They’re a sickly sweet rumbling, a jittering slab of warm reverb and recklessness. Feral Children are an unsure bet, a slowly crumbling stairwell of indecision, an enveloping miasma of static. Owing to the rich and rambling melodrama of singer/songwriter Ryan Davidson, the group began as a sort of quasi-solo project, but has since coalesced into a more fleshed out, psychedelic foursome.
“Feral Children will forever remain my project, but collaboration in making the music itself will always be sought,” says Davidson. “The people that have come together to form the Feral Children band, I have a ridiculous amount of respect for them. To the point of it being sort of ludicrous that I am the one coming up with the groundwork for the music.”
The groundwork for Davidson’s acid-tinged brainchild would be his savage, grit-glossed voice creaking through the tracks as his rattling guitar shakes and sparkles, the rest of the band caking the tracks in a fine haze of organ and synth and locking into the groove with a tight, grumbling low end.
“I come to the band with a few riffs, a beat, lyrics, vocal melody and a loose structure,” begins Davidson. “Then, one by one, they chisel and discern their roles. There is a lot of discussion about just about every aspect of the music. It used to be more of a silent affair, but slowly the importance of the music has taken hold and everyone has an opinion,” he explains.
“He was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa early last year,” he says. “The experience was really intense – just incredibly amazing, beyond beautiful.”
Silk-spun stories and pirouetting, psych-pop sensibilities, the EP is a glinting, refracting hive of honey-sweet melodies and dense, derelict echoes – a languid culmination of effects and affections.
Though the band is unabashedly psychedelic — hanging on closely to sprawling meta-narratives and poking through to post-modernism — there is an underlying honesty to Davidson’s songs, a certain sweetness that he somewhat hesitantly attributes to the folk tradition.
“Although that genre can be tiresome, I am certainly influenced by it,” he says. “Tim Buckley, Roy Orbison, Lee Hazlewood — they definitely spring to mind.”
Indeed, Davidson’s dewy, yet sometimes deranged voice cuts a swath through the EP and, on tracks like “Counting,” he’s ringing out like a haunting, desperate bell. He’s speaking succinctly, but colouring outside the lines with the spectral and ethereal and the result is both more immediate and articulate than the band’s previous efforts.
“The new material is definitely a byproduct of honing the band dynamic. It’s been become clear to us what we want to sound like and what we want to feel when we play it.”
Instead of enormous sheets of tiny, complex fragments, the EP is a focused blanket narrative that is slowly being distorted and dithered, contorted around itself to unite beginning and end.
“The new stuff is probably less weird, but, in all honesty, I am always striving to make pop music,” Davidson admits. “John Maus said something like, ‘Pop music is the best way to communicate’, and I couldn’t agree more.”
Anticipating the band’s future, Davidson says there’s a possibility that their tour of Western Canada could be the last outing for this particular incarnation of Feral Children, explaining that everything seems to be up in the air. “After the summer tour we’re going to experience moving away from each other and will have to see how that plays out,” he says, but admits that there’s a bit of unfinished business they’d like to wrap up before anything definitive happens. “We do have two songs that we are performing live that have not been recorded, but really should be soon… and I think we know it.”
Catch Feral Children on Friday, August 3 at Broken City.
By Nick Laugher
Photos: Jay Allen