Dirty Frigs' Music Sounds Like it Was Recorded In a Haunted Church, Because It Was

Dirty Frigs are all the right kinds of spooky and have an affinity for dirty, swampy, Devil music.

Oct 28 2014, 3:13pm

Dirty Frigs are all the right kinds of spooky. The Toronto-based band play dirty, swampy music that reminds us why rock n' roll was once called the "devil's music." Their forthcoming self-titled EP, which comes out next month through the Heretical Objects Cooperative, showcases the band's roughest and noisiest work yet, like lead track "Orisis," where guitarist Duncan Hay Jennings sounds like he's conjuring the demons with his guitar. If you wanna raise nice Christian kids, don't let them get near Dirty Frigs.

The band's founding members, Jennings and lead vocalist Bria Salmela, started playing together in high school and formed Dirty Frigs after meeting bassist Lucas Savatti and drummer Edan Scime Stokell while living in Montreal. They quickly moved back to their native Toronto where they played gigs in the city's rock, punk, and experimental scenes. Their forthcoming EP will be their first with the Heretical Objects Cooperative, a militantly DIY group of artists whose roster includes acts like Doomsquad, Zones, and WickedWitches. Dirty Frigs draw heavily from the dark, loud tones of 1950s biker and hoodlum rock, cranking their tiny vintage National and Fender amps past the breaking point and making music that really smacks you in the face. Sometimes they cover Link Wray's classic instrumental "The Rumble," a song so heavy that radio stations across America banned it in the 1950s fearing it would cause gang violence. On a cold, rainy fall night, we met the band for beers in their apartment and talked about what makes their music so creepy. Spoiler alert: it helps that they recorded in a haunted church.

Noisey: How did you get into 1950s rock n' roll? Did you grow up with it?
Duncan Hay Jennings:
Well, I did, but it was never something that I really started exploring until we got together. Even thinking about Link Wray, his guitar playing is extremely influential to me. It's simple but there's a lot behind it. I heard it through my dad a little growing up but it came back later.
Bria Salmena: Especially when we started, we listened to that stuff a lot. It's a great platform for this kind of music. The initial foundation, it's so bare and you can interpret it the way you want.
Lucas Savatti: Although it's simple, it's just so intense.

One of the cool things about that period in music is that amps weren't meant for distorted guitar tones. So, if you wanted to hear it, you had to crank up and play hard and destroy your amp. I noticed on the way in that you had a little Fender Blues Junior Amp.
Jennings: Yeah, Luke and I also have these old National amps from the 50s and they're tiny but you push them, and they're loud as hell. That's the kind of equipment Wray would use, you know, Silvertones and Danelectro guitars and stuff.
Salmena: And we brought up all of this shit when we went up to the EP, so we had a huge variety of fun toys.

Where did you record it?
We recorded this EP in the Kawarthas in the Arthur Miller Memorial Church. It's this old beautiful church that they built this community centre on. The church went out of use a while ago and they rent it out now. You record in the church and you sleep in the community centre, and there's a kitchen and bathroom, and we just kind of destroyed the place a little bit and made it pretty cosy. We actually have a ghost story from there about Arthur Miller.

What's the story?
Well, each night around five or six somebody would wake up and hear something.
Jennings: Bri had brought up this blowup mattress, and we were all just sleeping in a row on sleeping mats, and I woke up and I, uh.. I heard a voice. And the washroom was at the end of the room and there was a door to the washroom and a little window so you could see whether the light was on or not. It was on, and I heard this female voice and assumed it was Bri on the phone or something. So I looked over and Brie's not in, I didn't see Bri on the blowup mattress, so I thought, oh yeah, it has to be Bri. And the voice kept going on, so I sat up just to double check if it was Bri, and she wasn't there. And the air mattress would deflate each night…
Salmena: But where I was, it would actually sink on the other side.
Jennings: And it was a female voice, and Bri was the only girl up there with us, so that was weird.
Savatti: And then I think it was the next night when Ian Gomes, the engineer, had woken up and he heard a gruff male voice that sounded angry. And he thought it was Edan, coming from the same area. And he asked each of us, "Where you talking last night?" And no one was. And then the next night I woke up to a text at 4:40am from a UK number that said, "Good day, you may be entitled to Mr. Miller's inheritance." So that gave me the willies.
Jennings: And there was a cemetery next to the church.
Savatti: Which the first night, I wandered into unknowingly, and I fell. So I may have disturbed something, I don't know.
Salmena: It really set the tone. Even sometimes when we were recording at night, you were in the church alone when you were recording a part and everyone would look at you through the glass. It was a creepy vibe.
Jennings: Then on the last night, I was doing my guitar parts, and this was the middle of winter, and a bat got into the church and was just flying around while I was recording. It was just a weird vibey thing.
Stokell: But that was the middle of the day, it was cute. [Laughs]

But aren't bats not supposed to come out in the middle of the day?
Yeah, that's the thing! But we were making a lot of noise, so who knows.

Would you say that you worked well with the creepy vibe, or did it bother you and make you want to lay down your tracks and leave?
I'd say we were fine, I mean, we were there and they were there, none of us had any choice, and we just did it.
Savatti: Being alone in the church, doing overdubs, that could be a scary place to be. But again, you just go with it.

Given that your music is a little bit dark in the first place, did this have an effect on EP in the end?
Salmena: I think definitely for certain songs, like for "Swampy," when we were recording Duncan's guitar riff, which is very eerie on its own. I think we were totally vibing off of that feel of being in an old church. A lot of the stuff was recorded at night too, and I think that fed into it a lot. I remember feeling some things, just that everything was conducive to the sound.

Dirty Frigs' self titled EP comes out November 10th via Heretical Objects Cooperative. Look for their next single, "Swampy," on November 1st.

Concert dates below:

November 8th, Ottawa @ Pressed with Wicked Witches and The Yips
November 14th, Toronto @ SHIBIGIBI's with Praises, Bile Sister and Sissy Boy
November 21st, Kingston ON @ Artel with Boyhood and Moonriser

Greg Bouchard wrote this in a haunted coffee shop - @GregoryBouchard