The walls of Raymond Biesinger's Whyte Ave studio are still adorned with gig posters, postcards and other assorted art artifacts, remnants of his work as both an illustrator and a musician, but otherwise the usually packed space is barren. Gone are bookshelves and racks of art supplies and guitar cases, cluttered desks and the usually present drums of Famines bandmate Garret Heath Kruger. Those have been replaced by a large, empty space, which Biesinger now surveys, patiently and pensively.
"Right now, there's this combination of things going on where the good, tangible things of Edmonton are right under my nose. Edmonton is showing me its best, and the joys of Montréal seem so distant and not under my nose that it's very easy to feel bummed out right now," he admits, his eyes, slightly shielded by half-hornrim frames, not giving away near as much as his voice. "In my mind, I'm thinking that so many people and the city are really getting their shit together, currently, so it's kind of depressing to leave."
It's true: his upcoming show at the Black Dog, a place the Famines have torn up more than a few times in the group's two years in the city, will be Biesinger's last as a man who calls Edmonton home. Like many of Edmonton's finest, he's off for a slightly more bustling cityscape, new streets to inspire him. It wasn't a decision taken lightly—he speaks about Edmonton a bit like a dearly-departed relative, something fading but still inescapable—but in the end, restlessness and new experience won out.
"There's always been this debate between trying to make the place you live into a place you want to be, or taking a slightly easier route and going to another place, where it already exists in the way you imagine it should be," he points out plainly.
(Story continues after video)
Biesinger has, if I may editorialize, done more than most to help shape his part of the city, from his spots in two of Edmonton's finest duos—the Vertical Struts being the other—to his regular illustrator meetings, from his work documenting the history of Edmonton music in chart form to his organization of the Royal Bison Craft and Art Fair, for years now the best place in the city to find some of Edmonton's best alternative arts and crafts. For a significant portion of Edmonton's younger artists, musicians and other scenesters, self included, he's been one of the leading lights, an all-too-rare example of what someone can accomplish in a city where desertion and renewal are the common experience.
That's a designation that maybe leaves Biesinger a bit uncomfortable: as you'll notice if you see him on the Black Dog stage, for all his unhinged theatrics, he is frequently withdrawn and aloof, too, more interested in the moment than what it might mean for others. He doesn't think too much of his contribution to the city, and attributes it more to a desire to make things interesting for himself and not being shy about putting himself out there that's lead to what he's given.
"As long as one isn't nervous about what people might think, and as long as someone is willing to put themselves out there, it's amazing what one or two or three people can do when you take the initiative to organize something," he offers earnestly. "I've always felt that initiative and motivation are the rarest things in the world—screw diamonds, it's a willingness to start something."
So you can see why Edmonton is losing something quite rare indeed.
(Black Dog, Free)