Blue October | Stripped Bare

It’d be so boring to just play one style of music for the rest of your life. Why not try everything, but do it with a passion?

Back when PLAYBACK:stl was just a pup, a little band called Blue October played a largely unpublicized show as part of the Fourth of July Miller Lite Music Blast on Laclede’s Landing. Though the band’s second album, Consent to Treatment, had been released by Universal two years prior, the album—in major label-speak—went nowhere, and Blue October was dropped. They didn’t let that deter them, though. They piled in the van, the five of them, and drove themselves across the country, playing wherever would have them.
That van, on the Landing, is where I first interviewed Blue October singer/songwriter/frontman Justin Furstenfeld. We’ve spoken numerous times since then, and each time I’ve found him an incredibly genuine and intriguing man.
This time, though, something was different. Sure, he was still passionate and inspired, but he was…peaceful. Calm. Happy. In a way I’d never heard before. So, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Justin Furstenfeld…all grown up.
Tell me what’s behind the whole idea of the acoustic tour.
We did some acoustic dates last year. We were just so happy. It was a chance for us to just sit back and tell the stories of each song, and not just be so rock ’n’ roll. As much as I love doing that, I love also just sitting down playing guitar and not having to worry about shoving it all down your throat.
Ugly Side, the acoustic live album, comes out May 10. Are you self-releasing it, or it coming out via RED as well?
We’re self-releasing. We started our own label called Uptown Records. RED is a distribution company. and Universal was nice enough—kind enough—to take us there. They’re into the publicity market and things like that. They have a really good, tight-knit team and we feel more free with our art; we can go out there and speak what we want. It really kinda took the weight off my shoulders in a real positive direction.
It’s gotta feel nice, too, to be able to make that decision. I still remember the days of the signed by Universal, dropped by Universal, signed by Universal…
Yeah, the big question was, “So you’ve been signed, you’ve been dropped, you’ve been signed, you’ve been dropped?” I just wanna make music. Right now we have to get used to being back on the road and kinda push ourselves, and get the audience used to it, too. We’ve got this acoustic album coming out, and we have our new album coming out in September, I believe.
I thought it was August.
August sounds good to me, too. And then another tour of America. Once we get closer to that one I’ll be telling you all about it.
I’m looking forward to it. It’s been awhile since you had a new album out.
I never stop writing. Whenever I was home, nobody could ever be truly like “C’mon, OK, time to take a vacation!” I’m like, “I’m taking a vacation; I’m at my house.”
How many songs do you have built up then?
Since I saw you guys last? Probably about 85. I’ve got some verses and some hook choruses and a few I’m still touching up. Some stuff you can hear and go, “Whoa…sheesh. What is that?” I might be in love with it but you might think it’s nuts.
I think you’ve always been a somewhat unclassifiable artist. It’s in the genre of rock, but it’s not just one sound.
I think that’s what I kind of love about our fans—listen to me; I hate that word, fans. The people that believe in us, the ones that actually allow us to be who we are. Not the radio and the corporate record labels who are like, “OK, you guys are too all over the place. Which one are you going to be?” It’d be so boring to just play one style of music for the rest of your life. Why not try everything, but do it with a passion?
Tell me about the lineup switch.
C.B. [Hudson] wanted to be a family man. (I tried to do that once.) We still love him to pieces, he still loves us to pieces; it’s a healthy split. Julian [Mandrake] is just an amazing guy and we believe in him completely. He’s always been there for us. When I broke my leg on that last tour he came with us for eight months, all over the world, and when I was better he had to leave. He’s an amazing guitarist, too, a really good guy.
Has it impacted the band at all?
With so much going on we haven’t gotten to practice all the songs, but I don’t think it’s gonna be a big issue. I mean, if it is a big issue, we can get past it. It’s not about us; it’s about what we love, what we live for: that’s music, and art, in all of its beauty and ugliness and glory and everything.
Is there a unifying theme to the upcoming album?
It’s probably gonna be the most honest album I’ve ever put out. Not for the selfish reasons or for stardom or fame or anything like that. It’s just one father that is trying so hard and desperately to have a relationship with his daughter. As of today, that’s all that I’ll say ’cause I’ll have plenty to say later. But it’s for my child, for my future, for her future, for every other man or woman’s future or child’s future.
I don’t think you’ve ever been one to hold in your feelings, so nobody’s expecting that.
Yeah…it’s just I have to be very careful with what I say now.
I remember talking to you right after she was born. It’s been awhile.
Yeah, it’s been quite awhile. A lot has changed, but she’s beautiful, she’s amazing, she’s doing well.
You sound like you’re in a really good place, emotionally. This is honestly the most relaxed I’ve ever heard you.
I’m kinda content with where I am. I’ve become a father…
So that’s what’s really settled it?
Well yeah, ’cause it’s not been the easiest fatherly role, all across the country, playing music. It’s all the time changing, and I’ve learned it’s not what’s best for me, but what’s best for her.
But that’s a very mature point to get to. It takes some people years and years, and some don’t ever get there. It’s nice to get to the point where you can prioritize things.
Yeah, you really do, and it’s brought me to this place where I’m quite comfortable with who I am and love who I am. And I’m a damn good father; I know that by the way my daughter lights up when she sees me. I’m just in a really good place.
Other than your daughter, is there anything really unique inspiring you now?
Just the freedom to think for myself. People were spending too much time trying to figure us out. Now, you’re either on the boat or you’re not on the boat. I started noticing people were trying to make me feel weird in my own shoes. I might be this bipolaresque—whatever you wanna call it—man, different from any other man, but that’s who I am. Let’s just roll with it, ’cause I’m confident. Are you guys?
I’m really looking forward to the tour. Ticket sales have been pretty good, right?
I’m not sure. I never look at the ticket sales, ’cause I’m so nervous that people won’t come.
It’ll be intimate if nothing else.
We’ll just come to your house and play.
PLAYBACK:stl Photogallery by Cencio Boc
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Blue October is Justin Furstenfeld (vocals, guitar), Ryan Delahoussaye (violin), Jeremy Furstenfeld (drums), Matt Noveskey (bass), and Julian Mandrake (guitar). The band is on an acoustic tour through the month of May, with a sold-out show at The Pageant in St. Louis May 6.

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