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Interview: Fault Tolerant

Interview: Fault Tolerant

Fault Tolerant is a Nashville-based experimental music project led by writer, creative director, and musician Evan Brown.

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The Pamphleteer You have been quite prolific the past couple years! I'm slowly working through all of your releases, I really like I Reserve The Right To Change My Mind At Any Time and Maximum Sludge! The Ellen Noël collage artwork is really cool.

Fault Tolerant Thank you. Ellen Noël was my mom. Like me, she came from an advertising background and was a writer. But she was also quite a prolific visual artist. Her collages are evocative but ambiguous. Pure feeling without context.

P: Do you plan on playing any shows at any time in the future?

FT: None lined up any time soon. But I think we’d want to do something more akin to a mixed-media installation than a traditional live show.

P: How did you start Fault Tolerant — is it a solo project?

FT: Fault Tolerant is mainly me and Perla Vee, the Swedish singer who also adds synth and guitar textures. She’s also my daughter.

I’ve been in my share of bands over the years, always as a drummer. But this is different not just because I’m playing synths and bass and doing the vocals but also because it is conceptual as much as musical.

Fault tolerance, by definition, is the ability of a system (like a computer, or cloud network) to continue operating when one or more of its components fail. One could also apply the world in general. In the past few years, it seems like more things have broken. Culture. Academia. Our relationship to work. Our relationship to each other. And the so-called leaders in Washington. How long can society still function with so many broken things until it collapses?

I wanted to explore that concept musically. What if I add a wrong note? What if I take an out-of-context sample from a YouTuber? What if I run my vocals through a synth preset in OVox until they turn into warped notes? I start with a structure and then add a lot of “What ifs” until it changes.

P: Some tracks remind me vaguely of Koop, who I was obsessed with in college, especially the track "Kitchen Floor." I think perhaps just because of the female vocals and samples. Who were your main influences for this project?

FT: That’s really interesting. Maybe it’s because Koop is Swedish and so is Perla?

The other thing is we also record more straightforward cover songs at the same time we’re recording the albums. During Maximum Sludge! we recorded songs by Randy Newman, Ween, Bobby Birdman and a gospel song by John Davis from Superdrag. Maybe in some indirect way they influenced us but I’d be hard-pressed to hear it.

Whether I sound anything like them or not, musicians who made their own world are my biggest influence. Ween. Ariel Pink. Robert Pollard. R. Stevie Moore. You instantly know it’s them from the first note.

P: What is your process for finding samples and field recordings you use in your music?

FT: I might go to the internet archive with an idea of what I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s obvious like adding the children playing during “Weaponized Nostalgia.” But then I have a track off of the album You can’t understand the rain until you understand the umbrella called “Quiescence,” that juxtaposed someone reading a folktale in Hungarian with a man talking about ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs. In that case it’s less about meaning and more about texture.

When I was writing “The problem with Ions,” off the same album, my wife was watching some YouTuber in the other room. And while I was playing back the track I heard him say “Yeah it’s not quite astrology, but it’s pretty f*cking close,” and it sounded like it was meant to be there. I drove her crazy asking her to find the time code and send the link to me. But it made the song.

It’s also luck and happenstance, just like writing lyrics. One time I was at the post office and a very polite gentleman who was nevertheless off his rocker came over and asked me if I was looking for the orange rooster rocket road. So of course that had to become a song.

P: I feel like the way children react instinctively to music is incredibly wholesome and white pilling, as it were. Has having children changed your relationship with the music you create?

FT: There’s no question that Perla changed my relationship with the music I create. First because it was fun getting a vicarious thrill out of her discovering the music I listened to. Now that she’s older, she’s discovering new music and introducing it to me.

As far as musical partnerships go, she’s incredibly easy to work with, unlike members in former bands who might have had an ego trip or substance abuse problems or were just creatively on a different page. We write separately and then add to each other’s songs later. Even if it starts out one way it all ends up Fault Tolerant in the end.

But your broader question reminds me of that Velvet Underground lyric about your life being saved by rock and roll. Watching kids react to music can be incredibly white pilling for adults, but in some cases it’s white pilling for them as well. While it’s tragic that they’re even in a circumstance where they need to be saved at such a young age, thank God that it still holds power. Music is as much a way out as it is a way forward.