Jul. 16, 2008 - Issue #665: Surviving the Industry
Ample with ambition
How much does an artist’s intention play into our enjoyment of the
work produced? The answer to that is likely as contradictory and nuanced as
artists and audiences combined, but it also forms the experiment of the
After jamming and shaping a band for some 18 months, Raymond Biesinger
(local artist, illustrator and formerly of the Vertical Struts) and Garrett
Heath Kruger (formerly drummer for the Wolfnote) are finally ready to take
the stage. They’d made a conscious decision not to play live until
they were good and ready, until they had a release. Now, armed with a
double seven-inch release and a book full of visual chronology, the
duo—with Biesinger on guitar and Kruger on drums—aren’t
looking to re-invent the musical wheel per se, but there’s a strong
desire to stretch some creative muscle, to do a lot with very little.
“A motto that I have lived by for a very long time has been that in a
world, in a day and age, where absolutely everything is possible—we
live in one of the most wealthy countries in the world, you have GarageBand
recording technique, you’ve got the dissemination of cheap digital
cameras, and there is just infinite possibilities and I think that one of
the most original things you can do is give limitations to yourself and try
to work within them and surprisingly making a few variable things go
far,” Biesinger explains. “To me, that governs the band and
what I choose to produce illustration-wise and art-wise.”
Paring it down, going for the minimal, is an idea that has been with Kruger
for some time as well.
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“One drum teacher had always told me that music is good because of accents,” Kruger says. “A good drummer knows when to play the right thing and when not to play something. And at the end of my last band, the Wolfnote, on our last two records, I really started to adopt that idea in a more mature manner, where I really started to critically think of my drumming, picking it apart and pulling things out.“
Given the players involved, however, you know that the artistic
explorations of the Famines have to go beyond just noodling with a kind
of minimalist protopunk. Lyrically, neither Biesinger nor Kruger seem all
that interested in exploring the varied forms of heartbreak. Instead, a
track like “I Like Some of the Things You Do” takes the
relationship song form to offer up a religious review of Islam, while
other tracks look at how we choose to demonize the things we do.
“The lyrics that are expressed in these songs really covers how
both of us feel about some of the issues,” Kruger explains.
“I think that there’s enough music out there that’s ...
you could say art for art’s sake, but I think there’s a
side of the spectrum where there’s no context and it sort of just
gets lost, and it’s kind of art for nothing’s sake, or art
that’s cool and popular right now—for popularity’s
The Famines are also fiddling with form in other ways, from a limited release of the double vinyl seven-inch on recycled eight-tracks (the fifteen minutes of music equals a football field and a half of tape, I’m told), to visual art history of the band, all in a book bound by Biesinger himself. Only a month after assembling the first edition, he’s hard at work putting together a second and revised edition, adding several pages of new illustrations. As this new band grows, so will its visual history, into what Biesinger hopes is a sizable book of many editions.
Anybody familiar with Biesinger’s illustrations or the
Wolfnote’s hand-stenciled CDs likely won’t be surprised with
the pair’s desire to personalize what it does to connect with an
audience. What is remarkable is how an experiment in minimalism got to be
so ripe with possibility. V
Thu, Jul 17
With the Wicked Awesomes,
Nik 7 & Jaycie Jayce
Pawn Shop, $10
Fri, Jul 18
With the Mitts, the Facehitters,
Edmonton Room, Stanley A Milner Library, $10 (All Ages)
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