“We were shredding cabbage on the floor. It was fun. I’m interested to see how it turns out.” Noah Varley, the bassist for the up-and-coming pseudo-pop band Painted Fruit (formerly known as Painted Fruits), is recounting his very recent experience of making 15 gallons of sauerkraut with Johnny De Courcy and Johnny’s father. Other than the fact that one of Vancouver’s best-known alternative musicians is interested in German side dishes, Painted Fruit’s musical connections at such an infant stage in their band are quite impressive.
Painted Fruit is a young band in multiple senses of the word — they have only been together for about a year, and the band members themselves are fairly young. Three of them are 20 and one is 23. Despite their multi-faceted youthfulness, Painted Fruit has managed to carve a successful pathway for themselves since their conception. They released their first full-length cassette back in May of 2015, titled Fruit Salad. The cassette is melodic, breathable and rather joyful in nature.
Although Fruit Salad is a self-proclaimed pop album, darker and more rigid undertones creep their way onto tracks like “Running Away,” giving the album some refreshing diversity. Noah speaks candidly of his post-punk influences, such as his love for bands like Women and Gang of Four. “I like the idea of the music conveying the mood. I think it’s really powerful when somebody can write an instrumental that conveys what they’re trying to say.”
The band is composed of Noah Varley on the bass, Jon Varley on the guitar (yes, they are brothers), Evan Aasen on the guitar, and Ben Smith on the drums. All four of the band members grew up together in Vernon, BC and now live together in the same house in Victoria. This affords them the freedom to collaborate and write together at all hours of the day, an arrangement that is highly beneficial to the group, since all four members are also full-time students. In fact, Noah is presently working at a job placement at Mercedes-Benz in Vancouver studying hydrogen fuel cells as part of his engineering degree. He travels to Victoria every weekend to play with Painted Fruit, which he jokes is making a killing for BC Ferries.
“I think about this a lot, about what I really want to do. I was talking to Michael De Courcy yesterday, his son John is a musician in Vancouver. He’s been an artist in Vancouver since the early 60s, and he was commenting that it sucks that we have this awesome band but we’re in school. It’s kind of disheartening, when people feel that they have to be in school at the same time. It is a really good backup. It’s just hard to put your full effort into music.”
While the smaller audience base in Victoria may seem like a disadvantage for a band, Noah emphasized that lower living costs in Victoria give the band opportunities they wouldn’t have in Vancouver.
The motif of fruits is evident in the band’s outward image, which stems from a place of artistic purpose. “One of the inspirations was from still-life art, like painted fruits. The idea of being a painting on a wall…maybe not so much music but abstract art. I think we’re all into visual art as well.” Noah himself has done the visual design for all of their projects thus far. As an independent band without the pressures of a record label, Painted Fruit is able to carve their own pathway through the music industry, a feat which is both rewarding and daunting.
A defining feature of Painted Fruit’s public image is its staunch rejection of their branding. The members are defiant in the face of social media profiles and would rather rely on the quality of their music rather than the image they propagate of themselves. While the group does have a Facebook page, they are reluctant to delve full-force into the world of Likes and Followers as a means of gaining success. Noah cited Vancouver’s Dada Plan as a band that he respects on the grounds that they have gained success by putting on unique shows, such as their set alongside Summering and Ora Cogan at the Planetarium October 22.
Like many other bands, Painted Fruit grapples with the difficulty of keeping a common musical theme within the band. Tastes vary between members, which can impose a strain on the course of the band. That being said, the members of Painted Fruit have channeled their darker, post-punk preferences into a separate band, Novel. This band is composed of three of the members, and allows the group to step away from their pop-music focus in Painted Fruit. Novel is expected to release a full-length record within the next few months.
Despite the undertaking of this musical side project, Painted Fruit is set to release a split 7” record with an Albertan band, Smoke Eaters. Strikingly, Painted Fruit’s half of the record will feature one single song, seven minutes long. The collaboration will allow the group to diversify their artistic threshold and reach a wider audience, which is arguably a more ingenious means of spreading the scope of their influence than updating an Instagram account.