Years after moving back to Denver from New York, Emily Frembgen still has a 917 area code. It therefore shouldn't come as a surprise that the singer-songwriter is packing up her guitar and heading back to the Big Apple at the beginning of June. But she's not leaving Denver empty-handed: Her new CD, Always With You, is a gorgeous disc full of plainspoken yet poetically walloping folk songs.
There's more to it than just another pretty voice, though. Veering from hushed, after-hours dreamscapes to gently distorted meltdowns, Always With You is perfectly poised between sonic insurgency and Frembgen's fragile yet fearless vocals. In advance of her CD-release show and going-away party with sometimes collaborator Ian Cooke at Lost Lake on Thursday, Frembgen spoke with us about Lou Reed, Hall & Oates and the fine art of abrasion.
Westword: When did you start writing your own songs?
Emily Frembgen CD-release show, with Ian Cooke, Thursday, May 20, Lost Lake, 3602 East Colfax Avenue, 303-333-4345.
Emily Frembgen: When I was fifteen, I heard Lou Reed, and that's what made me want to start writing. So I went and got a guitar and started.
Reed isn't the typical inspiration for a high-school kid. How did you connect to it?
EF: His writing is so simple. He uses really plain language, and a lot of times he's abrasive. You can tell it would annoy people [laughs]. He just likes being defiantly simple. I feel like that's my language, too. I like going against the idea that everything in music has to be complicated. He taught me that you can do that.
It seems like you went out of your way to make the songs on your CD a little abrasive and unexpected.
Yeah, I love that.
Why do you think you're attracted to that kind of sound?
When I go to shows, I just don't hear enough of that. I wish people were doing stuff that was more abrasive. I feel that quality is really lacking in most of what I hear. Not to be critical, but I want to make music that would be refreshing to me if I heard it at a show or picked up a CD. I don't feel like I need to make anything perfect or pretty or anything. That's all been made.
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And yet there are a lot of pretty moments on your CD.
I like the pretty moments, but that's not what I really want to work on.
The first song on the disc is a cover of Hall & Oates's "Every Time You Go Away," but it's hard to recognize until you hit the chorus.
That's good. I like that effect. I just realized I sing the first verse wrong. I hope Daryl Hall never hears it. He'll be mad [laughs].