FROM FICTION with Pony da Look and the Sick Lipstick at OPM Den (418 Dundas West), Friday (August 16). $7.
There's something about the indie rock community that's suspiciously like Amway.You know that "you tell a friend and she tells a friend and he tells another friend" information-cum-recruitment chain reaction? Word-of-mouth buzz travels at an alarmingly exponential rate in the shaggy-haired, shoulder-bag-and-cardigan realm. Before you know it, you've got a cool cult phenomenon on your hands.
Local experimental noise-rock crew From Fiction are in the middle of an Amway-sized underground explosion. Except they're a helluva lot cooler than generic Corn Flakes and household products.
They don't have an album out. They've got no T-shirts, no recording deal they don't even have a low-budget DIY Web site. They're an enigma to the press. Type their name into a search engine and all you'll get is a single confused query on a local indie message board.
But on a steamy Sunday night during the band's Wavelength gig, Sneaky Dee's is completely packed with salivating indie kids going absolutely bonkers. They're all there for From Fiction. It's only the sixth show ever for the humble ensemble, and they're better and -- deservedly -- more popular than they logically should be.
After their explosive set, sweat-soaked drummer Rob Gordon is at a loss to explain the band's sudden notoriety.
"Well, I guess there are a lot of people who live in Toronto who have really good taste in music, and a lot of people who are really scared to take the initiative to meet that need"
That's where these boys come in. Saskatoon expats and guitarist-vocalists Adam Barnes and Quentin Ede, who've been pals since grade 9, started jamming with Torontonians Gordon and bassist Owen Marchildon back in January. Their first show was in May.
Says Marchildon matter-of-factly, "We rented a cheap practice space and basically went in three or four nights a week for four or five months to work on the stuff everyone had. We worked really hard."
It shows. Their influences are all over the map, from Ornette Coleman and Weights and Measures to the Velvet Underground. They construct sprawling, impossibly complicated indie rock instrumentals with minimal lyrics -- Emo in dynamics and raw feeling, with free-form jazz's hypnotic complexity and sophisticated musical structures and hardcore punk's visceral, organic energy. Think Drive Like Jehu meets Sonic Youth in Miles Davis's master class.
Just when you think a song's about to end, it catches you off guard and veers in a new narrative direction. "It's like a horror movie," offers Ede. "You think it's over, but then you bring it back with a huge bang to shock everyone!"
That still doesn't come close to describing how mesmerizing From Fiction are onstage. After their set, both band and audience are drenched and delirious. During our quickie post-show interview, at least 30 fans interrupt to fall over themselves in wide-eyed praise.
Their ability to write collectively and nail down such long, meandering tunes is awe-inspiring. Gordon says structuring songs around repetition and variation helps.
"You've got to find common ground among band members. Sometimes it's a rhythm, sometimes it's in the chord progressions. I'm sure it'd be the same with a verse-chorus structure if that's what we did."
And sometimes the band's ideas are incorporated into complex narratives. Barnes pays tribute to Canadian martyr and prairie revolutionary in the gunshot assault of Louis Riel.
But From Fiction also have a more esoteric side.
"My song has a story behind it," smiles Ede. "It's about a masturbating prowler. The song's called Curtain Crack. It's pretty much about what could've happened if things had gone differently -- about me taking him down and him taking me down.
"We're trying to maximize the musical techniques to bring the story out. We change the music with every action that happens."