I can already hear the disgusting slork! of thousands of collective eyes rolling, so I’ll meekly leave this quip here: You can take the boy out of Calgary, but you can’t take Calgary out of the boy. At least that’s the sentiment I get from Craig Fahner, the Albertan expat behind lo-fi sun-pop outfit Feel Alright.
“I think a lot about how I came to start playing music in Calgary,” he says. “I mean, I found my suburban upbringing objectionable and lacking something really important. [The music scene] thrives here because people are having that same experience, and they’re working to make it better. It can be like that in Pittsburgh [where Fahner is currently obtaining a master of fine arts], but there’s something different about Calgary. There are incredibly creative people here.”
It doesn’t hurt, too, that Calgary seems to trail Fahner. While performing in New York City, he describes playing to a room of ex-Cowtowners, including Women drummer Michael Wallace. While earning his bachelor of fine arts at Montreal’s Concordia University, he found himself surrounded by familiar faces from Calgary’s music scene, including Silver Dapple’s Markus Lake and Jesse Locke (who collectively formed Blues Dad, an early incarnation of Feel Alright). And when Fahner assembled the warped, beach-ready tunes for his long sold-out debut album, Hahahahahahaha, it was Locke’s all-cassette label — Planet of the Tapes, for those counting — that volunteered to release it.
See what we mean? You can’t take the Calgary out of the boy.
“It’s interesting that there’s a locality that’s so important. Whenever someone talks about Braids, they always mention how they moved from Calgary. There’s an important lineage, but it doesn’t have much of a bearing on the music itself,” says Fahner.
“A lot of my new record was created over the Internet,” he adds. “It didn’t have a place where it was made. I recorded it in Pittsburgh, sent tracks to Marcus in Montreal and recorded more in Calgary. It’s a weird Bermuda Triangle.”
And much like the Bermuda Triangle, it’s easy to get lost in Fahner’s music (cue those eye rolls again). All ear-soothing, sunny-day melodies — “I learned to sing harmonizing with Sloan records in the car,” he offers — and bombastic garage shakers, Hahahahahahaha feels like a classic pop record, right down to the lyrics of “Raised Right,” which borrow from Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.”
Indeed, as XTC might say, this is pop — until, of course, it’s slathered in tape hiss and warped-record wobbles. And, quite refreshingly, Fahner is unapologetic about his lo-fi tendencies.
“I feel like I can excuse myself for not knowing too much about recording. But I have a real fondness for [lo-fi] recording and the type of people taking part in it,” he says. “It’s all DIY recordings, it’s all being done by hand — like cassettes — and it’s anchored in physicality. It’s a tactile approach.”
And, as media goes, the easily replicated cassette is a format fitting of Fahner’s writing style. While he’s still hammering out details on his next release — he’s in negotiations with a prominent Canadian label — he says to expect a release as early as February, which he says will be “less trashy lo-fi.” Until then, though, Fahner’s just glad to be back home, where he actually has a chance to perform his music in a live setting.
“I’m calling wintertime, summer part two,” he says. “It’s just shitting snow outside. It’s horrible! But it feels more like summer to me because I get to play music with my friends.”