The Famines make music that is stabby and cacophonous and brutally intelligent. A musical test-drive through the pulverizing Complete Collection of Singles 2008-2011 is exhilarating and also dangerous---in this record's wake, a lot of other music feels disingenuous and boring. Most bands this good don't last---they eventually shatter from within. Fortunately, Raymond Biesinger and Garrett Kruger are agreeable types and decided to keep the band going even after Biesinger moved to Montreal, with Kruger remaining in their hometown of Edmonton.
"It's a bit of a challenge," says Biesinger of their new touring arrangement. "We've jammed maybe four times since Garrett got here on Sunday. Somehow the show is already tight, and that makes me happy."
The Famines have toured a lot---at least 14 times across Canada and a couple of times through the US. The vigour applied to their music extends to its presentation, as Biesinger---an in-demand illustrator who has done work for The New Yorker and BMW---applies his talents to the band's physical releases. The sleeve art for Complete Collection of Singles---with each song represented by a stylized mini-record---is an artifact of the time the band has logged. Biesinger says it also represents the way forward.
"We've always been interested in examining what we've done and reflecting on it," he says."'It's easy to be satisfied doing a lot of smaller things, and I think we're ready for more sustained messages---more sustained themes."
The strength of The Famines lies in their ability to convey focused ideas in their music in a way that's unexpected. Within the bombardment of noise, there are fully realized songs that seek to blow through the doldrums. There is no place for complacency in this music.
"Some artists are unwilling to express why they create things, and that removes the consequence from creation," says Biesinger. "To think---'Whatever, I'm not responsible for what other people think about what I've made?' That's garbage. We want to put context back into music, so people can understand where it's coming from."
The Famines w/ Fuck Montreal, Special Costello, Air/Fire, Thursday, November 17, 10pm Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola Street, $5
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