Born in Argentina, Fernando Viciconte, who now performs under the mononym Fernando, first made a name for himself with a stint as the frontman of the Los Angeles-based hard rock band Monkey Paw. Vicicconte relocated to Portland, to focus on a solo career, which has received praise and admiration from a bevy of acclaimed musicians including R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck, Don Dixon and Steve Wynn. And with the release of his 2006 release, Enter to Exit the now-Portland-based singer/songwriter started to receive local, regional and national attention as the album was critically praised by the likes of Billboard, Magnet (which named Fernando, one of the best, new artists of 2006), Paste, The Oregonian, No Depression and MSNBC.com, among a lengthy list of others. And just when he was about to put his name on the national map, Viciconte suffered through health issues, which nearly resulted in the permanent loss of his voice and prevented him from touring. Fortunately, for Viciconte, his illness was misdiagnosed and the root cause of his issues — a hiatal hernia which essentially bathed his vocal cords in his stomach acid — was fixed surgically.
His soon-to-be released, eighth full-length effort, Leave the Radio On is slated for a September 18 release through Fluff and Gravy Records, the label home of Drunken Prayer and others, was co-produced by Viciconte, with Luther Russell, who has worked with Fever the Ghost and Richmond Fontaine and Mike Coykendall, who has worked with M. Ward and She and Him. Leave the Radio On took three years to make, mainly because of Viciconte’s health issues but the album features an all-star cast of Portland’s finest musicians including the aforementioned Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey as well as members of M.Ward, Elliott Smith, Richmond Fontaine and The Delines. The album’s first single, “The Dogs,” which was initially released as a promotional 7 inch was featured by KEXP as their Song of the Day — and in many ways, says that among indie circles, that there’s been a demand for Fernando. And that demand has come when Fernando has finally been feeling healthy and stronger than ever. As Viciconte told The Oregonian “Most folks who tour at this level at the age of 46, they’re burnt out. I have a new lease on life.”
The album’s latest (and first, official) single “Save Me” is a bitter, aching lament comprised of a haunting introduction featuring Fernando accompanying his vocals, which are fed through reverb and distortion pedals with acoustic guitar before the backing band joins in with wobbling bass, layers of distorted guitars, swirling feedback and distortion to create a sound that’s ominous, forlorn and spectral while bridging indie rock, alt-country and the blues in a way that seems to channel some of Bob Dylan‘s later work. It evokes the lingering ghosts of one’s life — the failed relationships, the misguided decisions and poor judgements and the crushing doubts that seem inescapable and yet, finding a way to move forward with your dignity, sanity and sense of self intact (which is by far, the most difficult thing to ever do). And although it may seem bleak, Fernando’s material isn’t without hope; in fact, it suggests that even at the most desperate, it’s hope that can keep us going.