Published on September 9th, 2013 | by Rachel Ervin0
Something Good from Fen Wik Ren
If you haven’t yet heard of Fen Wik Ren, don’t be alarmed. They’re a Portland band set to play this year’s Squeak & Squawk Festival on September 15, with Tacoma acts Not from Brooklyn and the Wheelies. Ryan Barrett (formerly of The Pica Beats), Andre Zapata, and Alexandra Geffel (Supercrow and The Cabin Project), only formed Fen Wik Ren at the beginning of 2013 and released their first set of downloadable songs last May.
Being an old fan of Barrett’s quirky tunes from The Pica Beats, which often included sitar tracks and the warm fuzzy sounds of a synthesizer, I was excited to learn that he had started a new project and just released a video for the album’s title song, Holding Out for Something Good, a song that in my estimation would make an excellent theme track for an intentional community.
Holding Out for Something Good contains all of the elements of a great album: the sometimes psychedelic guitar riffs mixed with disco beats and techie pop noises contrasted with the often dissonant vocals of Barrett. Or, as I like to call it, trippy space disco with a splash of desert rock and roll.
These are songs that you will not be hearing on a Prius commercial or the latest season of Girls, but that is not to say that Fen Wik Ren hasn’t produced some seriously catchy numbers; the first time I listened to “Balanced” and “Beasts Of All Colors,” I found myself humming their tunes while washing dishes and driving my car (which I believe is the definition of a ‘catchy tune’).
When I caught up with Barrett and Zapata last week, Zapata stated, “We’re calling it ‘experimental pop,’ but I guess that’s pretty vague. Ryan [Barrett] tends to have a really energetic and frantic guitar sound, and his vocals sort of float over top of everything. I try to bring a solid and melodic groove under what he’s doing.”
I was also curious about the progression from the eccentric and pared down pop sounds of The Pica Beats, to the fuller, more anthem-like feel of Fen Wik Ren, to which Barrett replied, “When Andre Zapata joined the band, he definitely had a sonic influence as I wrote more FWR songs – he has a much different musical background then me, very steeped in a funk/R&B/jazz bass playing style, very melodic and improvisational. Combined with the way I was currently writing and playing, it made for a cool dichotomy.” Very cool, indeed.
You can listen to Fen Wik Ren’s latest album, Holding Out For Something Good, for free on Bandcamp. Better yet, after you download the album, go watch them live on Sunday, September 15 at The New Frontier.I’ll be there, soaking up the goodness that this year’s Squeak & Squawk Festival has to offer.