Phenomenal Fleeners is a wild and wooly band out of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Their sound has been described as anything ranging from off-the-cuff to slightly skewed to Satan A Go-Go. I caught up with the Fleeners recently and the resulting conversation, I think you’ll agree, was nothing short of phenomenal.
The line-up of Phenomenal Fleeners was described to me as:
Selby Wilson Fleener – Keys, Guitar, Vocals, Techie weenie, Engineer/Producer
Abraham Fleener – Vocals, Lyrics, and attitude
Rex Fleener – Bass, Vocals
Cory Burt Fleener – Percussion and Drums, and strange noises
Sidney Norman Fleener – Guitars, A-Holes, Vocals
Cory felt the need to add, “Since I’ve become a Fleener, I’ve changed my orientation to sideways.”
“Girl From Nova Skotia” was featured back in the early days of Dumpster Bust Radio (which was March, actually). Check it out here on Dumpster Bust Radio: Podcast #2.
Eric Berlin: How'd y'all start out making music?
Abraham: All of us met in choir. We discovered we were all the only ones who wore nothing under our robes and figured we had a lot in common.
Rex: I like no underwear.
Abraham: I wouldn't call any of the Fleeners people. People is a 20th century term really -- most of the time there are five creatures who play the music. These five creatures are in humanoid form, yes, but prefer to be called "Fleeners," as both a family name and a scientific term.
Okay, Fleeners, you got it. I like to think of "Girl From Nova Skotia" as "Rock Lobster" meets spooky alt rock with horns. How'd that song come into being and what's your take on it?
Sidney: It started with Selby Wilson and myself in my basement a couple of years back. Selby found an old Theremin in the corner. We wired it through the pickup in my ’54 Danelectro guitar, and just went with it. Talk about your voltage! It was Abraham who got us to bring in horns, and Cory found the right beat.
Abraham: It's about an actual humanoid/groupie who was from that place up north, the relationship of rock music to the artist/groupie mating ritual, and the overall fragile nature of the space-time continuum.
We would never throw a girl into a boiling pot of water like you would any crustacean. Unless she started listening to other bands. I wish Dick Clark could rate it.
How often do you gig out? What do you enjoy about live performances?
Abraham: We gig out all the time. The enjoyment of the performance depends mostly on the quality of the deli tray provided by the club or party. The Fleeners also love to compose on the spot. Having enough outlets for plugging in is also very enjoyable for working musicians.
Selby: Mmm… deli tray.
Sidney: We catch gigs whenever and wherever we can, which is pretty frequently of late. Minnesota is a lot more hip for gigs than most would believe.
As for enjoyment while playing, just standing in front of a bunch fans is the greatest wind ever. It keeps me cool too.
Any plans to cut an album or head out on tour in the works?
Sidney: We’re currently working on an EP/CD that includes Girl from Nova Skotia. As for touring, we’d like to do that if things go well with our CD. For now it’s bars and parties.
What are you listening to right now?
Abraham: The mighty Led Zeppelin, Tom Waits, Bowie, Three Dog Night.
And Nancy Sinatra.
Sidney: Nothing at the moment. In about 10 minutes I’ll turn on news radio. As for likeable tunes it’s Klaatu for the time being.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Abraham: Whale songs, the percolation of a nice bong, and any rock. Also train whistles near our studio.
Sidney: As a being that loves the guitar, I’ve been influenced by the following: Mr. Jeff Beck, Mr. Frank Zappa, Mr. Selby Wilson Fleener, Angus/Malcolm, and the Whiz Himself: Mr. Segovia Fleener. Let’s not forget my buddy Joe Fleener Walsh as well!
Selby: Me and Bobby McGee, Uncle Frank, U3, Dramarama.
Tough question: top five bands of all time?
The Fleeners collaborate…
First we would vote for us. Then we would honor the standards: Beatles, Stones, The Who, Zeppelin, The Partridge Family, and the Shags.
What do you for fun?
Abraham: Fly kites.
Sidney: I collect guitars, women, and objects made of silicon.
Selby: I’m working on removing my monitoring bracelet.
Rex: I eat ice cream.
What's your craziest / weirdest "being in a band" story?
Abraham: Selby Wilson Fleener, our keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist, has many issues. Most of the crazy stories revolve around him working up a crowd so they chant that they want a song about a chicken, which we have yet to write.
Once the crowd realizes that a song about this interesting farm creature is not going to be played, then things turn violent or strange. Once a club owner revoked our right to eat chicken off the deli tray after a particularly strange "no chicken song, sorry" episode.
Selby: The time we put the cheese log in the smoke machine.