If you cool down the Fiery Furnaces – chill them out, feed them Ritalin, remove at least one of their touring percussionists, etc – then you'd essentially be left with a blues-rock bar band. You'd have an able-fingered guitarist, a commanding vocalist, and an organ player spitting out patterns of swirling Southern soul. You'd have lyrics that tell stories through repetition. "I am a crazy crane," they'd go. "I lost my true love in the rain." And then the lyrics would double back on themselves, repeating, just like they would in any old Muddy Waters tune. "I am a crazy crane. I lost my true love in the rain."
The Fiery Furnaces do have roots in blues music, which helps explain the band's constant comparisons to fellow brother-and-sister act The White Stripes. There's a catch, though: unlike ex-spouses Jack and Meg White, the Fiery Furnaces' blood lines are real. They are honest-to-God siblings, having been raised in the same environment by the same parents around the same time period. Their musical influences are shared. Their temperaments are alike. And because of this, they seem to always be on the same page, no matter how many experimental, 180-degree turns their music takes.
So here are the Fiery Furnaces, in all their combustible glory. Brother Matthew anchors the music with his guitar, while sister Eleanor confidently speak-sings like an urban slam poet. There are elements of blues, rock, pop, jam, polka, experimentalism, spoken word, performance art, and… actually, we'll stop trying to characterize a band that has built its name on an uncharacteristic sound. Watch, listen, and drink up every last drop of this Bitter Tea.
- Andrew Leahey
The Fiery Furnaces are an indie-rock family group, comprised of siblings Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger. The two grew up in Oak Park, IL, where they were raised by musical parents. After taking separate trips abroad, Matthew and Eleanor returned to Oak Park, began making music together, and eventually moved their experimental music project to Brooklyn.
Once settled, the Fiery Furnaces played their first gigs at Enid's, a cozy bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This was followed by tours supporting such acts as the French Kicks and Sleater-Kinney, and the Furnaces soon released debut album Gallowbird's Bark in fall 2003. This was followed by Blueberry Boat, which featured more than twenty different instruments and received a 9.6/10 rating for Pitchfork.
After releasing the mini-album EP in early 2005, the Fiery Furnaces got to work on their third full-length. Rehearsing My Choir was released that Fall and featured the siblings' grandmother. It was also their last album on the Rough Trade label. Bitter Tea, the Fiery Furnaces first release on Fat Possum Records and their fifth album to date, hit the internet in late February (via an illegal leak) and was released in stores on April 18th, 2006.