Having recently been selected to open for the 17-year-old phenom Lorde on her forthcoming U.S. tour, 30-year-old Matthew Hemerlein a.k.a. Lo-Fang is poised for the next level. His debut album "Blue Film" drops on February 25. We had a listen and it's definitely a work of duality: ying and yang, soft and hard, an angel in a dark basement.
Over coffee in a noisy café, Matthew proved a rather tough nut to crack. He likes to answer questions with questions and his statements remain rather opaque. His voice, on the other hand, is clear as a clarinet.
STANDARD CULTURE: Where did the name Lo-Fang come from?
LO-FANG: My brain.
Um, does it have a meaning?
And what does it mean?
I had a song called "No Fangs" that was kicking around for a while. I was driving one day and Lo-Fang popped out of my brain. It just made a lot of sense given the music that I was making, it’s a homophonic relationship. It’s more of a style than a name. An aesthetic.
How would you describe that aesthetic?
It’s a counterbalance between opposites – the way I sing and the string's rotation, put up against electronic drums and harsher sounds – and blending it together in a way that sounds really seamless. But, this is intellectualizing something that is really subconscious.
Really, I just liked the way Lo-Fang sounded. It made sense as a balance between masculine and feminine energy, the "L" is very phallic and the "F" is very vaginal. But, the word "Lo" is very feminine and "Fang" is very masculine. It's about discovering that balance in the music. It was interesting from a Daoist perspective.
Are you Daoist?
I don't want to commit to any term, but I probably coincide more with that philosophy than other codified thought systems.
How did you get into that?
I had a connection with someone who introduced me to Daoism. People are drawn to certain things in life. It's how many of life's stories start.
Where did your musical story start?
I began playing violin when I was five and haven't stopped. I play a lot of instruments; piano, cello, bass...
What inspires your music?
My own observations, usually. If I am covering a song then I am expressing how I was inspired by that music and its effect on me.
"Boris" was a cover. What was the attraction?
"Boris" is a song from a German band, consisting of two girls, called Boy. I was playing at this hotel in Berlin and they were there too. The song is very creepy. It's about the possibility of an affair. I wanted to darken it slightly and make it my own. They were seeing it from a girl's perspective and I thought that by seeing it from the man's perspective that it evokes this really confusing morality. There is something really sexy about the song, but also something very disgusting about it. It’s in the beholder’s eye.
You began the process of making "Blue Film" in rural Maryland, jetted to Cambodia, London, Nashville, and finished up at Capitol Records in Hollywood. How does it feel to have the luxury to do that?
Luxury? I'm glad you say that, but just because you're traveling around doesn’t mean you’re doing in style. When I was in London I had a nice place to stay, but literally no money to eat anything but falafels. Which is not the coolest thing, but I was doing a lot of music which is really cool.
Is travel important to your creative process?
I mean no, it’s not. It was just happenstance. It, of course, opened things up, but it’s what you do with those experiences. Taking the time to process the impressions and essence of a place, and take some of it with you.
You’re about to go on tour with Lorde, are you nervous?
No, I’m not nervous.
These venues you’re about to play are rather large .... that is new for you.
The most people I have ever played to is when I did a national anthem for an NBA game. About 15,000 people. That was terrifying, but that was also a national anthem. This is different, it’s your own show, your own vibe.
Lo-Fang & Lorde
Lo-Fang is set to take the stage in the Penthouse at The Standard, East Village on Thursday, January 23 at 7pm. Email for guest list opportunities.