By Colton Siemens
The aggressive and visceral vocals that makes FRIGS one of the most promising young bands coming out of the Toronto scene are those of Bria Salmena. At some points, it sounds as if she’s swallowed a handful of gravel on their new singles “Trashyard” and “Chest”. This powerful and raw voice is backed up by sludgy post-punk that puts graveyard chills into listeners. Last year they put out their first EP, SLUSH, under the FRIGS moniker. They recently dropped two new singles leading up their soon to be released LP. I spoke to vocalist Bria Salmena about FRIGS and what we can expect for the future.
Stylus: How did FRIGS and your sound come into existence?
Bria Salmena: Through a lot of trial and error. When Duncan and I started the band we were listening to different music and experimenting with psych stuff then eventually, through a lot of songwriting and a lot of recording experimentation, we decided how we wanted to write music that was a bit weird and explored tensions sonically. It was a gradual evolution through a lot of songs that we would write then decide we didn’t like then try again.
Stylus: Are there any artists that you listen to or feel inspired by that you think listeners may be surprised by?
BS: I grew up on a lot of Italian pop music and opera so I think that and soul music. I was listening to a lot of La Lupe, who’s a Cuban singer from the 60’s and 70’s. She’s really crazy. I was also revisiting a lot of nostalgic R&B, listing to a lot of Janet Jackson, but that was just a little stint… As a vocalist I really love when I can find vocalists that aren’t necessarily within my genre, like La Lupe, because her vocal ability is amazing. She’s singing Cuban soul music, but she does it in a really strange way.
Stylus: You played some of your earliest shows at The Silver Dollar Room and you actually played the farewell show there last week. How did it feel to be a part of that?
BS: We were really thankful and felt really privileged that Dan Burke (the booker for The Silver Dollar) had asked us to play one of the last show there. Just because he has been a really important figure for us in Toronto, since we moved and started playing here, he was really instrumental in getting us shows. So I think him asking us to play that farewell show meant a lot to us and it was a great show. I mean, that whole string of shows was pretty crazy. I don’t know if it was emotional, but everyone was just talking about The Silver Dollar the whole time and being very nostalgic and telling stories and it just felt nice to be a part of that.
Stylus: You’re coming here, to Winnipeg, in June. Along with Fake Palms, you’re playing a DIY space called The Animal Shelter. How do you feel about DIY venues and how they effect the music scene?
BS: I think they’re incredibly important. I really enjoy playing off venues. It’s nice to play a nice venue sometimes where you know the sounds going to be good, but I really enjoy playing house shows and DIY spots cause the space just feels different. There’s usually a bit more audience interaction. I don’t necessarily love being up on the stage a lot of the time. I think that kind of suggested hierarchy is kind of silly sometimes or just makes me feel uncomfortable. So DIY spaces I think for in terms of performance value are really fun and interesting. I think for that most part, I would hope, that a lot of them are safe spaces so it’s nice to be a part of that and support those types of scenes. It’s kind of implied that once bands reach a certain level they don’t need to play DIY spaces anymore. It’s important as a starting off point for lots of bands, because that’s how you build your community and in a sense build your fan base. But I think it’s important to continue supporting those spaces even if you’re a band that doesn’t necessarily need to play a smaller venue. So yeah, I’m really excited for that Winnipeg show. I really love playing DIY spaces and house shows, that’s always really fun.
Stylus: Right now the Toronto scene seems to really be alive, even though some great venues are closing. Where do you see Toronto’s music scene going or growing?
BS: It’s interesting because it’s becoming harder to find DIY spaces here and at the same time you have venues like The Silver Dollar closing, so with a music scene that has so many bands and so many people who want to play, it’s hard sometimes to find venues. If you’re wanting to go the DIY route, there are options. I think what’s happening is people are becoming very creative about where to throw shows. There will always be venues. There’s still venues you can play, but people don’t want to keep playing the same venues and touring bands want to switch it up. I think now there’s a lot more shows happening at Legions. There’s this one Legion that’s been throwing shows. I feel like that’s kind of a newer thing for Toronto. In Calgary, I’ve seen plenty of shows in Legions and in other smaller cities. So that’s cool. Friends of mine have started throwing house shows. I haven’t been to a lot of house shows since I was a teenager, so it’s interesting to see that coming back again. But yeah, I think that people are going to get really creative with where to throw shows and I think it’s fun. I hope it works and people don’t fuck it up for everybody else. It’s going to be interesting. Throughout my short lifetime as a musician in Toronto, I’ve seen a lot of places close that were instrumental to the Toronto punk scene in the 00s. I think that at the end of the day, The Silver Dollar was going to close. Everybody knew that one day it was going to end. Like that stupid saying “all good things come to an end”. Everything is going to have to change eventually. So change can bring about really great things and sometimes it can halt things for a while. So I just hope that things that keep going.
Stylus: Do you have a favourite song to play live?
BS: “Trashyard” is always fun to play live because it’s usually at the beginning of the set or end of the set and I’m not playing guitar. I can move around and interact with people and lose my mind a little bit on stage. I can do that with “Chest” too. I think my favorite ones to play live are the ones I’m not really playing guitar on. Sometimes I feel very restricted in my movement when I play guitar. I like being able to hone in on my vocals when I’m not playing guitar and move around. It makes singing easier, to be honest, when you can move around and bend your body. So I think really anything I’m not playing guitar.
Stylus: Arts & Crafts is a really legendary Canadian label. How did it feel to sign with them?
BS: Yeah, the people we work with there are really great. Our manager, Bled, has been working for Arts and Crafts for a while and he’s a really great person. It’s kind of funny now that came about we feel really happy with the situation. They were the only label that was really eager to work with us so it was kind of like why the hell not type situation. I think it’s interesting that they’re actively trying to work with bands that don’t necessarily fit into Broken Social Scene mold. They have a lot of resources that are useful to us. So it’s definitely been beneficial.
Stylus: Last year you changed your name from Dirty Frigs to just Frigs. Was there a specific reason for that?
BS: We just felt like we didn’t need to have the dirty anymore. There’s a lot of bands that have dirty as a first words and so we were like whatever, we’ll just drop it and just be FRIGS. It felt kind of like we’re done with it. With frigs, the word itself… it implies something dirty, so having the Dirty in front just wasn’t necessary.
Stylus: Do you feel as if your sound changed with the name?
BS: I think it changed. Everything just started coming together naturally with the sound that developed. Even the live show. Everything was kind of fitting and FRIGS on its own lent to that more. It was something old and we were trying to move forward to new territory.
Stylus: What can we expect to hear from the upcoming LP and how does it differ from SLUSH?
BS: I think it’s different. SLUSH EP was a bit of a funny one because it was just a bunch of songs we had recorded and we wanted to release.. We just kind of picked the four songs we liked the most. So the LP is kind of a continuation of that. Some of the songs are pretty old. Some of the songs on the record, we wrote specially for the record. I think it’s a really interesting mix of heavier post-punk songs and there’s fuckin strange, weird kind of Weyes Blood-esque piano songs. It’s a very funny but cohesive mix that’s all tied together through the lyrics and the subject matter.
Stylus: Do you have a release date for the new project?
BS: Slated for the fall, but we’re not making promises.
Check out FRIGS & Fake Palms with Juniper Bush and Beth when they come to Winnipeg on June 19 at The Animal Shelter.