FISCHERSPOONER on their new album and museum exhibition

Caption: Cover of FISCHERSPOONER’S SIR (Ultra Records, 2017). Photo: Vincent Claudio Urbani.

FISCHERSPOONER is the dynamic duo Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner, who have been joined by many collaborators during their nearly two decades of creativity. Their latest output includes an upcoming album from Ultra Records, cowritten and coproduced by Michael Stipe with additional production by BOOTS on the lead single “Have Fun Tonight,” and released in time for New York City Pride; an exhibition at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK) in Vienna, on view from June 30 through October 29, 2017; and an artist’s book designed by Nicolas Santos—all titled SIR. Here, they discuss their work across music, fashion, photography, film, performance, and more.

WE’VE NEVER HAD a museum exhibition and an album release at the same time. It’s a unique creative opportunity when everything comes to fruition simultaneously. For example, the designer Nicolas Santos is working on the album packaging while he’s designing the artist’s book; he made these Carl Andre–inspired text-patterned pieces for the publication that are also in a music video, and probably out of that will come projections for a concert. Short-form, long-form, populist, elitist—it’s an amazing moment for us to explore different modes of art making more fully.

Our exhibition at MUMOK, curated by Marianne Dobner, consists of a photo, film, and sound installation that incorporates a series of images taken with the photographer Yuki James in Casey’s old apartment. The images are printed as wallpaper that surrounds the room, and from those photos we shot a music video for the song “Togetherness.” We’re also showing a video sculpture with a single take of a dance between Casey and a performer named Juan Pablo Rahal, slowed down to an eighth of its speed, with audio. It’s about twenty-seven minutes long, and the music is so abstract that it sounds like growling, explosions, and door slamming—an ominous soundtrack within this domestic fantasy.

Usually when we work on an album, we begin thinking in terms of character and image before or alongside making music. We knew we couldn’t do our usual avant-garde, high-fashion Pop extravaganza, because when we started in 1998 it seemed exciting and interesting, but now it’s become status quo. The challenge was how to make something powerful, unusual, and relevant now. Casey has started to tap into this ’70s gay character—mustache, long hair, built body—that seems to be connecting with a young audience coming of age amidst the emergence of internet-sex-app connectivity and Truvada in the United States; it’s a post–gay liberation, pre–AIDS epidemic image that shows the parallels between now and then. Vigilant homosexuality as a theme for the album became immensely, awkwardly, personal and private and in a way, a crusade.

Excerpts from an interview with FISCHERSPOONER

Michael Stipe has been a complete and utter revelation in our process because we’ve never trusted a producer; we’ve always controlled everything ourselves. There’s a new naturalism in our music; we kind of equate it to a ’70s Lou Reed record like Berlin. It doesn’t sound like that, but there are just a lot of flaws. Michael was obsessed with making sure we didn’t airbrush the vocals too much. He wanted it to feel human, and so the vocals are dry and unaffected.

The artist’s book is our third publication. As an exercise, Casey decided to give his phone, with everything in it from the past four years, to our collaborator Nicolas Santos and asked him to try to embarrass us. The book is basically a collage of Casey’s personal life built from DIY, user-generated content; it’s a visual diary, made by someone else. We think one of the most powerful images Santos picked is of an email from Casey’s mother. It was in response to a portrait of Casey with his tongue sticking upwards. She sent him an email saying, “Dear Casey, Please change your profile picture . . . it’s obscene . . . all the little old ladies who love you see it . . . love, Mom.” A screen grab of the email is on the last page of the book, and the tongue image itself is also the album cover.

Everything comes together as a body of work, a cycle, an era. That’s not a strategy—we just have interrelated ideas that fit both art and entertainment. The only reason why these worlds are typically separated is because of capitalism. But we love ideas and don’t care about the financial systems that exploit them. This may be our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.