An Interview with Jeff Wolfe of The Furys

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Image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Punk Rock legend, Jeff Wolfe of The Furys. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, The Furys newest music, his opinion of the music scene today, and what he’s looking forward to the most once COVID-19 breaks.

If you would like to learn more about The Furys, you can head over to their Facebook here, and dig in, and you can check out the band’s new album, The Furys Again, here. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Jeff. Cheers.

Andrew:
Jeff, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

Jeff:
Like most of us, it’s been a struggle. Fortunately, I live in the hills of Chatsworth, CA at the edge of a ten-mile-long canyon so I could get out in nature to attempt to alleviate this stress-filled period.  Naturally, all my music activities were curtailed so that was a major frustration. Seems like Los Angeles will be coming around soon, so we can start looking at gigging again.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?

Jeff:
Both of my parents were music fans: my mom was an amateur Folk singer, and my dad was a Jazz freak so we had music in the house all the while I was growing up. I latched on to Johnny Horton, Rick Nelson, and Elvis in the late 50s, I still listen to those guys to this day. Then, of course, that earthquake happened in the US on February 9, 1964, when The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. As a youngster, I lived in a very bleak small town in Wisconsin where everything seemed black and white; the world turned into technicolor the next day.

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences?

Jeff:
Besides the guys I mentioned above, when the 60s hit I was all over that stuff: The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones (naturally!), The Yardbirds, The Who, The Byrds, Donovan, The Kinks, of course, Bob Dylan. Sinatra was still making the charts at that time as well, so I bought his contemporary singles but found a bunch of his 50s Capitol LPs in my dad’s closet and started to listen to vintage FS too. What an era that was for music!

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events first. Tell us about your new release, The Furys Again. What can fans expect?

Jeff:
The Furys sound has evolved. With Dave Lewty as my writing and performing colleague, the band’s approach has maintained the original Punk power yet has also absorbed numerous other influences that wouldn’t have necessarily been at the forefront in the 70s and 80s.

Andrew:
What lyrical themes are you working with on this new record?

Jeff:
Having always been a voracious reader, I’ve sometimes brought literary homage into the songs. “Please Mister Kafka” (at 1:23 it’s the shortest Furys song ever recorded) is a tribute to the great Polish/German surrealist author Franz Kafka, One can see Charles Dickens’s influence in “Miss Havisham Regrets.” The lyrics address the inevitability of aging and how memories can be transformative or soul-crushing. “Gotta Grow Up,” and “Glitter Bomb” could be of a similar nature in terms of lyric content. “It’s the Day that Was that Nearly Wasn’t” is about struggling with insomnia, although I doubt Dave was thinking about that when he wrote that killer chorus. “Afraid” is homage to BLM and the centuries-long struggle for people to obtain “equal rights and justice” (as Peter Tosh sang).

Andrew:
Going back now, take me through the formation of The Furys. How did things get started?

Jeff:
Musically, things were bleak in 1977. The radio was overcome with bland singer/songwriters and weak “Rock” acts. As a suburban kid, I knew that Rock ‘N’ Roll needed energy and an intelligence transfusion. Fortunately, there were others with the same intent. I guess we all started a movement that still resonates.

Andrew:
The Furys’ first single was released way back in 1977. Take me through the Punk landscape around that time. How have things shifted over the years?

Jeff:
We knew that there was no way were The Furys going to get a label deal, so we recorded two songs, and put the damn thing out ourselves. We found a printer that could make a cheap variation on a picture sleeve — though we had to cut a flap off of all 500 copies since the printer wasn’t equipped to manufacture an actual 45 sleeve — and a vinyl manufacturer, and there we were — our own record! We put them in the trunk of my ’70 Mustang, and drove all over Southern California, selling them to indie record stores. Sold them all in a couple of days! Young bands nowadays have the luxury of digital distribution but the struggle is still real.

Andrew:
The Furys are an underrated, and important part of the Punk Rock puzzle. How do you view your influence in retrospect?

Jeff:
I feel that as trailblazers, we opened the garage doors for bands that came after us. In retrospect, it’s frustrating that The Furys didn’t get the attention other acts did, but we did OK, in the long run.

Andrew:
Circling back to your new material now. The lead singles, “New Wave Girl,” and “Action Reaction” are the group’s first since 2015. What led to you choosing these tracks to kick things off in 2021? What makes these songs special?

Jeff:
I felt “New Wave Girl” was a fitting re-introduction to The Furys, both thematically and musically since it’s the most “Power Pop” of all the songs. It’s catchy too! We wanted to change the world in the 60s and 70s and, I guess to some extent, we kinda did. That’s what “Action Reaction” is about.

Andrew:
Which album within The Furys catalog do you feel is more underrated, or most overlooked, and why?

Jeff:
Indoor/Outdoor I feel is vastly underrated. All five songs on that thing are great and even though we got some decent airplay, it never sold as much as I felt it had the potential to. We still do two songs from that album in our show, “The Girl is Not at Home,” and “Waiting for Surrender.”

Andrew:
I personally feel that Punk Rock is a deep and complex genre. Would you agree? That said, for someone just jumping in, what are some underrated, less heard of records you would recommend for someone who wants to dive deep?

Jeff:
“Deep and complex” is a perfect analogy for this music. A seminal 45 from this era is “Life of Crime” written by Cliff Roman for his band The Weirdos. It’s all that Punk should be: powerful, cultural, funny. Came out in ’77 on Bomp! Records. “Don’t Push Me Around/Wimp” by The Zeros is another somewhat overlooked Punk single from ’77 that never lets go or loses its charm. Also, on Bomp! originally. In a more “Power Pop” vein, you can’t go wrong with The Plimsouls. The Furys played gigs with all three of these acts back in the 70s and enjoyed those experiences immeasurably.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Jeff:
I’m a voracious reader. My biggest passion is World War II, Ancient Rome, and American West history. I also am a huge fan of hard-boiled detective fiction and literature such as Dickens, and Kafka. I’m an avid swimmer and love hiking. I also am a big movie fan, mostly Westerns, Noir, and gangster pictures. As I mentioned earlier a couple of songs on The Furys Again namecheck literary references. I ran an Americana band called the Horse Soldiers for twenty-five years so my interest in the Old West and traditional American Folk songs was put to good use in that situation.

Andrew:
In your opinion, what is the state of the music business these days? Should artists be hopeful? Scared? Both?

Jeff:
Interestingly, the music business is in a similar state to where it was in the 70s, except substantially worse. Mainstream music is so awful, it pains me to mention it. But the good thing is that like The Furys 40 some years ago, there are young musicians out there who literally don’t give a fuck, and will do it their way. Only now, they can distribute their music digitally through numerous platforms. We didn’t have that opportunity back when but new acts still have many challenges to overcome.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the post-COVID world?

Jeff:
Dave Lewty and I are now seriously invested in playing live again, COVID protocols permitting. We have Jeff Jourard from The Motels coming on board on guitar with Steve Harvey on drums. We’re looking for a keyboard/backing vocalist, but it seems that quest may be over. Thanks, Andrew, for the intriguing questions, and for your interest in The Furys.  

Our manager is Mark Montgomery French: mark@thefurysband.com
Billy James is our publicist: “Glass Onyon PR” glassonyonpr@gmail.com

Interested in sampling the work of The Furys? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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