Mu­sic em­braces the maudlin, warmed by spirit of re­sis­tance

Calgary Herald - - YOU - FISH GRIWKOWSKY

ED­MON­TON If a lo­cal band was go­ing to cre­ate an al­bum with three dark muses like those found in an an­cient wood­land fairy tale, F & M would be your safe bet. Run­ning through the band’s sixth re­lease with nods to fall­ing snow, drink­ing by the sea and fu­neral di­rec­tors is the re­peated sum­mon­ing of Win­ter, Wine and Death, here cap­i­tal­ized and per­son­i­fied just so we re­mem­ber them later in the tale.

And this very F & M al­bum, Les­son from Losers, is hav­ing a re­lease party at the King Eddy on Nov. 1.

Lit­er­ate and con­sid­er­ate, the wife and hus­band Ed­mon­ton­based team of Re­becca An­der­son and Ryan An­der­son are well known for a cer­tain nar­ra­tive pre­ci­sion, draped over a bo­hemian spirit of liv­ing life ar­tis­ti­cally and, when­ever af­ford­able, to the hilt.

Their of­ten-broke baroque, pop­folk mu­sic takes turns em­brac­ing the maudlin and melan­choly, but is also warmed with the flick­er­ing spirit of re­sis­tance. And that al­bum ti­tle, Lessons from Losers, is ac­tu­ally not meant in a neg­a­tive way.

In­deed, when Re­becca An­der­son first en­coun­tered the phrase in an Ivan Brunetti comic col­lec­tion, she smiled. “He was talk­ing

about hav­ing three jobs on the side, but no one want­ing lessons from losers. I thought that was so funny how, as artists, we al­ways feel, ‘Am I re­ally an artist?’ if we have to do all these jobs on the side.

“The more we thought about the idea of win­ning and los­ing,” she notes, “well, we like to align our­selves with the un­der­dog.”

Ryan An­der­son doesn’t hold back on the sub­ject. “The brash­ness and bold­ness of what is win­ning right now is dis­gust­ing. If that’s what win­ning is, I’m out. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop.

“Re­ally, we have to kick against it.”

He brings up a Pe­dro the Lion quote about ap­pre­ci­at­ing be­ing sec­ond best.

“We aren’t the best,” he says, mean­ing at least their band.

“There is no best,” she adds, as if stat­ing wa­ter is wet.

OK, now let’s re­turn to the record. We may as well start with Win­ter, as it seems to be creep­ing in with­out our per­mis­sion, any­way.

The wife be­gins, turn­ing to her hus­band. “A lot of the songs were writ­ten in win­ter, but your songs ref­er­ence win­ter more than mine.”

He takes the cue. “F & M’s al­ways had this idea where the en­vi­ron­ment in­flu­ences the writ­ing. We make unique bands be­cause of what we face up here. And there’s noth­ing more beau­ti­ful than com­ing out of the cold into a nice warm apart­ment or bar.”

A pat­tern is start­ing to emerge in this con­ver­sa­tion: he goes wide, she takes it home. She notes, “I also like that win­ter is a chance for slow­ing down. And a lot of the idea of the al­bum is tak­ing your time to do things, not rush­ing. Be­ing more con­tem­pla­tive.”

Bring­ing up Death next, she laughs, “Ryan ref­er­ences win­ter, I ref­er­ence death.

He cuts in, “The whole al­bum’s about death, but noth­ing mis­er­able. Ac­tu­ally, I don’t think there’s ac­tu­ally a sin­gle idea hold­ing the al­bum to­gether. It’s not pre­scrip­tive, it’s sup­posed to be thought­pro­vok­ing.

“Hope­fully that’s what hap­pens when we talk about losers, too.”

The al­bum’s most pen­e­trat­ing song by far is Coun­cil of Mis­ery, where Re­becca re­ally wails. “I wanted it to be more God­speed You Black Em­peror,” she notes. “Work­ing to­gether, you end up with a dif­fer­ent beast. I’d heard the line at a show and found it over­dra­matic and funny, but at the same time it res­onated with me.”

Re­becca laughs think­ing of her child­hood di­ary she re­cently read. “One of the things I wrote,” she says, al­most tear­ing up, “is, ‘I hope a dis­ease will be named af­ter me.’ “My goal in life.”

But the story speaks to em­brac­ing the dark­ness. There’s a phrase in the first song, “cra­dle your hate,” and they both talk about it.

“Hate gets a bad rap,” says Ryan. “It’s OK to em­brace it for a lit­tle while. But don’t stay there. “

Re­becca: “It comes back to tak­ing the time to think about things. To move on, you have to nur­ture your hate for a while. We have to take our time with loss, with grief with anger.”

Now it’s Re­becca who goes wider. “Ryan thinks about things more about the out­side, po­lit­i­cal — I’m very much in­tro­verted and think on a spir­i­tual level. So Coun­cil of Mis­ery to me felt more about get­ting back into mu­sic, just strug­gling with my own doubt and mis­ery,” she laughs.

“I think that hap­pens through­out a lot of the songs.”

The more we thought about the idea of win­ning and los­ing, well, we like to align our­selves with the un­der­dog.

Ryan and Re­becca An­der­son are F & M, who are well known for a cer­tain nar­ra­tive pre­ci­sion, draped over a bo­hemian spirit of liv­ing life ar­tis­ti­cally.

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