One-on-One with F&M

Photo: Jim Johansson
Photo: Jim Johansson

by Michael Thomas

After a brief discussion of the musical process of F&M, Ryan Anderson finally pares the band’s ethos down to one sentence: “We’re really neurotic, reclusive introverts who overthink everything—we analyze everything to death.” But the Edmonton band is not just a collection of nitpickers—they’re deeply passionate about everything from Portuguese wine to theatre to urban design.

At one point, Ryan goes on a rant. “There was a point where I was so tired of irony in music that I was like ‘Let’s be as authentic as we can be,'” he says. “There’s only two types of songs, music to shag to and music to dance to, and after that, it’s one of those things where it’s okay to be okay with love. And romance is great. ”

Rebecca Anderson, his bandmate and wife, then interrupts and says “You’re getting ornery.” This passion and easy chemistry is what makes F&M such a compelling act. The Andersons, along with the quiet but confident Bryan Reichert, have recently released At Sunset We Sing, an aptly-named and beautiful album, and are currently touring Canada to put it out there.

The band formed when Ryan, who comes from a punk-music background, heard about classically-trained Rebecca’s shows. The two eventually decided to form a band together as they started dating, and they were known as Foster & McGarveys.

“I put out a record and we just didn’t know what we were doing,” Ryan says. “It’s all right, but it’s not very good. It’s very, very amateur.” At some point they went to Reichert, both a multi-instrumentalist, for guidance.

“We met with him and bunch of other guys and we’re like ‘How do we become better?’ and he gave us a lot of brutal, honest tips,” Ryan says. The band then shortened their name to F&M, at least partially because an Edmonton funeral home has the same name.

In 2011, with the release of Wish You Were Here, the band shrunk down its membership to just three—the Andersons and Reichert.

“[Reichert] became an integral part of F&M,” Rebecca says. “We really became a trio and he was more a part of the creative process, not just the studio process.”

It would be a long road to At Sunset We Sing, however. The year 2012 went wrong for the band in a number of ways. Ryan broke his hand within the first two months of the year, and Reichert got a fracture above his knee that prevented him from walking for months. But they still fulfilled their show commitments.

“We hobbled into Montreal one time and they’re like ‘Are you kidding me?’ And Becky’s hauling the gear in, Bryan’s sitting there on stage,” Ryan starts.

“We just had to place him on stage and he’d have to stay there, even when there was an opening act,” Rebecca continues.

“No joke, it was brutal,” Ryan concludes.

Rebecca also studied in Moscow, completing a graduate degree in Soviet studies. She wrote on rock and roll during the Glastnost period, focusing especially on Viktor Tsoi, who died in 1990 but was influential as the front man of the band Kino.

“I’m still really fascinated by Soviet history, and by the power of music,” Rebecca says. “How does music shape history and how does music shape identity?” Eventually F&M decided to release a four-song EP as a way of telling people they’re still making music. “It was just a way of keeping hopeful and doing something and also paying homage to something I still really love.”

Both Ryan and Rebecca have vivid descriptions of what the city was like. Ryan describes it as “New York on crack.”

“It was beautiful but the disparity was a little bit shocking,” Rebecca says. “And then the size of the city, I felt like I was in Gotham City sometimes because it just seemed like a comic book, weird landscape.” She describes the Russians she met as similar to Americans during the George W. Bush presidency—apologetic for their government’s actions and ready to drink with you.

New Year’s Eve 2012 would also be the spark for At Sunset We Sing. While drinking Portuguese wine, the band decided Portugal would be the impetus for the new record and took to Victoria, BC to get some songwriting done. They were especially into Fado music, a popular style of the region.

“If you go to Portugal there’s Fado bars and people just go up there and sing,” Ryan says. “They belt, and they emote, but they sing sadly. And it’s this beautiful thing.”

“Fado means embracing your fate or your destiny,” Rebecca says. “And singing about ‘It sucks to be poor’ or ‘I’m in love…’ And enjoying it too, not dwelling in it. When you’re singing about it so emotively it’s cleansing your soul and celebrating your life.”

“This is something we strove to capture in the recording,” Reichert says. “They have a great passion about wine and food and music and life in general. I think that’s what we strove to have come out in this record, in a great amount. More so than what we’ve normally done, just that it’s so apparent that it’s about passion.”

Fado also inspired the band’s tagline: “A joyful melancholy.” But happy or not, it didn’t make their recording process simple.

“We can be brutally honest with each other,” Rebecca says. “Bryan’s voice is more quiet but in the studio he runs the show.” He wasn’t satisfied until a song was “good enough”—the Andersons say that “And We Will Mend Our Broken Hearts” had more takes than they could count.

Many songs went through numerous iterations. “Show Me Your Light” started as a number with all three members singing, but it eventually was stripped down to just Ryan singing and Reichert’s guitar.

“‘There is You,’ that used to be a fast piano number,” Rebecca says. “And then I was just goofing around like ‘Hey guys, this is a lounge number now,’ and playing the vibraphone sound, and the guys are like ‘No, that’s it.’ And then I came up with the parts for the guys to sing.”

And while the band didn’t intentionally strive for a whole album theme, there is plenty of intention elsewhere, right down to the make of guitar Reichert would play.

“It sounds cliché, but you always do what serves the song,” Reichert says. “You know instantly when that occurs, when there’s this long process.” He mentions the many iterations of “Mend Our Broken Hearts and says “When we had the current [iteration], we said “That’s the way we need to do it.” It was just that simple. It was a struggle but once you reach the right direction it comes together.”

The Andersons and Reichert also see themselves very much as a product of their home town of Edmonton. They’re huge fans of the musicians there; Mark Davis (a personal hero of Ryan’s), Ariane Mahryke Lemire, Gold Top, Tyler Butler, Doug Hoyer, Mitchmatic and Caity Fisher are just a few of the names they mention as some of their favourite local artists.

“Our music is so connected with our environment in Edmonton, which is stark, it’s cold,” Ryan says. “It’s a writer’s town. If you want to write music, -40 does it.” He adds that the architecture of Edmonton is inspiring too—urban design is another thing they’re passionate about. Then Ryan adds “We’re a punk band at heart.”

On this point, Rebecca says, “We both enjoy the concept of punk and the lifestyle, the meanings, what does it mean to be punk. But as far as the sounds we create, it doesn’t necessarily sound like punk. It’s still punk at heart.”

She pauses for a second.

“We’re passionate about too many things.

F&M’s next stop on their At Sunset We Sing tour will be December 3 in Vancouver at the Railway Club.

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