Stephen Lyons with Limbs of the Stars (Fond of Tigers offshoot, minus Dan Gaucher) at 1067; photo by Femke van Delft, not to be used without permission
You may have read my brief interview with Stephen Lyons of Fond of Tigers in The Skinny, and/or Mats Gustafsson's little sidebar about his enthusiasm for vinyl. The Fond of Tigers/ Mats gig is on Thursday at the Biltmore, with the Secret Mommy Quartet opening; it's highly recommended. I've seen Mats in combination with a few different people, both from Vancouver and elsewhere. I greatly enjoyed his show with Robots On Fire a couple of years ago at the Cobalt, for one (pictured below); but I have often found him such a powerhouse as to steal the show a little bit. (I mean, he even gave Italian thrash jazz monsters Zu a run for their money).Though it was fun to see him squaring off, as the leader of Team Sweden, against at least one member of Fond of Tigers - the always interesting Jesse Zubot - during the hockey game on Sunday, and though I was secretly kinda (truth be known) pleased that Sweden ultimately won (since they actually produced more cohesive and attention-grabbing music and appeared more attentive to their team leader's conducting - tho' it was Mats skill with toy hockey games that proved decisive), I really want Mats to go away impressed with our scene, and have tried, during my dealings with him, to turn him on to all sorts of cool local music, from Al Neil to Slow. (So far he seemed most impressed with the New Creation!). Fond of Tigers definitely have it in them to kick ass live, but I wonder how "the beast" (as Stephen Lyons refers to him in that interview, above) will fit with their ambitious, but very varied and sometimes quite delicate music...? To wit, maybe they won't be so fond of tigers after actually playing with one? After the relative theatre/comedy of the improv power play event, with rowdy audience members booing every penalty against team Canada as called by ref Fred Lonberg-Holm and chortling when Swedes got penalties - this is where the real hockey game begins, for me...
Before he arrived last week, I asked Mats to comment on his experiences in the city via email. He replied that the "food is great and even fantastic," and that the "vinyl shopping is top class!" (He's a big fan of Dandelion Records, especially, though Femke, Dave and I also dragged him to Zulu, Neptoon, and Audiopile when showing him around the city, and I hooked him up in one way or another with Scratch, Noize To Go, and Otis Music; we have yet to get him to Red Cat, however, which he really should see). "Seriously," he continues, "Vancouver is a town I freakin' love coming back to. Means a huge bunch to me....after my first visit in '94, it has always been rockin! And the younger noise/improv scene is really interesting and alive!"
Mats with Robots on Fire at the Cobalt, photo by Femke van Delft; not to be used without permission
While talking with Fond of Tigers founder/guitarist Lyons, I happened to ask him, as a point of curiousity, about the quasi-Christian-themed covers of their first two CDs, the art for which he designed. A Thing to Live With features a female angel smoking three cigarettes, held by a man’s hand. Release The Saviours includes a preacher, pilgrims, and fish, and, inside, another angel brandishing a handgun (again, with male appendages to aid her). “It’s funny," he answered. "You know, you’re the only person, out of all the interviews I’ve ever done, to zone in on that. Which I'm quite surprised by, because you put out an album called Release The Saviours," with a cover such as it is, "and you'd figure someone would ask. But nobody said a peep. I don’t know what you have to do. Maybe if there was some picture of anal rape with a crucifix - it has to be like that, it has to be blood and gore - somebody would go, ‘hey, you seem to have something going on here,’” he laughs. “When we put out Release The Saviours, I was starting to prepare - people are going to ask about these things. And that was awhile back, and nobody said anything. It’s like I’ve been cramming for a biology quiz and I walk in and am told the quiz is off and we’re just going to watch a movie. ‘Oh, okay.’ And then three years later, I go to order a sandwich, and someone’s like - ‘here’s that biology quiz.’ I’m no longer prepared for this question!"
While he never did answer that particular question, then - and I'm more than happy, having called attention to these matters, to leave the actual explanation up to the reader's imagination - Stephen did relate a story pertaining to the possible effects of his dabbling in religious iconography. "It was funny: we were coming back from a show in Kelowna. We have to have two vans, so there's four of us in one and three in the other, and as we're driving, everything is clicking. We're understanding the links between the iconography, some of the song titles, some of our thoughts about the role of religion in society, and we're starting to have" - he pauses - "multiple epiphanies" (And here I must note that I rather like his choice of words, since it seems to riff off the idea of the multiple orgasm. I wonder if one can have epiphanies that squirt?). " And then the cell phone rings and the other van has broken down - it's on the side of the road, it's steaming, it's on fire. And then we haven't spoken of it since. Maybe that was a light smoting," Lyons chuckles.
What are we releasing the saviours from?, I replied. "I guess there's the sort of double meaning of releasing them from their obligations as particular leaders of different ideals and faiths," Lyons tells me. "Like saying, 'y'know what, you've had a good run, but we're going to do a little restructuring, here. Thanks for all your work, saviour; you've run a good faith, but we have to let you go. We're going to try a different approach for awhile'... But then there's also the more violent notion of 'release the saviours,' like 'release the hounds,' with the saviours setting upon the world and kind of destroying it. It exists on both those levels, for me."
Lyons had a whole lot more to say about his band and their music, but duties elsewhere call me from my blog; perhaps the opportunity will arise to sneak in a few more quotes at a later date (someone really does need to make Lyons' fondness for Kenny Rogers public). Meantime, if you're interested in an ambitious, unusual Vancouver avant-jazz band - one that combines elements of driving post-rock, American minimalism, abstracted ethereal space-solos, raunchy skronk, and (early) Mahavishnu Orchestra-like tension/release workouts, this will likely prove to be a show worth your while.
Fond of Tigers at 1067, photo by Femke van Delft, not to be used without permission