FRIGS' Bria on Her 'Drunk Iggy Pop' Persona, Wanting a Land Line and More
Toronto-based band FRIGS (the word itself an English euphemism for “fuck”), just dropped the debut album Basic Behaviour. It has a sludgy sound suitable for a manic make-up or breakup. Comprised of lead singer Bria, Duncan on guitar, Lucas on bass and Kris on drums, the foursome crafted an album half in an apartment, half in a proper recording studio and created a sound that marries experiment with industry and which critiques both.
The record moves, a testament to the process of its creation, which was constantly evolving. It took a long time to make, evident in the band’s anxious anticipation to play it. Below, Bria opens up about the band’s process, what the record has taught her about song-making, and her ongoing struggle for balance among the tediousness of technology and the purity of performance.
It took sixteen months to record Basic Behaviour, walk us through that process.
In 2015 Duncan started purchasing a lot of analog equipment with our then drummer, and they kind of set up a home studio in his apartment in Toronto. It was a very romantic idea, we just hung out there all the time, we wrote there, we recorded there. We partied there for over a year. But there were certain hours of the day where we couldn’t make noise. Really that was why it took so long to bring recorded material into the world, but we got to take our time, which a lot of bands don’t have the opportunity to do. In many recording situations, time is money. Before this record we had about ten songs released and we’d been a band for six years. So around November 2016 we tried a different approach and finished the record in a proper studio with a very strict time restraint, which gave us a kick in the butt. Things were completely changing. So essentially what came out was this Frankenstein of a record that came together, thankfully, well [laughs].
How did the four of you meet?
Duncan and I met during our first year in university and started this project, FRIGS, in our last year, so we’ve been playing music together for quite some time. Lucas and Duncan knew each other in high school, so there was already that connection. Duncan and I started playing in Montreal and then moved back to Toronto and our bass player at the time was not coming back to Toronto, so Duncan suggested Lucas. We had a different drummer until about a year ago, but we’ve known Kris for about a couple years now. He’s played in a few really amazing bands, we’re lucky to have him. Basically we’re all just friends.
What did the move from Montreal to Toronto do for your sound?
We were never apart of a music community in Montreal. We left too soon. When we moved to Toronto a lot of bands were just forming and a lot of small independent labels were very welcoming. It was a really exciting time for this underbelly of alternative music. We were all supporting one another. We spent a lot of time taking in different influences. It’s why “Trashyard” is a very different song than “Solid State.” We’ve finally kind of figured it out now, but I don’t think we would have had the same experience in Montreal.
You’ve just mentioned your debut track, “Talking Pictures” which was a birth and a breakthrough for you, how do you define this new style?
“Talking Pictures” was one of those songs written during the time of Urgency” where we had to write songs for our booked studio time, which sounds like we’ve cheated on our previous writing methods, but that was just the nature of the situation. So Duncan had this guitar riff and from that, something clicked and we were able to visualize the rest of the record. It was all very organic. We were like, “Okay, this works!” It didn’t feel like we were finishing a record just for the sake of finishing a record, it just made sense. It began this new period for us as a band.
Your album art shows a surreal orange set, a bouquet of calla lilies and a woman chained inside of an aquarium. This feels intentional.
I worked with an artist, Olenka Szymonski and Jaime McCuaig. The three of the band and us wanted to create an illusory perspective within an image. Something strange to look at that tricks the eye. Jaime is a floral designer and we wanted to incorporate an original sculpture by her. The woman in the fish tank was a visual that popped into my head which I think represents some themes on the record without too much obvious correlation. It’s pretty surreal; I wanted people to wonder, “What the hell am I looking at?” Olenka Szymonski deserves most of the design credit. It really was a collaborative effort between three women.
Has recording Basic Behaviour changed your relationship with technology?
Well, I was staring at screens for ten hours a day, and it makes you think about what kind of experiences you’re allowing yourself to have. I think the nature of being in a band in this industry is that you have to use technology and now I spend more time with emails than I do playing music, which is something that I don’t really like to admit to myself. It’s a creative project, but to bring it to the next level you have to spend time on your phone, on your email, whatever. Though we try not to take ourselves too seriously on social media, it’s more so a joke. Recently I’ve wanted to use a home phone again. Get home, turn off my cell phone and if anyone wants to get in touch with me, you have to call. But they’re kind of expensive [laughs]. I’m still looking into it.
So do you think social media works for or against an artist in the long run?
I think you can find a balance that I have not yet found. Working in offices in the past facilitated networking because I was at a computer all the time. And when you’re in a band certain things are time sensitive and you could easily miss a major opportunity. Now that I’ve stopped office work, I still find myself waking up and going straight to my email. I kind of like it and I think that’s just because I am this neurotic Virgo freak. But even so, my partner just bought an electric piano and I’m terrified to play it. And I think that is our generation. We’re entertaining ourselves with technology constantly. I’m trying to be more conscious of it. Thankfully we have a manager now so I can be like, “Today I don’t want to open my computer without thinking, ‘Oh god, nothing’s getting done!’”
In your song “ii,” you sing “God is long gone, he is long gone, it’s bleak what inspires lyrics like that?
That song was written during a time when I was feeling really pissed off and hopeless about a lot of situations in the world. It just felt like there was nothing. I was having a really bad time. I like to find religious metaphors to describe negative or explicit experiences, I think it can be interesting but I’m not a religious person at all.
What about “I am a fortune teller, baby/ I’m a palm reader/ I will take you and me and split us down the middle” from you song “Waste?” These lyrics seem a bit of a polar opposite in comparison.
[Laughs] Nobody has talked about that song with me. I had a very specific image in mind, a persona. Imagine a drunk Iggy Pop walking some sort of busy city street. The nature of that song was to expose a manic nature in myself, but in this fun destructive way. The end of the song was spontaneous, two or three takes of rambling. Whatever came into my brain. It was more of a performance than a song.
We’re very much ready for the record, touring, playing new songs especially. Somehow it feels less scary or weird to release new music after this.
written by Anna Ondrakova-Peluola