THE FEMBOTS CD release with Lederhosen Lucil and Mike Feuerstack at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Friday (March 21). $6. 416-777-1777.
the fembots, aka local music-makers Brian Poirier and Dave MacKinnon, are highly talented grade-A scavengers.They plundered pawn shops and thrift stores to put together their first album, 2000's Mucho Cuidado, a hallucinatory collage of found sounds, snippets of dialogue from Teddy Ruxpin dolls and old scratchy movies, obscure analog samples, organ bleats and guitar loops.
Anyone who caught one of the 'Bots' Cuidado performances saw a pair of bleary-eyed mad scientists frantically tinkering with ancient reel-to-reel machines. Entertaining? Sure, but the novelty was sure to wear off.
So it's a good thing that their latest opus, Small Town Murder Scene (which they release tomorrow at the El Mocambo), veers away from the Island Of Misfit Toys kitsch factor into the fascinatingly moody territory of crumbling indie-twang murder ballads and haunting ghost-town narratives.
But don't worry -- they haven't lost all their vintage charm. As Poirier explains, remnants of that sampladelic insanity linger. Take the disc's intro, for example, in which a blood-curdling scream is looped over and over itself to create edgy tension like nails scraping a blackboard.
"That sample is from The Stone Tapes, an early British sci-fi movie where they're trying to find a new recording medium. They decide to record vibrations into stonework, but somehow a weird sympathetic vibration thing starts to happen and they recreate a murder that happened in the building years before -- hence the screaming."
The cinematic anecdote is revealing, since the disc seems less based on junk-shop jaunts and more inspired by cleverly swiped storylines from black-and-white films. MacKinnon claims he was just as surprised by the cohesive narrative arc as anyone else.
"It's actually some kind of miracle that it all hangs together and sounds like it fits," he laughs.
The lyric-writing half of the FemBots, MacKinnon says he can't entirely explain why his tunes have such morbid undertones. Poirier claims it's because his pal has been depressed, but I'm guessing MacKinnon's macabre edge owes something to his stint in the family funeral home business.
Besides driving hearses, the FemBots pay the bills by doing soundboard work for other bands. But they really hit pay dirt years ago when they sold a tune to a British bank for use in a TV commercial. The cash allowed them to build a home studio (which they dubbed the Junkshop), make their last record and go on tour.
Poirier says they've found a way to negotiate corporate whoredom without sacrificing their integrity.
"Luckily we record enough that we have enough castaways for a demo reel, which we shop out. We never sell the good stuff, just the crap that we don't want," he smiles.
"It's not like how Moby licenses his whole album out and the songs get used in a million car ads, and he justifies it by saying, "Oh well, I donate some money to some other cause.' You might donate $100,000 to PETA, but you've made $10 million for a car company using songs you wrote for an album and had no intention of putting in a car ad.
"We used a 30-second castoff, built a studio, threw a $3,000 party for all our friends, made an album, loaned some friends money to master their album. It did a lot of good in the end. It's not like we just signed some cheque over somewhere so as not to feel guilty. We actually used the money for good!"email@example.com