Monday, October 16
The Feminists dont have it easy.
Theres the fact that the bands name really polarizes audiences. The more militant folks out there wonder where three guys and one woman get the nerve to call themselves The Feminists. The good news is that two albums into their career, all the members are immune to that griping.
The real challenge facing this Vancouver outfit is that they play indie rock for real. Their material doesnt sound like that guitar-based stuff that has been co-opted by the major labels. That ship has sailed and these days the words "indie rock" get tossed around with complete disregard for its independent roots.
"We should just call it independent music," says The Feminists drummer Mike Zobac. "We should kick out all the ones who are on Bif Nakeds record label and Gord Downeys record label and they can just be called signed bands."
Theres no doubt about it, The Feminists are indie rock. With a sound that melds the melodies of The New Pornographers, the ragged edge of Superchunk and the commercial appeal of The Wallflowers, this is the kind of band that evolves when a group of big music fans gets together and can only agree on Pink Floyd.
That takes care of the rock part of the equation, and when it comes to the indie, The Feminists are nothing but. They write their own material. They co-produce their albums. They book their tours. They drive their van. They even cook for themselves on the road. For The Feminists, the rock n roll lifestyle takes a backseat to their obsessive time management.
"We probably only rehearse two-and-a-half hours a week, which isnt a lot," says Zobec. That means that bassist Ferdy Belland can spend five hours a day booking tours, leaving keyboard player Allison Mara to handle the media while guitarist Keith Grief and Zobec deal with the website. "If we arent getting ready to go on tour, pretty much all were doing is writing and getting money to record. If we are going on tour, thats when it gets crazy."
All this extracurricular work means that the band bears the brunt of another played-out rock cliché the notion of being DIY. Zobec says its the only way to go.
"If we have someone else book our tours
they will do as well as they can with the time allowed and the energy they have," he says. "But if we do it ourselves we have to get these shows, because our livelihood depends on it. So, until the point comes where we can get someone we trust will do as good a job as we think we can do, well do it ourselves."
A self-admitted control freak, Zobec isnt blind to the fact that their unflinching, hands-on approach does have limitations.
"Instead of listening to other people and what they have to offer
our initial reaction is to just say we dont need to be told anything, because we know what we are doing," he says. "Which isnt necessarily the best thing all the time. But its also really hard to hear criticism on something you are really passionate about."
If Zobec isnt down with criticism, the song "Hello Toronto" from the bands latest release She Could Be is a bit of a surprise. The fuzzed-out rocker comes complete with a ska-breakdown and what sounds like a condemnation of the much-hyped T.O. scene and a certain famous musical collective.
"I dont know if (Hello Toronto) is about Broken Social Scene, but it is definitely about the hipster Toronto hot-spot kind of thing," says Zobec. "We could change it to Hello Montreal now."
Dont read too much into it. The Feminists arent looking to make enemies. In fact, after two nationwide tours Zobec is surprised at how much musical talent there is in this country. And how hard they work to be heard.
"Its tough, because there is no money in it and obviously its not about the money. but ultimately you want to be able to make a living playing your stuff, but its not really possible." Zobec says there is only one thing that separates The Feminists from the thousands of other Canadian acts that youve never heard of.
"Were one of the few indie rock bands that has enough personal motivation to let other people know that we are out there."