One of Taiwan’s most exciting indie acts spoke to TRIN about their latest album, Serene Reminder
Words by Aldus Santos
Illustration by MC Galang
Listening to The Fur.’s Serene Reminder is like being swaddled in a blanket made of some great new material. You don’t know what that material is, but you’re just not in the mood to split hairs. Because, really, you only care about blankets (or anything at all) insofar as they work.
And this one really works.
Never mind that it wasn’t the first blanket they’ve spun or woven. Catching the band at this early peak—past the birthing pains of a debut, beyond the requisite tripping and stumbling (or slippin’ and slidin’)—is quite invigorating.
The songs on Serene Reminder are no baby steps; they’re more telling of a creative awakening: one that’s only possible by doing, and, yeah, doing over. The balancing rails are still there, but they may as well not be.
For the uninitiated, The Fur. is Taiwan indie’s best-kept secret, though The Rest is Noise believe that won’t be for long. They’re fiercely melodic and aurally adventurous, and most importantly, they’re able to put a spin on worn-out genre tropes with a rabid sense of purpose.
In short, despite The Fur.’s dime-a-dozen synth-pop (“Stay with Me”), agreeable folk-twee (“Julie,” “Planet of Love”), or sing-song alt-rock (“Friday Love”), one senses that they’re vigorous content-over-form people who can sniff out the right (correct) shoe for the right (not not-left) foot.
And they’re brilliant at it.
In “Serene,” the music crosses genre lines but doesn’t fail to be deliberate.
This record, their follow-up to the magnificent Town, is proof of that. Coming from humble beginnings dotted with borrowed gear and makeshift recording nooks, The Fur. was hell-bent on “upgrading in many aspects” for their sophomore outing, as they told TRIN over e-mail.
Foremost in that effort is standardizing the technical aspects of the creative work, including working at pro studio MoriSound and having producer Yuchain Wang helm the sessions. The band is particularly thrilled about the latter, and for good reason: Wang is a musician and studio whiz of note, famous for his wizardly touch on releases like Sunset Rollercoaster’s Cassa Nova (2018).
And he was nothing but sagely in his shepherding of Yoz and Zero.
With Wang’s guidance, the pair explored alternate voicings, nonstandard instrumentation, and unorthodox recording techniques. But, perhaps most curiously, it is a nonmusical admonition of Wang’s that stood out. “He reminded us a lot [to take] good care of our health, [because it is only when you] maintain a certain status of health [that you can] give the best performance,” they say, adding, “This might be the hardest part and the most important one.”
That’s a sensible attitude to have during a pandemic, of course. And it’s with that same spirit that the band continues to operate: with an eye for survival, sure, but also with a heart for community. In a self-penned description of Serene Reminder, in fact, they reference the current climate by calling the songs “memos in response to a year full of challenges and changes.”
“We’ve got more time to look inward and confront [our] feelings and [learn] how to digest them. We concluded that in [this album],” they add, speaking as well of themes such as going astray and facing mortality.
In Serene, the music crosses genre lines but doesn’t fail to be deliberate. There’s a dreamlike quality to the mixes, and an overall sense of reverie envelopes the material. Process-wise, The Fur. has also gone full-circle, explaining that while they had more personnel around for their debut, their work has always been anchored on Yoz’s writing and Zero’s arrangement work.
“Now we’re more [focused] on how [the] both of us could create for our fans,” the duo shares.
Above all, Serene Reminder is a collection of what may be tagged as personal truths set to a kind of universal language. Central to that, of course, is Yoz’s transparent and placid singing, a style that calls to mind everyone from legacy acts like Astrud Gilberto (on more laidback tunes) to next-gen game-changers like Mitski (whom she’s a huge fan of, gushing at how the Japanese-American singer “processes every word so carefully”).
Yoz’s comfort zone clearly resides within folk-rock-alternative confines, but it is when her tunes get the Zero treatment—with his penchant for various electrics, drum kits, and vintage synths—that they coalesce into aural feasts, almost like she’s the penciller, he’s the inker, and in the case of Serene at least, Wang is the colorist.
As pandemic-themed releases go, Serene is as good as it gets. It sees the band at the top of their imaginative powers, but also doesn’t shy away from being a shoulder to lean on.
A mini-tour of Taiwan is underway, but the band shares that everything is rendered up-in-the-air by present restrictions. “Luckily, audiences and organizers are normally very cooperative to suggestions [from] the government, and [that’s why] events [are allowed to] go on.”
Serene Reminder is out now via High Speed Spirit Studio.