“It was eye-opening to go to France and see a whole other music community that was just as exciting — to go all the way across the world, and find completely kindred spirits,” explains Evan Jeffery, guitarist, vocalist, and one quarter of Victoria’s Fountain. “I always thought so locally, but [travelling] totally changed the way I look at the global music community.”
Having recently returned from a tour in France, Jeffery, along with his bandmate Robert Coslett, sit down for a Skype interview with Discorder to discuss how they maintain musical connections across cities, countries, and continents.
“The band has been a little slower lately,” says Jeffery, explaining that half of Fountain have been living in France since September 2015. Laura Jeffery and Declan Hughes — Fountain’s drummer and bassist, respectively — found themselves teaching English in the cities of Strasbourg and Angers. “They had amazing opportunities to go and live there for a long period of time. It was pretty hard to turn down,” says Coslett. Fractured for only a few months, the members of Fountain still stayed involved and active in their geographically varied music scenes.
“Laura got really involved in the music scene [in Strasbourg],” explains Jeffery. She carved out a space for Fountain to expand abroad by making connections with the likeminded music-makers in France, and enabling the band to go on tour throughout the country, from Strasbourg to Brussels, alongside French no wave act Zad Kokar.
Fountain was drawn to something inexplicable and whole-heartedly unique about Zad Kokar. “[Laura] was like ‘I don’t know if people understand Zad Kokar in France, but they’re my favourite band in Strasbourg,’ and seeing them, I totally got what she was saying,” relates Jeffery. “They’re one of the most exciting bands I’ve ever played with. They’re incredible.”
Despite parting ways at the end of their May tour, Fountain and Zad Kokar have not lost contact. “Actually,” says Coslett, “they’ll be coming over to Canada for a couple shows pretty soon. They’ll be playing Sled Island [in Calgary, Alberta] this year … Luckily, we get the chance to play with them again in Kamloops on our way to Sled, too.”
The two bands will also meet up in Fountain’s hometown of Victoria this June for Pretty Good Not Bad, the city’s newest music festival. “It’s being put on by people in Victoria who have done show booking for years before, so it’s pretty exciting to see they’ve got a new project on the go,” says Coslett. “PGNB knows a lot of great bands that kind of slips through the cracks — it’s kind of tricky to get bands over to the island, so it’s nice when there are more festivals like this one to give them a little incentive.” In addition to drawing both domestic and international acts across the Georgia Straight, Pretty Good Not Bad is a showcase of talent already within the city of Victoria, like Fountain.
“It’s a cool, really insular scene here,” says Jeffery. “As soon as you get to bigger cities, you feel more of an energy of competition.” It could be the relative isolation of the city, the modest population, or even the cost of travel to get there, but everyone in Victoria “sort of does their own thing.” As Jeffery explains, “it’s not like there are tastemakers, putting out their feelers all the time in Victoria, and I think that’s cooler in a way. You get people making the music they want to make.”
And with the relative freedom from competition between bands, “you end up having really eclectic bills, because there are only so many bands.” Jeffery continues, “It’s more exciting to have shows like that, rather than all the top four punk bands all playing together, all sounding the same.” The diversity of talent is one of the main aspects of Victoria that keeps Fountain so satisfied in their hometown.
Despite thriving on the island, Fountain still makes their way to Vancouver from time to time, but they come with a distinctly outsider’s perspective. “I think Vancouver’s really cool too, but it’s just a totally different energy,” explains Jeffery. “I still feel like a stranger every time I go, but that’s kind of exciting, you know? It’s always different venues, and it seems like there are a lot of bands that are always changing.”
“It’s definitely pretty relaxed here,” says Coslett, “whereas when you go to Vancouver, I don’t know if it’s just being confronted with the realities of the city that brings out a lot of anxiety and tension in the music. But yeah, I like it.”
Of course Fountain’s music isn’t fully devoid of anxiety or tension, despite their island home. Owing to their sharp and wonderfully distorted guitar tones, quick-paced drumming, and at times chant-like vocal delivery, Fountain have sounded far from cheery and relaxed on their releases so far. “I guess the first tape we did [2014’s Fountain] was more post-punk. Listening to it now it sounds a lot more scrappy,” explains Jeffery. “But as we’ve gone on, [the sound has] kind of opened up. After you’re a band for a bit, you’re trying to go after a feeling more than a sound, just trying to make it more eclectic.”
Starting work on their next project even in the midst of the band’s inter-continental separation, they’re trying to develop Fountain’s sound into something that’s still exciting for them. “So far, the songs are going in a bit of a different direction,” says Coslett. “I think they still fit in with the sound and feel of Fountain, but it’ll be a fresher document of where we’re at now.”
Working within, and taking inspiration from the music scenes in Victoria, Vancouver, and now Strasbourg, Fountain are gathering the raw materials together for a truly global record. As Jeffery says, traveling abroad “makes me think more about broadening the horizons of the band. Especially in France, there’s this crazy DIY punk community that we tapped into, and hopefully we can get some of that on the record.”