UPDATE 10/11/12: Everybody was wrong. An official tour announcement this afternoon has cleared the question once and for all: the next Sufjan Stevens tour will be called: “The Sirfjam Stephanapolous Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Spectacular Music Pageant Variety Show Distaster.” The announcement also sheds light on the concert structure: song sheets will be provided (don’t worry about learning the lyrics!), there will be cheap confetti, and “Grinches [should] be forewarned.”
Sufjan Stevens, the singer-songwriter whose complicated love of Christmas and desire to write an album devoted to each American state have won him a loyal following, is at it again. He’s got an upcoming Christmas-themed album, Silver & Gold, due out Nov. 13, 2012, the box set for which includes temporary tattoos and a Christmas ornament. He’s also got a tour coming up to promote it—a sing-a-long tour, natch.
When Pitchfork posted Stevens’ tour dates, acquired via the Disco Naïveté twitter feed, the tour had a name: the “Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice.” Yes, “Surfjohn.”
Now it appears that the misspelled “Sufjan” is the wrong misspelling.
TIME spoke to Lowell Brams, director of Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty Records—and, in addition, Sufjan Stevens’ stepfather. The tour had not yet been officially announced, he said, and he was still in the process of approving the language of the press release. But what he had in front of him, in the Asthmatic Records office in Lander, Wy. — “allegedly from Sufjan himself,” Brams said — spelled the artist’s name “Sirfjan.”
“He does play around with his name,” Brams said, but he didn’t know the specific motivation for this particular orthographical choice. (Outside the context of this tour, Stevens is still Sufjan.)
But it looks like Pitchfork‘s other information is correct. The dyspeptic holiday attitude of the tour’s long title fits in with Stevens’ write-up about the Silver & Gold album:
This is the true horror-show catharsis of Christmas: the existential emptiness that perseveres in the heart of modern man as he recklessly pursues his search for happiness and comes up empty handed.
And yes, if audiences can still summon the energy despite that dread, Brams confirmed that concert-goers should be prepared to sing along, at least for some of each show. But this is Sufjan Stevens, even when he’s singing Christmas carols, so it may help to practice. Listen to a preview track, “Christmas Unicorn,” below and check out the Lego-tastic Stevens-crafted video for “I Am Santa’s Helper” above (or find the full track listing, including holiday classics like “Good King Wenceslas” and “Jingle Bells” here). The official tour announcement—and the end to all the world’s Sufjan-misspelling questions—is expected later this week.
(MORE: Must-Listen Music for October)