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FRIGS - Defying Definition

Photo by Chelsee Ivan
23 September 2018

Photo by Chelsee Ivan

Toronto by way of Montreal quartet FRIGS harness all the necessary elements of any great post-punk outfit. The band’s debut LP Basic Behaviour (Arts & Crafts Productions), captures several degrees of intensity such as irritability, uneasiness, euphoria, anguish and tension on a record most bands several albums in fail to muster. Recorded over a sixteen month period to allow for experimentation, Basic Behaviour finds a band that lyrically spans everything from religious metaphor to a variety of personas and blunt frustration amid marvelous textures of dissonance, turbulent rhythms and ferocious guitar effects. Comprised of vocalist Bria Salmena, guitarist Duncan Hay Jennings, drummer Kris Bowering and bassist Lucas Savatti, FRIGS released an EP under the title Dirty Frigs in 2014 before signing to Arts & Crafts and releasing their second EP entitled Slush in 2016. The band’s debut LP made the longlist for the 2018 Polaris Music Prize along with other notables Alvvays and Sloan. With a maturity level scarcely seen on debut records, FRIGS has the power of momentum on their side making them a band to watch! Special thanks to Bled Celhyka at Arts & Crafts Productions for assistance with the coordination effort and to Bria for being open to this fan’s questions!

James Broscheid: Congrats on the release of your debut LP! I remember flying down to Phoenix in 2016 to see another Canadian great – Preoccupations – and before the show I visited a former neighbor of mine. As we were catching up, he asked if I heard of a band. He immediately pulled up Youtube and played the Adam James Kemp directed video for Trashyard by your band. I was so ecstatic with the uneasiness of its slow-burning power that I briefly forgot where I was! That should be what music is about shouldn’t it? Translating your emotions into music and provoking feeling in your listeners right?

Bria Salmena: Wow! Thanks so much, we love that it had such an effect on you. To answer your question – that is definitely what music should be about. Whether or not my feelings or emotions are properly translated, I always hope we can evoke some sort of feeling or reaction from our listeners (even if it’s pure hatred).

JB: It is great hearing your vocals trade-off with Duncan’s guitar work – both equally haunting as they are transcendent. The press release for this record offers comparisons from PJ Harvey to Sonic Youth and dream pop to swamp rock. What is it like to release a record that is difficult to peg or pigeonhole?

BS: I think it’s always been in our nature to write music that isn’t linear. We evolve and weave in and out of various “styles”. I guess it’s a bit scary to release a record that isn’t easy to peg. Most people like what is recognizable and familiar.

JB: I read an interview where half of Basic Behaviour was recorded in the studio and half in an apartment. Was that intentional or was it a matter of circumstances around recording? I was surprised to read that because the record flows seamlessly. Is the track sequencing separated by where songs were recorded or is it blended?

BS: It was not intentional to record the record in the way we did! And while I wouldn’t change how we recorded Basic Behaviour because that process is very much a part of what it is. I wouldn’t necessarily do it again… The track sequencing is blended so see if you can tell the difference!

JB: The band released the Chest / Trashyard single in November of 2016 and both tracks appear on the new album. Even a track like Gemini dates back to 2015. Were these cuts (re)recorded for the full-length?

BS: Nothing was re-recorded on Basic Behaviour – some of those recordings are 2, or even 3 years old! Almost all of them found a place on the record, but a couple were left behind.

JB: What drew Duncan and yourself to each other while at university and what was the impetus that started FRIGS? Also, how did Lucas and Kris come to round out the band?

BS: If I can speak honestly, Duncan and myself became friends through a lot of partying. (Throughout) many stupors we realized we enjoyed playing music together and felt comfortable being vulnerable around one another creatively. Lucas came along shortly after the band formed. He was a high school friend of Duncan’s based in Toronto – he also has a music degree, so we thought we added a bit of legitimacy to the situation! Kris came around after we parted ways with our first drummer Edan. He was a hot-to-trot drummer around town and we scooped him up.

JB: The cover art for Basic Behaviour picks up and expands on the Doghead single cover. Can you discuss the cover art and any parallels (if any) to the songs within?

BS: So it’s actually in reverse – the Doghead single artwork was taken from the existing aesthetic and form of the cover for Basic Behaviour. We wanted all the imagery to be cohesive, as everything is a part of one idea. The conceptual nature of the artwork is meant to reflect the spastic nature of the record itself. The songs didn’t influence the art directly or obviously – this was intentional.

JB: Personally, when I listen to a track like “II”, it is difficult to not relate it to what is going in this country and our political climate because it is shit right now. What have been some of the influences (music or otherwise) on the band when getting material together for Basic Behaviour? I understand “Chest” came about because of the Brock Turner trial (Stanford student convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault by the Santa Clara County Superior Court in California) here in the states?

BS: I mean, you kind of already figured out the two big ones! Because of how long we took to write and record the album, we were able to take influence from a lot of different things. Plainly, a lot of things happened within our lives and outside of it. The U.S. election impacted me greatly and I responded creatively. Same with the Brock Turner case. I was writing about what was happening around me, or to me, and responding.

JB: What is some of the earliest music you can remember that inspired you to become a vocalist/musician?

BS: I’ve always been inspired by female voices. As a person who identifies that way, as well as being a singer, I found great comfort and inspiration in trying to understand or mimic female singers. I think as a 14 year old kid, seeing Brody Dalle (The Distillers, Spinnerette) play was one of the most influential moments of my young life. She validated this otherness that I really was trying to explore within myself at the time. Being a young girl who constantly feels weird and then going through puberty and wanting to be an artist is hard. She had this control over her voice, and seemingly everyone, and had everything that I aspired to have. All the while not being typically pretty or whatever. She was cool.

JB: Can you talk about the co-writing credits with Edan Scime Stokell and how that arrangement came about? Also, how did you come to work with Ian Gomes and Graham Walsh for this record?

BS: Edan was our first drummer, and was a big reason we started recording at home – he had a degree in audio engineering and is really good at it. His drumming style really shaped a lot of the early material. We worked with Ian on our very first EP back in 2014 and it was great! He came highly recommended by a bunch of Toronto bands. He immediately understood our weird recording tendencies and working with him felt very comfortable, so we thought working with him on finishing Basic Behaviour would be a good way to cap off the project. We knew we wanted Graham to mix the record after our time at Union Sound. He had been mixing so many great records coming out of Toronto and we thought he would be a good fit.

Upcoming tour dates:

North America

September 23, 2018: Madison, WI – Mickey’s Tavern
September 25, 2018: Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
September 26, 2018: Boise, ID – The Olympic Venue
September 28, 2018: Portland, OR – ???
September 30, 2018: Seattle, WA – The Crocodile

October 2, 2018: Vancouver, BC – Fox Cabaret
October 4, 2018: Calgary, AB – Commonwealth Bar & Stage
October 5, 2018: Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room
October 6, 2018: Saskatoon, SK – Amigos Cantina
October 7, 2018: Regina, SK – T+A Vinyl and Fashion
October 10, 2018: Winnipeg, MB – The Good Will – Social Club


November 5, 2018: Brighton, UK – The Prince Albert
November 6, 2018: London, UK – The Old Blue Last
November 7, 2018: Birmingham, UK – Hare & Hounds Kings Heath
November 11, 2018: Manchester, UK – The Castle Hotel
November 12, 2018: Glasgow, Scotland, UK – The Hug and Pint
November 13, 2018: Leeds, UK – Headrow House
November 14, 2018: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK – Head of Steam Newcastle
November 16, 2018: Paris, Ile-de-France, France – Supersonic
November 20, 2018: Liège, Belgium – Reflektor