Tony Cummings reports on the PETER FURLER BAND who have just released 'Sun And Shield'
The unexpected emergence of the Peter Furler Band five years after he left the Newsboys and three years after Furler's successful solo album 'On Fire' has surprised many industry observers. The band, consisting of Furler (vocals, guitar), Dave Ghazarian (bass) and Jeff Irizarry (percussion), are already playing US gigs supporting their debut independent album 'Sun And Shield'. Peter Furler spoke to JesusFreakHideout and began by talking not about his band but his other recent venture, providing the drums for the debut album by Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil. "I finished all the drums, and they're just doing some overdubs and vocals on a couple of the songs. So the majority of it is finished as far as being ready to mix. And some of them are close to being done. They're good sounding mixes. To me, I think they're ready to go. It's really strong. Musically, it's probably the best thing I've ever been involved with, personally."
Peter spoke candidly about his condition when leaving the Newsboys. "I think I was burnt out and I didn't know it. I didn't say that to anybody, cuz I didn't know it myself. I was telling everybody, 'Oh, I feel great, man!' and I kind of did, but it wasn't until I stopped, then I really felt the exhaust fumes coming in. Then Steve came around and we started doing the thing with The Perfect Foil, and that was a lot of fun - it was just fun! No record deal, no management company, no agenda except to make music. It was like I was 18 again! It was like when you start out as a kid in a garage with your buddies - you might have some dreams, maybe a couple of the members of the group dream of selling a million records. I don't know if I was ever that guy. To me, I was just happy not to be doing landscaping, or some menial job. If I could just survive playing music, I would be happy.
"And that's my mentality today. But you see it happen to so many bands - that's why their first three or four records are great, cuz after that, the business takes over. And it just changes everything. It's not that it's a bad thing, it's just that everything changes. So, going back to Steve, just sitting in a garage. . . We were in a garage! We were in John [Mark Painter]'s garage more or less. It's his studio, and it's a great little place, and we were just jamming. We were just, 'Here's this melody, here's this lyric, put a skin on it and see what we can do.' I went in as a drummer, totally free to play however I wanted to. We didn't use any [loops] (same with my record), we didn't want to overproduce it. We wanted it to be three or four people in a room, delivering it."
Peter continued, "Today, we live in a society where they've got Instagram and all these little apps on their cameras and take a good photo and put some magic on it and make it look like it's a little bit better than it was, or you can go out and hunt and find a killer shot. You don't have to put anything on it, the light was perfect, the subject was perfect, and so you caught the moment. I think, for us, we were aiming for that. To go and capture the moment, not to use the software to enhance. And it's not that that's 'wrong,' we don't have an agenda, it's not a bandwagon one way or the other, but it's more that we set limits; we're not going to fix this, we're going to get the take that feels good. And it wasn't a big rule or a law. But it was like, 'Let's get it down to this many tracks,' as opposed to keep layering instruments. 'Let's get this so you hear: there's the bass player, there's the drummer, there's the guitarist, there's the vocalist.' So that inspired me and helped me in my love for music.
"Even after Winter Jam, I went through another change. My first solo record was kind of running on the same fuel that I ran on with Newsboys - not that that was bad, I was just in automatic mode. That's just how I made records, that's how I'd done them all my life, that's what I'm going to do. Where, by the end of Winter Jam, I kinda realised that that was cool, but now it's time to just do what I want to do, to do something else or whatever. So we went in and that's how we formed this. It's been, 'Let's just make sure everything is 100% live.' We're not using tracks, I don't use in-ears, it's just getting back to the melody and the lyric and the dynamics of guys playing and get it to a three-piece, which was really exciting. Because there's not really many three-pieces around at the moment."
Furler explained how Dave Ghazarian and Jeff Irizarry joined the band. "I've known Dave for years through Superchick and Church Of Rhythm, going even further back. We've done a lot of shows together. And Dave played with me on Winter Jam and then he asked to be in Audio Adrenaline and he was really excited about it. I was like, 'Man, I don't have many shows coming up, I'm not sure what I'm doing.' But later when I heard he was free from Audio Adrenaline, I called him like two days later! I was like 'Heeeey!' But he and Grace are so awesome. They're a great couple. And Jeff, he was with me since the early solo days, too. I had used a couple different guys and then Jeff came along. And I don't know, this just felt right. I'm not a soloist guy, I never wanted to be solo. When I was with the Newsboys, I was fulfilled. Because I was writing the songs, I was making the records, so they were like my records, y'know what I mean? There was no Nashville songwriting team or anything like that. It was just Steve [Taylor] and I and whatever. So the process began when I began getting invites to go to places and play with just my acoustic guitar. And I don't do acoustic. So I accepted one of the gigs. It was a little club in Jacksonville, and I accepted the gig because I knew if I accepted it, I'd have to do it."
Remembered Furler, "I took this guitar and set up in my house with a little amplifier and I learned 27 songs - 20 from my past and a couple of cover songs - but mainly that 25 songs from 'Lost The Plot' to wherever. And even songs like 'Breakfast', I wrote the riff, I probably played it on the record, but that was 15 years earlier. I'd never played and sung it live. So I had to learn to play the riff and sing it live. And so I went to this little club and it was great! I played for two and a half hours and hardly said anything. I might have told a couple stories about how this song was written. It really inspired me, and so I took some more bookings like that, and then I asked Jeff if he'd come along. And he brought like a cajon. I'm not really into the cajon thing. I mean the kind of acoustic cajons - it's like a little box they can sit on and he plays it great. So I looked online; I was trying to find some odd drums and things and I found a suitcase where this guy makes drums out of them. So I thought that was pretty cool and I bought it and brought it along to Jeff. It sounded really cool and it was really unique, so the two of us went out and just started doing gigs together.
"Then I did a gig in Texas at Texas Stadium; it was this massive place, with Switchfoot and a bunch of other bands. It holds 70,000 people but there was only 7,000, but it was a great gig. I asked a buddy of mine to come along and play bass just for kicks. I said, 'Why don't you come along and play bass?' He was our worship leader, an acoustic guy out of Dallas, and he borrows a bass and comes along, turns up at the gig and he does awesome. I was like, 'That sounded amazing! Man, that's what I wanna do!' It was like we'd built a band back, so I called Dave and I said, 'Dave, I know you're a guitarist, you're a better guitarist than me, and a pianist, but how about bass?' And you know Dave, he's like, 'Oh yeah! I'll come!' So that's kind of how we got this thing. It's early days, but we're really enjoying it."
The Peter Furler Band were originally set to be called The Bliss Bombs. Peter explained, "It's a name I've had for 20 years. That was a name I was going to go with, but legally there was another band. I own "TheBlissBombs.com" and had all that stuff, but I didn't want to mess with it. It was down to the last minute and I was putting the record out, so I was like, 'Man. . .' Peter Furler Band wasn't my first thing, but it's kind of better that you stick with your name than coming out with something brand new again. I wasn't sure I was ready for that."
Peter was asked why the band's debut album was named after the song "Sun And Shield". "I liked the title. It was just something different, and I couldn't think of anything better, to be honest. This record's been put out independently; I just did it myself. And so, it's the first time in my life I don't have management. I don't have a record deal. [I] don't have anything and I'm really liking it. Just cuz I've been signed to deals since I was a teenager. And that's not a bad thing, that's just what it was; it was good. But now, this time, it's [different]. There's a cost to that. You're not going to get the publicity and certain things that come with being tied to. It's a trade off."
Peter spoke about some of the songs on the project. "'Dare I Say' is about how everybody, in this day and age, can voice their own opinions. And everyone's opinion can be heard. Each of us has to know that the truth will always come, and if you're on the side of the truth, then them arrows will miss. I think, anywhere in life, it's really hard to take the high road. It's just hard, man. It's hard not to get back at people for certain things that they've done to you, or when it's people who you've only been good to them, it could be really hurtful. So, I think, with my life, one of the most important things I could do is love people, love my enemies. And pray for them. That's a big thing my wife and I talk about every now and then. You'll always hear things or get an email from somebody that's nasty or somebody will tell you something you can or can't do that's not true, and you just have to, y'know. . . So yeah, that was inspired by lots of things through life. Not any one particular thing. I can sing it with passion, let's put it that way."
Peter continued, "The title for 'Right Wrong Girl' was originally going to be 'Duck Face Girl'. Actually, I was at Steve's place [and came out with] 'and she's a duck face girl, but I love her.' Y'know, people making the duck face look, because everybody was doing that. Obviously, it's died down a bit now. But I was asleep at Steve's house, because I was staying at his place making the record, and I woke up at night and couldn't get that out of my head. I couldn't sleep and started singing, 'She's a duck face girl. She's a duck face girl, I love her.' When I told Steve and Jimmy [Abegg] and John [Mark Painter], they LOVED it! They're like, 'Man this is it!' But I don't know what happened. I think we wussed out. Steve, he was the one who came up with 'Right Wrong GirL'. Which is really [funny], because you would think HE'D like 'duck face' better. Yeah, sometimes he's an old softie. It's a funny little pop song.
"I'll be married 23 years, so I see the balance of the early days of your relationship. Even when you're dating, there are things that drew you to each other that can be the things that nearly pull you apart later on. But there are other things that the dynamic of becoming one are really cool. But there are even greater things when you begin to have nobody between the two of you; that's a really powerful thing. That wasn't necessarily about our relationship, my wife and I, but it's kind of a general thing of, y'know, a lot of times guys will be looking for a certain thing. And they got an idea, but who says that idea's a good idea? And yet, there's somebody out there who could be the complete opposite of what you'd ever pick, but that's the person that - not that there's one person - but your two souls become one down the line."
Peter spoke about the genesis of the album's most worshipful track, "Yeshua". "I was just sitting in a change room. I had my little amp there, with my pedals on, and I was strumming something. My dad walked in and said, 'Oh, what's that?' And I said, 'I dunno, something I'm working on.' He goes, 'There's something in there.' I'm like, 'I'm playing one chord, dad!' He goes, 'No, no, there's something going on.' Then I went home and I was just in a room in my house, just doing that strumming again, and my wife stuck her head in the door and said, 'What's that?'. I [start singing the melody] and she's like, 'That sounds like worship. That should be a worship song.' My first thought was 'I don't wanna do a worship song.' And then I gave in, cuz she was right. Then I took it and had the other sections. I was in the studio with Steve, John and Jimmy and we were laying down guitar on something else, and in between the take I just started [strumming the melody again]. They were talking, I could hear them talking about something, so I was thinking, 'I'm just gonna keep working on that song.' So I started working on it and they were like, 'Hey! Hey! What's that?' I'm like, 'I dunno, it's just this idea I got.' And they were like, 'We'll drop what we're doing. Let's record that!'
"We tracked it and I felt like it was good and everyone was digging it, but I was thinking, 'I should get my father-in-law, I haven't had him sing on a record since "Step Up To The Microphone".' He sang BGVs on 'Woohoo' and something else. I felt like I wanted to inspire HIM to get back to recording music, and I thought this might be a good thing. So I sent the track down to Texas, to my buddy who played bass with me and who's an engineer, and they cut him singing the second verse. And that stuff he did in the outro, we weren't even there, they did all that and then sent the tracks back to us. And I was like, 'Wow!' The ideas he had were just awesome. He definitely took it to a new place. That one is another of those songs written in three minutes, recorded in about five, and well, there it is!"The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.