Justin Furstenfeld's head is a crowded place.
There are the cockroaches that crawl around in there, excreting a trail of bug babies and miniature porn tapes as they crawl past images of people from his past. Then there are the incessant voices the Blue October singer hears. He relies on his younger brother, drummer Jeremy, to convince him they aren't real.
Luckily for Furstenfeld, he's also got his music to help him fight the demons — specifically the Houston rock band's new single, "Hate Me." The song is an emotional mea culpa in which Furstenfeld takes responsibility for his mistakes and apologizes to everyone he's hurt.
"That song came from being on the road and letting the road get a hold of you and treating people at home like crap and being selfish," said Furstenfeld, 30, a recovering addict. "Then you realize suddenly that no one else is around anymore because they're sick of your crap and you're standing there alone. I had to get it off my chest and apologize to the people in my family and in relationships to realize what I was doing to the people that surround me."
The song begins with a real voicemail from Furstenfeld's mother, who sounds worried that she hasn't heard from her son in a while. The singer said the message was left while he was in seclusion for six months in Los Angeles writing the band's new album, Foiled, which drops April 4. "I realized that you can't just cut people out of your life, because it's not about you all the time," he said.
"I'm sober now for three whole months/ It's one accomplishment that you helped me with," he sings over the song's spare beat and strummed acoustic guitars, which swell to Queen-like heights on the choruses. "The one thing that always tore us apart is the one thing I won't touch again/ In a sick way I want to thank you for holding my head up late at night/ While I was busy waging wars on myself, you were trying to stop the fight."
The cockroaches and nonexistent voices come in part from Furstenfeld's long battle with depression, he said, which he felt he had to address in order to make a clean break.
Elsewhere on the album, though, Furstenfeld got to indulge himself in other ways, acting as co-producer on songs that blend his love for everything from Pink Floyd's psychedelic wanderings ("Everlasting Friend"); to baroque, violin-spiced prog rock ("Into the Ocean"); and electronica ("X Amount of Words"). But most of the vocals on the album might remind you of Peter Gabriel's records from the 1980s, which is no coincidence.
"Because I got to produce the record this time, I played a lot of tricks with my voice using a trick I learned from Peter Gabriel, where he doubles his voice with one part an octave higher and one an octave lower when he needs to be intense," Furstenfeld said. "It makes it sound more godlike. Some people were not sure about it, but I said, 'This is what my voice is supposed to be like.' I did it for a reason."
The band — rounded out by guitarist CB Hudson, bassist Matt Noveskey, drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld and violinist Ryan Delahoussaye (who has retired the devil horns he used to wear onstage) — is joined by singer Imogen Heap on the ethereal ballad "Congratulations," yet another move Furstenfeld said confused some people in the band's camp.
"You know what, I'm a huge fan and she's a great artist," Justin Furstenfeld said. "I called and sent her the song, and she sent back the tapes with her parts already done. I've always been told to go for a 'rockier' edge to get on rock radio. Producers are always saying, 'Put more distortion in there, you're a rock band.' But I grew up on Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, the Smiths and Pink Floyd."
Lyrics like "I take the show, I bleed for this/ I've cut myself to shame/ To get to know this masochist/ Who's stolen my first name," from "Drilled a Wire Through My Cheek," show that Furstenfeld sees his music as another form of therapy.
"God, the only things I have that make me feel OK are my family, my fiancee and my music," he said. "When I'm alone out here, it gets crazy and weird. I wish you could sit in my head for five minutes. It's not comfortable."
Blue October tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 4/11 - Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy
- 4/12 - Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern
- 4/13 - Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater
- 4/15 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
- 4/18 - Lubbock, TX @ Southbeach
- 4/20 - Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
- 4/21 - Austin, TX @ Stubb's Barbeque
- 4/22 - Dallas, TX @ Lakewood Theater
- 4/23 - Austin, TX @ La Zona Rosa
- 4/28 - Atlanta, GA @ The Roxy Theater
- 5/2 - Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live!
- 5/3 - Kinston, NC @ Next Door
- 5/5 - Birmingham, AL @ Schaeffer Eye Crawfish Boil
- 5/6 - Maryland Heights, MO @ Pointfest (UMB Bank Pavilion)
- 5/7 - Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart's
- 5/9 - Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
- 5/16 - Sayerville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
- 5/17 - Boston, MA @ Paradise
- 5/20 - Washington, D.C. @ WWDC-FM Chili Cookoff
- 5/22 - Clifton Park, NY @ Northern Lights
- 5/27 - Raleigh, NC @ Budweiser Downtown Live (Moore Square Park)
- 5/29 - Pittsburgh, PA @ X-Fest Concert (Chevrolet Amphitheater at Station Square)
- 6/17 - The Woodlands, TX @ C.W. Mitchell Pavilion