RAISING THE FAWN with BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE , BLOC PARTY , FEIST and J MASCIS on Olympic Island, Saturday (June 24). $50.50 plus charges. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Sitting in a gaudy tourist resto on Yonge, all three members of Raising the Fawn are perusing their glossy picture-book menus and smirking at the dishes' punny names.
My first thought about this predetermined meeting spot is that these guys have spent too much time on the road. They've become accustomed to ordering plates with words like "Grand Slam" in the title.
But it turns out that drummer Dylan Green works across the street. This is the only way he could be involved in the interview, and his lunch break is ticking away.
Green's presence alone is indicative of the Fawn's evolution. Singer/guitarist/songwriter John Crossingham, who started the project from his bedroom in 1997, has welcomed and waved goodbye to various members over the years, the only exception being current bassist Scott Remila. It took time before Crossingham would loosen his grip enough to let someone else speak for a band he started, fronted and wrote all the songs for.
"It was a little hard letting go," says Crossingham, looking over at his bandmates. "When I started this, it was just me, and I was trying to get away from collaborating because it just wasn't making me happy. But once we stabilized as a band, we decided to work toward being a band."
So what started as a solo project on the independently released 2001 debut became a duo for 2003's By The Warmth Of Your Flame EP, which became a quartet for the North Sea LP in 2004, and then slimmed down to a trio for their newest The Maginot Line (all on Sonic Unyon), the record of which Crossingham confesses he's proudest.
It's an astoundingly expansive record considering how few people were involved in its creation. Swelling arrangements ebb and flow, building into unsuspected crescendos of power, aggression and meditative melodies. It's an impressive accomplishment for three dudes who didn't employ a ton of studio wizardry.
"We've worked really hard to find ways to make the most of our instruments," says Green. "It's become a real focus for us."
"We'd work on a song for weeks," recalls Remila of recording Maginot, "working them over, breaking them down or totally changing them."
"Something that's remained constant with the band is a sense of minimalism," adds Crossingham. "Some of the arrangements do get dense, but as big as they sound, if you strip it back it's still just three people. We're trying to be smart and not overload things, and be intelligent with what we have; turning that so called weakness of being a three-piece into our greatest strength."
Crossingham's affinity for the less-is-more aesthetic could stem from being a sometime cog in the Broken Social Scene wheel, where any hope of musical autonomy flies out the window once all those bodies fill the stage. It's not that Crossingham ever felt disenchanted with his role in the Scene. But it did reinforce his conviction that the Fawn had to be his primary focus creatively.
And even though the two groups are far apart in terms of their approach to creating big, atmospheric sounds, fans of the BSS will no doubt check out the Fawn based on the linkage. If that's the case, Crossingham is cool with it.
"I think it helps more than anything," says Crossingham, cutting into an omelette. "Not to sound snobby, but I like to think both groups are appealing to people who are educated about music, or at least take it seriously. It means something more to them than just a background or fitting into a clique.
"Plus, I'm confident that if they like BSS, that's not the only music they like. There's a lot of variety within that family tree. All these bands - Metric, Jason Collett, Apostle of Hustle - don't sound anything like each other. So there's no reason why we should either."