By Gareth Watkins
CALGARY — Ever have one of those years? An Annus horribilis if you want to get all fancy? Not just a three-hundred-and-sixty-five-day long cluster of bad days, but a uninterrupted rain of karmic effluent, like whatever mechanism the fates have for distributing misfortune evenly over a lifetime has jammed and is spitting out dead pets and bank charges at a furious pace. F+M could have had one of those years, but didn’t. In the space of a few months, they were hit by fraud, their savings almost wiped out, guitarist and vocalist Ryan Anderson broke his hand and his replacement on guitar, multi-instrumentalist Bryan Reichert, broke his leg in a skiing accident. Nobody would blame them for giving up at this point.
“One New Year’s Eve we just said, ‘Screw it,’” says Anderson. “No more victim, no more sadness, we’re just going to get drunk and fix things. And we did.”
Their drink of choice at the time was Portuguese wine. Unlike their cousins to the east in France, Italy and Spain, Portugal has never really gotten a reputation as a great wine country, so bottles of perfectly fine vino were cheap. Perfect for a band on a budget. The wine led to to Fado, Portuguese folk music created at the intersection between bohemian aristocracy and the lowest rungs of society, the prostitutes and stick-up artists. F+M found in Fado a reflection of the joyful melancholy they’ve been striving for throughout their career. Indeed, two thirds of the band is married couple Ryan and Rebecca Anderson.
“Ryan and I have known each other since we were teenagers, friends of friends. [In university] he happened to be in all of the libraries I was researching in and, later on, I realized that he was just waiting there in case I came to the library.”
The amicable stalking led to Ryan asking classically-trained musician Rebecca to play some music for him. They married before starting the band, but finally decided that since they were better together than apart — and even better with Bryan, who Rebecca describes as “the glue that holds us together.”
They have held together long enough to record five albums and several EPs (career highlight: a cover of the Littlest Hobo theme.) They’ll admit that they aren’t for everybody or every situation: “It’s kind of like when you watch a sad French film: it’s a great place to be for that period of time and, if you can crack a bottle of red and enjoy that moment, it’s a great place to be.”
We’re back to wine, which seems to an important theme for F+M. When I ask them for wine recommendations they respond with a page of them: start with Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, with an ounce of elderflower liqueur added for fun. Move through to whites, like the Hungarian Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint 2012 and Donkiesbaai Steen, then on to the reds: a 2008 Volnay “Vieilles Vignes” or a 2011 Vietti Tre Vigne Barbera d’Alba. They even suggest wine pairings for their new album, At Sunset We Sing: Monte das Mouras de Arraiolos Tinto, the 2010 Portuguese Douro “Portal” Colheita and Quinta da Alorna.
It’s not some affectation: a few glasses of something heavy and dark would go well with F+M’s music, judging from the tracks they’ve released from their new record. Their music really is the perfect backdrop for drinking but not to get drunk, alone or in a small group, after or around dark.
There’s a time and place for Jäger Bombs blazing on the bar or chugging beer from red plastic cups, and there are bands who can soundtrack that for you, but F+M are aiming for a more refined experience, and from the sound of it 2014 has been a good year for them.
F+M’s At Sunset We Sing is available now.AB. Alberta, F+M