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Fiery Furnaces warm up (again) to new songs

Peter Mongillo

Brother and sister Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, aka the Fiery Furnaces, are known for dynamic live performances that focus on reimagining their studio material. In 2009 they took that idea a step further, following the release of a new studio album, 'I'm Going Away,' with a second album, 'Take Me Round Again,' in which the siblings parted ways to cover the same material, leaving only the lyrics intact. We recently talked with Matthew Friedberger about the covers album, the siblings' penchant for live experimentation and a strange spat with Radiohead.

American-Statesman: What inspired you to cover your own material?

Matthew Friedberger: There were three things. First, we asked people to review or describe 'I'm Going Away' before they heard it, and lot of people did take some time to write long descriptions of an imaginary record. Since people took that time to think of alternative versions, we thought we should make an alternative version. Second, we always rearrange our songs to play live, so we thought we should just rearrange the songs and record it. That seemed like the logical step. The third was Eleanor wanted to record something like 'Eleanor Friedberger records the songs of the Fiery Furnaces.' She wanted to have a slower, folkier record. It's even more casual sounding than 'I'm Going Away,' and more spontaneous. The different arranging of the songs we do when we play them live hopefully allows people who like the band or take an interest in the band to crack open the songs themselves, so to speak, and imagine them in their own ways. That's the way we think about this process of rearranging or rerecording. You don't want to play the same song twice, you want to offer people different perspectives.

Are you revisiting any older material on the tour?

We certainly are. We're revisiting those old records, taking a little trip. I like the spatial metaphor, because you do think of the songs as people. You're taking on a trip, and when you're rearranging the song you think of taking a new trip.

A report that you called a Radiohead project 'bogus' was covered fairly heavily by music blogs last year. Were you surprised at the amount of attention the interview received?

I was very surprised. It was very unfortunate. It came about from me talking in a long interview many months before it was reported. The fellow I was talking about, he didn't notice that I was making a joke. Months later it gets put out with nothing else except me calling Radiohead bogus. And that's funny, but the main thing it shows is the importance of (music Web site) Pitchfork and that kind of stuff, because they reported it verbatim, and then everything down the line, in Britain too, picked it up, and they reported it with a tone where I didn't understand what they trying to do, except be silly as possible. I responded in kind, being as silly as possible.

The Fiery Furnaces with Drug Rug play at 9 Thursday at the Parish. 214 E. Sixth St. Parishaustin.com . $15.