Future Bible Heroes are a songwriting collaboration between Stephin Merritt (words and melodies) and Chris Ewen (instruments). They met in Boston over a decade ago, forming a bond through their mutual love of chanteuse Yma Sumac, composer John Cage, and the collecting of exotic instruments and Tiki art.
Future Bible Heroes is the fruitful product of Ewen’s exotic electro-pop instrumentation, replete with samples ranging from Hawaiian birds to computer printers, overlaid with Merritt’s exquisite pop songs and humorous lyrical style.
The band recently released their first album in 12 years called Partygoing. In addition to Stephin Merritt and Christopher Ewen, Magnetic Fields bandmate Claudia Gonson helped with vocal duties.
We got the opportunity to chat with Claudia about the new record, the band’s summer tour and their future plans! Check it out.
Future Bible Heroes recently released their first album since 2002. How does it feel? What makes this album special to you?
I really like this album- the songs are a bit sad, very lush, maybe a bit more world weary. They appear to revolve around death, drinking, and going to parties, as opposed to Stephin and Chris’s earlier preoccupation with robots, Tiki culture, and B sci-fi films. Vampires still appear on this album, as they have on many of Stephin’s albums. The new album also contains a lot of instructional songs, like “Drink Nothing But Champagne” and “Keep Your Children in a Coma”.
What was the songwriting process like for “Partygoing”?
The instrumental tracks are composed by Chris Ewen, and Stephin Merritt writes the lyrics and melodies. Chris composes many different instrumental ideas over the course of a year or so, and emails them to Stephin. Stephin goes through them and comes up with songs. Occasionally he requests that Chris modify a chord progression but generally he takes what Chris sends, and makes a song over it. This is how they have worked for years. For this album, there was a bit more discussion in advance, and so it had a bit more back and forth.
You’re currently on a summer tour, what are 3 things you have to bring with you on the road?
Music book, computer, 3 year old daughter.
Out of all the gigs you’ve played with the Future Bible Heroes, which show stands out as being the most memorable?
Having this young child has made me amnesiac, but I recall eating popcorn on stage at a Boston movie theater over a decade ago. It’s not a great idea to eat popcorn while singing.
What is your dream gig? Venue? Lineup?
Jeff Mangum started to approach it with his All Tomorrow’s Parties line up last year (Magnetic Fields played, which was an honor)– there was the Raincoats, and Young Marble Giants, and a lot of other amazing bands. Playing a gig with David Bowie would probably be my dream. I have had that dream, in fact. In terms of venues, I just love playing in San Francisco. I am actually here right now. Such a lovely town.
How do you connect with your audience?
I have always been the friendly face of The Magnetic Fields. It is not as important for me to do this service in Future Bible Heroes, as our touring band are all good natured and somewhat goofy, like me. I haven’t really figured out my ideal stage personality in this band. In TMF, I am the Gracie to Stephin’s George. But in this band, it may be that I should be more of the straight man. Or, in this case, woman.
Name 3 songs that you currently have on repeat.
Since I live with a nearly 3 year old, right now it’s “Vegetables” by the Beach Boys, and various tunes by Elizabeth Mitchell, Anna Padgett, and the Wiggleworms.
After the summer tour, what are the plans for Future Bible Heroes?
We don’t know. We are having a blast and it would be fun to keep touring. We don’t have any current plans.
Catch Future Bible Heroes play at the Black Cat this Friday, July 26! Grab your tickets below!