The Metropolitan: Face-to-face with FaceMan

If James Brown was the hardest-working man in show business, Denver’s FaceMan is the hardest-working folk-rock trio. The relatively new band has spent the last four months planning their album release party, FaceMan’s First Waltz, which could be the biggest local show of the year. With 35 guest musicians from some of Denver’s biggest names including The Knew and Slim Cessna’a Auto Club — not to mention a giant stainless steel face sculpture — the show is sure to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Talking with FaceMan himself, it’s clear he’s looking forward to the big night, not only to get people interested in his own music, but also introduce people to the great music all around the Denver area.

MP:How would you describe your sound?

FM: It would be in the folk-rock genre probably, but it’s a little bit rough around the edges in the sense that it’s not the most polished music. We do, at shows, gain fullness in the music, by bringing in a three-piece horn section and other guest musicians to fill out stuff, but it’s meant to be pretty simple.

I don’t play with any effects pedals, so I play a clean electric guitar and sing. The songs are three-minute, verse-chorus type songs. They’re meant to be accessible.

MP: Why did you decide to do your album release party this way, with all the guest musicians?

FM: The main reason is our music is simple, and we’re big on performing with other people and having fun with it. It’s fun for us to have guests.

Also, there are a lot of really talented people in this town that work their asses off doing what we do, and it’s an opportunity to bring all these different friends of ours together and perform in a format that no one’s too used to doing — in this town at least. In other music towns, like New Orleans, it happens all the time — it’s just part of the culture.

That’s what we’re really into [with this show]. We’re trying to promote [the guests’] projects as well and have them celebrate with us. We’re not covering any music, but we’re covering other Denver music. I think we have a pretty impressive list of people confirmed, and we’re gonna have a four-piece horn section with a Sousaphone player … [and] a marching band there. It’s gonna be like a party.

We have a band called The Construct that’s opening at 8:30 and they play for about 40 minutes, and then at around 9:30, our show starts. Basically from 9:30 to 1:30 in the morning we’re playing about 35 tunes. There’s 30 or more actual musicians coming on the stage. You wouldn’t believe this plan we have. It’s hilarious. The sound guy’s gonna hate us … It’ll be fun, man.

MP: Are you going to play the new album in its entirety?

FM: The whole album will be played, but it will be kind of intermingled. We’ll have a couple of sets, we call ’em mini sets, where it will be more acoustic, and then it’ll get into a little bit more rock, then we’ll break down and just be the trio for a few songs. We’re definitely playing all the album songs, and some of the songs will be in a trio form, because on the album it’s a trio.

MP: What can people expect from the album itself?

FM: I think people will find that there’s an upbeat sound and it’s folky, but the lyrics are a little bit darker. We like to say we’re death folk. We’re not technically that dark, but we’re like the GWAR of folk.

MP: When you first started playing shows you wore a mask. Why don’t you wear the mask anymore?

FM: I’ve never wanted this project to be expected. The mask included. Initially the mask was — Well … it was just to be anonymous. It’s like being in costume. It gave me this ability to be more creative in my mind. It created a sort of outlet. It’s like Halloween: You have this sort of unfound confidence when you have a really good costume, and you go to a really good party and you’re like, “Man, why am I such a badass tonight? One night only.” I just wanted to have that excitement, and I realized it gave me a lot of confidence for me to go [on stage] and do something meaningful. [Basically], the mask was never intended to be forever.

MP: Can you tell me a little bit about the new face?

FM: This has always been a project where I have fought really hard to get the best people I could possibly get to work with, in all different types of fields … Everything about the project I’m trying to make as good as it can be. One of the things about [it] is I want the look to constantly evolve. Once people buy into the music, the look’s just fun. If you don’t like it, who cares? It’s entertainment.

We’ve gone through various different looks and I ended up working with this artist, James Ronner, in upstate New York. He ended up building this 200-pound, stainless steel, 8-foot tall, copper-riveted structure. It was like his Statue of Liberty, basically. It’s all hand-done and it took him seven-and-a-half months to do it … This thing is just beautiful.

It just makes the look a little bit more professional. Not saying [that] we’re always gonna have it, I just want this [project] to keep evolving, [to] keep getting weirder and weirder.

MP: So are you commissioning a new face already?

FM: No! We’re gonna sit on this one for a little bit. We’ve only done one show with it. Typically we do 10 to 15 shows with one look.

[The album release] is gonna be this night where we’re all gonna be at one place and we’re gonna party. It will be more for us. Sort of like a meet and greet. With 35 people we’re just gonna have a fuckin’ blast.

It’s $10 and it’s guaranteed to be amusing.