Fake Limbs’ Eclectic Sex Soundtrack Is Anything but Corny
While we question at least one-third of the theorem that sex is natural, fun and best when it's one-on-one, we know that intimacy is inexorably enmeshed with most of our favorite art. (Also, love is dead.) In today's Late Night Dedication, we chat with Fake Limbs vocalist Stephen Sowley about the healing powers of Erykah Badu, making out at shows and, of course, their favorite mood music. The band's new album, Matronly, is out now on Don Giovanni.
What was on the first mix you made for a crush?
I honestly don't remember, because at the time that I discovered what having a crush on someone felt like, I didn't believe anyone could actually like me. By the time I got to college, the people I developed crushes were other people into records; by then it wasn't so much, "This song invokes a feeling I have for you," but more so, "This is where I am with records, and I hope you can get on my level." I might be romanticizing a bit, but I'm certain I put "You Are Here" by that dog. on a tape for someone. I always found that chorus of "Something in the way you move / Distracts me like no other" to be an efficient means of expressing feelings for someone.
What albums can you not listen to because of a breakup?
I dated someone whose theme was “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell. We had a tremendously bad breakup, and for a long time I couldn’t be in a room if that song came on. A shame since, when I started discovering New Wave and punk as a child, I absolutely loved that song.
What are your thoughts on PDA at a gig?
I couldn’t care less; I honestly want people to feel something at a show and I want people to express themselves as long as they aren’t hurting one another or stepping over boundaries. If two people want to kiss or make out, then they should. I’d rather have to endure seven minutes in heaven than look at some [guy] standing, arms folded like he’s waiting for the bus. Just don’t neck at the bar. That’s where people get drinks.
Does the act of attending a show together constitute a date?
I don’t see it as a date, but I guess it could work. Shows are loud and distracting, and you gotta always run into some punisher bound to fuck up your scene (because punishers love nothing more than fucking up your scene). Maybe a third date kind of scenario? I just can barely hear shit as it is, so the act of going to some show while trying to get to know someone for the first time just sounds like a drag.
Do you think it’s corny to put music on during sex?
Not at all. I really enjoy having records on for a very pragmatic reason, but also a sense of atmosphere. I’m not talking about Maxwell or whatever record you want to pull from the canon of trip-hop, but records that can elevate the cavalier activities at hand. Here are some that have definitely gone places:
Dead C — Harsh 70s Reality
Khanate — S/T
Don Cherry — Brown Rice
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou — Éthiopiques 21
Oren Ambarchi — Grapes From the Estate
Francis Bebey — Akwaaba
Drive Like Jehu — Yank Crime
Express Rising — S/T (2013 release)
If you could make out with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’m going to place a formal request that you omit this question when fielding answers from straight cis-gendered males. They have enough space in society to deign who gets to lock lips with them. The answer is always Polly Harvey. Okay, and Teenie-Man from Tenement if I’m not feeling so bashful.
Does musical taste matter in a relationship?
I’d rather build something very real around a whole host of other things before music, but I also have the privilege of being partnered up with someone who has a very in-depth knowledge of music. I guess you can’t help it. If you’re into punk, but you also really, really love house music, more often than not you’ll fall in with someone that also skips between those lines. But if someone is really into punk and they’re cute, and then they’re like, trans-exclusionary, then why the fuck would I even want to date them?
What’s the last song that made you cry while listening to it?
“Out My Mind, Just in Time” by Erykah Badu; I was in Boston, on a tour managing gig. It was a couple days after the 11-year date of my mom’s passing, and I was in a big bedroom by myself. First time in a minute that I had a bedroom to myself, and I think I was just letting a lot of emotions out. In the first part, Erykah lists things she’d do for this lost love, and the line “Leave on the lights for you” just ripped me open. I’m always leaving a light on for love and I was alone, and missing the comfort of someone nuzzled in my chest. That moment the lights are on, and the person you love walks in the door. Maybe they got caught in the rain and you’re ready to dry them off and make them tea. The second part of the song, there’s this beat that’s just the slightest bit off and keys are falling off, too, and it’s this sound that feels so warm are enveloping, and I just wanted to be held.
What musician knows the most about love?
Tough one — I mean, you listen to “Naima” by John Coltrane (especially the Live at the Village Vanguard Again! version with Alice Coltrane playing off of him) and it feels like there’s nothing more real than that. Maybe Minnie Riperton, because she could run the gamut of "love." She could be singing a song to her child, full of tenderhearted grace; or she could sing about that kind of floating, butterfly feeling of love that will immediately land your ass in love jail. OR, she could be singing a very filthy song about raw lust! But no matter how she did it, it was always the prettiest song ever recorded. Without her, a lot the stuff you hear now wouldn't be going on.
Have you ever had to talk to somebody about a song you've written about them or that they've perceived to be written about them?
Two people, and they both went surprisingly well. “Lil Bit” is about my partner Jes, and I think they knew I was writing that about them, but it wasn’t until they read the lyrics that they got what it was. Same with “Murderbar,” but that’s all code and secret language about one of my best friends, and it was really fun to write that for them. I’m certain if the people whom I wrote songs about on our previous album found out said songs were about them, they’d never speak to me again!