By Alan Ranta
VANCOUVER – Oak is a word that is synonymous with enduring quality and integrity. Put “noble” in front of it, and you’ve got yourself something even greater, Canadian synth-pop producer and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Fiore. Literally speaking, Noble Oak is a rough translation of his real name; Patrick represents noble in Ireland while Fiore is Italian for flower.
Born in Vancouver, Fiore ended up making the obligatory move to Toronto for financial reasons. He would end up spending two and a half years there, working for a company that no longer exists, before returning to the inspirationally mountainous and oceanic visual stimuli of British Columbia.
“It was pretty good,” Fiore remembers of Toronto. “I obviously missed a lot of my friends back home, but it allowed me to enter into a different mind-state to write different music. I missed the West Coast a lot, the inspiration I get here, which is very different than the inspiration I got there. It’s part of the environment that you’re in and the places you get to visit really push songs out of a person.”
Fiore has been riding high on the hype machine for past few years, on the back of a handful of EPs building through his 2015 debut album, Past Life, to his most recent full-length opus, 2017’s Collapsing Together, earning favorable comparisons to the likes of Tycho and Ulrich Schnauss along the way, but his journey started long ago. While Fiore had studied piano since the age of seven, going on to churn out a solid decade of experience writing solo piano and symphonic pieces, the lineage of the Noble Oak project can be more or less traced back to the serendipitous moment that a friend lent him a Fender Rhodes electric piano.
“Not only did I get [the Rhodes] for a long time for free, eventually I bought it off him, but it was a sound I’d only ever heard synthesized before,” recalls Fiore. “To finally have access to one that was the real deal, it sounded so warm and vibrant that I just had to do something with it. It was calling out… It inspired a whole range of sounds I’d never even thought of before.”
While the Rhodes was a heavy focus on early Noble Oak recordings, it only appears in the fringes of Collapsing Together. On this record, it plays more of a textural role alongside the piano, acoustic guitar, Telecaster, and synthesizers, in particular the OB-6, a six-voice polyphonic analog synthesizer that was beautifully designed by Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim in a rare collaboration. As a result, the body of his downtempo synth-pop tracks have become thicker and more robust, while cosmically feeding off of personal influences both new and old, informed by everything from Steely Dan, Enya, Bee Gees, Ravel and Enigma to Nosaj Thing, Boards of Canada, Horizon Fire and Vondelpark.
“Enya was the first artist I really liked as a kid,” Fiore reminisces. “Some people say that’s a strange choice, but the layeredness of the vocals really left an impression on me, and it’s something that I go back to very often.”
Noble Oak is always pushing forward, though. If he’s not out skiing, what he refers to as a form of therapy, music is Fiore’s primary priority. He dedicates the great majority of his non-day-job time to perfecting his worthy craft, composing music and practicing the piano to get back into tip-top game shape. With a renewed live band, a heaping helping of new songs to play, and freshly designed visuals to display on a big screen, Fiore is stoked to bring it all down to one of his favorite hometown venues, the Fox Cabaret.
“I love that it’s a really large, high ceiling space, and the sound system they’ve managed to acquire for it is extremely robust,” praises Fiore. “The cavernousness of the room is offset by a few of the baffles, so it’s boomy but it’s not too echoey. It’s perfect for performing; it’s not too low of a ceiling so that the sound gets compressed and people get uncomfortable, but it’s also not too concrete of an echo chamber that it’s hard to hear the music. It’s a nice balance of the two.”
Noble Oak floats into the Fox Cabaret (Vancouver) on February 16.Fox Cabaret, nobel oak