Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this Independent Spotlight, we take a look at the Vancouver based hard rock act, Fey. Fey has just dropped their new album, ‘Bye Bipolar,’ and this is an in depth analysis of the seven track album. First, though, it is important to understand the most we can from Fey’s own interpretation of themselves.
Fey has a fairly vague online presence at this point in time, with only a Bandcamp page and a Facebook page to support the act and provide information. With that said, it doesn’t sound like Fey gives a shit, which may be the point. They list their genre as ‘God Damn Noisy Grunge,’ and describe their music as ‘dirty and pure,’ citing influence from the 1990’s and an era when music was rough and unprocessed. Does Fey sound like their self-description, though?
When you delve into ‘Bye Bipolar,’ you are immediately met with ‘The Day We Meet,’ a song that opens up with a peculiar 1950’s style anecdotal piece from the radio reminding you that “this program” is about mentally ill and disturbed children. That’s certainly one way to start a record. Afterward, queue the overdriven guitars and stark drums.
It makes sense to immediately talk about the vocal style of vocalist Sam Caviglia, since the artistic direction of his performance is introduced in the first few songs and remains prominent the whole record. During the 1990’s grunge movement, the line between hard rock and screamo blurred, with forerunner bands like Kyuss pushing that style. Now, it’s a style that works, but it is also complex and artistically confused by nature. Caviglia’s performance resembles a young David Lee Roth, with can appeal to a broad demographic of hard rockers. However, when he flips the switch into raging mode, that demographic is immediately lost, pushing Fey into a 1990’s subgenre.
The issue that unravels from this point is that it is a difficult scene to appease today; music has moved past that screaming vocalist movement by and large, and outside of places like Portland, a market for it is very niche. At the heart of Fey’s ‘Bye Bipolar,’ they have an excellent rock record for hard rockers. When he gets screaming, that pool shrinks. Now, I get where the inspiration to do it comes from, but Caviglia is a good rock vocalist, I applaud that side of him. It seems wasted when he devolves into screaming. Pulling back the Kyuss example, Josh Homme ended up evolving into Queens of the Stone Age, a hard rock act that is definitely one of the best in this past generation of rock. If Fey evolved a bit as well, they could land a bigger audience and their music would go farther.
Vocals aside, let’s talk about the music. Well, like I said, it is a surprisingly good hard rock album for an independent act. These guys have skill, and they shred away like no other act I’ve heard in quite some time. The electric guitar is powerful and tactfully harsh, not going off on needless tangents and detracting, but rather complementing the grunge sound. The drummer is also exceptional.
True to their description of themselves, ‘Bye Bipolar’ feels like a fairly untouched record. There isn’t a lot of overproduction, though songs like ‘14 Years’ prove they are willing to delve deeper into the mix to achieve a more introspective sound from their instruments. ‘14 Years’ is probably one of the better tracks on the record, exhibiting a really fantastic production.
The band seems to love sampled intros, whether that be radio presenters, police scanners, or wave sounds. It works to open the record, but by the time you’ve reached ‘Grease Pit,’ it gets a tad old. In any case, each song stands on its own instrumentally.
‘Zero One’ feels overproduced and contrived, though, with a stupid intro of Caviglia screaming and muttering incoherently over a guitar which was overdriven way too hard on the mix. It feels like a mosh pit number with no real purpose on a record of otherwise more tactful songs.
‘Compass’ ends ‘Bye Bipolar’ with a Nirvana-esque guitar lick introduction, a hauntingly intriguing one at that. Again, a sampled introduction is layered in, though in its brevity you barely notice it. At the two minute mark, the beautiful instrumental escalates into a forceful garage rock number. After nearly another minute, the music changes again, turning this song into an odd mixture of a Foo Fighters track, a Kyuss rocker, and ‘Band on the Run.’ ‘Compass’ is by far the best track on the record - a really sweet ending to the album, acting as a rock opera-like exit.
‘Bye Bipolar’ is a great record; I enjoyed it, despite being very removed from their target demographic. With that said, my criticism of the vocal delivery still stands, even considering Fey’s intent. ‘Compass’ was the most compelling track, and he only utilized his screaming style on certain lines, rather than devolving into a raging machine, much like how Dave Grohl handles his vocals on Foo Fighters records. Fey can remain in the 1990’s, it was a great sound and still is. Utilizing numbers like ‘Compass,’ however, will keep the essence of their inspiration, broaden their demographic, and make them seem like a much more musically intelligent band.
Fey's Music: https://feysounds.bandcamp.com/