Though it’s hard to imagine, in an era when Radiohead takes four years between releases, there was a time not too very long ago when the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan were releasing one and sometimes two full-length releases each and every year. No doubt, such prolonged gestation periods are a luxury we extend to today’s artists because we believe they improve the quality of the work. But while the seemingly never-ending glut of half-baked releases coming from Robert Pollard and Ryan Adams seems to reinforce that conventional wisdom, there are still artists who prove that such a prolific pace doesn’t necessarily equal endless exercises in repeating past formulas. The Fiery Furnaces are one such band.

“I don’t worry about repeating myself,” says Matthew Friedberger, the main songwriter and arranger for the band he leads with his sister Eleanor. “What if you weren’t heard the first time? If you weren’t heard the first time, you might repeat yourself. I go at a very slow pace and should be taken to task for it. Some other bands, or ‘artists,’ however, go at the pace of a plant,” he says, putting air quotes around the word that apparently refers to songwriters who take themselves a bit too seriously. “That’s very slow, my dear.”

Their sixth full-length release since 2002 (not counting Matthew Friedberger’s two solo releases from 2006), Widow City continues the band’s exploration of surreal and arcane narratives and constantly shifting song dynamics, though the band’s art rock takes some inspiration from a previously unexplored source. “The Philadelphia Grand Jury,” “Clear Signal from Cairo,” and “Navy Nurse” were constructed with a method the leading practitioner of which was Sir Paul,” Friedberger admits, explaining that the former Beatle’s plaintively romantic but deceptively simple songwriting conventions influenced the songwriting process. “The songs turned out as they were intended, for better or worse,” he says, sounding almost embarrassed to incorporate such an obvious reference point.–Matt Fink

Read the rest of the interview in Issue 26