Discordant, dissonant, and filled to the brim with sonic twists and turns, Femur’s brand of unorthodox noise will appease fans of hardcore’s more chaotic side. On Red Marks, the full-length debut from the Thunder Bay, Ontario trio, the band craft over 40 minutes of unhinged aural violence that merges mathcore and sludge into a caustic mix. Fans of early Gaza, Coalesce, and the like will want to pay attention.
In this interview with Svbterranean, Femur discuss the album in question, the origins of the project, their writing process, and more.
Could you please introduce yourself and your role in Femur?
Dylan Maxwell – Drums
Jake Laakkonen – Guitar
Eric Niemi – Bass
How did Femur come to be?
Femur, conceptually, came to be in late 2013/early 2014 – Jake had been entertaining the idea of forming a project that would have a dark and aggressive sound to it, like a number of metal acts really breaking through at the time – i.e. Full of Hell, Code Orange [Kids]. Preceding this idea was also a longtime love for bands like Gaza and Converge. Funny enough, the three of us were in a Converge cover band in late 2014, and during those practice sessions the three of us improvised some ideas (an early version of “Welcome Wind”) – everything took off from there.
How has writing and performing in Femur pushed you as a musician?
Dylan – Writing with Femur has been a different experience than what I have been accustomed to as a musician – we tend to all have our own respective influences as musicians. Our writing process lends itself to the artistic compromise that individually we all need to make to create music as Femur. I think the ability to compromise in that sense has pushed me as a musician in terms of maturity.
As someone who played heavy music a lot when I was younger, performing with Femur has pushed me physically and mentally after taking a break from playing heavy music. The demanding nature of our music is responsible in both regards. I never really thought that I would be playing this style of music at this time.
Jake – I definitely share the same thoughts as Dylan with respect to writing and how it has pushed me. There is a lot of personal sacrifice that is integral to what we create as a band– maturing through that sacrifice drives me for sure.
For performing, this is the first band where I have screamed before, and learning to scream (also while playing guitar at the same time) was foreign to me as a musician. I feel that I have come a long way in refining my voice, and balancing instrumentation and vocals since we all formed Femur.
Eric – Writing with Femur has definitely given me the ability to be a more collaborative musician. I never would write music in the same room as my bandmates before – I usually would keep to myself, hammer out a song, and bring that to practice. The idea of sitting down in the same room as my bandmates to write a song seems like such a basic thing in principle, but I think it is harder than it looks. Sometimes we clash, but more often than not a lot of cool ideas come to light that probably wouldn’t have if I just wrote something with a single perspective. As for performing, I am accustomed to performing on a steady schedule, but I’m certain a tour with Femur would push me greatly – I never have ventured outside of Thunder Bay to play music.
What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of writing and performing music like this as a three-piece?
We don’t think writing suffers really, but for performing we can only go so far with certain ideas obviously. We can concede that there may be a sonic element we could add to enhance the music in whatever way, but generically enough, the raw energy of just the three of us playing these songs might be lost with additional members. We are always focusing on each other during a performance just for the sheer chemistry – we don’t even think we could pay attention to another person.
How do you feel living in Ontario and being a part of the Ontario music scene has influenced Femur or yourselves individually?
We don’t think living in Ontario really has an inherent influence on the band. We live somewhere, we deal with it. However, the artistic energy of the city we live in, Thunder Bay is alive and well – and it is a positive influence on the band. In Thunder Bay, we are pretty fortunate to have such a diverse of web of acts that are making great music. Coupled with the fact we are in a relatively small region, the music scene is very much tight-knit and there is a lot of inspiration that happens between everyone in the music scene. It is incestuous at times. All of us have other musical projects on the go and there is a lot overlap in all the people involved.
Femur has been repeatedly compared to the likes of Gaza, Coalesce, and other bands of that ilk. How do you feel Femur approaches this particular style of hardcore/metal differently?
Generally, a lot of these bands have frontmen – on top of all the chaotic sounds we have a lot of competing voices. Also, we aren’t afraid to take a softer approach musically and appreciate just how powerful that can be in its own way. We think that, every now and then, doing without all the dissonance and ugliness leads to more cohesion in what we create and gets rid of the fatigue of this particular style of Hardcore/Metal.
What can you tell us about the creation of Femur’s debut record, Red Marks?
For a while, we just kept writing and playing shows but didn’t think too much about an album. Once the idea of a debut album materialized, we went to work with Sean Skillen of Exit Music Studio to create Red Marks. A fair majority of these songs were already 2/2 ½ years old at the time of recording (January 2017), and we powered through the instrumentation. However, when we started doing vocals (Summer – November 2018) we hit a roadblock for sure – we were all fairly new at getting in the booth and screaming over some tracks and we tired ourselves out pretty quick, and at times got too neurotic about the delivery and execution of certain parts. The vocals are a modern touch to our rather dated material. We did play a lot of those songs instrumentally until the album came out (i.e. Knife Fight in the Basement and Sex in Millimetres). We like to think and hope everything aged like a fine wine.
Despite the obvious heavy aspects of the album, Red Marks features its fair share of melodic moments as well, most notably in the track “Welcome Wind”. What was the inspiration for these types of moments on the record?
We think that it is fair to say we are all huge suckers for Post-Rock / Ambient sounding passages. In our view, it is refreshing to have these moments channeled through a heavy music record and they are heavy in their own right. Also, we often gravitate towards more melodic moments when we rehearse and write music. We also wanted to have these moments on the album just to make it cohesive and less fatigued for the listener who would take this album in all in one sitting.
What are some of the lyrical themes on the record?
There are a wide variety of lyrical themes, mostly ones that touch upon the darker elements of the human experience. The main themes throughout the lyrics on Red Marks are disregard for the self/ego and a sort of liberation through dissociation, and a celebration of any dark and uncomfortable moments in life – whether you feel really happy or really sad, you feel alive and hyper-aware of the experience.
How do you feel Femur’s music compliments these themes or vice versa?
The uncomfortable elements of our music – whether it is the panic and urgency through odd-time grooves or the unsettling vitriol of a dissonant riff – compliment the subject matter and themes in our lyrics.
What is next for Femur in the near future?
We plan to tour in the Spring/Summer to promote the new album. We also plan to finish writing our follow-up album, so we can start rehearsing and refining the new material. We are about 5 songs deep into Album No. 2. Putting Red Marks on wax is also a priority of ours – been getting a lot of questions about that lately.