Future Bible Heroes are a collaborative musical project between celebrated songwriter Stephin Merritt (the Magnetic Fields, the 6ths, the Gothic Archies), longtime cohort Christopher Ewen (Figures on a Beach, the Hidden Variable) and Magnetic Fields pianist-singer-manager Claudia Gonson. Ewen makes the musical backing tracks, Merritt pens the melodies and lyrics, and the vocals are shared between Gonson and Merritt. The band has released three albums, Memories of Love (1997), Eternal Youth (2002), and Partygoing (2013). In 2013, Merge Records released the complete FBH discography in a triple album / four-CD boxed set. The vinyl collection contains the three LPs, a digital collection of the band’s EPs, and bonus tracks.
FBH have been pegged as an ’80s style band, due to Ewen’s encyclopedic knowledge of computer programming and synthesizers which characterize this band’s sound and make it distinctive from the Magnetic Fields. While it’s true that they all formed their musical identities during that decade, FBH are not new-wave revivalists. The three have known each other for over three decades and share common influences such as ABBA, sci-fi films, exotica, and experimental music. Ewen’s instrumental landscapes may feature tropical bird calls, or rhythmic samples from an ancient ink-jet printer. Merritt’s lyrics deliver a mix of humor and melancholy, with a tendency toward science fiction, “which sort of matches the ‘futuristic’ synthesizers,” explains Merritt.
Earlier albums referenced colorful stories about zombies and aliens, while the later material launches into fun topics such as aging, death, heartbreak, rejection and austerity. Merritt and Gonson deliver their lines with playful vigor, as they sing about double suicide, keeping children in a coma until they reach adulthood, and digging one’s own grave to save money.
“Write what you know — as they tell you in school, when you don’t know anything yet,” says Merritt. “Those happen to be the themes of most of my work, I’m happy to report. Aging is a great theme for any writer, because one never runs out of material, and everyone over 12 is obsessed with it.”