An Interview with From Giants


by Victoria King

Good people eat good food. It’s a simple fact of life. Those who are miserable munch on things like “low-cal waffles” and “fructose-free popsicles.” After grabbing some dinner with three quarters of the local folk outfit From Giants, their plates said it all: One order of pad thai, one veggie burger, and a mango smoothie later, (which ended up coming out purple, so let’s hope it was just an accidental “Very Berry”) I had a good feeling about the music they were making.

Unlike the purpled mango smoothie, one thing that is definitely no accident is the release of their new EP, This Burden is Light, due out on May 9. In mulling over that title several times, you may arrive at the very same question that I did: what’s the intended version? Lead Singer Jayme Friesen uncomplicated matters for me in explaining that the title is up for interpretation. “It’s both . . . in the end, we though it was important that, ‘burden-IS-light’ that way it can be as in something that shines, or light as in a feather. It’s open for interpretation that way.”

From Giants began as the solo project of Jayme Friesen, now the lead singer and lyricist of the group. She released Oh Sleeper under the From Giants nomer in June of 2010. Jayme spent a year in Cambodia, which served as the base for most of her song writing on that album. As the pattern follows, “watching difficult realities sparks poetry in me and that gets turned into lyrics.” This album explores related concepts of wanting to be healed and wanting to be whole, although there’s no specific overarching theme.

As Jayme puts it, she’s ever questioning the beliefs and messages of her upbringing and society, and exploring those answers and discoveries in her songwriting which (she admits) doesn’t always come out the first time. “Sometimes only a year later I’ll understand what my song is about . . . but I don’t see our music as religious, at all.” Nathan points out, “No one in the band preaches . . . We take a song in Jayme’s framework and works as hard as we can on it.” It’s an ambitious album that touches on some tough stuff, and incorporates interesting and intricate instrumental parts.

As a band, From Giants began to take form after Jayme moved in with Gabriella Neufeld and the two began regular jam sessions in their living room . A short time later, friends Nathan Krahn (now the cellist of the group), and Charles Enns, (banjo player), joined the band in what is now the four-piece folk fit that’s got a burning, and bright sound.

They’ve gone through a lot together, from long days in the recording studio to wild road trips. The group had a true bonding experience (to put it mildly) after discovering the cooling effects of Goldbond on one particularly hot and sweaty trip to a music festival in Illinois several summers ago. Or on another account, Nathan recalls having a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and showering down the rest of the group in, what Gabi jokingly describes as, a sexualized prison experience. “Remember how we smelled?” Gabi laughs.

In listening to their stories together, it’s easy to tell that these folks get along really well and have their own groove. As Jaymie herself puts it, experiences like those were how she knew, “these guys are awesome” and they should all make music together. When asked to describe their recording experience, the word agreed upon being intense.

“We were there so early and so late … you just get restless, it’s like cabin fever. I did anyway. I just wanted to go bike ride … We went for walks, Jayme was dancing,” Gabi recalls. Recorded both at CMU’s MCM Studio and Private Ear, the group all agrees that it is time to release it.

“It has taken so damn long, I’m just excited. Let it out. Set it free,” Gabi replies.

This Burden is Light is set to be released on May 9, with a show at the Park Theatre with special guest, Keri Latimer. While they’re not giving any specifics, it is highly recommended that you keep your eyes peeled for From Giants to appear around Manitoba this summer at any number of music festivals. 

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