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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Blue October will spin the truth around at a sold-out Knitting Factory

Rock band Blue October will play a sold-out Knitting Factory crowd on Sunday.  (Courtesy of Abel Longoria)

Justin Furstenfeld can’t sit still. Even while in lockdown the vocalist-guitarist was hyped. During the pandemic Furstenfeld wrote and recorded a plethora of songs.

“I had no choice since there is only so much true crime television and ‘Seinfeld’ that you can watch,” Furstenfeld cracked while calling from Anaheim, California. “When COVID happened, we decided to write and record as many songs as possible, so when it all ended we could drop so many new songs on people and they would be like, ‘Dude, what? A double album.’ ”

“Spinning the Truth Around” is actually a triple album which is being released in three parts. The initial album was released in October 2022. Part 2 dropped last month and the last of the trifecta will see the light of day at some point in 2024.

“I don’t mean to discount the final part of this project, but that will be a combination of remixes and covers,” Furstenfeld said. “I had an amazing time working on this album.”

Part of why Furstenfeld is so enthused is due to his collaboration with one of his. heroes, Billy Corgan. Smashing Pumpkins’ singer-songwriter wrote 11 songs with Furstenfeld. Corgan came up with the melodies, which blew away Furstenfeld.

“I had the opportunity to work with a rock God, who is one of the kindest and most passionate guys you’ll ever meet,” Furstenfeld said. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”

It’s no coincidence that Blue October’s latest is filled with some of the catchiest songs the band has recorded during its three-decade run. “Magic Isn’t Real” has a big hook and “Down Here Waiting” is anthemic.

“We had a great time making this album,” Furstenfeld said. “There were no disturbances. Working with Billy is something I’ll never forget.”

Furstenfeld, 47, is an inveterate rock fan, who grew up a devotee of Peter Gabriel, Morrissey and Jane’s Addiction.

“Gabriel is who I want to be like,” Furstenfeld said. “Gabriel is a wordsmith, who paints amazing sonic pictures. That’s what I always wanted to do with Blue October.

“What I like about Morrissey and the Smiths and Jane’s Addiction is that they all can go from very hard to very soft just like that. I like that variety. That’s part of what has kept this band alive for so long.”

Furstenfeld formed the band, which will perform Sunday at the Knitting Factory, with his drummer brother Jeremy Furstenfeld and their friend, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye in Houston in 1995. Unlike many brothers in bands, the Furstenfelds have been fairly harmonious after a near three-decade run.

“That’s pretty incredible since my brother had to deal with my issues,” Furstenfeld said. “I did a lot of drugs and that didn’t help us or the band. I wouldn’t have made it and this band would no longer be in existence if I didn’t change.”

Furstenfeld has been sober since May 10, 2012.

“I’ll never forget that date,” Furstenfeld said. “I was a desperate person and my life has changed so much since then. That’s why I feel the way I do.

“I know it’s not the usual rock and roll story.”

The blunt and amusing entertainer shoots a hole in the theory that drugs and alcohol fuels creativity.

“Have you ever met a successful meth head or heroin addict?” Furstenfeld said. “What ultimately happens to those people is they either end up in jail, in an institution or are dead. There is nothing as awful as being messed up on some horrific substances.”

After abusing his body with drugs since he was a teenager, Furstenfeld cleaned up for his family, music and his health.

“I want to be around for my kids,” Furstenfeld said. “They need a responsible father. And then there is my music.

“I’m a much better writer now and it makes sense because I’m not dealing with depression and addiction, like I was. If you listen to what I wrote and recorded after I became sober, you can hear the difference.”

2013’s “Sway,” which features catchy, moving rock songs, was the first step in the right direction for Furstenfeld. The cuts from “Sway” are a far cry from the band’s predictable post-grunge recorded after the turn of the century.

“I Hope You’re Happy” is comprised of anthemic, baroque rock, which is more complex and provocative than what Furstenfeld composed earlier in his career.

“I completely believe that the straighter you are, the better you can be as a songwriter,” Furstenfeld said. “I’ve never been happier than I am now as a songwriter. I’ve experienced so much in my life that I can write about it and I think what I do sonically is better since I’m in a good space.

“It’s not about living out of my ego. Those days are long gone. I realize this band would not exist if it weren’t for my bandmates who … have helped keep this group alive.”

Furstenfeld is lucid, energetic and inspired at mid-life. “I’m in a good place and I’m trying to do what my heroes have done, like Morrissey, which is to write about obscure things and make them beautiful.”

Furstenfeld looks forward to returning to Spokane since he had a blast when Blue October played the Knitting Factory in November 2021.

After the show, the band hung out at O’Doherty’s Irish Grille and had an unforgettable evening.

“We were told that if you do a dance while singing an Irish jig there, they’ll give you a membership,” Furstenfeld said. “He (Delahoussaye) said, ‘You’re the singer. So sing and I’ll dance.’ So I went for it and sang ‘Danny Boy’ while he danced and got a membership that he has laminated.

“That was an awesome experience and you know where we’ll go when we come back to Spokane.”