Federale | Interview | New Album, ‘Reverb & Seduction’

Uncategorized July 11, 2024

Federale | Interview | New Album, ‘Reverb & Seduction’

Portland’s own Federale is about to unleash their sixth studio marvel, ‘Reverb & Seduction,’ dropping July 12 via Jealous Butcher Records.

Marking 20 years of sonic wizardry, Collin Hegna—who’s also been rocking with The Brian Jonestown Massacre just as long—leads the charge. This ten-track odyssey dances from psychedelic rock to country duets, all while clutching its spaghetti western roots like a six-shooter. Recorded at Revolver Studios, it features collaborations with Portland rock veterans and contributions from members of The Black Angels and Courtney Barnett’s band.

Hegna describes ‘Reverb & Seduction’ as a culmination of two decades of musical exploration, blending influences from 80s deathrock to 70s folk ballads. Despite experimenting with new genres, Federale retains their signature cinematic soundscapes. The album will be available on major digital platforms, CD, and limited edition vinyl, with a supporting tour kicking off in Portland on July 12.

Collin Hegna is the creative force behind Federale, known for blending Spaghetti Western instrumentals with moody vocal arrangements to create a distinctive sound. As a recording engineer, mixer, and composer for film and TV, he continuously explores new musical territories while maintaining a unique retro vibe in his work.

Photo by Jason Quigley

“The original concept for the band was to create Spaghetti Western soundtracks for films that didn’t exist”

‘Reverb & Seduction’ marks Federale’s 20th anniversary. How does it feel to have reached this milestone, and how has the band evolved over the past two decades?

Collin Hegna: Well, I feel like most bands have a trajectory that involves a meteoric rise followed by a long, slow decline. I thought it would be fun to try to achieve the opposite: a long, slow build followed by a complete drop-off when I eventually die (if that ever happens). But yeah. I kind of never pushed this band as a touring act or tried to get any big label deals or follow any sorts of trends, even trends of my own making. I wanted it to be malleable, and I wanted it to be able to evolve in unforeseen ways.

The original concept for the band was to create Spaghetti Western soundtracks for films that didn’t exist. And it was primarily a studio project (though we’ve always played locally). I think it’s fair to say that what we’re doing now is quite a bit different from that. If I was looking at this from the outside, it might be hard to understand how one could go from that to goth rock. But with every turn and every new element we’ve brought in, we always carried along a bit of what we had done before. So I see it as a constant evolution in all possible directions. Why limit oneself as an artist?

Within any given work, there are, of course, things that will work and things that will not work. But when you start something new, you get the opportunity to break the mold. And that’s where creativity really kicks in. I like riding that wave.

Also, we’re starting to become more of a touring band. Maybe even what people would consider a “normal band.” So yeah, long slow build. Not even close to done. We’re coming to Europe for the first time ever in November. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Your new single, ‘No Strangers,’ pays homage to Lee Hazlewood. What drew you to Hazlewood’s style and storytelling, and how did it influence the creation of this track?

Well, I really like his personality. Or rather, the persona that he portrays in his music. It’s clearly a caricature of himself, but a bedraggled, loveable loser version of himself. There’s a lot of self-deprecating humor, and I think that is really interesting when juxtaposed against his deep, serious vocal tones. The arrangements on records are always so interesting. I love the sparse rhythm section with the strings and choirs against the backdrop of his dark, weathered vocals. It’s so evocative of images to me and really tells a story.

With ‘No Strangers,’ I was trying to capture a little bit of that. It’s a story of a drifter who rolls into a town where it’s clear that he’s not welcome. Everyone there sees him as a bad man. But it turns out that all of the folks in town are rotten apples themselves. So he burns the whole town to the ground, which ironically proves them right. It turns out he was bad news for them after all. It’s just that maybe they had it coming. Musically, I tried to infuse that same sort of western guitars meets psychedelic strings that one finds in Hazlewood’s songs from the late ’60s.

Collin, you’ve mentioned that Federale’s records sound period-correct for an alternate-universe 1971. What drives your commitment to maintaining this retro vibe, and how do you balance it with evolving musical tastes and styles?

In that comment you are referencing, I was saying that I had tried to adhere to that aesthetic with my early albums from Federale. I’ve been slowly incorporating new styles into the music over the last couple of releases, though. And at this point, I’ve kind of abandoned having any rules about what does or does not fit into what a “Federale song” could be. There’s still a lot of retro vibes, but I think it’s interesting to contrast that against things that you wouldn’t normally find in a ’60s or ’70s-sounding recording. So, for instance, I’ve brought in some ’80s-sounding guitars and synths into songs that otherwise have a 1972 vibration. I think it’s fun to do stuff like that—to play around with people’s expectations of genre. As far as trends and things go, I don’t even really know what the trends are, so they don’t really enter my mind when I’m creating. Or if they do, I’m not aware of it. Trends are for kids.

What was the original concept behind the formation of your band?

I just wanted to make my own version of Spaghetti Western soundtracks. I had no concept of how to do that outside of listening to the amazing body of work that existed in that genre and then mimicking it the best I could with my very limited resources. Sadly, I am not an Italian mega-genius with access to an orchestra, choir, and every manner of world instrument. But I could whistle! So we started with pretty basic arrangements featuring mostly combo organ, acoustic guitar, whistling, trumpet, and twangy electric guitar. From there, the arrangements just grew and grew. Now we actually do have strings and orchestral instruments.

The lineup for ‘Reverb & Seduction’ features talents from various Portland rock-scene veterans. Tell us about these collaborations.

With this album, my previous lineup had sort of fallen apart about halfway through the recording process. So I needed to find new folks to work with. As a recording engineer, I have worked with a LOT of the musicians in Portland. So I started making calls to folks who I thought would fit with what I was doing. Eventually, I landed on a new core band with folks from bands like The Shivas, Roselit Bone, and Rogue Wave. But along the way, I also did a duet with the fabulous Jenny Don’t and had my buddy Dave Mudie from Courtney Barnett’s band guest on drums. I also collaborated with Andrew Joslyn, who did all the string performances. Andrew is a multiple Grammy winner who has worked with Ke$ha, Macklemore, Nancy Wilson, and lots of other folks. I also had Alex Maas from The Black Angels sing backup vocals on one song. It was great to bring new voices to the party.

“I’m constantly striving for in my music creation”

Your music often blends elements of Spaghetti Western instrumental sound with moody vocal arrangements. Can you tell us more about your creative process in combining these seemingly disparate styles, and how it contributes to Federale’s distinctive sound?

I see a lot of similarities between the arrangements of Ennio Morricone and people like Scott Walker, Lee Hazlewood, and Serge Gainsbourg. But you hardly ever hear Morricone arranging in later years for singers. And then when you do, it’s primarily female vocalists he’s working with. I just love taking that Morricone style and superimposing a baritone vocal over the top of it. It’s like wine and cheese—a delicious combination. The songs that I write are not incredibly complicated when you boil it down to chords, melody, and lyrics. Where I try to get trippy is in the arrangements. So many songs live and die based on the mood that is struck by how they are arranged. Take a song like Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Bonnie & Clyde.’ That song would not work even a little bit as well as it does without that weird vocal-sounding effect and the groove. Or another example would be ‘Red Right Hand’ by Nick Cave. A great song, to be sure, on its own. But what really elevates it is the mood that is set by that pizzicato-like electric guitar and the tubular bell exclamation points. It turns a great song into a truly magical one. That’s the sort of thing I’m constantly striving for in my music creation. I worry about that kind of thing more than the chords sometimes.

The ‘Reverb & Seduction’ album promises to be Federale’s most immersive and varied release yet. Could you elaborate on the themes or stories explored in the album, and how they manifest through the music? Tell us more about the recording and producing process as well.

The first half of the record is all very new work and features my new lineup. It was recorded pretty live without a lot of studio fussing, so that stuff feels very immediate to me. The second half of the album represents a lot of the work that was done prior to that during the pandemic and with the old lineup. It’s also very good, but a lot of it was constructed remotely, with people sending files from all over the world in some cases. I think that also yields some interesting results; it’s just a very different vibe. So as you listen, you kind of hear me going back in time, and you can hear the transition from the new band to the old band, as well as the transition from live recordings to creating in isolation.

Thematically, I kind of let the mood of the music tell me where to go. I always write lyrics last, or at least finish them last in the process. For whatever reason, I wrote about love a bit on this record for probably the first time ever. That’s usually everyone’s first theme when writing. It took me 20 years to get there. But it’s not sappy or anything. I tend not to write about my personal experiences to avoid sappiness. There are also themes of betrayal, survival, serial killers, paranoia, and, of course, death. So it hits a wide array of human experiences!

How would you compare it to your previous releases?

Well, I wanted to expand in all directions. I wanted it to be heavier, poppier, weirder, and at the same time more accessible. And I think it’s all those things. It’s also the biggest-sounding record I’ve made. I think it’s my best work. You all can decide, though.

Your upcoming tour will take you across the West Coast and beyond. Tell us about that.

Yeah. Well, I want this band to be a touring band now. So, yeah, we’re doing a West Coast tour this July, followed by some shorter runs here and there in the West. And in early November, we’ll be going to Europe for the first time ever. I hope to get to the American South and Southwest, as well as the East Coast, next year. I also plan to get over to the UK at some point soon. Hopefully everywhere eventually!

Let’s end this interview with some of your favorite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

I work as a recording engineer, mixer, and composer for film and TV, so it’s kinda hard for me to listen to music for pleasure. After you sit in front of speakers listening critically for 8-10 hours at a time, the last thing you want to hear is music. So I don’t listen to music all that often outside of my work. When I do, it’s primarily things one wouldn’t expect. Lots of jazz and Brazilian music. Lately, I really have been loving Chico Buarque’s ‘Construção’ album from 1971. If I had to recommend new music, it would probably be the two records that I just mixed and recorded that are coming out now: ‘Broken Hearted Blue’ by Jenny Don’t and The Spurs and ‘Can’t Stop Coming Around’ by The Shivas. Both are brand new and are awesome!

Photo by Jason Quigley

Thank you. The last word is yours.

Well… I have a new film coming out in 2024 called “Filthy Animals” that I did the score for. It’s pretty great. It’s a horror/thriller set during Christmas! So it combines a lot of genres. Keep an eye out for that! Also, my European film debut came out recently. I didn’t do the whole score, but I did a portion of the music. It’s a Swiss film called “Mad Heidi,” and that movie rules!

Klemen Breznikar

Headline photo: Jason Quigley

Federale Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube
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