FAN was never supposed to exist.
After singer/guitarist Meric Long had spent a decade as one-half of indie rock duo the Dodos — time that saw the release of several acclaimed albums (including, most notably, 2008’s Visiter) and tours the world over — Long was compelled to put his band on pause following the passing of his father and subsequent birth of his first child, choosing instead to prioritize life over music.
But for a lifelong musician, it’s nearly impossible to separate the two for very long.
Ultimately, the catalyst that merged them together once more was two synthesizers Long inherited from his dad — instruments he began playing in the purest sense of the word, with no particular purpose in mind other than the sheer enjoyment of seeing what kind of sounds he could make them produce.
Still grieving over the loss of his parent, the time spent on a Yamaha AX60 and Realistic Concertmate MG-1 helped bridge the gulf of their abridged relationship.
Says Long, “I’ve had a lot of regret about not overcoming the space that existed between us. I would have liked to get to know him more. I think working with the synths he passed on was a way to continue the conversation.”
These extemporaneous sessions took place across a vast swath of time and space: two weeks spent completely alone in Galicia, Spain, at his mother-in-law’s cottage in the woods, a week holed up in a Portland basement during a blizzard, nights in a soundproofed Oakland garage (the titular “Barton’s Den,” after Long’s middle name) once his newborn daughter had gone to bed.
For Long, these periods of isolation became one of the defining factors in the creation of FAN’s debut full-length.
“It’s funny and surprising how that emerged as a theme over the course of making this record, especially the very real and profound type of cut-off you feel when you’re a new parent. Letting myself disappear shaped the album a lot because it allowed me to hit the reset button on my relationship to things.”
When a growing catalog of recordings eventually began to accumulate, Long began to seriously considering turning them into full-fledged songs at the urging of friend/producer John Askew (Neko Case, Wild Flag).
For a musician who had spent many years primarily playing guitar, the shift to writing with synthesizers was initially daunting.
Reveals Long, “I have such a specific approach to guitar, and have been doing it for so long that breaking away from that felt like a huge, scary leap.”
But the upside of stepping outside his comfort zone was the opportunity to finally embrace a wealth of childhood influences: Nintendo soundtracks, Devo, Brian Eno, Prince.
These musical touchstones are filtered through Long’s unique musical mind, as showcased on first single “Bob1,” a track that nods at Eno’s early solo work while simultaneously coating it with an unmistakably fresh veneer.
Elsewhere, “What a Mistake” is positively cinematic, a soundtrack to a future that transforms the familiar into something alluringly foreign, while “Velour” bares Long’s dancehall soul with a pulsing, upbeat melody that willfully stomps everything in its path.
Though Long initially had no intention of turning the electronic soundscapes he was creating in seclusion into actual songs — much less a proper album — listeners of Barton’s Den will undoubtedly be grateful he decided to share these intimate moments with the world.