20 Questions: Tu Fawning

Tu Fawning
A Monument
City Slang

When Tu Fawning came onto the scene in 2010, it was hard to know exactly what to make of this Portland-bred four-piece: was it a group that made sad pageant songs? Indie-rock funeral dirges? Sample-based pieces of experimental craftsmanship?

It’s truly hard to say, but the group soon began carving out a distinct niche for itself in the years that followed, touring the world while slowly crafting a deeper, more unique follow-up. This year’s A Monument features primal drumming, a smaller reliance on samples this time around (although they do pop up), and an even greater emphasis on singer Corrina Repp’s powerful voice (Joe Haege, Liza Rietz, and Tousssaint Perrault — multi-instrumentalists all — round out the lineup). The band’s live shows show the foursome breaking out violins, horns, and all manner of synths to drive their powerfully emotive music home. Even with the album’s release a few months ago, people are still starting to come around to the record, and the band’s reverent fanbase is slowly, gradually swelling.

As part of the group’s rise to prominence, Corrina has taken time out of the band’s busy schedule to answer PopMatters‘ 20 Questions, here revealing how Motley Crüe managed to bring her to tears, the fantastic story of how she came into ownership of a deaf cat named Jazz Hands, and how she has “disease” for acquiring t-shirts . . .

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Everyman by Philip Roth. Oh wait, I take that back, I actually just finished reading The Dirt, the Motley Crüe biography. Shed a few tears reading that one, believe it or not. There is some serious tragedy going on in that book and not all self-inflicted.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Funny, this is the only question I can’t answer. I don’t really think like that, and spent quite a bit of time trying to summon the answer to this question, but I couldn’t. I think I watch, read, and listen to fictional characters with an earnestness that only allows me to admire and respect them, not think about how I am like them, or want to be like them.

3. The greatest album, ever?

I could list a handful in every genre of music, but if I have to pick one right now off the top of my head it would be After the Gold Rush by Neil Young. I never, ever tire of that record.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars. I’ve never seen Star Trek, truth be told.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Nature. When I am having a good day and am feeling really open I love watching people. Brain food most definitely.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Having never given up on the idea that you don’t have to live inside the box of what it means to be successful. The house . . . money . . . kids, etc. . . . it’s hard to not succumb to that as being “success” all of the time. Owning a house, or having kids, having a 401K, or a savings account. As you get older and you start seeing that all around you, it’s hard to maintain the belief that it’s not necessarily the right or wrong path, and that your life isn’t less important because you don’t have these things.

7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?

I want to be remembered for being a bright person who gave more than I took, as well as someone who never abused but appreciated the present. And maybe also as the coolest Auntie around.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Fearless women.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Lucien Freud paintings.

10. Your hidden talents . . . ?

Hmmmm . . . making a pretty decent meal out of whatever is in the kitchen. I’ve gotten pretty good at that. It’s kind of like my own version of Iron Chef.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

When I was in high school my Mom always told me two things: don’t get pregnant and go to Europe. She had been pregnant at 17, and obviously she doesn’t regret it, but knowing my personality she didn’t want to see me spending my 20s and 30s raising a child. She knew I had this wild/free side and thought that perhaps I would make better use of it being able to be free to pursue it. I have since been to Europe eight or nine times.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

A year and a half ago I had dinner at a friends house and as I approached the front door, the sweetest black cat began to yearn for my affection. Seriously driving his head into my fist with love and might. He also had one hell of a meow. I found out that he was a stray and living on my friends porch for the past two months. I took him home that night and he has given me a real sense of peace and pure love. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. A month into me “borrowing” him I discovered that he is one deaf cat. Which explains the meow, and which is why my friend gave him the name Skeletor. I immediately changed it to Jazz Hands. Doesn’t really matter I guess, cause he can’t hear me when I call him anyway. I do wonder though, where did he come from? What were his 10 years prior like? I’ll never know.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?

Depends on my mood. I love fashion. I have become increasingly interested in fashion. It’s such a great way to express yourself. I used to think dressing up was super pretentious and fake, but that was only because I didn’t have to confidence to pull it off. As I got older and gained more confidence dressing up has been something I love. There is nothing better than putting on an item of clothing that is unique and made really well. As soon as I get home though, it’s jeans and a white t-shirt. I have a drawer full of at least 15 white t-shirts. It’s a disease I have.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

This could change on any given day, although today I would say John C. Reilly. I could use a good laugh.

15. Time travel: where, when, and why?

Growing up in Indiana as a teenager, the first true artist I ever met and knew, Darren, died in a mountain bike accident years later. I had moved to Portland in my early 20s. He followed me out here for a brief spell wanting to pursue a path as an artist. Things didn’t come together like he wanted in terms of a place to live, jobs, etc. . . . so he moved back to Indiana soon after. My wish now would have been to get him to stay, and not move away. I think he could have become a truly great artist living here in Portland. If he stayed in Portland he wouldn’t have died in the accident and honestly I believe he would have been creating some truly magical art these days.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?

Hot yoga or a sauna.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?

All of these things I have had secret love affairs with. They all have a special place in my heart truthfully. At the moment I am quite fond of drinking white wine. I think it’s been all of the touring, and working in nicer restaurants. I used to think white wine was for old ladies, but you know, with the way Portland has progressed with its foodie culture, drinking wine isn’t just for wine/food snobs.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Portland, Oregon. My favorite place to come home to. Also, the desert right outside Moab, Utah. Magic.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Four more years pleeeeeease!

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Touring promoting our new record A Monument. I usually reflect on tour. Watching people, reading books, sitting in the van for hours on end just thinking. It’s not really a creative time, except when I perform every night. Usually when I get home all that I have been gathering emotionally comes out through playing music. I get super excited to sit in silence by myself and sing and play guitar. Play drums. Write new songs for Tu Fawning and for my next solo record.