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Interview with The Fugitives

In Canada, Interviews on January 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm

The Fugitives were formed four years ago on Vancouver’s East Side. The band comprises the combined talents of artists Adrian Glynn, Barbara Adler, Brendan McLeod, and Steve Charles. A group of multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, poets and novelists, their primary focus lies in banding together to integrate their sensibilities into a dynamic mix of modern folk.

Band member Brendan McLeod was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Midday Procrastination ahead of the band’s UK tour.

Tell us the story of the Fugitives. How did you meet, and why did you start making music, and why together?  What was the driving force behind it?
The Fugitives have been in many different configurations since the beginning. Originally, we were three poets who added a musician (Mark Berube) to the fold and decided to make a band. We did that because we had been invited to gig at a SLAM poetry festival abroad. We thought ‘why go over there for one gig?’ so we thought we’d do a tour, but at that time, performance poets didn’t really tour as a collective. So we thought we’d form a band. Everyone played instruments, so we thought what the hell. We were meant to only play one tour, but the tour went well, people were kind in their responses to it, and now here we are five years later. In that time, we’ve really become more of a music band than a poetry band. The spoken word plays a smaller role in the band now. And that has nothing to do with our attitude with regards to spoken word and everything to do with just how things organically have come about. We just feel like playing folk music right now. But who knows what’ll happen. The group is eclectic. We could easily be a punk band in three years time.

I’ve noted from your website that you all have diverse backgrounds as individual artists, and some of you have been very successful; you possess Canadian SLAM poetry champions, CBC poet laureates amongst your number. What is it like for individual artists to come together and work as a group? What are some of the challenges that working together entails?
The challenge is to have to always cede your personal opinion to that of the group. That is frustrating at times because then no one person has authoritative control over the way the group goes. But on the other hand it’s the most interesting and exciting facet of the band. Everyone is always changing all the time and you add four constantly changing individuals together and you get a crazy mish-mash of music. I dig it. If you want to have control over a work, the solution is simple – be a solo artist. We all do that, but it sure is nice to get together and learn from one another as well.

I’ve heard a great variety of different terms used to describe your music from ‘rap-folk’ to ‘poe-music’. Largely I think this is because your sound and style is quite difficult to pin down. How would you describe your music?
We don’t say anything anymore. We all don’t know how to describe it, and why should we, you know? If you can describe music in one sentence then it’s probably boring, or at least not inventive. And the ‘non defining’ it sucks from a marketing perspective – “hey, come check out my band, we play – ahhh…who knows….” but it’s the age of the internet. If people want to hear what it’s about they can just go on myspace and listen and decide for themselves. Or come out to a live show and boogie!

How do you think different art forms can relate to each other, or even learn from each other? For example some of your members are poets, and some artists, so what similarities have you found between different forms of art, and what differences? What are some of the challenges that come from blending art forms?
It’s all in the same place. Yesterday I went out on the street in Toronto and got tackled by random people for a dollar each. You can call that performance art or you can call it being a moron, but you do these things to interact with people in a different way, so the world looks a little different after an additional 24 hours of being alive on the planet. That’s all anyone is trying to do with art, unless they’re trying to get famous, but who really wants to talk about that?

What/whom are your major influences?
I can’t speak for the band. Right now I’m really into Mary Karr for writing, Marina Abramovic for performance art, Corin Raymond for music, plus Barry Dempster for poetry. But, you know, it differs day to day.

How do you go about writing music? Does the music develop alongside the lyrics, or does one come before the other?
You know, whatever. Sometimes people come with a melody and the lyrics, sometimes just a melody, sometimes just the lyrics, sometimes nothing but ‘Yo! Let’s write a song about mermaids!’ We are pretty good about being in a room and throwing everything at the wall and waiting for something to stick. In general, even if some of the lyrics come first they are always the last thing to get done.

Pick one emotion to describe your music…or three…
Someone once told us to sing loudly, passionately, absurdly. We try to do that.

Your most recent album ‘Eccentrically We Love’ has been very well received, as has your music in general, has the success surprised you?
Dunno. Our expectations are always changing. At first we just wanted to be popular enough to fund beer. Then we wanted to be able to tour all the time and be able to come off the road and write without having to work at a café. Then we got sick of tour and wanted to have enough money to fund albums. Then we wanted to be able to do everything and have kids. And some of these things happen and some of them don’t. I don’t really know what ‘success’ would look like. But it’s always something you don’t have. And as soon as you have something you tend to stop being grateful for it.

Where did the title ‘Eccentrically we Love’ come from?
A line in the song of the same name. It was a theme of the album – the fucked up ways we show people we love them. The fucked up ways that mean much more than the traditional gestures of loving.

Do you have a new album in the works, or anything planned regarding new music/art?
Adrian Glynn has a solo album out this May, I’m touring a one hour long monologue this April, and Barbara is touring with her new project, ‘Fang’ which is accordion shout rock. All these things are fun and great. The band will have a new album out when there is money. Or if someone wants to give us 20 grand right now it will be out sooner than later…!

What is it like making music during a time when it is very hard to make a living or even earn any money out of it?
I think artists have had problems making money throughout history! But that’s cool. You just recognize that part of the sacrifice of doing this is not being rich. Or maybe not rich right away. Or maybe not rich ever. Or maybe not even lower class ever. Of course, I can only speak for myself at 30. For the past 5 years I haven’t had a traditional day job and I’ve seen a lot of the world and met a lot of amazing people and feel very alive every day. So if I was going to complain about that because I don’t own a house yet, well then, that would be a bit strange seeing as I clearly don’t value that as much as the other stuff I mentioned.  If I wanted to buy a house I could have gone into something more likely to buy me a house. Like, pretty much anything else.

What do you like about touring and playing live? How would you describe your live shows? Do you try to sound different live compared to on record?
It really depends on the city we’re playing. We are an eclectic band so we can do a sit down folkie show or we can get dirty and drunk and scream. In Montreal, we tend to do the latter because that tends to be what people in Montreal want when they come to see us. We are very much guided by the crowd that way. If they are sitting at tables and quietly drinking beer we will follow suit. If, as has historically been the case in Montreal, people clear the tables out of the way and get up to the stage and yell at us that they want to dance, then we’ll do our best. We aren’t a dance band, per say, but we try to give them the necessary energy. And Montrealers are awesome about accepting that. Montreal and Winnipeg – these are far and away our favourite cities to play in Canada. See you there, bro!

The Fugitive’s ‘Eccentrically We Love’ is out now on 604 Records. The band is currently on tour.

Click here to play/download  ‘All This Trouble’ by the Fugitives

By Steve Eldon Kerr

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