It used to be a plural affair, The Slow Poisoners. Over the course of 10 years, the other four members "expired." That's how Andrew Goldfarb, the remaining Poisoner, puts it. "Eventually, it was down to a duo," he says. "When I saw an opportunity to off the other member, I took it."
It's better this way, he says. There are less mouths to feed.
Fewer people to complain, too, about traversing the country and sleeping in a car by the side of the road. Actually, no one complains now. "I get along with myself well. I enjoy my own company," the Poisoner explains over a staticky line as he drives down a long, straight road in West Texas toward Lubbock. "I'm listening to Elvis, so Elvis is keeping me company."
A 19th-century book, A Memoir of Extraordinary Public Delusion and the Madness of Crowds, contains a chapter on slow poisoning, the art of giving someone a bit of poison every day until he or she gently departs. Goldfarb, with his admitted penchant for the bizarre since birth, loved the concept.
The Slow Poisoner, who hails from San Francisco, doesn't get lonely. A band is typically the realm of dysfunctional hillbillies and drunken blues musicians who can't get along with other people, he says. But a one-man band, "It's a venue for the creative individual who can't explain their vision to other people. As an eccentric songwriter, I thought I could maintain the purest vision without having to involve others."
"Also, it's cheaper."
With his foot, he plays a kick drum that he's attached sleigh bells to for added texture. Depending on the pressure he exerts, he can make it sound like a snare or a kick. By adjusting the EQ on his guitar, he can make it sound like a bass. "Plus, I'm writing very simple songs."
Songwriting goes faster alone, says our Poisoner. "No one else in the band will say, 'That's no good.' At the same time, if a song isn't any good, no one will tell you." He maintains a set list of 31 songs, because 31 is a lucky number. "I just assume that 31 is good luck. It's 13 backwards."
Goldfarb is also the cartoonist behind the creepy graphic novel Ogner Stump's One Thousand Sorrows. His artistic skill has come in handy for his stage show. Hand-painted signs indicate the titles of songs. That way the audience can remember which tunes they liked—and which ones they didn't.
"A handful of people absolutely love me, and a large number are confused." The Poisoner's mind hurts more than his stomach, which sometimes goes topsy-turvy after his pre-show dose: A Red Bull, an espresso and a green tea. Caffeine is the secret to his stage energy, an energy that gets mixed reactions from the crowds in the towns he visits. "The fear of the one-man band is the fear of the unknown."
Ultimately, the Poisoner's message is: Don't be afraid of the one-man band.