Lowell Friesen is a man with a diverse musical background.
Growing up in an Mennonite farming community in Manitoba, Friesen’s first exposure to music was church choirs.
He has early memories of singing in the church with no instruments, just harmonies.
“That really stuck with me I think. The memory of these old, gospel tunes sung kind of soberly, but beautifully at the same time,” Friesen said. “Our family was a bit more progressive and ended up going to public schools and whatnot. So there was a lot of conflict sort of.”
He and his family moved away when he was nine years old, with Friesen calling his move to B.C. a “huge culture shock.”
“Especially coming from a predominantly religious community and thrown into West Coast, mountain culture. It was pretty shocking,” Friesen said.
In his early teens he discovered punk rock, a far cry from his musical roots. He would go to Kelowna to catch punk shows from his new home in Vernon like D.O.A. and Death Sentence in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He was lured into a deep obsession with punk and metal after a moment Friesen remembers quite clearly. At his first show in Kelowna he saw a band out of Calgary called Inner Anger.
“It was the first mosh pit I’d ever seen. As a Mennonite kid you’re not allowed to dance, right? So suddenly there’s this thing called a mosh pit and I could just run out and get all my angst out,” Friesen said. “It was an enlightening moment, literally, I just remember smiling like ear to ear and laughing and running back and forth. It changed my life, for sure.”
The transition into his current, acoustic-based folk stylings took place over many years, Friesen said.
“It’s kind of full circle I guess. My dad would play old time country music and gospel and acoustic instruments in the house,” Friesen said.
Delving into punk, metal, classic rock, electronic and blues, Friesen had experienced the full spectrum of sound.
He endeavoured at 30 years old to become a journalist, and while taking a creative writing class he began writing poetry, which eventually turned into songs.
“I picked up the guitar again after a three or four year hiatus where I was kind of infatuated with electronic music for a while and just went back to roots-y music,” Friesen said.
He is able to delve into that punk rock, metal angst even through the more melodic, folk-sounding tunes.
“It comes out a little bit, especially in my more upbeat songs I guess. I pick up the banjo and it feels more punk rock than bluegrass to me. It’s kind of a funny thing, but it does certainly influence it still,” Friesen said.
Friesen self-funded his first full-length album, Home …and Away, with producer Ben Beveridge out of a family studio in Saskatchewan.
“(Ben) really put me through the paces. It’s funny, he had a bit of trouble with that punk-rock influence. That angsty feel. He really made me sit down with a metronome and really work on timing and controlling that angst a little bit,” Friesen said.
Frisian was forced to tear apart each song into its pieces, something he hadn’t experienced before, asking questions like “does this need to be here? Does this belong here?”
“It was an amazing experience to hear what came out at the end of it,” Friesen said.
He’s currently in pre-production for his follow up album set to be released in the spring of 2017.
He brought some lessons from the production of Home …and Away into the new album.
“Writing these new songs, I feel like I’m putting more attention into them,” Friesen said. “Trying to do the minuscule work in the beginning as opposed to waiting until you’re recording then having to take a few steps back. Having done that I sort of have the luxury of seeing the bigger picture.”
Lowell Friesen plays the 557 Artist Block Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets $10 in advance at eventbrite.ca or $15 at the door.