Fred the Band
Ireland’s Favourite Misfit
By Aaron Binder
Originally Published in FAZER – July 2009
Multi-dimensional eyes stare across the table with all the aplomb and stance of a stink-bomb. They’re the jokers, the class clowns, but there’s something else that runs through their sockets, and it’s much deeper than their everyday personalities. The playful, yet slightly sombre austere of FRED is nothing to be trifled with; they are as witty as they are thoughtful, a dangerous combination after they’ve been traveling hours on end. This particular day though, they are in high spirits, it is the first time they are playing Toronto’s Drake Hotel Underground, and there are a ton of old friends from previous tours here to see them.
FRED is a strange grouping of musicians. Hailing from Cork, Ireland, they have integrated an eclectic mix of pop styles from around the world. This isn’t a surprising notion, Irish music is often influenced by international musicians (as evidenced by their Irish Album Charts), but they still manage to keep a proudly Irish take on their music most of the time. FRED is one of those bands that tend to blur the lines, they’re Irish, they’re a band, they’re musicians, but their influences are not so easily discerned.
As they speak to each other you come to realize that this is a band of misfits, they all have their own angle on life and music but come together in forming music they call their own.
As they begin to answer a question their eyes glaze over and their look becomes distant, as though the banister across the room holds the answer they’re trying to find. Every single time though, they come back with a reply that defines their misfit personalities. The definition may be vague, the answer may not be incredibly normal, but everything you’ve heard over the course of the evening indicates one thing; this is not a normal band and these people are bloody strange.
Aaron: You guys have been over to Canada 3-4 times at this point, how has the progression been since the first tour?
Joe: It’s been kind of steady progression. The first time we came, our first gig was sold out at the Cameron House which was great…we haven’t sold out since. Maybe things are going down. But we do have some big things on this tour, the stuff out east and Hillside.
Aaron: Well, you might not be selling out, but you are playing larger ones and playing more festivals.
Joe: Well it’s really good to be invited to the festivals. We wouldn’t know are they big, are they small, are they important. A lot of Canadians say they’re really good festivals. It’s really nice like that; I did meet Spiderman and Wonder Woman at our last gig, it was just really cool.
Aaron: You guys have been around for a while, it’s your fourth Canadian tour; you’ve been around 15 years, how have you kept the train rolling?
Jamin: We’ve just looked forward, really. If you were to stand back and look at it…
Joe: You’d actually find yourself dying if you looked back at reviews. You don’t ever read reviews; you look forward at all times. Viagra?
Aaron: So you’re pretty old fashioned then, just not caring when your major success comes?
Jamin: Yeah, we’re old fashioned.
Joe: We think it’s the way to be; maybe it’ll take us another 10 years to make another record. Yeah, and if you take a look at a band like Radiohead, they were around for a long while before they actually got a break.
Aaron: So you just love doing this…
Jamin: Whoa, love is a strong word!
Joe: Love means so much, it’s a love, it’s an addiction; it’s everything a woman should be.
Aaron: Tell me about the addiction then.
Joe: Well, you know, it’s a creative process. If you’re not getting that satisfaction you wouldn’t be doing standard things like the tour side of it and the performing side of it and getting a buzz off that as well. I think it’s amazing to do that in exchange for an hour of amazing change of the moods of a crowd. It’s great to do that.
Aaron: That’s one of the most interesting thing I’ve heard about your band, you get people bouncing.
Jamin: Yeah, in PEI the other night we had them bouncing and then the next night we had them waltzing. I think that was the first time ever doing that though.
Aaron: How did that feel?
Jamin: It was a bit weird. I found it a bit strange strange.
Joe: Amazing. There was no age barrier, there were 50 year-old people up there waltzing.
Jamin: There was an age barrier, nobody under 50.
Aaron: You sound versatile, from bouncing to waltzing in two nights.
Joe: Give us five dollars and we will survive five days in an average city. No, we would die.
Aaron: As the years have gone on, how do you feel your music has progressed over the course of your bands career?
Joe: It’s a tricky question. What you would have written five years ago you wouldn’t write now. It’s just been done, your day changes, they way you approach your music, it just evolves. You get older, your tastes get a lot more specific, and you get into a lot more stuff at the same time. Traveling, you think of something, you’re bound to discover something. I guess a good band becomes more methodical, and we’ve become more methodical as we’ve survived. So maybe the first album would have been created more by one or two people, whereas over time, the third album now it was much more of a group effort, it was 5 of us writing together.
Jamin: It has a lot to do with the people and the development of the music.
Joe: It’s really about survival, that’s part of our job, it’s hard to survive, fight, fight, fight, fight. It’s never-ending and then you get two weeks off and it feels amazing but then you jump right back in! So if you can get through that and enjoy it, and create some good love, you can function at a different level altogether.
Aaron: You mentioned that you refine your influences over time; do you find your individual influences are stronger in contributing to FRED now compared to before?
Joe: Well, I think we’ll find it more with the next album. The last album, there was a lot more collaboration to make this music. As we’ve gotten older, our own personal influences have definitely gotten stronger and the next album will be interesting.
Jamin: This one was interesting.
Joe: This one was interesting, but I think the next one our own personal influences will only get stronger.
Jamin: Yeah, they can only get stronger to the point of, maybe, I’m thinking if we have a new member as well and we just don’t know how to mix them all up yet. I’m very excited about it.
Joe: Definitely our own influences, whatever the direction, we don’t know what it is really. We throw out ideas, and once they’re out there they can be twisted and turned every way, whatever way possible; every way possible. It might end up totally different, actually, preferably totally different than the idea you had in your head because it could be the same one you heard from your influence. I think Jamin put his finger on that. I think that will become more and more modus operandi and there will be more and more ideas coming.
Aaron: Thanks for talking today guys.
Jamin: You’re welcome.