On Channel Four News singer songwriter Ezra Furman was recently referred to as the ‘Pied Piper of outcasts everywhere.’ He is a crossdressing, bisexual Jew from Chicago. For many years he had to hide these aspects of himself. He cites having to lie as a ‘source of alienation and anger, some of the stuff that’s come out in records I’ve made.’ Performing his song Cherry Lane for The Line of Best Fit, he perches against bulbous battleship grey plant pots. His compressed cobalt blue suit angular, conflicting with his cornflour sorrowful eyes. He winces and braces himself, as if picking the words with clenched jaw from thorns. His songs roses between teeth.
Having openly suffered from depression and anxiety, when asked why he chooses not to medicate himself he said. ‘I worry about shutting down a manic side that I depend on for creative energy. I guess I’m just not ready to get rid of the good side just to medicate away the bad side.’ With Ezras’ music, message is not only transmitted through his word choices and tone, his body becomes an instrument. He is David Attenboroughs’ chainsaw bird. A Lyre bird, mimicking sounds from the atmosphere – only they are not artificial they are ones of human emotion. He growls, he shrieks he howls, hums, pants and screams. His songs are effervescent. They may have differing tastes, but they all feel like a release – carbonated water, champagne, tonic, bitter paracetamol. They all fizz with honesty. Its headache music, hangover music a nightmarish blare. Explosive, carte blanche, galactic latitude. Thoughts wrenched from place that seem to come haemorrhaging onto the page, with a Pepto-Bismol splash. It is source pain and resolve all at once.
Sounds from an antique coin operated arcade. They whir, twang rattle, reach snapping point, blended with 60’s warm fruity melodies, uniform jazz and Ezras’ modern gravel song. Talking on the eclectic nature of his music, in an interview with Chicago Tunes, he responded ‘We can’t choose an aesthetic and stick to it – which I don’t think you should have to.’ The way that he shares his art, reinstates a strong desire to be completely unchained to any singular stereotype, or be held back by genre. ‘Being a punk seemed like a new set of rules that I wasn’t interested in having to follow. I was interested in total freedom.’ He names Lou Reed as a particular inspiration ‘A person who fitted no category, who defied limits and trends and definitions. Radically ambiguous and radically free. I decided I wanted to be the same way.’
His album covers see him against a barbwire background with a nose bleed. In a black dress, striped blazer with pinned corsage and signature red lipstick, against a wild blue of stretched ear lobe graffiti. He jokingly describes the album as ‘Rumoured to be deliciously blueberry-flavoured, as well as highly toxic.’ He is not afraid of exposure and expression, even if it is unashamedly taken from depression, confusion and frustration. ‘Got my tongue all caught in my throat. Trying to tell you I’m down.’ ‘And maybe God is a boy, kneeling…in dirty gardens. And taking bugs apart with his hands…Maybe God is a boy, in a social situation. And is trying to be tough like a man. Maybe God is a girl. When I’m in pain, in pain. And maybe God is a train.’ With titles such as I Wanna Destroy Myself, Hour of Deepest Need and Wobbly He says that ‘More than anything I want to try and show some solidarity with the downtrodden.’
I find Ezra to be most invigorating by how he doesn’t try to re-shape or romanticise his struggles, he sets them free. Which for me is the most unique attribute of his music, along with his quizzical carnival deliverance, it makes him a compelling, engaging siren. His music is resilient, elastic and animated, which despite the often severe topic makes it feel positive.
In a recent interview for SKIDDLE. COM, he was asked where the title for his new album Perpetual Motion People came from ‘It's the name of an old sheepdog my grandmother used to have. She said she'd pay me $6,000 to name the album after her former pet. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.’ His absurdity encourages us to not take life too seriously. When asked to ‘shed some light’ on his outfit choices for this summer’s upcoming performances, he responded. ‘I'm thinking a giant diaper and a bra made of seashells.’ It is unquestionable that Ezra Furman is an unmissable act, and an act not to be missed.
See him performing at the Port Elliot Festival- Saturday, The Park 22.15