Anyone who has seen indie-rock band Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! knows their capacity to rouse a crowd. Their performance last month at the Living Room was no exception. Frontman and multi-instrumentalist Wil Farr’s voice can bite, twang, scream and, above all, enthrall us. Kinetic, visceral, possessed by the energy of what he’s doing, he sings eyes closed, neck veins bulging, whole body moving, and hips swinging in circles as he hits a groove. Farr is sweating—and it’s only the end of the first song.
“What does it feel like to be you, up there, performing your music?” I ask. “It is to be somewhere else,” he answers.
Radio Free Chicago has correctly described Farr’s style: “[H]e sings with an intensity that’s palpable, putting a vise grip on your soul until it bursts at the apex — a veritable coup of sonic elements coming together to blow you away,” and they have praised him for his expert songwriting. The website DOA concurs: “Farr’s vocals sound as though his voice is about to cave in, giving it a sense of despair and thus sincerity that their contemporaries don’t quite achieve in the same way.”
“I am honored that so many people would use so many words to describe what I do! But, truly, I always appreciate kind words,” says Farr demurely about the positive press. Calm and unassuming offstage, Farr is one part humorist and two parts pessimist, which he credits to social anxiety and a self-destructive streak.
According to his mother, Farr began writing music in his car seat, singing and making up songs. “I’m certain those songs were about eating, sleeping and being in the car seat,” Farr jokes, who himself remembers beginning to write music when he was in high school in Montgomery, Alabama. As we would expect, the subject of his music has changed these days. The New Yorker wrote that Hurrah!’s music “traffics in anthemic and melodramatic material.” “I try to write more from fictional areas these days than ones experienced in real life, but sadness and heartbreak are good experiences to pull from.”
“The material I choose to write about is not always “positive.” There are plenty of people good at writing songs of hope and love. I’m a normally pessimistic person so that doesn’t fit into my writing often.” Perpetually finding ways to be disappointed and bearing a defeatist worldview, Farr is eagerly working on Hurrah!’s next project: a yet to be named EP.
The EP will consist of four separate movements that Farr is joining together to create one long piece. “I wanted to do something different. These songs are very similar in my mind. [They] flow into one another quite nicely and tell a compelling story, I think,” he explains. “I know it will be consumed in separate pieces, since those are the times we live in, but I wanted to put the effort into making something complete.”
Recorded and mixed by Farr at A Bloody Good Record in Long Island City, the EP is due out early fall. About the release timeline, he classically notes, “This is a particularly dour work of music and the season must reflect that.”
Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!, consisting of Farr (vocals, guitars), Kenny Shaw (drums, percussion), Dave Freedman (guitars), Doug Drewes (bass), and Jacob Pleakis (vocals, piano, keyboards), will share a bill at Cameo Gallery with mirage rock band Ceramic Animal and singer-songwriter Abby Payne (whose concept album release show we previewed).