Saskatoon’s The Friends Electric is pretty much the quintessential local group – a sketchy collection of familiar faces that have band inbreeding written all over them. Which isn’t to say that is a bad thing – it simply speaks to the nature of playing in a smaller scene that harbours some very talented, and restless, musicians.
Also, that’s pretty much life in a city known for its round-the-clock indie rock inbreeding.
Friends Electric front man Drew Davies first emerged into the scene via local weirdness Linus Hemmingway. Although the group was hugely entertaining – a cover of Chris Issak’s “Wicked Game” immediately, and disturbingly, comes to mind – musically the group were more or less all over the map.
However, Davies’ vision for The Friends is far more focused, despite some truly epic musicianship.
Along with his band, which includes ex-Hemmingway alumni Charles Lemire and Brook Byrns, Davies combines 90’s guitar sounds with synth lines and plenty of fey dance beats. But despite having a fairly concrete plan – or at least something masquerading as a plan – Davies explains that the band are simply creating something for themselves as much as they are for their audience.
“The Friends Electric was created mostly as a make work project – something to keep us all out of trouble,” says Davies. “Other than keeping busy through the long Saskatchewan winters, the other challenge is to create something that the participants in this project would actually listen to. Trying to make music that is both accessible and not too weird for those of us actually making the music, but also weird enough that is not totally stock.”
“I don’t know about you but, I would feel really cheated if I found out the folks in Aids Wolf couldn’t listen to their own music, and they just sat at home listening to Lady Antebellum or something,” says Davies. “That would just burn my britches.”
While The Friends Electric is by far the more advanced project, Davies admits that the concepts for his band were actually derived from his life away from Saskatoon six years ago.
“I wrote the song ‘External Feelings’ in the winter of 2005 when I was living in Vancouver and I was unknowingly at the time experimenting with the highs and lows of the human condition,” says Davies. “The rain was really getting to me and I had employed the city drugs to enhance my mode of apathy. Instead of drying the rain I was soaked in the dew of some distant evening. An undefined feeling washed over me as the sun made a compromise with the storm drain, the gutter, and the rain. In the distance I heard the faint sound of a door closing. The External Feelings moved me out of that city. If I hadn’t gotten my foot in that door I wouldn’t be speaking to you right now. Think about it.”
Although their debut album, entitled External Feelings, has been available since December of 2010, the band is still managing to keep relevant via plenty of favourable reviews. Even better, External Feelings has been gracing the Top 30 charts at CFCR, coming in ahead of some very big names in the indie rock world – take that And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead!
“The Friends Electric will probably be back in the studio soon,” promises Davies. “We might try to play in Regina or Winnipeg. Hopefully we’ll mail some CD’s to someplace where in a wood paneled room young writers at some unknown publication will speak somewhat fondly of our record. They will write a review of External Feelings on a cocktail napkin and pass it around the room, and then they will laugh and flippantly decide to keep this record as their own little secret and never speak a word to anyone about this ‘great new underground album’ that they had recently ‘discovered’.”
“Or maybe nothing will ever come of any of this.”