Indie Pop Gypsy Jazzimals

FFHG are intense, weird and awesome

by Chris Morin

Flying Fox & the Hunter Gatherers

Flying Fox And The Hunter Gatherers
Thursday 1
The Artful Dodger

Operatic indie gypsy jazz, musical theatrics, self-invented mythologies and puppets are just a few of the elements you’ll find in a live show by Winnipeg’s Flying Fox and the Hunter Gatherers. Onstage, the group craft larger-than-life performances that have been known to include dark storytelling. And animal costumes.

The sextet, made up of classically trained musicians, plays brassy, brazen songs full of unexpected plot twists and surprise musical twists. Using jazzy interludes and flamboyant vocals, FFHG set out to capture both those strange sounds and the intensity of their live show on their latest four-song EP, Fruit and Ash, their first release since their debut full-length, Hans My Lion, in 2011.

The end result is some of their finest work to date — and also some of their strangest, says bassist and vocalist Lindsey Collins.

“It’s [made up of] our most accessible songs alongside our most out-there tunes,” says Collins. “Two songs are under three minutes and the other two are almost six minutes, so it represents both sides of our songwriting — pop songs, and then compositions that go off into weird directions and take you on a musical journey.

“So I guess it all depends on what songs you listen to,” she says. Like the song ‘Boatmen’: it doesn’t really have a bridge or much of a chorus, but it’s a really concerted pop effort. Except it goes through three different time signatures, so I guess it’s still pretty tricky.”

Musically, Fruit and Ash is a scattered collection of musical vignettes tied together with horn-lines and subtle jazz grooves. Singer Jesse Krause’s vocals alternate between falsetto and baritone, crafting delicate tales of lost love.

The EP may leave fans wanting more — it clocks in around the 17-minute mark — but Collins says that Fruit and Ash was a concentrated effort to capture the pomp and glory of the group’s live sound in a session that was essentially just a weekend long.

“We went into the studio and banged them out as fast as we could,” says Collins. “Our singer, Jesse, has another project that he started, a men’s choir called The Riel Gentlemen’s Choir, so there are parts where they’re singing and it is pretty epic, with 20 voices singing with a lot of gusto. So that really added to the theatrical element.

“Otherwise, we went into the studio knowing we had a very strict timeline, and we just wanted to get the best live performances with very little overdubbing. We wanted something that represented the show, rather than layers and layers of sounds that we could never do live.”

Collins says that there are no plans for FFHG to release another full-length album in the immediate future. For the moment, they’re happy to be showing off the results of their latest EP to fans around the country.

“You know, maybe some of the songs were played a little faster than we normally play them but it had a good energy. And I personally am okay with that sort of thing.”