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From rags to records: Friends of Foes make their vinyl debut

By in Culture
Top left to bottom right: Stinn, Nicholson, Stretch and Nickel.

On Oct. 24, Saskatchewan-grown band Friends of Foes are taking the plunge and releasing their first single on vinyl — the last song ever to be recorded at the Avenue Recording Company.

Though still a relatively fresh face in Saskatoon’s growing music scene, Friends of Foes have already made their mark on the city. After playing alongside Canadian indie bigwigs such as We Are The City and Royal Canoe and releasing their first full-length LP Chronophobic less than a year after gaining official band status, it seems there is nothing that this fearless foursome can’t tackle.

Made up of the combined talents of Celeste Nicholson on lead vocals, Matt Stinn on guitar, Anthony Nickel on bass and Keegan Stretch on drums, Friends of Foes’ sound is a whirlwind of energy that can switch from soft, soulful harmonies to high-voltage guitar and drum solos in the snap of a finger.

One of the true delights of Friends of Foes’ music are Nicholson’s powerhouse vocals — and according to Stinn it was her voice that acted as one of the initial inspirations for the band’s formation.

“In December 2012, I had an acoustic show and [Nicholson] was the opener. I remember she sang an acoustic version of ‘God Bless the Child’ by Billie Holiday and it was literally one note a capella,” said Stinn. “It was at that point that I was like ‘Okay, I’m in a band with this girl.’”

The four bandmates came into the group at different stages in their lives with musical influences that vary greatly from their genre today — especially Stinn, Stretch and Nickel, who all come from heavily punk and metal backgrounds.

“Me and [Stretch] were in a punk band called Come Hell & High Water and it was fun to play high energy stuff but I couldn’t picture myself doing it at 25 and actually being happy about it,” said Stinn.

It seems this slowed down sound has done wonders for Stinn and his bandmates, as their album Chronophobic was nominated in Planet S Magazine’s “Best Of 2014” for album of the year.

“Even to be nominated is a huge pleasure, especially considering that we’re up against bands like The Pistolwhips and Shooting Guns,” said Nickel.

With media spotlight shining on their first album, a new single on the way and an official music video to boot, it seems Friends of Foes is making strides in what they believe to be a very collaborative musical community.

“Saskatoon is a really tight knit scene,” Stinn said. “All the venues are easy to approach. They make a point of knowing everyone. You can send an email to the manager of a venue once and he remembers you four months later and ask you how your band is doing. No other city I’ve ever been in really does that.”

Venues in the city such as Amigos Cantina, Vangelis Tavern and the Capitol Music Club — which are often packed with multiple bands and events every day of the week — create a friendly atmosphere for new musicians to cut their teeth in the music industry. The Capitol in particular is making a name for itself as Saskatoon’s newest venue and generating business in the downtown area that would normally be reserved for Broadway, which is a testament to how much the city’s music scene has expanded.

“Five or 10 years ago there were only really We Were Lovers and Fisticuffs,” said Stinn. “It’s blowing up. The scene is ridiculous.”

Friends of Foes are taking advantage of this increasingly large and trendy music scene with the production of their first vinyl single — only 25 of which will be available for purchase at their release party.

“For me its always been that I want to hold a record and it was amazing how our first album felt in my hands,” Stinn said.

“It’s basically a test run. We didn’t want to get too many [records] because this is a market that’s just starting to pick up again,” said Nickel.

In addition to their vinyl debut, Friends of Foes have a few small tours in the works that will be hitting the Alberta, Manitoba and Regina markets — the last of which holds a special place in the heart of the group.

“In Regina, we once played to a group of about 15 people and it was probably one of the best shows ever,” said Nickel. “We were there until 3:30 in the morning just chatting with people. They even went to the deli down the street and got us freshly sliced meat and cheese and freshly baked buns.”

“I made a comment like, ‘Oh man you could have just gotten us a pizza’ and the venue manager said, ‘No, that’s lazy. You don’t treat people like that,’” added Stinn.

Friends of Foes are well on their way to becoming a Saskatoon classic and the release of their first vinyl single will undoubtedly become just another feather in their talented caps.

The release party will be held at the Capitol on Oct. 24. Friends of Foes will be performing at the event alongside the bands Silent Sea and Jenavive. The music video for the group’s new single “Winter,” directed by University of Saskatchewan drama student Morgan Carter, will be screened that night as well.

Doors for the Friends of Foes vinyl release party open at 9 p.m. Tickets are available in advance for $10 from the Capitol or for $12 at the door.

Photo: Mark Tiu

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