Blue October show at Clyde could be therapeutic
Lead singer wants fans to appreciate life’s simple things
Blue October lead singer Justin Furstenfeld is not as morose as the title of his band might indicate.
Catching up with him during a phone interview as he enjoyed some Chick-fil-A with his daughter, Furstenfeld was upbeat, cracking jokes and undoubtedly embarrassing his daughter along the way: “She’s like, ‘How many times are you going to say you’re handsome, dad?’ ”
Furstenfeld has plenty of reasons to be happy.
Sober since 2012, he’s celebrating Blue October’s latest venture, the three-part album Spinning the Truth Around, with a tour that kicked off Feb. 24 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and ends May 11 in Warsaw, Poland. In between they’ll visit The Clyde Theatre with Beatnik Bandits on March 9, a show he says might just change your life.
“It makes your life better after you leave,” he said of Blue October shows. “You come to see us and you feel like a better person. So, don’t spend money on therapy. Don’t spend money on holistic meditations. Just come to a Blue October show and you will live a better, more productive, beautiful life.”
Finding success in darkness
Formed in 1995 by Furstenfeld, his brother Jeremy Furstenfeld on drums, Liz Mulally on bass, and Ryan Delahoussaye on violin, mandolin, and more, Blue October began playing around their hometown of Houston. They released their debut album, The Answers, in 1998 with a sound that is hard to pinpoint, although Furstenfeld gives it a shot: “I call it romantic art rock.”
The band have released 11 studio albums, with their biggest hit coming on 2006’s Foiled, as “Hate Me” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Alternative chart.
The song begins with a phone message from Furstenfeld’s mother expressing concern over him, which was for good reason as he was deep in drug addiction at the time. However, over the years, he’s been able to turn his life around, saying his mindset is reflected in Blue October’s songs.
“Real positive stuff … positive affirmations,” Furstenfeld joked about “Hate Me.” “Real suicidal, drug-addicted stuff. Nowadays, it’s about living to the fullest. And it’s about family. It’s about reinventing yourself and it never is too late. It’s about owning up to your mistakes and really rising above all the negative and becoming a powerful human being.”
Even though Furstenfeld was battling addiction, the albums continued to roll out. But that doesn’t mean things were going smoothly behind the scenes.
“My brother and I have already gone through the things where I was on too many drugs, and he helped me get off of them, so now we’re good,” he said. “But now, we both have kids. I have three kids and he has two kids, and everybody in the band has kids, so now it’s all about business. It’s really about family and providing a safe, nice, life-changing, therapeutic session for fans to enjoy. Because we weren’t always the happiest band.”
Furstenfeld said the move to clean his life up was not really that difficult.
“I was 36 years old and I had two children, one child was born and the other was in my then-wife’s belly,” he said. “I had a choice, I could either be a little b—- and continue to live my life all in my ego and all about Justin, or I could be a dad and man the eff up.
“I decided, ‘Let me try it for a year.’ I wasn’t planning on staying sober. I was gonna try it for a year, then go back to smoking weed or something. What happened was, I stayed sober for a year and I lost like 80 pounds and started liking who I was. My songs got better. I could move with confidence and I could make decisions on a whim, and I wouldn’t regret them. I could tell people what my boundaries were, and life just got good. I could look at myself in the mirror and like who I saw, love myself. So, after a year, I thought, ‘Let’s go, let’s see how good looking I can get.’ ”
The songs might have gotten better, but that required some work as drugs had left his brain damaged.
“I was a crystal meth addict, so I had done so much damage to my brain that I had to get rehabilitation,” he said. “That first year was hard to even sing, much less pronounce big words or put words together. Once you do that stuff for so long, you’re just dumping poison on your brain. I was able to write songs that were more simple, but vulnerable, like ‘Fear’ and ‘Bleed Out’ on (2013’s Sway).”
And like many artists, he was afraid that his creativity might actually stem from drug use. However, he quickly realized that was not the case.
“You see those artists that are pretty crazy on drugs their whole lives, then they get sober and you’re like, ‘Oh God, your songs suck. You need to go back on cocaine,’ ” he joked.
Nowadays, he works as a recovery advocate, working to get others clean, often with a simple message: “I tell them that coolness is not wrapped around drugs and drinking and trying to be something that you’re not,” he said. “It’s about living your fullest life and surrounding yourself with positive people.”
Visiting unique venues
At The Clyde, Blue October, which now consists of the Furstenfeld brothers, Delahoussaye, bassist Matt Noveskey, and newest member Sus Vasquez on lead guitar, will be looking to entertain in a positive way.
“I truly believe we’re put on Earth to be happy, joyous, and free,” Furstenfeld said. “Those are the only three things that we need to worry about.
“I just want people to come out to our shows to be reminded of the simple things: music, beautiful, wonderful times, laughter, and maybe a few tears because I’m so devilishly handsome. That’s what life’s about, having a great time.”
And according to him, the band is looking to have a great time after being unable to tour for a while.
“We’ve kind of crossed the line where we’re done playing rock clubs,” he said. “We want to play beautiful, eclectic theaters and really nice places. After COVID, it really put a damper on things and (we saw) how we were taking our fans for granted, kind of, of just going to the same places. We want to give them something nice, where guys can ask their girls out to dates and take them to a Blue October show.”
Along with the songs fans have become accustomed to, there will also be some off of Spinning the Truth Around. The first part of the three-part album was released in October with Furstenfeld saying the second part should be out in April.
“Part Two rocks,” he said. “Part One, I wanted to mix more of a pop album. Part Two comes off heavier.”