Geoff Farina

Seattle Weekly: Recently, a lot of experimental work was released with your name on it—In the Fishtank with your band Karate, an improv album from the Schermo Sonoro Festival in Italy, and the Arde Core collection of Roman folk song covers. Do you always work on so many things at once?

Geoff Farina (singer-songwriter, guitarist): It just seems like that, because it takes six months, even a year, for recordings to come to fruition. People always ask how I multitask, but I don't.

You and Secret Stars bandmate Jodi Buonanno have lived and worked in the Narragansett Grange Hall artist space on Rhode Island for eight years—what's new there?

I sold my half to Jodi because she got married a year ago. I'm getting married this year and am moving to Boston. It's becoming a more traditional residence for Jodi [and her fiancé]. Living there was a great period for both of us—we enjoyed the freedom of having our own space to practice with bands and do different things.

Your new EP, Already Told You, is 10 minutes long—what will you play on tour?

That's a good question. I'll try to play a lot of stuff that people have never heard, which I typically do and which Karate always did, I think much to people's chagrin sometimes. [Tourmate] Chris Brokaw and I get together and play ragtime songs, so we'll do some of that for fun.

I recently read you're teaching yourself the history of American blues.

That makes it sound a lot more formal than it is. . . . I just spend a lot of time learning old songs. I've found it productive when I write music. I've been into '50s and '60s jazz and Chicago blues since I was a teenager, but the past few years I've gotten into prewar music, like Blind Blake or the Mississippi Sheiks.

People talk about having reverence for those musicians, but I don't think many know who they really are.

There's so much amazing American music from the last century. It's great with the Internet, but it's really daunting because there're so many different kinds of players. It's very regional—on the East Coast we have the Piedmont style, which is totally different than the Texas style of blues. There's more than I'll ever have time to listen to or to learn.

Who's your favorite right now?

I really like Gary Davis. He's one of the most cathartic singers and players, with a unique mix of gospel, blues, and ragtime. He's the ultimate singer–guitar player from that era. Part of what I like about all those guys is the attitude. They listen to something and have a concept of what they want to hear . . . and they force the guitar to do what they hear. It's backwards from what jazz and other kinds of music teach you, which is learning what the instrument can do.

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