Los Angeles-based Fol Chen have released three studio albums, performed on four continents, and have presented projects at LACMA, the Walker Art Center, Machine Project, and the Annenberg Space for Photography. Fol Chen's explorations of the limits and uses of popular music have drawn praise from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Wired, and Pitchfork, as well as from the godfather of experimental pop music, David Byrne. They have remixed David Bowie, Sufjan Stevens (who owns their label, Asthmatic Kitty Records), and legendary club producer Junior Vasquez. The group also covered Prince for SPIN Magazine’s “Purplish Rain” compilation, and teamed with electronic interface designers Monome on a limited edition gestural sound toy.
2015 "I'd Rather Listen to a Bad Song," Clifford Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY (upcoming)
2015 Urban Fruit Trails, with Fallen Fruit and HOLA, Los Angeles, CA (upcoming)
2015 Untited Theater Project, with Janet Sarbanes & Jen Backhaus, Los Angeles, CA (upcoming)
2015 TBD: A Musical Play, with Austin Young, Los Angeles, CA (upcoming)
2014 Composer-Free Song Generator, Indianapolis Museum of Art / Big Car / AiOP Indy, Indianapolis, IN
2014 The National Anthem, Grand Park / Los Angeles Music Center, Los Angeles, CA
2014 Composer-Free Song Generator, Fallen Fruit / HOLA, Los Angeles, CA
2014 You Will Be My Music, Fallen Fruit / HOLA, Los Angeles, CA
2013 Band Performance, Hammer Museum / KCRW, Los Angeles, CA
2013 Tetrafol Performance, The Chalet / LACE, Los Angeles, CA
2013 You Will Be My Music, Diverseworks, Houston, TX
2013 You Will Be My Music, Machine Project, Los Angeles, CA
2012 Tetrafol, with Monome and Machine Project, Los Angeles, CA
2011 Beauty Culture film score and installation, Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, CA
2011 Composer-Free Song Generator, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
2010 Rendered in Metal, The Echo, Los Angeles, CA
2010 Untitled (Craigslist Auditions), The Echo, Los Angeles, CA
2008 Untitled (Weiner Werkstatte, Textile Length), LACMA, Los Angeles, CA
2013 The False Alarms (Asthmatic Kitty Records)
2010 Part II: The New December (Asthmatic Kitty Records)
2009 Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made Asthmatic Kitty Records
2011 “Golden Years” by David Bowie, remix, KCRW/EMI Records LTD.
2011 “I Walked” by Sufjan Stevens, remix, Asthmatic Kitty Records
2009 "The Beautiful Ones" by Prince, cover, SPIN Magazine
Visiting Artist Engagements
2014 Cal State Sacramento / Crocker Museum of Art, Sacramento, CA
2014 Alliance Francaise, Arusha, Tanzania
2013 Pomona College, Claremont, CA
2013 Band Width Project, Taipei, Taiwan via Burlington, VT
2010 CEC Artslink, St Petersburg, Russia
“A delightful mix of electronic pop and experimental music” -The Wall Street Journal
“Viscerally catchy songs... addictively slinky” -Pitchfork
“Loa’s layered vocals have this way of conjuring the otherworldly” -SPIN
“Odd and lovely as ever” -Stereogum
"Fol Chen are equally fond of modern chamber music and poppy funk, of pretty tones and deliberately blemished ones" - New York Times
2014 - Indianapolis Museum of Art / Big Car / AIOP Indy, Indianapolis, IN
2014 - Fallen Fruit, Los Angeles, CA
2013 - Machine Project, Echo Park, CA
2011 - Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
The Verbal Algorithm Composer-Free Song Generator is an experiment in both removing the “writer” from the process of composition, and in allowing public participants to translate observations and lived experience into music. Visitors are given a questionnaire asking them to assess an artwork or experience using both objective (Is the work photographic?) and subjective (Did the work make you feel anxious, hopeful, smart?) criteria. Each answer on the questionnaire corresponds to a loop of music created with site-specific field recordings. When participants return their surveys, we assemble an instant “composer-free” song, generated solely by the boxes checked on their questionnaires. Each song is unique and personal, built by translating observations into music. Participants go home with a CD their song and artwork that incorporates their questionnaire.
Examples from the project's first iteration, produced with Machine Project at the Walker Art Center, are below. Cover artwork designed in collaboration with Emily Joyce.
In the sound player below, you will find samples from the 3-step process we used:
1) A raw field recording made by a museum visitor (in this case, the sound of an elevator)
2) A 4-bar loop that was constructed using the recording of the elevator, and which was assigned as the corresponding sound to the "Does the work emit light" check-box on the questionnaire
3) A song generated by the answers to the questionnaire submitted by a museum visitor named Abbie
Museum visitors submit their questionnaires. Fol Chen's Samuel Bing and Sinosa Loa enter data into the song generator.
2014 - Fallen Fruit, Los Angeles, CA
2013 - Pomona College, Claremont, CA
2013 - Diverseworks, Houston, TX
2013 - Machine Project, Los Angeles, CA
Non-musicians are invited into a mobile studio, where over the course of an hour-long session they are assisted to literally “cover” a favorite pop song - recording their own sounds and vocals on top of a track from their personal music collection. At the end of the hour, the original song is deleted from the multi-track Pro Tools session, leaving only the sounds we recorded, which are mixed down into a kind of ghost image of the original. The results are deeply abstract and personal cover versions, and a fleshing-out of the way we hear beloved songs in our heads. In a very explicit way, this toys with the idea of what it means to “cover” a song, where our coverage is layers of sound-as-sediment, building up and eventually subsuming the original. Chance, translation, and erasure are at play, as well as an attempt to broaden the understanding of how people relate to the music they love. Sinosa Loa and Alexander Myrvold collaborated on this project.
Elise, the very first participant at the beta run of "You Will Be My Music" (Machine Project, February 23, 2013), chose to cover Wham!'s "Careless Whisper." The results are below:
Simultaneous with this recording session, a graphic design workshop was hosted by Rosten Wu. Participants were asked to recreate the chosen song's original album artwork based solely on an audio description that gave no indication of the original recording artist or song title. Below is Elise’s description of the “Careless Whisper” cover art, followed by the renderings made by workshop participants:
UNTITLED (WIENER WERKSTATTE, TEXTILE LENGTH)
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Fol Chen’s contribution to “Machine Project: Field Guide to LACMA” was an attempt to both translate the visual into music, and to remove myself as “composer” in the usual sense. I recorded a piece of music in which the timbre, pitch, and duration of the sounds were determined by the formal qualities of a Wiener Werkstatte textile from LACMA’s permanent collection. The artwork for the CD was a type of translation, too: a scale reproduction of the fabric (originally designed by Max Snischek), painted in watercolor by Melissa Thorne, was divided into 100 CD-sized panels and used as one-of-a-kind cover art.
The Tetrafol is a hand-held tangible electronic sound toy produced in collaboration with Monome and Machine Project . Circuits enclosed by a wooden tetrahedron detect orientation and motion-gestures to modify the playback of a collection of Fol Chen’s micro-compositions, allowing the user to explore sound through physical manipulation. All software is open source, allowing anyone interested to learn about its inner-workings. Users are also encouraged to replace the pre-loaded samples with their own. Hand-assembled by the band, in a limited edition of 100. Demonstrated via an informal performance at Machine Project.
Interactive Performance + Live Demonstration @ Machine Project
UNTITLED (CRAIGSLIST OPEN AUDITIONS)
The Echo, Los Angeles, CA
Fol Chen upset the expectations of a pop/rock music audience during a 5-week performance residency at The Echo, a popular live music venue in Los Angeles. On the first night of the residency, singers who were found through a Craigslist ad auditioned to replace me in Fol Chen, meeting and performing with the band for the very first time that night in front of a live audience. This exercise in chance, translation, and self-erasure resulted in one of the auditionees replacing me on the next series of Fol Chen performances.
UNTITLED (RENDERED IN METAL)
The Echo, Los Angeles, CA
On the fourth night of Fol Chen’s Echo residency, fans expecting to see the band perform were instead greeted by a Thrash Metal band called Viscera, who had been hired to play Fol Chen’s songs in our stead. In addition to undermining the audience’s expectations, it was a chance to experiment with inter-genre translation.
Viscera performing Fol Chen's "Cable TV" live at The Echo in Los Angeles:
Fol Chen's Original Studio Recording of "Cable TV":
PERFORMANCE + WORKSHOP
Klub Kitaiskii Lyotchik Jao Da, St. Petersburg, Russia
Fol Chen performed two long-form, constructivist-inspired reworkings of selected tracks from their two studio albums, followed by a workshop/recording session where they invited local musicians (and curious non-musicians) to join them in recording a new Fol Chen song, to be released on their next album or as a single.
PART II: THE NEW DECEMBER
Asthmatic Kitty Records
PART I: JOHN SHADE, YOUR FORTUNE'S MADE
Asthmatic Kitty Records
"Screwball pastiche pop that sounds like an algebra problem but feels like a come-on. The band can translate this odd sentiment live... three-part harmonies were both exacting and giddy, and any wanton control-alt-deleting that happens in their studio felt organic and true onstage. For an act that relies so heavily on computer splicing on record, the band proved that some severe musicianship underpins the whole apparatus -- Goldman and his upfront cohorts get the affection, but the band's watertight rhythm section is what cements its broken art-funk and makes it less a project and more of a party."
- Los Angeles Times
"A dystopian sci-fi opus about a planet-wide battle that involves both environmental devastation and an erosion of language and meaning. Fol Chen’s leaders, Samuel Bing and Julian Wass, are equally fond of modern chamber music and poppy funk, of pretty tones and deliberately blemished ones that have been squeezed through cheap samplers. The album takes decoding, but it’s got enough lilt, rhythm and sonic slapstick to make the job fun."
- New York Times
These videos, directed by Chris Wilcha, are part of Fol Chen’s intentional erosion of their own identity, playing with the appearance of stand-ins performing or generating their songs.
The video for the Fol Chen song “The Longer U Wait” was filmed in Bengal, India, and shows an actor singing over Fol Chen’s original track while listening to the original on headphones. Almost completely improvised, the resulting video is a singular performance of a very genuine experience of the song.
Instead of releasing a music video for the single “In Ruins,” fans were met with this “Public Service Announcement,” which is actually a dramatic reading of the song’s lyrics by actor Brian Cox.