It's a brand-new month on the cusp of a new season, so let's try something new in the Setlist. Rather than fill your head with information about some weird thing I'm reading, a new obsession I've developed, doom-filled mutterings about incoming degrading horrors from our broken government or an overwrought story about personal hardships, how about an interview? Faun Fables is an innovative and influential neo-folk act whose origins go back a quarter of a century to a brainchild of creator Dawn McCarthy. Along with her partner Nils Frykdahl, she has created a tome of music as beautiful as it is challenging, inviting the listener to visit a world in which songs create living spirits and theatricality becomes as serious and playful as life itself. I interviewed McCarthy and Frykdahl ahead of their upcoming show at Synapsis on Thursday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m. ($15-$24). Local acts Die Geister Beschwören and Bosporus open the evening with a complementary blend of sympathetic weirdness. I enjoyed the rapport in this interview and hope that you, dear reader, get a kick out of it, too. See you in the shade of the marquee.
NCJ: Can you talk briefly about the genesis of Faun Fables and when Frykdahl joined?
McCarthy: I had used the words Faun + Fables before, years before when I was focusing more on illustration and little comics. Somehow incorporating the feeling of stories was always important to me ... so when Nils and I met up and started working together, pretty much right away, he had his rock bands, but the work with me took more shape and could become Faun Fables. I've had other collaborators in Faun Fables briefly over the years, especially when Nils was very busy with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, but it always settled back into being the two of us at the core.
Frykdahl: Upon hearing Dawn's demo cassette, I knew I had work to do and I'm still doing it.
NCJ: Is this your first tour since the pandemic?
McCarthy: It is our first real showbiz since the pandemic and although we haven't started it yet — Eureka is our first show, actually — it feels amazing just to even have it there waiting in the near future.
NCJ: Have you played in the area before?
Frykdahl: Actually, the little coastal hamlet of Petrolia has been a home away from home for me since I was 18, with my long-time musical collaborator Dan Rathbun having grown up there. Faun Fables has played at the Mattole Valley Community Center more times than I can remember and to the widest possible age-spread from babies to ancients. We've also played in the bustling metropolis of Eureka — we actually performed our mobile rock opera The Transit Rider here in 2006.
NCJ: Do you have any plans for a new full-length album in the near future? Are you writing or recording?
Frykdahl: Yes, we're well into our next album, but thrilled to be hitting the road whether the album is done or not. Such is the state of things!
NCJ: What material are you drawing from for your current live setlist?
McCarthy: We have a large amount of songs to consider, at this point it feels like it's all quite new! But we are reaching deeper into our catalog than we have in many years, so that means that we are having to relearn songs. We are also doing a selection of songs that honor the music that kept our family in good company during all the social quarantining.
Frykdahl: We are meeting ourselves of many years ago for some of the songs and it seems like we were having a pretty good time.
NCJ: You have worked with multimedia stagecraft in your performances before. What can the audience expect for this show?
McCarthy: Not much multimedia on this tour but we have a kind of daughter chorus-ensemble joining us for some of the show, and that's something we're very excited about.
Frykdahl: Wind, a powerful wind of retribution.
It's the first Friday of June, the beginning of the end of spring and the countdown to summer. Many of us are making our summer travel plans but if travel is outside of your current grasp, fear not: The Siren's Song is putting on a free trip tonight at 8 p.m. What kind of trip? Why, Trip to Oz, a multimedia presentation of footage of the world's only single-state continent with a psychedelic performance of looped percussion provided by Oz the Natural Noizemaker. Vocals and guitar will be handled by the mononymous Trip.
I caught late word that my featured show this week has been canceled, so assuming you are not living it up in the streets of Eureka for Arts Alive, I suggest heading a little farther south to Ferndale. There, at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre at 8 p.m., you can catch a showing of everyone's favorite cult musical, The Rocky Horror Show ($18). And, while I'm more of a Phantom of the Paradise guy myself, it's always good to support local theatrical productions.
True Life Trio is a Bay Area group of three women who sing harmonies, both a cappella and accompanied by accordion, fiddle, guitar and percussion. The music they play is essentially world music, drawing from the global songbook with selections heavily favoring the folk traditions of Eastern Europe and the American South. This evening at 7 p.m., the ladies will be holding court in the big top circus tent outside the Arcata Playhouse, a perfect venue for this type of thing ($15).
The Siren's Song is yet again filling a gap in what would otherwise be a sleepy Monday night in the north end of the 707. Los Angeles indie rock duo Jaklen Ro plays a sweet, strummy sort of music trading in the kinder and brighter sides of the human experience at 10 p.m. ($8). I really enjoyed the song "Life With You," featuring the delightful line: "Life with you is a dream, darling, save me from waking." Tonight the band joins local favorites Clean Girl and the Dirty Dishes and newcomers Think Tank for a show that is absolutely guaranteed to make you clap your hands and say, "Yeah."
OK, another show at the Siren's Song but this one is completely unlike last night's fare. Drift is an act from the City of Angels that styles itself as the next big thing in the world of epic, rave-adjacent, techno metal. The costumes are reminiscent of '90s arena bands Rammstein and Mushroomhead. The music is enervating and keyboard-driven, with a surprising number of sonic nods to '80s power bands like Europe. If you want to see a spectacle, come over to the club at 8 p.m. with a ten-spot in hand.
In a classic episode of The Simpsons from that bygone era when the show was funny and relevant, Homer defends his harsh punishment of Bart by saying, "If I stick to my guns, the boy could wind up Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If I fail, the best he could do is judge at a Mr. Tight Buns Competition." When I was a kid I laughed at this line, with only a vague understanding of what a Mr. Tight Buns competition would even look like (this is years before I ever visited Florida). And while tonight's gig isn't exactly that, it certainly gets its mail from the same post office. Humbrews presents ladies night with Men Next Door Uncovered at 8 p.m. ($20, $35). Billed as a two-hour, choreographed, "Magic Mike experience," all I can say is that none of these men look like my neighbor, John.
Collin Yeo (he/him) suggests that everyone who wants to understand this vulgar, fanatical and flatulent age should read Boccaccio and Dante, and study the art of Bruegel. We are living in a grotesque and holy time. He also lives in Arcata.