Like many musicians, the frontman for the band Feeding Fingers doesn’t want to be boxed in by genre — and it’s a concept that can tend to make people in the U.S. feel uncomfortable about seeing a band.
Composer Justin Curfman, who does vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizer and more, has a bit of a unique perspective on that. He grew up in Paulding County (a little northwest of Atlanta) but has lived in Europe since 2010, having moved there when he was around the age of 29. He currently lives in Italy — and he said his band’s music seems to be more well-received in that part of the world, simply because, he said, Europeans don’t seem to spend as much effort pinpointing a band.
“I hate to sound like an asshole, making generalizations, but I think the difference is, in America, there tends to be more of a focus on specific genre marketing, if that makes any sense,” Curfman said recently while rehearsing in Atlanta for his upcoming tour in the South. “A lot of people here (in the U.S.) need things to be very rigidly defined, and so the problem that we’ve had over here is, we’ve always been lumped in with being like a goth band or something like that, and people come to see a band that they have been marketed toward as a goth band.
“And then they go see us, and they don’t like it, because they find out, ‘Oh, this band is not what we would consider a goth band; they play jazz, they play world music, they play indie rock, all this other stuff, and it was not what we were looking for.’ So it sort of alienates people; whereas, in Europe, there’s generally a little bit more openness toward like broad definitions of music. Like, you can just say, ‘Oh, it’s a rock band.’ And then people will go see it and say, ‘Oh, it’s a rock band that happens to play several different genres of music, that’s cool.’”
He isn’t knocking Americans, though — he’s just pointing out some differences in the cultures. For example, he had something very positive to say on what he misses about life in the United States.
“I miss the generosity of people; like, people in America are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met, and they’re also more open and a lot more friendly than most people,” Curfman said. “In my opinion, in my experience, Americans, generally speaking, are the friendliest, most generous, kindest people, in the world, to me.”
As he reminisced about his time growing up in the United States, Curfman said his childhood in Georgia was filled with outdoors adventures.
“We had very limited resources, my family. We were not wealthy by any means,” he said. “We never really had much in the way of material stuff; it was just my father and my grandmother and myself and my sister. And I grew up pretty much finding ways to entertain myself, and I think that’s why I became a musician. Lots of time alone, playing music, drawing, that kind of thing. But one thing that was great about growing up here was being able to spend a lot of time outside, like I was very much an outdoorsy kind of kid. Like I’d build treehouses, make fires, go camping, all that kind of stuff. And I think living in Georgia in general, that was one of the nice things about growing up here for me, was having a little bit more time being able to be outside and enjoy being a kid. I don’t see kids doing that much anymore here, but that’s the way it was when I was younger.”
Curfman’s theory on why Europeans seem to be less worried about genre is because they tend to have more leisure time than people in the United States do.
“People here (in the U.S.) don’t get as much vacation time, and they have to work so much,” Curfman said. “Like 40 to 60 hours a week. So when they go out and do something, I think they want to know what they’re getting into before they commit to it. … Whereas, I think in Europe, generally, they have a lot more vacation time and free time, so if they go see something that they don’t care for, they don’t feel so disappointed. It’s like, ‘Oh, we’ll just go out again tomorrow and see something else.’ And of course I’m not a sociologist, but that’s sort of like my experience, sort of like what I’ve kind of seen.”
If you were going to box the band in, though, Feeding Fingers says the band “began as an experimental post-punk trio and has evolved into an inter-disciplinary and international music project. … Nearly impossible to classify, Feeding Fingers adeptly merge dark-wave, indie rock, avant-garde, electro, jazz, world music and more,” according to their bio on Facebook.
Their sound has been compared to post-punk acts The Cure (Curfman’s voice especially can sound like Robert Smith’s at times), Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and Joy Division… and more recently, Radiohead.
As it’s evolved since its founding in 2006, Feeding Fingers has become different from a traditional rock band — Curfman works on the albums himself, writing and recording everything, and then when he goes on tour, he trains his band members to play the songs with him. Curfman’s current two band members are Bradley Claborn, who plays bass, and Christopher Fall, who plays drums and percussion. They both live in Georgia.
“The only album that I’ve had original members actually play on was my first two albums,” Curfman said. “I had some drum tracks and bass tracks from my former band members, but everything after that is me, and then I have other musicians that perform on some recordings. Like this new album, for example, I have a saxophonist from Germany that plays on that, and I have an Italian violinist playing on it.”
As the songwriter, Curfman draws inspiration from many different sources, including traveling, art, literature, and — recently — from hanging out with animals. He said most of his lyrics tend to be abstract.
“I don’t know that I ever consciously choose a subject to write about,” he said. “I wish that I could; it’d be a lot easier, I think. But I think most of my lyrics are more like I guess painterly… I mean, there’s stuff that I wrote 10 years ago that I go and read now that actually make sense to me, but at the time, they were a lot more abstract. So I don’t know, maybe if you ask me that question 10 years from now, I can tell you.”
People who go to his band’s live shows can expect something that’s pretty different from his recorded material. He tries to make his live shows “more human,” with everything rewritten and performed specifically for a trio instead of just for himself, as it is on the albums.
He said the two upcoming dates in Augusta will be his first time playing in the city.
“I’m very excited about going to Augusta,” he said. “I think it’s a very beautiful town, like it’s nice and relaxing, and I’m really happy to go see some new people. That’s my biggest thing; it’s nice to see some new faces.”
Toward the end of the conversation with him, the talk inevitably turned to golf:
Metro Spirit: I think that’s all the questions I had, but if I have anything else come up, I’ll email you.
Curfman: You don’t want to talk about golf?
Metro Spirit: Oh, no. … But we could, if you want to!
Curfman: Well, that’s of course always the first thing that comes up when anyone hears “Augusta.”
Metro Spirit: Yeah. I think more James Brown, when I’m talking to music people.
Curfman: Well, when you talk to music people, for sure. I’d better learn some dance moves, then. Gotta get some slippery shoes.
Metro Spirit: Oh, yeah. But golf — golf’s … there. … Um, did you want to talk about golf?
Curfman: Uhh … I’m a pretty good miniature golf guy. That’s about it.
Metro Spirit: Yeah, that’s about all I can do, too. Well, you’ll have to check out our Putt-Putt.
Curfman: I’m sure you have the best Putt-Putt in the world!
Feeding Fingers (touring in support of the new album “Do Owe Harm”)
The Fox’s Lair (8 – 11:30 p.m. Feb 2, $5 cover)
Le Chat Noir: Atmosphere Club (9 p.m. Feb 3, $5 cover)