The days may be getting shorter, but local bands Fonteyn and Lane and the Chain will add some sunny energy to your month at SLUG’s November Localized. Catch them both with support from Psychedelic Purple for just $5 at Kilby Court on Nov. 17 (doors at 7 p.m., music at 8 p.m.). SLUG Localized is sponsored by Riso-Geist.
When Suzanne May identifies a dream, she achieves it. Setting out to be an actress, May studied musical theater when she was young. When she decided she wanted to pursue film acting instead, she moved from the UK to the States and shaved her head for a role in Gentleman Broncos (2009) alongside a star-studded cast. Then, when May decided she wanted to create sunshine-drenched, ’70s pop tunes reminiscent of the music she grew up with, she signed with Born Losers Records under the stage name Fonteyn. Within a month of her debut album release, Trip the Light Fantastic, she was slated to support Kate Bollinger on a sold-out West Coast tour.
“I’ve had lovely feedback, messages from people in other countries—it blows my mind,” May says of the album, which contains eight golden tracks for fans of modern retro outfits like Drugdealer and Tennis. “That it’s leading to things like a tour and other shows is more than I could have hoped for.”
When she was living in LA and pursuing an acting career, May says she grew weary of trying to fit into a rigid box of expectations. “I was super down and depressed and didn’t know where I fit,” she says. “That’s when I turned to music as a creative release.” When she relocated to Salt Lake City, May found herself welcomed and embraced by the local music community. Now, she sings and plays keys and guitar along with the four (sometimes five) talented bandmates that accompany her during live shows. Drums, bass, additional keys and guitar, trumpets, saxophones and effervescent harmonies combine to create Fonteyn’s spacious, analog sound on stage and transport listeners to the days of corduroy and roller disco.
“I was super down and depressed and didn’t know where I fit. That’s when I turned to music as a creative release.”
“There’s something about the chord progressions and the melodies of the ’70s that always made me stop in my tracks,” May says, citing Karen Carpenter, Carole King and Todd Rundgren as songwriting inspirations. “My parents weren’t super musical; they had maybe five vinyl records in their collection. But my dad did bring home a double CD of The Carpenters, and I was just spellbound by her voice and those melodies. When I’m out and about and hear that music, it’s still bewitching. There’s something about the way the music makes me feel. I go under a little bit of a trance.” That spellbinding quality is present in Fonteyn, too, and May’s penchant for musicals lends a theatrical element to her storytelling.
Likening the early stages of her songwriting process to “going fishing,” May often incorporates elements in search of a specific feeling or vision. Take “Darlin (How Do I Let You Know?),” an unrequited love ballad inspired in part by the arpeggiated guitars in Al Green’s “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” “They had that feeling of being inside when it’s raining outside to me,” she says. “We added flange guitars because I wanted the song to feel like a ’70s prom. And, there are little sparkle notes in the chorus because if she’s slow dancing with this guy, there’d be stars—that’s how she would feel.”
“That it’s leading to things like a tour and other shows is more than I could have hoped for.”
From the listener’s perspective, Fonteyn’s songs do paint vivid pictures. There’s a blue-sky gaze of longing from across the room infused into “My Heart” and a bouncing vase of flowers buckled into the passenger seat of a car in “Things To Make You Feel Better.” There’s a vision of Marianne Faithfull on a Harley Davidson Electra Glide in “Girl on a Motorcycle,” a period-correct soundtrack for the 1968 film of the same name. A wide-open western highway stretches through “Savannah,” the last song on Trip the Light Fantastic—an expanse as welcoming and promising as Fonteyn’s own horizons. Follow the artist on Instagram @_fonteyn_ for more.