By Rachel Andershuk
Just four days into touring their second EP Try 😉, Edmonton-based pop-rock duo Faith Healer (Jessica Jalbert and Renny Wilson) had already seen improvements in their live show. With the help of bassist Jenni Roberts, keyboardist Ross Nicoll, and drummer Mitch Holtby, Faith Healer embarked on a month-long Canadian tour promoting the much-anticipated album.“We only started rehearsing less than a week before tour, and it was the first time we’d played these songs all together. We definitely notice improvements each time,” said Jalbert.
“The first show was really good though,” said Wilson. “We started off on a high note, which is hard to pull off on a big night, when I find that I let my nerves get to me. Not that night. It’s an unusual feeling.”
Before Try 😉, which was released September 8 by Mint Records, Faith Healer was Jalbert’s solo project. Although Wilson helped record both albums, he became an official band member this year.
Faith Healer performed the entire album at The Handsome Daughter, sharing the bill with Juniper Bush and housepanther. Before their set, I got a chance to sit down with both Jalbert and Wilson to discuss life on the road, loud music, and the importance of record shops.
Stylus: Noisey recently reviewed the video for “Try”, calling it “one of the strangest video [they’d] ever seen”. What are your thoughts on that?
Jessica Jalbert: Hyperbole. I don’t think it’s that strange. It’s a bunch of normal people in extraordinary situations, eating bananas, hanging out on a hill.
Renny Wilson: It’s very much a headline type of thing to say. Like, “the craziest thing you’ve ever seen!”
JJ: “My jaw literally dropped to the floor when I watched this video!”
RW: “My fidget spinner came to a halt when I saw that!”
Stylus: I take it you have fidget spinners on tour?
RW: (laughing) We have two of them.
JJ: One’s broken though.
Stylus: Who’s the best fidget spinner?
JJ: I think our keyboard player Ross has more experience with it. Renny has been catching up. He’s trying to do some tricks and stuff. Earlier today, I was like, “What is that hissing sound? Is there a hole in the tire? Fuck.” And then I was like, “Oh it’s just a fidget spinner. Never mind.”
Stylus: Are you listening to any albums on tour?
JJ: We’ve been listening to podcasts, which seems so dull to me. We’ve also listened to Erykah Badu.
RW: Only one song though.
JJ: Well, we listened to two songs. Remember? Because we were A/B-ing them and everyone was arguing about which song was better: the meaty beefy one or the tinny Prince one. (laughs) We argue about music a lot.
RW: I really love Erykah Badu’s album Mama’s Gun. I’ve been listening to it recently, and the first song is really bangin’. It ramps up. It’s so long and in your face.
JJ: Like Betty Davis style – kind of shocking.
RW: But it sounds distorted and really intense. It’s funny because that’s a quality that I love in music. We argue about it a little bit, like when we mixed this album. We considered the amount of ugly distortion that’s audible in the mix. I’m a junkie for the distortedness, so I don’t always hear how harsh it comes off to other people. It definitely needs to be tamed. I liked that Erykah Badu track more though.
JJ: I did too.
Stylus: I understand the argument. I like distortion too, but I find some live sets too loud from all the noise.
JJ: You might be pleased with us because we’re quiet. We play loud music – well, some of it’s quiet and some of it’s loud – but we are all about quiet. Then you can hear everything. And making the set quiet yet still really energetic is like a workout in a way. You’re really holding back but really going for it at the same time. I like that. It’s more intense.
RW: I try to strum it lightly yet still keep the rhythm. It’s like a light strumming that’s still precise. You know what I mean? So it is intense. I’m flexing all the muscles in my body.
JJ: But it’s not loud. That’s what I’m saying. I find that, sometimes – not because the bands aren’t good – live music can be so punishingly loud that it’s exhausting to listen to as an audience member. By the end of the night, you feel like you just got smacked over the head or something.
RW: But the kids love it.
JJ: It’s also its own kind of energy, and I like that too. I just wanted to rein it in.
RW: I think we’re reining it in pretty good.
Stylus: What has been your favourite song from the new album to perform?
JJ & RW: “Try”
JJ: So far, it’s been “Try” for sure. It’s fun because it starts out as a regular song and then it turns into a jam. I never solo live, but I’m trying to double Renny’s solo for this one. It’s fun.
RW: We perform the album front-to-back as recorded. When we were sequencing the album, “Try” became a centerpiece, and it’s very much the same effect live. This is the first time we’ve performed a piece of music as an album before.
JJ: It’s been really neat.
RW: It’s like listening to the album every night, but you’re performing the whole thing in the same sequence. It’s weird but cool.
JJ: It’s satisfying. Every night we remind ourselves of the work we did.
RW: Totally. All the little details.
Stylus: After the show tonight, where can people find your records?
JJ: I’m a big believer in record shops. I’ve worked in them for over ten years, so I would love to see people go to the record store and ask for the Faith Healer EP. You can SoundCloud or Bandcamp if you want – I mean that’s the way of the future. I just want a place where you can buy physical music, because it’s a visceral experience.
RW: …Or you can stream it on Spotify with ads for Diet Coke.
For those who missed Faith Healer’s reined-in performance, Try 🙂 is definitely worth a listen, and be sure to check out Faith Healer next time they’re in town (December 20).