The project of songwriter Peter Wagner, the music of Furrows is a reflection of a life spent in constant motion, one where ideas of home and belonging are intangible desires, constant goals that always fall just out of reach. After growing up, “off the DC beltway”, his parents separated and a world of alternating homes led Peter to seek sanctuary in the one constant in his life, music. After pursuing that interest to the point where he was studying jazz guitar at Berkeley, he became disillusioned with the formality of the genre and set about pursuing the sounds he discovered in the wider music scene. The result is the debut Furrows album, Fisher King, an album made in the sprawling, almost abandoned building he now calls home in the city of Baltimore.
Fisher King opens with Capernaum, a stunning scene-setter for the album to come, Peter’s vocals reverberating and airy atop a backing of finger-picked guitars, rich strings and twinkling keyboards like the middle ground of Nick Drake and Sufjan Stevens. From there the record seems to almost drift by, a collection of songs that feel like you’re floating above the earth, watching events unfold, yet somehow disconnected, like Scrooge visited by the ghosts, watching his past, future and present rush by without being able to influence the scene he sees before him. Fisher King really hits its stride on the fabulous pair of tracks that close side-A. Grey Cities is an Ultimate Painting-like Autumnal shuffle, as Peter sets his memories of lost-love to a vast Americana-vista, while Burial adds a strutting lead-guitar that sits in gorgeous contrast to his questioning lyric, “I can’t see through to the other side”. The album’s second half has a slightly different feel to the first, starting with Mirrors, which pairs an easy Andy Shauf-like vocal with the percussive intensity of Hail To The Thief-era Radiohead. From there we’re greeted by arguably the record’s most compelling moment, Wasteland. The song is in Peter’s own words, “an attempt to work through the feelings of alienation that come from pursuing an artistic life in a society that only finds value in profit”, while it might never make Peter’s fortune, it’s the sort of fabulous statement of intent that’s worth is far beyond monetary. As the record comes to a close on the seven-minute-plus epic, Doldrums, it’s striking just how much impact it packs into its eight tracks, an album out of step with musical trends it feels like it could have existed anytime in the last half a century, listening to Fisher King feels like rediscovering an old favourite, a record with a depth of story and sound, an album ready to share something new with every fully deserving listen in the weeks, months and even years to come.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Furrows?
Furrows is me, Peter Wagner. I write and demo all the songs myself and play all the instruments (minus drums) on the records. I came up with the sound of Furrows during a period where I was living alone in this giant 19th century row-house in Baltimore, Maryland, and recording sketchy demos onto my Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. That said, I do have some close collaborators without whom it’s hard to imagine the music actually getting finished. My friend Sahil Ansari worked with me really intensively on producing and mixing this new record, Fisher King, and we did a lot of experimenting hunkered down together last winter during the peak of the COVID surge in the US. Also my close friends from the band Ginla have been really important collaborators: Jon Nellen, who plays drums on the record, and Joe Manzoli, who helped me produce the Low Waters EP.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I played my first show in this now-defunct (illegal) little DIY show space that my friends were running in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was such a wonderful space while it lasted, the kind of thing I’ve always wished there was more of in Brooklyn. The show was in the early winter and super intimate, with maybe like 40 people crammed into the room. I played solo and I remember people being totally quiet and listening intently. It was the first time I’d sung or played my own songs in front of a group of people, and I remember the intense sense of closeness and connection that I felt with the audience. It’s definitely a memory I conjure whenever I need to remind myself why I’m doing this.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I’ve always just liked to sing and play instruments. My mom is super musical, and I grew up singing songs with her and learning harmonies and such, so music has always just felt like a natural mode of communication to me. I also think there are elements of my internal life that I struggle to communicate and share with other people using language. I think music is often a way for me to share what feels like my real self with other people, unencumbered by language and social dynamics.
FTR: What can people expect from the Furrows live show?
Furrows will be playing a record-release show on October 18th at Elsewhere Space- Zone 1 in Brooklyn. It’s going to be with a full band, and we’re pretty much just going to play the record down. I’m really excited. The musicians in the band are incredible, and we’re going to try hard to really recreate the album live. I think there’s a lushness to the music, with all these layers of interlocking parts and psychedelic ambience, that will feel really immersive live. I’m planning to tour on the record next year too, either solo or with one other person. I’m working on new musical arrangements for the songs in that context, which will hopefully offer something different, if complimentary, to what’s on the record.
FTR: What’s next for Furrows?
It’s been a wild few months! In addition to getting everything in shape to release the record this fall, I’ve been working full-time as a bartender to help cover the costs of the record (not to mention buying food and having shelter and so on…). Once the record is out and in the world, I think I may head down to Baltimore for the winter to work on new songs and have a respite from the grind. I love New York, but I really struggle to write here. Baltimore is a more contemplative place for me, so I’m hoping to spend some time there, resting a bit and writing in preparation for recording more music. Then I’ll be touring pretty extensively throughout spring of 2022.
They Listen To…
Talk Talk – After The Flood
Nick Drake – Place To Be
Elliott Smith – Alphabet Town
Cate Le Bon – I’m A Dirty Attic
Daniel Rossen – Too Little Too Late
Fisher King is out October 15th. For more information on Furrows visit https://www.furrowsband.com/.