Concert preview: Fanfarlo lets its imagination run wild on Let’s Go Extinct

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From the April 10, 2014 edition

On Fanfarlo’s third full-length album, Let’s Go Extinct, the British quintet doesn’t shy from embracing big ideas, turning out ornate pop-rock tunes that touch on subjects like evolution, human consciousness and, on the title track, what might remain once our species is wiped off the planet.

“The world will go on without us,” sighs Simon Balthazar amid a whirl of orchestral strings and melancholic synthesizer, his resigned tone suggesting he’s actually quite OK with the outcome.

“I’m very preoccupied by these sorts of things in my everyday life,” said the frontman, reached by phone in early April on a tour stop in Kansas City, Missouri. “A friend of mine was accusing me of constantly being on acid — in a metaphorical way. But because these things are very much on my mind, it feels natural to include them. I don’t see why pop music can’t be a part of this whole dialog of philosophy and science and ideas about who we are and the ways we look at the world.”

This anything-goes approach tends to spill over into the music itself, and the frontman said the band entered recording sessions, which took place over the course of a month at a long-abandoned home in Wales, with “the enthusiasm of kids in a candy store.”

“All the elaborate arrangements and layering comes from … us just having a lot of different ideas we all very enthusiastically try to cram into a record,” he said. “There’ll be sampled sounds and synth sounds and lots of acoustic instruments and rock band instruments. It’s very far from the minimalist approach of just picking one guitar sound and one keyboard sound.”

Balthazar, who was born and raised in rural Sweden, developed his still-active imagination at a relatively young age, describing himself as a “daydream-y child” prone to flights of fancy — a trait he’s retained into adulthood. So even when the singer addresses scientific topics on the band’s latest, be it evolution on “Cell Song,” or species death on the title track, it’s done with a certain playfulness in mind. Of course, that hasn’t prevented the odd, evolution-related controversy from taking root.

“I don’t know if I’m jumping to conclusions here, but we played a show in Salt Lake City and it was strangely empty, and this was just after someone asked me about creationism in an interview and I kind of pooh-poohed it,” Balthazar said. “Evolution seems to be an established, very easily verifiable theory, and I don’t understand how that’s a controversial thing in the U.S. But it’s not like the whole record is about science. One of the points we’re trying to get across is … you can adopt a different perspective about everything.”

Photo courtesy of Fanfarlo