Sinking feelings, surging hooks, sparse moments that haunt and swell to impossibly lush soundscapes. For Charles Fauna, opposites attract, and it is somewhere in between the magnetic pull of dark and light where his unique brand of alternative pop makes its home. The Brooklyn-based artist, producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist achieves his characteristically spraawling sound almost entirely on his own, all from within the confines of his bedroom studio.
Born in Los Angeles, CA to a family deeply rooted in show business (his father is a television producer), Charles Fauna was drawn to the Hollywood bombast that surrounded him from a young age. He frequently attended award shows and live performances, visualizing himself on stage one day. In his adolescence, he started taking drum lessons before teaching himself piano, eventually learning to write and sing his own songs in his teen years. But in spite of his obvious musicianship and aspirations, the lofty goal that a career as an artist represented was daunting enough to keep Fauna from reaching for it. At 18 he moved to New York to study sociology at NYU, his music relegated to his dorm room, where he would record demos in private. After graduation, he found himself surrounded by a tight-knit community of musicians in Brooklyn, and at 24, finally decided it was time to release his own music. He chose the name Paideia for his hyper-cerebral and experimental project, and it was Fauna’s first experience putting his music out into the world. He realized that the pseudonym provided enough anonymity to assuage the fear of vulnerability that had long intimidated him from chasing his dreams. Soon, however, Paideia began to feel like a mask he wore. He abandoned the project, and took a leap of faith: in 2017, he decided to stop hiding once and for all, and Charles Fauna was born.
Even without the mask, the teenage Charles Fauna would hardly recognize the artist he is today. His music has garnered millions of streams, praise from a number of press outlets including Noisey, Earmilk, and NYLON, and a stint at SXSW. The honesty that once unnerved him has become the driving force behind his songwriting. And the heights that once seemed out of reach for the budding artist are firmly within his grasp. Now, on the heels of a string of enchanting singles and an EP-- 2019’s understated but enthrallingly catchy Eulogy-- his debut album Yonder marks the most expansive sound achieved yet from Charles Fauna. Due out in April, 2020 on Sleep Well Records, Yonder reveals an artist unafraid to defy limitations and strive for greater heights.
Where Eulogy marked a look inward at the devastation that accompanies trauma, Yonder offers a look upward. It’s no wonder Charles Fauna embraces his most towering sound to date on his debut; Yonder has all the immensity and grandeur the artist could muster. The songs across the record are cinematic and billow with emotion as Fauna embraces a colorful sonic palette in his production style. Delicate arrangements combine pulsing electronic elements with organic ones (piano, horns, and strings are a mainstay across the record), aching and churning with grace and grit, while his mournful vocals imbue his songs with a deep yearning. But what most complement the vivid color with which Fauna paints his musical backdrop are the shadows cast by his desolate lyrics.
“So many people our age feel like everything is terrible and we can’t do anything about it,” remarks Fauna. It’s this inescapable sense of foreboding that has its claws in his generation-- “millennial angst,” as he calls it-- that inspired him to write Yonder. “I wanted to make a record that responds to the emotional climate of this time period and explores connection in the face of hopeless odds.” Fauna explores these dark themes in his music in the hope that listeners can relate and, ultimately, find strength in knowing they are not alone. “It’s about catharsis. I want my music to make people feel like they’re a part of something bigger.”
It is his ability to deliver both euphoria and suffering in the same musical breath that sets Charles Fauna apart. His music serves as a reminder that beauty cannot flourish in the absence of ugliness, and his message is simultaneously complex and unmistakably simple: our pain is at once our own and shared. Tragedy and loss are at the root of our humanity. In the depths of hopelessness, hope can still surface. If there is one idea that shines most across Yonder, it is the ubiquity of human connection in the face of pain. “I try to give people something that they can grab onto and say, ‘Hey, maybe this isn’t all so bad.’” With a sound so soaring, things just might be looking up after all.