Her new album, "New View," asserts who she is away from the Brooklyn neighborhood that became an indie rock Mecca.
[Updated] Eleanor Friedberger is patient, but she clearly wants to walk back the line. In an interview she did with The Guardian, she told Hermione Hoby, “When I stand onstage I think I’m Neil Young.” When asked about the quote, she clearly feels overcommitted.
“I like other people more,” she says, but she is and has been a fan. The former member of Fiery Furnaces admires Young’s ability to be quiet and personal and loud and raging, and to control his career and what he lets out. “I have a lot of respect for him.”
As for the Neil Young onstage part, it’s not Neil exactly. “It’s a visualization thing,” Friedberger says, and thinking of Young and picturing him in her head affects the way she stands and carries herself onstage. “It could have been a number of people,” she qualifies, “but he’s pretty cool.”
Eleanor Friedberger plays the House of Blues’ Parish Thursday in support of her recent album, New View. The title is literal as the album is her first as someone who no longer lives in the Greenpoint neighborhood that she helped put on the map as a member of Fiery Furnaces. In 2013, she moved to New York’s Hudson Valley, no longer able to afford the rent. Once freed from her milieu, she and her band wintered in 2014-2015 in Los Angeles to flesh out the songs, test drive them, and prepare them for recording.
All of that took her out of her comfort zone, but she sounds more comfortable than at any point in her solo career. “I’m a better singer,” she says. While in Fiery Furnaces, her brother Matthew’s belief in the power of volume meant that she often didn’t hear herself very well. Time away from that has allowed her develop confidence in herself as a singer, so she enjoys it more.
Distance from indie rock days and the geography that was its epicenter seemingly freed Friedberger up to commit to songs in a way that the greats did when there was no modifier in front of rock—greats who clearly weigh on her mind. In an interview with Philip Cosores for Consequence of Sound, she says:
I want to sound like Fleetwood Mac. I want to sound like a real rock band, not an indie rock band. I want to be Roger Daltrey. Classic rock is still what I love most and want to emulate. I don’t want to be an indie rocker anymore.
You could hear nods in that direction in her previous albums, but an amateurish element crept in that always reminded you of her bona fides. Making that transition was clearly challenging because since 2000, Greenpoint and indie rock were central who she thought she was.
It could have been a different neighborhood in New York or Brooklyn, but I thought my identity was completely wrapped up in Greenpoint. That made it very scary to leave. That’s where I landed when I was 23 years old, and that’s where I tried to become a musician. I thought, out of that environment, I didn’t know how to operate. But is that really the case? It’s really hard to say.
There is something to be said about how that neighborhood changed. Now there are more record stores than anywhere in New York. There are more music venues, and it wasn’t the case when I first moved there. But it was a good place for me to grow up, and like so many other places—whatever happens after the artists get pushed out—I feel some sense of resentment-slash-good riddance.
Want to go? Buy your tickets through the links on this page and My Spilt Milk gets a piece of the action from Ticketmaster.
Updated 10:06 p.m.
The show is Thursday night, not Wednesday as first written. The text has been corrected.