5 Questions with Rags #71 - Frase
Like a lot of people, I fell in love with Frase the moment I heard him start singing. His voice is illegally-smooth and soulful – captivating. And he writes groovy, chill songs full of heart, full of feeling. I always smile seeing his name on a festival lineup, knowing no matter what is going on, I'm going to get an hour of Frase calming my soul. This past summer, I caught his incredible set at Bass Coast and realized that as he's played more and become a favourite of these big west coast bass crowds, that same bass has found its way into his live sets. But where a lot of artists who experiment in heavy bass can have their identities swallowed up, Frase has found a way to blend the pensive grooves of his music with the higher energy that heavy bass injects into everything.
“I think it was osmosis. The bass kind of just worked its way in. I recognized that when you're putting on a show at nighttime in a club, people wanna dance. They want to feel the bass. I find a lot of really heavy bass music doesn't have a lot of soul in it – I'm not saying everything, but there is a compromise right? The more bass, the less soul there is usually. It's been kind of a challenge to me to make something that will work in that club environment but is still something that I'd want to listen to, something that people could put on a chill,” says Frase, talking to me on a break from touring, at home in Ymir, BC. “As a solo artist, I needed the tracks to make the show hyper. There wasn't much myself or Emily could do to make our performance more exaggerated, it was the music that had to step up and be more hype. Her being my partner and a dancer has also had a big influence on me wanting to make more dance music. I'll be working on a beat for hours and it's pretty chill, I'll play it for her and she'll be like, 'Meh.' But if I make a house song or something that's more danceable and only spent 20 minutes on, she'll say, 'Yeah, that's amazing.'”
As his profile and his sound have both expanded, Frase's audiences have become increasingly diverse, playing a variety of venues and festivals around the west coast and Canada. This past summer included a life-changing stop at Koksilah, here on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley. “Koksilah was one of my highlights, just in terms of my ethics and my values. I definitely want to give them a shout out. It's a mix of music and a lot of workshops about reconciliation and Indigenous rights. It's a more workshop-based festival than a party festival. There's so many conflicts in the world right now and it's really nice to have a festival like that that's really about progression, bringing these issues to the forefront and talking about them and working them out instead of blaming other people for what's happening. 'Koksilah’ means - a Hunquminum word translating as "place having snags", it is a reference to a corral. The location of the festival was a former residential school and a few of the elders mentioned they can't go inside. There's a lot of trauma but that's what this whole festival is about – reconciliation and reclaiming these spaces and helping people work through this trauma and create allies to focus on the problems we're facing now – deforestation and pipeline drilling. The Indigenous are really on the pulse of that. Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Mob Bounce played, the lineup was definitely leaning towards Indigenous artists and artists of colour and as a white man I was really honoured to be invited and ask to perform in those kind of spaces. It was really powerful. I got the logo they used for the festival tattooed on my arms.”
The world is a groovier place with Frase creating music in it – in more ways than one. After a few years of grooving to his music and catching his shows, we're honoured to finally welcome this righteous bean as a guest on the 5 Questions.
1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?
It was Fine Young Cannibals. I was 6. I remember I got a walkman – it was on tape – and I remember walking around to it non stop. I listen to that album now and it's still pretty sweet! The production and the vocals and the dance-y soulfulness it has...it's super cheesy, don't get me wrong, but I understand why my influences have gone the way they have. When I was a little kid all I listened to was dance music. Dance Mix '94 and '95, all of those, pretty mainstream poppy kind of dance music.
It's easy to get into when you're a kid right?
Yeah, exactly. It's really fun.
2. What's your favourite household chore?
Organizing and taking out the recycling. That's one of my duties that I've always done. Where I live in Ymir, no one comes to pick up the recycling. So, that's another part of the job, I have to bring it down to the main recycling depot in town. It's easy though, it's just glass and everything else.
3. When's the last time you did something for the first time?
Well, I just drove all the way out to Winnipeg by myself for the show with Dehli2Dublin. That was the first time that I've gone on a tour by myself. It took me three days driving to get there. Fortunately the first day I was not by myself, but then I spent two days in a car by myself. That was the first time I'd done that.
How'd you enjoy the time on your own?
It was actually awesome. I think I needed a little break from the routine. We got a family plan on Spotify and that also kind of saved the trip. I've been resisting Spotify for awhile because I feel as an artist it can be hard to spend money on that stuff when people are listening to your songs for free almost. But as a listener, Spotify is amazing. The amount of new tunes I found and the stuff that I got a chance to finally sit a listen to, because I was in car for nine hours a day, is awesome. I see the benefit of the platform. I, need as an artist, to work towards getting the algorithms on my side. I don't know if you've seen my Spotify page but most of the artists that are “similar to me” are artists that play on the west coast. Regardless of sound, it's all the people who play at west coast festivals. It's cool and all, but I'd like get to the algorithms working so there is stuff musically closer on there, international R&B and other stuff I listen to.
4. If you could spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do? You could also answer with one living person and one dead person.
One living person – It would have to spending a full day with my partner Emily, without having too many plans. That'd be nice. Just a day in Ymir. Go hiking, make some food.
Someone dead – I think Jimi Hendrix would be really interesting to hang out with. Or Nikola Tesla.
Hang out with Jimi and Tesla.
That would be the ultimate. Those would be some crazy conversations.
5. Have you ever seen or felt a ghost or otherworldy presence?
Yes. Totally. I've definitely felt crazy presences in places before. The house I currently live in supposedly had a ghost, but Jacques who played with Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra exorcised it with his fiddle, during a performance in our house. People do say that our house is a little bit haunted. There used be another building on this site that was an old hotel/brothel kinda of thing and so there was lots of bad energy hanging around from that. Some people in Ymir have said that there is still a ghost presence but I haven't felt it. It's been nothing but good vibes here since I moved in.
6. The guest question is from the mighty JF Killah. What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
I'm going to take “crazy” in the literal definition of it, like “that was a bad idea” not “that was crazy fun.” Craziest thing that comes to mind is when I was in New Zealand traveling, when I was 20 years old, and had no money. I had a job at a snowboard hill but I didn't get my visa in time, so I couldn't work but I had the plane ticket already. I had less than $300 in my bank account and I flew to New Zealand. We ended up crashing in hostel rooms with friends. And the craziest thing was that we found this old, run-down apartment and we squatted there for a week. No running water or heat or anything, we just lived in this derelict apartment for a week. And I got super sick. I've done a lot of crazy shit.
Seems like you've been around the world. You've probably seen all kinds of wild stuff.
India – crazy shit happens every day. I saw a monkey breast-feeding from a dog in India.
This dog was standing there and all of a sudden this monkey came out of nowhere and started sucking on its teet. The dog was trying to get it off but then just kind of gave up.