"We live it. We literally eat, sleep and breathe all in the same house. That's rock and roll." Keith McFadden plays guitar and sings in Best Fiends, and he's talking about the intense connection of the band. McFadden and bassist Liz Robinson are dating. Singer and tambourine player Halcyon Averill dates drummer Evan Matthews. They're all roommates---a happy family---and together they make some of the most perfect garage pop this city has heard in years. A mix of '60s girl group, punk, garage, Nuggets-Pebbles-Burger Records roster-ready music that's a perfect formula for pleasure. Great harmonies and admirable tone are one thing (and Best Fiends has those) but more than that, the love shines through. "I think the key is that it's not just about the music," says McFadden. "I think because we are two couples---"
"You can just feel the love," says Averill, laughing.
The band began when McFadden wrote a bunch of "post-tour blues" songs around 2012, mostly about Robinson ("I usually sing about Liz---a lot of lovey-dovey songs, says McFadden. "It's pretty adorable," says Robinson) while they both lived in Lindsay, Ontario after moving away from Sackville, NB. "We were living in a really isolated town," says Robinson. "I taught Liz the bass," says McFadden. "We moved to Halifax last September with Hal and Evan, we just decided to do it."
"When we all moved in together it only made sense," says Averill.
"Since then we've been playing shows every other week," says Matthews.
The local scene welcomed them with open arms, but they weren't exactly strangers to begin with. Averill plays with Kappa Chow; McFadden with Astral Gunk, No Bodies and Adam Mowery; Matthews with The Saffrons, Adam Mowery, On Film, Yellowteeth and about 100 other bands as a pickup drummer.
"The two people who have booked the most shows for us we met right off the bat at $Rockin 4 Dollar$---Dewayne Shanks and Ian Langille," says Robinson. Best Fiends end up on a lot of hardcore bills, which is both strange and refreshing. "The pop element is there, but the punk element is sort of there too," says McFadden. "The garage and experimental vibes are there, so it's easy to play with all these different bands, some are drastically different but some are right up our alley." They especially thank their "sibling" band Walrus for being at every show. "They're like our best friends," says McFadden.
Though the early songs were written solo by McFadden, the band is trying out a more collaborative songwriting approach for an upcoming album. "Evan wrote one of Liz's basslines, Liz wrote the words and I wrote the guitar part, then we leave it up to Hal to come up with a vocal part," says McFadden. "We're all pretty much together." Their debut EP, released last Valentine's Day, was recorded all over their shared home. "We have a jam space in the basement," says McFadden.
"We get up, have our fried eggs then head to the basement," says Averill.
"We recorded the tracks literally in bed. Putting a new definition on the term 'bed tracks,'" says McFadden, laughing.
"We did the bed tracks in the basement and the bass in the bedroom," jokes Averill.
This summer, a little distance is in the cards. "I'll be gone for three months in the summer," says Robinson. At that, McFadden puts his head on the table and fakes dramatic sobs. They'll reunite for a slot at the Ottawa Explosion, and return triumphantly in August.
Not a moment too soon. "Music is always revolving around everything for me," says McFadden, and he comes by it honestly. "Keith is YouTube famous," says Matthews. McFadden does online demos of Eastwood and Airline Guitars, his videos garnering thousands of views. "Some of them are decent and some of them are silly, like I think, 'Oh man, 6,000 people saw this, oh god.'" "Everyone thinks he looks like Kurt Cobain because of his hair," says Robinson.
But just because music is everything for the band doesn't mean that manners have gone out the window. When they moved into their home/band headquarters, the members introduced themselves to the neighbours, handing out leaflets with their contact info in case things got too loud at their practice space.
Thankfully, there haven't been any neighbourhood skirmishes and Best Fiends' one year anniversary is coming up in the fall. Of their move to Halifax, Averill says: "It's been really overwhelming in a good way. We've made so many friends here." Best friends, we hope.
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