
There’s a lot of self-promotion needed now. It’s so much harder to sell records. It takes work.
LATP: Which artist that you admire, who has a very different sound from yours, would make the most interesting collaboration with you if it were possible?
JF: Justin would say Lil Wayne or 50 Cent. We would have a blast doing something like that. Mixed mash of hip hop. We actually did a hip hop song on one of our B sides. We like exploring other places and keep moving forward as musicians. My choice would be Ray LaMontagne from Massachusetts. He has a soulful voice. A young dude that sings from his heart. Totally like the kind of Americana meets Soul meets Motown. Reminds me of a caucasian Ray Charles that plays guitar.
LATP: How was touring in Europe different from touring in the U.S.?
JF: We spent 12 days in Europe and this was our first real European start, so it’s like starting over, over there. We did small venues but they filled up. We had support from Universal’s European arms (France, Germany, UK and Holland). We are opening up a whole new part of the world. Americans are pretty sheltered over here. When touring there, we tried to look past bullshit…to stop and smell the flowers. The Europeans really liked our music. Fans were passionate, singing every word. There was a young girl – maybe 13 or 14 – in front row at a show crying – passing out – holding on to other people. Reminded me of Elvis or the Beatles. Weird that they are freaking out about Blue October. Our new album releases in Europe at the same time as in the U.S.
LATP: In closing?
JF: Our new album is coming out March 24. It will be in every store and on iTunes. We are playing a show in LA on March 21 (Club Nokia).
For more information on Blue October, including tour dates, visit www.blueoctoberfan.com
Concert photography by Helen M. Ryan