Ezra Furman breaks down five songs from his new album, Twelve Nudes

“Sometimes a song just shows up, makes clear demands, and you just do what it tells you to do.”

Ezra Furman Twelve Nudes
Image: Jessica Lehrman

Late last month, Ezra Furman released Twelve Nudes, a collection of hooky, heartfelt punk rock songs. Fuelled by righteous anger and recorded, quick and dirty, over the course of two months, the 11-song record features some of the Illinois musician’s most vibrant and visceral songwriting yet, from the shaggy torch song I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend to the dental health-themed ripper My Teeth Hurt.

Furman generously broke down five standout cuts from the record for Guitar.com. Read on to learn more about the making of Twelve Nudes and its various inspirations, which run the gamut from Titus Andronicus to Richard Swift to Jay Reatard.

1Evening Prayer aka Justice

We were listening to a lot of Titus Andronicus, a band that manages to sound both like homemade garage rock and epic ’70s bombast. So we took this acoustic guitar that I’ve had since I was 17, put it through an intense distortion pedal and dragged a cello bow over the strings. Old crappy thing + orchestral technique + distortion = what we were going for. That’s the sound at the beginning and end of the song that sounds like a trash compactor or something. Then I started screaming. I don’t know why or how, but when I sing this song properly it makes my back hurt. It’s a full-body affair.

2Rated R Crusaders

This was one of the songs that I worked out in a Los Angeles practice space with the drummer, Sam Durkes, just the two of us and a four-track tape machine. It was really influenced by this band The Coneheads from Northwest Indiana (i.e., almost Chicago, where Sam and I are both from). When we did the studio version we decided it sounded coolest through the four-track machine. Or some of it is through that, anyway – definitely the vocals, which we sped up just a hair to give it an unhinged inhuman quality (and to make it sound more like The Coneheads).

I believe the ending is actually just the original demo from that L.A. practice space, though I remember redoing the vocal to make it less discernible what I was singing. I had the strong impulse to end the song with a musical non sequitur, basically to play the opposite style of rock music from what the rest of the song was. In retrospect I realise it sounds like a low-fi take-off of the ending to Kanye West’s New Slaves, a song I really love.

3Trauma

Sam knew right away that this should be a very heavy psych-rock type of song. I didn’t think of it that way when I wrote it; I thought it would be something a little more mid-tempo punk, like The Only Ones or something. I love the way it ended up. Trevor Brooks, who recorded it, and John Congleton, who mixed it, also each brought this to a new level. We had a great team making this sound as powerful as it does.

There’s a lead guitar part on the bridge – I came in one morning and listened back to it and I said, “Who played that guitar part?” and Trevor told me, “You did that, yesterday.” I had no memory of it. To me that was a good sign. It doesn’t even sound like something I’d play. I must have been possessed.

4I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend

This was the last song we did for the record. It had been ready but I didn’t think it was punk enough. I’m really glad I came to my senses, because this is one of the most important songs on the record to me. It situates the whole one-queer-against-the-world perspective of the record.

Anyway, this type of song is deep in my musical brain, since I’ve been in love with that 1961 doo-wop kind of stuff since I was a little kid. Someone pointed out it sounds a little like Will You Love Me Tomorrow? by Goffin and King. But really it was Christopher Owens who influenced me to think that you could write songs like that in the 21st century. And then we all got into this song The Bully by Richard Swift which was kind of a blown-out ’50s-pop sort of song, and we were off and running.

5My Teeth Hurt

This was the song that, when I wrote it, I realised I could make a punk record that would be original, true to my own style. I was listening to tons of Jay Reatard, FIDLAR, stuff like that. Sometimes a song just shows up, makes clear demands, and you just do what it tells you to do.

Twelve Nudes is out now via Bella Union. Ezra Furman will tour the UK and Europe in November. Find tour dates here.