Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Famines Interview & Show # 683


The Famines formed in 2008 in Edmonton, Alberta as a two-piece band featuring singer/guitarist Raymond Biesinger and drummer Garrett Kruger. The band employs a minimalist approach to their music which draws on fuzzy garage sounds and 70s protopunk, and have described themselves as being “an art cult noise garage duo”. Now based out of Montreal and featuring drummer Drew Demers, who joined the band in 2014, The Famines released several seven inch singles via the Mammoth Cave Recording Co. and a variety of other labels from 2008-2011.  The singles were eventually collected on a full-length LP as The Complete Collected Singles: 2008-2011. A cassette was released in 2008 titled 14 July 2008, which captured the band in their first live performance. The cassette was released with a companion booklet that was 268 pages. All of the band’s artwork has been designed by Raymond Biesinger, who in addition to being in The Famines is an accomplished illustrator.

In 2014, The Famines recorded a full-length album that was to be released on Mammoth Cave Recording Co., but that label which started in 2009, announced they would cease operations as a label in February of 2015. Instead of leaving their album’s pending release in limbo, The Famines came up with the concept of a “paper LP”. They tested out this concept with a “paper single”, 2015’s “Stay Home Club/Who Wants Disarmament”. The idea was relatively simple, the release would be a digital download coupled with a large 20X30 newsprint poster. They applied this concept to what would become the full-length album Too Cool & Other Songs, which was released July 2015. It was also released on their own label Pentagon Black.

Too Cool & Other Songs marked the band’s full-length album return after four years, it was also the first release that featured artwork that was in colour and not in black and white, as all previous Famines related releases had been. The artwork also features images on the cover that correspond with lyrics that are found on this nine-track album. Recorded at Drones Club in Montreal by Christian Simmons, Too Cool & Other songs captures the band in a new re-energized state. The album starts off with driving drumbeats and moments of feedback before launching into a fuzzy riff driven tale inspired by the fashion industry. With lyrics such as “Put on your dark glasses so you can’t see shit”, “You got a capsule collection of tanks, tubes and tops/supernatural selection via pricey shops” and a chorus of “Too cool/Too cool/Under fashion rule/The way the world’s going/Too cool to live”, this song contrasts warlike imagery describing the battle of being involved with this industry, while at the same time contrasting it with the contradictions and problems found within it. This viewpoint could also be applied to other mediums such as the music industry, or to someone who views themselves as being really cool or hip by mainstream standards. “Hail To The Taxman” picks up the pace and intensity, as “Attack Machine Blues”, described as a dismal hop in the album’s liner notes, lyrically rallies for finding your own voice amongst values that are forced upon citizens in our everyday environment that come from political forces. “Five Ways” is even more frenetic while “Who’s Next?” brings the pace down a bit and drifts into Kraut-rock territory.

“Fast Times” fades in with a guitar riff sounding like a radio distress signal that gets louder as the drums shuffle towards the first verse of the song. This track takes a critical look of our modern culture dominated by the immediacy of the Internet. With lyrics such as “Dear the internet/Look what you’re doing to us/Making things so fast we cannot keep up” and “That feeling of inadequacy is spread around so well it can kill I can tell” and lines such as “Not check my email 700 times a day”, this song illustrates the quickness of technology and how we lose something in the process. “Zero Sum” is a hard hitting track with lyrics such as “If you want one thing/You cannot have another” that contrasts the theory of the zero sum game to life choices such as loans and being a home owner, while “I’ll Save My Sympathy” attacks in a barrage of drum fills and deep cutting guitar riffs in which Biesinger proposes saving his sympathies for someone worthwhile as opposed to someone who isn’t. With words such as “I’ve got plenty of tears/But I have none to lose” and “I’ve got plenty of tears/But where they go I choose”, this song bites and cuts deep into the listener’s subconscious with an undeniable conviction. The album ends with the six minute and twelve second epic, fiery song “The Rumour Mill (Has A Name and Face)”, which has been The Famines live set ender for many years.

In the liner notes found on the artwork it states: “Listen, enjoy, reflect and seldom stop.” This could take on many meanings not just in the context of The Famines, but in general. With Too Cool & Other Songs, The Famines question what surrounds them as the lyrics are expressed in vivid and engaging ways, finding space amongst the musical chaos that surrounds them.

Since the release of Too Cool & Other Songs, The Famines label, Pentagon Black has released three paper LP compilations. Pentagon Black No. 1 & 2, which compiles previously unreleased studio recordings by bands across Canada, were released in 2016 and 2017. Compilation No. 3 followed in June 2017, which was a compilation of rough sounding live recordings made by smart phones of bands from Canada. It was released on a postcard. An album was also released by the Montreal band Priors, featuring Famines drummer Drew Demers in March 2017.

For more info on Pentagon Black and The Famines, visit www.thefamines.ca

Check out my interview with Raymond and Drew of The Famines here:



Saturday Night Playlist:

1. !Action Pact! - Times Must Change
2. Chain & The Gang - What Is A Dollar?
3. LCD Soundsystem - Change Yr Mind
4. Laura Sauvage - You're Ugly When You Cry
5. The Courtneys - Mars Attacks
6. The Bad Signs - Love Lock
7. Thee Rum Coves - Tell Me Something I Don't Know
8. Les Wild Ones - Mon Amour
9. Simply Saucer - Bullet Proof Nothing (CJSW Session)
10. No Aloha - Sway (CJSW Session)
11. Psychic Void - Morning Anxiety (2017 Demo)
12. Cellos - Bury Me On Highway 3
13. The Famines - Attack Machine Blues
14. The Famines - Free Love Is A Sales Technique

THE FAMINES INTERVIEW

15. The Famines - The State of Music
16. Lee Ranaldo - New Thing
17. Gord Downie - Wolf's Home
18. Bonny Doon - Relieved
19. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Fish N Chips Paper
20. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Why Don't You Live Me (Like You Used To Do)
21. Nick Lowe - Cracking Up
22. Leonard Cohen - My Oh My
23. Howlin' Wolf - Moanin' At Midnight
24. Lou Reed - The Last Shot

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for November 18.

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