Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Photo credit: Deniz Berkin
L-R: Cliff Chamberlain, Ben L'Ecuyer, Fiona Noakes, Seedus and Danae Tsikouras
Riding high off of a recent performance at the Ottawa International Film Festival, Fiona Noakes (FN) spoke with us on behalf of her band (from left to right, above: Cliff Chamberlain, Ben L’Ecuyer, Fiona Noakes, Seedus, and Danae Tsikouras). We learned more about her surprise musical influences, the band’s recent music videos and upcoming 2015 activities!
Latest release: Fury of the Sea (LP, September 2014)
SOMETIMES ALWAYS: How did you get your start in music, and how did you end up working with your band?
Fiona Noakes: It was a dark and stormy night, I was a troublesome 8 year old and up to no good as per usual, so my parents took it upon themselves to put me in something that would help me flourish as a child. They decided this route would be piano lessons and lo and behold I decided to stick it out and eventually received my grade 8 piano. Piano lessons were my first nibble into the musical universe, although I was always coming up with songs in my head since I was in the womb, but never took the time to ever write them down or record the melody. Once I finished my grade 8 piano my next goal was to tackle guitar. This was the gateway into more definitive songwriting for me.
With my current band I met Cliff, our lead and rhythm guitarist and back-up vocalist, a few years ago when I decided to start up taking guitar lessons again. At the time I was looking for a new guitarist, as my former guitarist, Tim, was moving. Cliff was interested in working with me and introduced me to Danae, our drummer and back-up vocalist, who was also interested in joining the band. With Ben, our bassist, and Seedus, our rhythm guitarist, we met them through time travel. I can’t discuss the details unfortunately.
SA: What bands or musicians would you cite as the biggest influences on your sound, and on your voice in particular?
FN: Tegan and Sara are my biggest musical influences sound-wise and voice-wise. Throughout high school I listened to all sorts of music and had a lot influences that I am sure had an effect on me along the way. Was a huge Blink 182 and Eminem fan. Listened to a lot of French rap and rap in general. Loved Sarah McLaughlan, Marilyn Manson, Frank Sinatra, Alanis Morissette, Our Lady Peace. Over the past years listened on repeat to MGMT, KT Tunstall, Emily Haines/Metric, Mother Mother, The Pretty Reckless, The Kooks, Fiona Apple.
SA: Thus far in your career, what has been your biggest success?
FN: Biggest success so far - I think just continuing to make music and being able to share it with people who can connect with it. To me that is magical - if someone can relate to our songs and and if our music can help someone in some way cope or realize that they are not alone in the world.
SA: On the other hand, what is the biggest challenge you have faced, and how have you dealt with it?/p>
FN: Biggest challenge would be maintaining the commitment of my passion and not losing sight of the role it plays in my life. I have a full-time job, also do acting projects, and am in a relationship, so I always try to make sure I can equally put enough energy into all of them. This takes organization, communication, and passion.
SA: How do you guys approach the song-writing process?
FN: The songwriting process with my band starts with me writing the song on my own. I usually start by playing some guitar chords, the lyrics then flow from there and then I progressively figure out the parts/section of the song. Once the song is written I will then usually bring it first to Cliff and from there we go through the song together. He’ll come up with solos for the song and bigger and nicer sounding chords and also will sometimes make a few changes to help it translate better to a band setting. Danae and Ben come up with their own arrangements for the song on drums and bass VI and the same for Seedus on rhythm guitar. When we play the song together as a band the song naturally evolves. We are all very open to each other’s suggestions and experimenting to see if parts of the song may work better if we try it another way.
SA: What are your thoughts on the Ottawa music scene?
FN: The Ottawa music scene is growing in my opinion. It’s small and a lot more intimate than other bigger Canadian cities, but I find there is a real camaraderie between bands - wanting to help each other out and share each other’s music. I think just like the film/acting/arts scene in Ottawa it definitely exists. We just need to remind people that it is there and there are so many hidden gems right here in Ottawa - you don’t necessarily need to travel to another city if you want to listen to some awesome music. Support local folks!
SA: In previous interviews you have mentioned your interest in ‘playing characters’ and performing. When you play live, do you focus more on the performance aspect of the show, or are you simply expressing your emotions and letting the cathartic, ‘therapeutic’ part of the music lead the performance?
FN: When I perform each song I am revisiting the meaning of the song, the emotions of the song, and dive into playing the character the song is about in order to help illustrate the song’s meaning to the audience. In doing so just like in songwriting there is definitely a cathartic element to it - an amazing release and reawakening of the spirit of the song.
SA: The band’s most recent video for “Fury of the Sea” is definitely grim and dark. It also ends with an ominous ‘To be continued”. As I understand it, you are continuing the saga with a video for ‘Ghost of the Abyss’. Can you tell us a bit more about the plot development of the video, and what we can expect from the next one?
FN: The plot for the Fury of the Sea and Ghost of the Abyss music videos was thought up by the brilliant director of both videos, Emily Shanley (Walkway Pictures). The amazing Derek Price of Say Ten Productions was the cinematographer and editor who also helped bring both videos to life. Based on the lyrics and vibe of the song for Emily she came up with the idea of shadows representing the underlying fear/themes explored. Ghost of the Abyss is in fact the continuation to the video for Fury of the Sea. Without giving too much away Ghost of the Abyss has a very Alice in Wonderland theme with lots of colourful and magical characters.
SA: Are there any surprise songs/artists that we may find on your iPod that you would cite as influences, even if their sound may not be closely aligned with yours? Further, are there any local musicians from the region that you may view as influences?
FN: Truly I listen to all sorts of music for fun and to be inspired. This past week I have been listening to a lot of John Frusciante’s solo stuff and revisiting the Red Chili Peppers’ Californication album after reading Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography Scar Tissue. Finished the week with some Jack Johnson. Aer is one band from the States I listen to quite a bit - some of of my favourite songs by them are Medina and Water on the Moon. The rap flow in their songs is incredible. Locally some bands I groove to and am always inspired by are Claudia and Claudia Acoustic. Revv Enine and Tindervox are some other awesome local talents. Other local acts I am inspired by are some very talented local rappers from Left Lane Music (Swisha-T, Charron, the late Johnny Bravo). I love listening to a lot of smooth jazz and blues music, relaxation music, meditation music. One artist I discovered recently who has music similar to our style is Meg Myers. Would love to open up for her one day. I felt very inspired and drawn to her by her music, singing, and live performances. She does not hold back at all and really wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s incredible to see how raw she is - I can really relate.
SA: What can we expect from the Fiona Noakes Band in 2015? We wish you the best, and good luck!
FN: Thanks so much for the support and wishes. Lots to come for FNB in 2015. We are currently promoting our recently released music video for Misunderstood. This video has relevance to us especially in the timing of its release, as February is Psychology month and the theme of the video largely relates to that topic. More exciting video releases to come in the next few months, including The Dawdle and Your Stare. Going to be filming a video for Eternity very soon. Currently we are working on a new song for the feature film Hen’s Night which I had the opportunity to act in. Will be heading into the studio to record in the next while. Our goal this summer is to hopefully hit up the festival circuit as much as possible and play more out of town shows. Stay tuned ;)