Interview by Barry Egan
In the haunting song Lonely Resonator from their fourth album Something in the Ether, Canadian indie-folk bright young things Fish & Bird pose many questions worth pondering.
“We moan with morbid satisfaction/Who can sing the saddest song?/We teeter as we sing along/We live for that wincing reaction/Who expresses heartbreak best?/Who can get us right in the chest?’
Sitting in the studios after recording two emotionally rousing songs for the Windmill Lane Sessions for independent.ie — Something in the Ether and a rustic-cool version of David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes — songwriter Taylor Ashton looks like a cattle rustler, a high-plains drifter, from early 19th Century Texas.
His five-piece band sound like a rootsy Radiohead, full of thoughts about nature and the world. He speaks in a charmingly soft way, from over his glasses, and almost mumbles through his hipster beard.
Something in the Ether is inspired, he explains, by the way that his parents met and the way that they got married.
“They were quite young and were, I guess, in a lot of places in their lives. And three weeks later to the day, they were getting married after meeting each other for the first time.”
“They didn’t tell any of their parents that they were getting married. They actually arranged with the Winnipeg Fringe Festival to have their wedding broadcast. They both wore tuxes.
“And they were out on their street. And they told their parents, ‘Tune in at this time on the news because we are going to be on the news’.
“I was just thinking about if I’d been one of their friends at the time,” Taylor continues, “and I’d been out for a beer with them and they’d said to me: ‘Oh, I met this girl yesterday. We’re talking about getting married’.
"I would have said, ‘I think you should think about this. Give it some careful consideration. It seems like you’re really rushing into it.’ And of course, that seems like it would be the right advice. And yet that is the whole reason that I am born.”
Did you inherit their sense of whimsicality? “Well, I think in a different way. I’m not married and I think almost because of that I can’t see myself going down the same path, for whatever reason,” he says “as far as getting married quickly, but who knows? My mom was only 19 and I’m 26 now.” He pauses.
“Am I? Hold on a second,” he laughs. “Everyone in the band is 26. Actually, I am 26, I am 26,” he says, as if he was trying to convince himself.
Cold Salty is set in Nova Scotia. You feel the smallness. I like that feeling. You just throw yourself into the ocean
In 2007, Taylor and the fiddle player extraordinaire Adam Iredale-Gray got together and formed Fish & Bird.
“We started making recordings just for fun. When Adam and I started to play music together, the idea was we were both getting into old-time American music at the same time.”
“I guess it is the precursor to bluegrass. It is just a looser fiddle tradition. It is a bit how you would play the African instruments that the banjo is descended from originally.”
“So we were both getting into that and I had this one song that I had based on some old-time music that I had heard. I thought, ‘maybe we are going to start an old-time band’. Then I played him another song that was a kind of pop ballad,” Taylor says
Hence the mystic, rootsy, ‘Radiohead lost in nature’ vibe — although their name Fish & Bird comes from a Tom Waits song.
Is the song Cold Salty about noticing how small we are against the immenseness of the ocean?
“Oh definitely! That is set in Nova Scotia. You feel the smallness. I like that feeling. You just throw yourself into the ocean.”
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