MUSIC: Fools Tongue channels Peter Gabriel
What a world where musicians can make music as progressive as the proggiest of prog-rock – in an Edmonton basement.
Fools Tongue’s new album “New World” sounds like Sting meets Peter Gabriel in, er … words fail, a home recording studio. Don’t get that every day around these parts.
“That’s our world,” says singer Luke Ertman (above left), who plays a Chapman Stick just like Peter Gabriel’s one-time bassist Tony Levin.
Ertman and his partner Jeff Ramsey (above right) have been into this sort of thing since Grade 10, he says, and have been working together for years. Both are now relatively fresh from music college – U of A for Etrman, MacEwan for Ramsey – and have forged an entirely new direction for their band. The theory here, embraced by people like Gabriel, is “It’s not about making an album with just you and your guitar,” Ertman says. “It’s whatever the song needs. It’s not defined by any limitations as a musician … I can’t play every part on that album. There’s no way in hell. There’s a children’s choir on it.”
So how the hell are they going to do it live?
Coming up to the band’s CD release show at the Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park on Saturday, Feb. 22, it’s a question that gives the members of Fools Tongue pause.
How indeed to render live such an ambitious project? Ertman has all the gear he needs, all the sounds, all the tricks and smoke and mirrors to make a decent recording in his house. He has trained ears. He also works creating soundtracks for theatre projects, and with it comes a predilection for theatrical rock music and grand visions of Gabrielian stadium spectacles that put the cart far before the horse. Putting the latest version of Fools Tongue on stage, let alone touring the monster they’ve created, is a challenge. Even with a seven piece band for this special occasion show, they’re still going to be a tracking a few things. It’s unavoidable.
“We didn’t think we were going to get a band quite this big when we started it,” Ertman says. “We were planning on tracking a lot more, but it just didn’t feel right. We’ve even done away with tracks in a few of the songs.” In one particular part he says he’s particularly nervous about, they’ll be a cappella with five-part harmonies – working without the net-like protection of Auto-Tune.
“It’s going to awesome if it works,” he says.
Fools Tongue does not really “fit in” with the Edmonton music scene. Then again, some of our best artists don’t, either. None of them fit in, and maybe that’s the beauty of it. And actually trying to fit in almost never works, either – like they did when they tried to be a folk-rock band. New World is just that: Nothing like the old band.
“For this album, we wanted to completely ignore all of that stuff and try to write the music for the music’s sake, rather than try to fit into some kind of genre we could sell it through,” Ertman says.
In short, they’re not doing it for the money, but there is a limit. On considering what sort of show to put on, he says, “We made a list of what we wanted and it was full lights, set pieces that would move and window frames suspended over the drums that would rain from the sides, actors, dancers, and OK, this is going to cost $40,000. If we had money, it would be like this.”
Or maybe you could use the money to hire another dozen musicians? Just trying to help here.