WINTER, DEATH, WINE FLOW IN F & M ALBUM
Music embraces the maudlin, warmed by spirit of resistance
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.