Thursday, 19 July 2007

GRANDFATHER FIRE AND THE HOLY MORNING -- an interview with BT Fraser by Christine Leonard-Cripps

Walking the line

Grandfather Fire and the Holy Morning glow from dusk till dawn

Taking their name from a mysterious ancient ritual practiced by the Huichol Aztec Indians of Southern Mexico, Calgary’s Grandfather Fire and the Holy Morning aim to take the alt-rock experience to ecstatic new heights.

    Gleaning the concept of a peyote-fuelled vision quest from an Access Network documentary they stumbled across during an episode of collective boredom, lead singer-guitarist BT Fraser and his fellow peyoteros — Rich Friesen, Pete Glimm, Jzero Shuurman and Markus Overland — felt a strange affinity for the ceremony, meant to induce an enlightened state. Perhaps this spurred the band (known as Red Not Evil in its previous incarnation) into making a spiritual retreat of their own, as they withdrew to a secluded cabin in the woods to find the desired environment in which to record their self-titled debut.

    “It’s a very organic sound,” says BT Fraser of Grandfather Fire’s unique rock-meets-roots musical style. “We prefer to take an honest approach to our work. What’s the point of doing it if you’re just manufacturing something? Our music is a reflection of who we are and we wanted that to come across on our album.

    “We took off to a cabin that my dad built near Fernie, B.C. and spent four days recording live off the floor, then came back to Calgary to mix and produce it. We took a few liberties with the editing, but we don’t abuse it. We like to keep it pretty clean while maintaining the free-flowing aspect that we had during recording. The all-natural reverb of the cabin remains and that’s what gives the tracks such lush tones.”

    Overlaying tweaky guitar runs and bass notes that drop like bottomless pits, Grandfather Fire approach each of their cathartic compositions with equally distributed portions of humour and urgency. From heart-pounding tracks like “Redeye Reduction” to the resonating irony of “Meathook the Vegetarian,” Grandfather Fire’s desire to provoke a reaction extends beyond the group’s hard-to-recall moniker to their creative bent, which demands that a certain level of ambiguity and unpredictability be injected into each of their arrangements.

    “Like the name of our band, our music requires a closer look and some careful listening,” explains Fraser. “It may not be something that sticks with you the first few times you hear it. We definitely go for a big sound, it’s not all on the surface. There’s stuff going on that’s beyond pop. In our experience, grandfathers are these silent, stoic figures who are not necessarily trying to be the center of attention but are the quiet thinkers who say the right thing at the right time. That is somewhat how we approach things. Lyrically we emphasize a personal abstract rather than trying to hammer something home. We use words to build and hint at the shadow of an idea as opposed to getting too preachy. Although, I love making people uncomfortable.”

    Simultaneously challenging musical convention and their listening audience, Fraser and company bring all their creative fury to bear whenever they appear live. The five band members (really a rag-tag crew from a handful of other bands such as Gutterawl, Brittle Siren and Lucid 44) are in a constant state of flux, moving adeptly from instrument to instrument all the while sharing vocal duties. According to Fraser, this highly successful onstage chemistry comes from a shared aesthetic among musicians, one that venerates the cultural trappings of the past even as it ultimately moulds and shapes that which is yet to come. Further aligning themselves as raconteurs of the mystic realm, Grandfather Fire and the Holy Morning encourage fans to submit their dreams and good vibrations for interpretation via the band’s official website,

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