Shamir Guests on Fashion Brigade’s ‘Punx with Ukuleles’
Elia Einhorn had just witnessed a Welsh Sheep Dog contest when indie musician Shamir gave him a call to discuss their new single, “Punx with Ukuleles.” That song premieres exclusively via TIDAL today (July 22).
“You wouldn’t believe it, but I’ve been hanging out and [laughs] — I have seen sheep shearing; I have seen a local Welsh Sheep Dog contest,” Einhorn tells his friend and fellow musician. “I’ve been hanging out off the grid, man. I’m in the country and doing press for the new record.”
Einhorn is visiting family in Wales before jetting off to Chicago, where he’s primed to record content for Pitchfork Radio as part of his day job as a podcast producer/engineer. All that in the midst of the release of Fvck the Heartache (July 26), his first LP as Fashion Brigade. It’s a collage of sad bops featuring the likes of Frankie Cosmos, Shamir, X’s Exene Cervenka, and members of LCD Soundsystem, Prince Rama, Dirty Projectors, Phosphorescent and more.
As you can see, Einhorn is a veritable modern-day renaissance man. Back in the early ’00s, he was all about one band: Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, a Chicago outfit that toured with the acts like Arcade Fire, Of Montreal and the Walkman. They had a good 8-year-run, but in 2009, that all came to an end when the band was involved in a major van accident that fractured Einhorn’s back and neck — and left him with 26 stitches in his head. All the members survived, but the band did not.
Over the ensuing years, Einhorn had to learn to branch out — and to collaborate. He made ends meet with his audio skills: recording audiobooks and podcasts, and working for the likes of Pitchfork and Talkhouse. All the while, though, he was making music as Fashion Brigade — even if he didn’t really publicly release anything in 10 years. Instead, he spent that time forging bonds with other artists who would eventually help bring his new album to life.
Einhorn met Shamir while recording for the Talkhouse podcast, and the two stayed in touch as Shamir broke out with the disco-influenced, synth-y Ratchet (2015) — and less mainstream fare like 2017’s Revelations and Hope, which was released after a manic episode. This past spring, Shamir dropped Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw as an ironic nod to the recent “yee-haw” craze — and, just last year, he launched his own label, Accidental Popstar Records.
To celebrate their collaboration, Einhorn and Shamir interviewed each other about everything from cowboys to stage fright.
Shamir: So, I’m excited for the fuckin’ single.
Elia Einhorn: ‘Punks With Ukuleles’ came out of such a sad feeling, but I also wanted it to be kind of like a bop, so I put the drum machines on it. I never liked the vocal that I did. Part of the whole concept behind Fashion Brigade was: I didn’t like my singing voice anymore and I wanted the right singer for each song.
I started hearing your voice in my head, and I was like, ‘You know what, I am just gonna fuckin’ ask Shamir if they’re down to fuckin’ sing it.’ Because I don’t wanna hear my own voice anymore. I just don’t like it. And you fuckin’ killed it. You brought out all the sadness. Every time I listen to it now it is perfection.
S: I love when I can do short little sing-songy things. When someone asks me to do features, it’s either something that requires a decent deal of vocal work for me or they want a rap fuckin’ verse. I’m like, ‘Guys, I don’t rap anymore. I only rapped once. I’m not a rapper.’ You know?
EE: Yeah, they want the bars!
S: They want the bars. And I’m not saying I’m completely against it, but I just won’t do it for anyone. Like, someone like CupcakKe or Bhad Bhabie would have to hit me up for a rap verse, and then I’ll be like, ‘OK, I’ll do a rap verse.’ But that’s it; it has to be like a big, like ridiculous rap.
EE: I wanna ask you a couple questions. I was just listening again to Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw. You’ve changed your style so many times over the years, which is one of the things I love about you as an artist — with this, you gave it the most country record name, but it’s totally not your most country sound. What was behind the title for that for you?
S: That was a troll record, essentially. That’s why I didn’t like officially release it; I just threw it on my Bandcamp. It was just kind of like me trolling the whole ‘yeehaw-this’ within the indie world.
And that was the exact thing that held me back in the beginning of my career, because I always wanted to do more country stuff. I had to fight for one country song to be on my record. Now it’s such a trend that everyone’s doing a country record or a country-adjacent record or a ‘yee-haw’ record.
EE: It’s so weird to start a new project. Scotland Yard Gospel Choir was never the huge band, but we were opening for the huge band; we were touring with Arcade Fire. Now, nobody really knows who we are. Thankfully the press remembers enough to want to write about me, and some fans remember, but I haven’t released a fucking record in 10 years and my confidence is so low.
S: That’s what I was going to say, how long has it been in between? Literally 10 years?
EE: It’s been literally 10 years, and I have played thousands — well, at least many hundreds, and hundreds and hundreds of shows all around — and now I’m so scared to do the show we’re doing together in Brooklyn. I was just texting with Greta [Kline from Frankie Cosmos]. I have never had such stage fright; it’s late-life onset stage fright after being away for so long.
On another note, I feel like me and you have both become collaboration-obsessed in different ways: I made a whole collaborations record, you started a label that’s so collaborative that it deconstructs the label boss-slash-band-as-employee construct.
S: I like working on music and art outside of myself, too. I know you feel nervous about the project, but also don’t you feel like working with other people gets you out of your head? I feel like it’s a little bit more chill for me as a creator to work with someone else who’s also selling the song and singing the song.
EE: You know what’s different about Fashion Brigade? One of the main things that’s different between Fashion Brigade and Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is: I legitimately don’t care all that much if people…if, like, a lot of people like it or don’t like it. Whereas, with the old band, I was obsessed with it being successful, you know?
I worked so hard and I put in all the sweat and stuff, but I also was so obsessed with the outcome. Now I’m like…we’re not pressing that many LPs. My goal is: Hopefully the label recoups, hopefully some people enjoy it.
S: Yeah, I think I’ve always kind of felt that way about everything that I’ve done, which I think shows.
EE: You’re so much better about that than me. You’ve always just been like, ‘Fuck it, here’s what’s up.’ At least that’s always been how it seems.
S: I’m actually kind of getting the like…’I want this to be right, I want this to be successful’ about my next official record, though. I’m working with like a fairly well-known pop producer…
EE: So we’re just trading places, we’re just fucking trading places.
S: I know! We really are! And I’m trying not to freak out too much. I’m still trying to stay calm. It’s my first time actually trying to make a commercial-sounding record.
It’s still going to be like definitely my vibe; I’m basically taking what I’ve done in the past two years and trying to make it as commercial as possible. It’s going to be interesting.
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