Published Mar 11, 2019Fet.Nat's boundary-pushing new album Le Mal may sound ambitious — it was created with outdated vintage MIDI technology; it juxtaposes catchy funk and electronica riffs with abrasive, hard bop and avant-garde worthy noise from that throwback tech; and there's their regular attempts to recreate that studio tumult onstage, which appears downright lofty — but for the members of the Hull, Quebec quartet (comprised of guitarist Pierre-Luc Clément, vocalist and lyricist JFNO, saxophonist Linsey Wellman and drummer Olivier Fairfield), ambition is their last consideration.
Or at least, as Clément puts it, on the heels of the album's release, "It's a big statement to say we have no ambition, but at the same time, I like that statement."
Don't misunderstand —the members of Fet.Nat are anything but lazy. When Clément and his bandmates go on to clarify that point, they reach the conclusion that fans of such dissonant, boldly offbeat music surely hope to hear: "Compared to people operating in the music industry, we aren't ambitious," Clément asserts. "To be clear, I'm not judging people operating in the industry. But actually… I am."
It's a funny contraction that reflects the fearlessly abrupt shifts in tone and rhythm on Le Mal's nine tracks, be it the jazzy bass and drums of "Des Fois," being teamed with raspy, muted vocals, or the hard rock rhythm on "Soft Purse," being interspersed with squealing feedback. Those edgy elements all but ensure Le Mal will only be embraced by a niche audience, which suits Fet.Nat just fine.
"I get people wanting money and nice conditions, wanting to put out an album and tour to earn more and become more renowned," Clément says, before adding: "It's obvious and sounds cliché, I know, but our biggest ambition lies in what we're creating."
As drummer Fairfield puts it: "The process of creating new sounds is really our number one priority."
Vocalist JFNO concurs, albeit with one caveat: "I think it's also important to have a back and forth between making an album and making a live show. I'm interested in there being a dialogue between what we recorded and what we play live."
But that's not to say FET.NAT are resolute purists, with nary a notion of practicality. While the quartet are elated to have garnered so much critical acclaim — not to mention drawing respectable sized crowds that exude palpable enthusiasm at their gigs — Clément says finances still play a factor.
"We don't want to lose money, we don't want to pay to play, but as long as some people are interested in what we're doing, and we are still interested, we'll keep going."
So keeping Fet.Nat practically and creatively sustainable is key for all four members, according to Clément: "One of the most important focuses for me is how to make it last. And if one day it doesn't really work anymore, we won't cry, we'll just stop."
That prompts saxophonist Linsey Wellman to quip: "I might be done this afternoon! Or right now, actually. Bye!"
From there, Clément points to such good humour and playfulness as a key to Fet.Nat's success thus far.
"That's one of the reasons why it's so durable. It's been nine years, and Fet.Nat is still running. We're still having fun!"
Le Mal is out now on Boiled Records.