Punk rockers, Satan worshippers and reptilian hermaphrodites. It seems that everyone has something to say about Alberta’s Fist City. Politics (and prejudices) aside, this is a band with some serious gumption. Formed in 2009, all of the members have been instrumental in shaping their hometown (Lethbridge)’s music scene – Brittany Fist and Kier Fist previously forming riot infused The New Danger Kids whilst Evan Van Reekum and Ryan Grieve were key members of suburban post-punkers Endangered Ape.
In August 2010, the group released their first LP Hunting You and fled Lethbridge for a west coast tour of Canada and the United States. Describing themselves as an “earnest pack of weirdos”, Fist City create the kind of frantic punk thrusts you would have whipped your teenage locks to with gusto. But the band’s evolution has been far fluid than that of most indie outfits.
Brittany Fist re-joins Fist City on bass duties and stands next to her one-time sister, now brother and front man Kier Fist, following his gender reassignment – so how do the group feel this shift has informed the making of their latest record, It’s 1983, Grow Up!
Kier: A lot of the writing had actually happened before I came out I think. As we were recording the record, that’s when I was at the very beginning of transitioning.
Brittany: Yeah, the first songs recorded were three weeks into the transition.
Kier: Something like that but basically I was going through a second round of puberty and my vocals were a challenge to try and wrap around songs.
(cue pitch bending vocal impressions)
Kier: So there was a lot of very embarrassing boy-meets-girl in puberty sounding situations, but it was fun. I think I can definitely hear a difference in my voice on that record and now, on the recent recordings. I mean the 7” that accompanies that record is about a year separate to some of our initial recordings, so there is definitely a drop down in the range for sure.
Evan: Yeah, you can definitely hear it.
Growing up in the small and largely religious town of Lethbridge in southern Alberta, how did this affect your gender expression?
Kier: I mean, yeah, I think it was definitely very tough. I mean I was the only queer black pansexual transsexual for several miles… So, I mean it’s kind of a little bit isolating, but obviously it’s ok when you’ve got really good pals and stuff…
Did you find it was difficult to tell the band?
Kier: No, no, everybody was really sweet.
Evan: Yeah, no trouble at all, I was really pumped for him.
Brittany: The only thing for me was uh, going from a band that was half girls to being the only girl in it because sometimes I find it hard to get my way; I need other bitches to bitch with!
Kier: Hey, I can bitch sometimes!
So where does this satanic worship tie in?
Brittany: Our first music video that we ever released was on ‘Much Music’, which is basically like the Canadian MTV. It was aired across the country and it sparked the interest of this Christian watch group internet blog. They started this thread saying ‘man, have you seen this video? There is definitely satanic themes or either these guys are total satanic worshipers and it kind of just started this big thread saying: ‘This band worships the devil’.
Evan: They basically came up with a whole load of conspiracies…
Wow, you’d think surely they would spend their time doing something else?
Kier: No, they’ve got plenty of time
Evan: I mean we’re good people, we haven’t got crosses carved into our foreheads or anything.
Kier: Well I think you can be satanic and be a good person. But I think also us living in a small Southern Alberta, which is like a bible belt of Canada, I think it’s interesting to sort of take this piss out of this weird cult-y vibe that’s already there, but flip it into a more fun danceable satanic vibe.
Brittany: I mean it was sort of pretty next level shit, we were being accused of being Satan worshipers… this is kind of awesome!
Kier: I’ll wear the badge of reptilian hermaphrodite; yeah, I want to promote that on my album! I mean I don’t even know what that means. I’m pretty sure it’s awesome.
At this point, the band are ushered away for soundcheck ahead of tonight’s show alongside New York City’s post punk rockers, Bear Hands. This string of live shows for the Canadian quartet is a welcome return for the band who, following a series of successful dates last year and a strong UK fanbase, have signed to London indie label Transgressive for a reissue of their second studio effort, It’s 1983, Grow Up! When asked about how they feel joining such an illustrious line up of indie luminaries, the band are humble: “Yeah, like Foals are pretty great and I’m mean The Shins that’s pretty crazy”, Evan beams.
Cramped back in the confines of the band’s storage room, nestled in amongst the flight cases, we dig a little deeper into the politics behind the band particularly with former single ‘Boring Kids’.
What came first for you – activism or music?
Evan: [Writing ‘Boring Kids’] …that was a pretty funny time because where I live in Calgary, it’s a very conservative place generally, like the Texas of Canada and Calgary had recently elected this new mayor who was really amazing and totally surprised everybody, his name is Naheed Nenshi… He is a Muslim gentleman, but nobody thought he had a chance and he turned out to be such an amazing guy. Then that same week, Toronto, which is a bit more left wing, elected Rob Ford, who turned out to be like a crack smoking bigot. Genuinely a terrible person, abusive and all that stuff so that is basically what that song is about. It’s different in Canada; it is fun to have a certain satirical attitude towards these politicians who are basically just making fools of themselves.
So do you think musicians should be a bit more opinionated nowadays?
Evan: Absolutely. We hold a very strong stance towards racism and prejudice, like people in Canada casually describe things like they don’t like us being ‘gay’, like ‘I stubbed my toe and it was really gay’. I’m not even joking – I come from a place where a group of peers speak like that all the time man, I think it’s like total bullshit.
Kier: There is a lot of racism in Calgary, not just in Southern Alberta. There are a lot of impersonations, but it is just very casual and accepted.
Evan: It’s also just very much like an attitude, it isn’t like people are coming up to you on the street and saying like ‘you’re this!’
Kier: I’ve been called a nigger faggot before, that wasn’t fun… and that was actually from some punk kids.
For the Transgressive release, It’s 1983, Grow Up! has been remastered and also comes out on a limited tape cassette print run. Do you think old school distribution methods like this encourage people to actually part with their cash to support artists?
Evan: Well I think a lot of bands are doing a similar thing because they’re so cheap to manufacture. A lot of bands in Canada do it.
Kier: A lot of our friends still drive old shit cars with cassette players still built into them, so it’s really not a problem.
So what’s next for Fist City?
Evan: We will be doing a festival in Canada at the end of August, that’s E fest which is has some of my favourite East Coast Canadian Musicians because it’s a pretty small town, but a lot of pretty great bands grew up there, so we’re pretty excited.
Punk poet luminary Patti Smith once remarked: “I would rather write or record something great and have it overlooked that do mediocre and have it be popular”. Seemingly underground at the first point of release, Fist City’s sophomore release might have been overlooked in the summery jams of Icky Blossom or A Dot but it doesn’t make it any less relevant.
It’s 2014, and thank Transgressive, you’ve got another chance to pick this puppy up.
David Weir, Cheri Amour
It’s 1983, Grow Up! is out now on Transgressive Records.