Artist of the Month: Fist City

Photo by Amat Amas Amo

Photo by Amat Amas Amo

While Lethbridge still might be known as the city where Marilyn Manson was punched in the face at a Dennys, it's also home to Fist City, our January Artist of the Month.

I went to college in Lethbridge and I can definitely see why some might consider it a small-town bible belt city but, to me, that aspect of Lethbridge is overshadowed by its strong feminist, queer and arts scene. A band prevalent in that scene is Fist City. We sat down with Brittany, Kier and Ryan from Fist City at Calgary's Femme Wave, where the band headlined the festival's Femme Wave Fun House. We talked recording their latest album, growing up in Lethbridge, why they haven't left and what they have planned for 2016.

Fist City's Everything Is A Mess is available now through Transgressive Records.

Under The Rockies: You released your sophomore album, Everything Is A Mess in June. How was the recording process for that?
Brittany Griffiths: It was really awesome. We were in Chicago at Electrical Audio Studios. It was definitely the most professional recording studio we’ve ever been to so we were pretty awestruck the whole time. Our previous recording had just been basement recordings onto a laptop so this was definitely a lot more of an involved recording process too. We were in the studio for five days doing the whole thing.

Did you find yourself experience a sophomore slump?
It took us a while to finish all the songs for this record just because we had a brief change in band lineup for about 10 months, at which point there wasn’t really any new songs being written. So it did take a little bit longer. It took three years, from the time It’s 1983, Grow Up! was released, until our most recent album, Everything Is A Mess, was released.

What are your shows like in Europe versus Canada? 
They’re a lot earlier, for one thing. There’s a lot more organization to shows in the UK. You show up at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, you do a soundcheck, you’re there all evening and then you get to play at 9 o'clock at night. And then you get to be in bed at midnight, which is nice because we’re getting old. It’s a lot different. Also, most of the venues there have a separate room for the show, as opposed to here. Often you go to a bar and the whole bar is the venue. It’s always different, depending on the city and the day but it’s mostly pretty fun.

Are there more all ages venue in Europe as well? Is that why you’re allowed to have earlier shows?
No, most of them have been in the bars so you still have to be over 18 because it’s still in the basement of the bar, usually. 

Did you all grow up in Lethbridge? 
Yeah. Ryan, did you go up into Edmonton for a little bit?
Ryan Grieve: I lived in Edmonton for a bit but I grew up in Lethbridge. Did all my schooling there.

What were your experiences like growing up there, just in general, especially with it being this bible belt area? 
Brittany: It was pretty boring a lot of the time, especially when we were young teenagers. We started playing in bands when we were around 17 or 18 years old and then after we turned 18, we formed our first real band, Kier and I. It was called High Voltage and the Danger Kids and we played in bars. Then we realized that was the only thing we could do to make Lethbridge fun, was to start a band, organize shows and get all of our friends together and have a good time because nobody else was doing it. Now noticing we’ve been doing that for 10 years now so I guess we latched on and never looked back.

What was the music scene like growing up there? 
There was a couple of pretty sweet bands from Lethbridge, when we were younger, and then around 2009 there was this explosion of bands coming out of Lethbridge that were doing really well like Endangered Ape, Myelin Sheath, The Moby Dicks. Now the music scene is pretty cool. There’s this festival in Lethbridge called Electric Eye Music Festival, which is pretty sweet. We’ve had a lot of bands from all over western Canada play that fest and it’s nice to see a local music thing growing. Most people, when you think of Lethbridge, they don’t think “awesome music scene” but there’s actually been quite a lot of sweet bands that have come from there.

I know you have Love & Records too.
Actually, Evan, our guitar player, started the very first Love & Records festival five or six years ago. He pioneered that movement. Living in Lethbridge, having it be such a small community, you really know everybody who’s doing anything musically and everybody bands together to help them out.

Even for me, going to college in Lethbridge. You know it’s a college town but you don’t realize how prevalent music and art is there.
There’s a pretty fierce, small, tight-knit feminist and queer and music scene that actually all combine together because it’s all the same people who are involved in all of those sorts of outlets. It’s small and it kind of has to be for us because it’s such a bubble within this southern Alberta mentality which can be quite differing from what you’d expect. But, at the same time, there’s signs things are progressing like Lethbridge elected two progressive NDP MLAs so that’s awesome. And female candidates too, which is even better.  

Are you still in Lethbridge today?
The three of us live in Lethbridge [Brittany, Kier and Ryan] and Evan lives in Calgary.

What makes you stay in Lethbridge versus moving to the UK or to Calgary?
We have a very, very tight-knit community of friends that we’ve known for years, some of them since high school or junior high. We’ve created this  incredible tight-knit community full of very incredible people who are doing a lot of fun and interesting things and when you make those relationships that are long-lasting like that and when you are our age, around 29, it’s hard to make new friends and to get that sense of community when you’ve moved on. We’ve moved other places and then moved back and every time we leave, personally speaking, I just always feel incredibly lonely. It’s mostly the friends, the people that are there I love to pieces that we couldn’t leave.

Ryan, running Blueprint Records, have you seen change in the culture and scene in Lethbridge just from being part of that?
Ever since I was a teenager, there’s always been a fraction of people in Lethbridge doing it themselves, putting on the shows, promoting them, selling tickets, hustling. The thing you notice is you see those people change throughout the years. Over the last 10 years, there’s been different waves where some guy will do it for two years and somebody else will come in and she’ll do it for two years and somebody else will come in and they’ll do it for two years. They’re always just trying to make something happen in Lethbridge, whether it be bringing in out of town bands or just harvesting from the local scene. It’s always been that way. It’s been steady.

What does Fist City have planned for 2016?
Kier Griffiths:
We’re writing another record so we’ll record that and we’re hoping to do a North American tour that’d be pretty ambitious. We haven’t worked out the details for that but we’re hoping to cross Canada again and maybe visit some places in the States. We’re planning a little prairie tour in the dead of winter, a desolate cross snow plains tour that will be really fun. And we’re planning on making sort of a documentary during that. Stay tuned.