The Key Frames are a Canadian band that can be described as roots-rock with elements of folk, bluegrass, pop, soul, and just straight out rock ‘n roll. The band consists of Rob Webster-Rhythm (guitar/vocals), Brian Passmore (lead guitar/vocals), Ryan Higgins (bass guitar/vocals), Theo Edmands (banjo/vocals) and Dan Schwartz (drums). These guys are as down to earth as they come! The band was formed in 2007 and has since made quite the name for themselves in the Toronto indie music scene. They have toured the East Coast from Toronto to P.E.I. and back, leaving their infectious sound in their wake.
They combine roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, pop, soul, and just straight out rock ‘n roll to create their unique and infectious sound. Carly spoke with Rob Webster (rhythm guitar/vocals) of The Key Frames to find out more on their latest album, Low Light High Light, and to get a better picture of who The Key Frames really are. . . .
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): What has inspired your latest album? And how is this album different form your previous work?
Rob Webster (RW): We called our latest album Low Light High Light mostly because we felt that, lyrically, it reflected darker places than our first one did, and in some ways, was kind of the evil twin. We sometimes get pegged as a “good times” band. . . “fun” is a word often used. And that’s all well and good, sometimes we’re exactly that, especially given the major-key banjo thang that we often do. And what’s wrong with fun, after all? But a close listen to what Ryan and I both are singing about in a lot of the Low Light High Light songs reveals some pretty gut-bucket stuff. Sometimes, we hide it amongst poppy chord changes! Beware, happy-go-lucky listener.
RMM: What song off the album is your favourite?
RW: My personal fave off of Low Light High Light is the last song, ‘In The Mirror’. It was one of the newest of the bunch when we recorded it and for that reason we were perhaps less anchored to a style or arrangement that would have been drilled into us by playing it live. So, there’s a lot of spontaneity and emotion in it. It’s moody, kind of obtuse, and pushes a lot of boundaries for a band like us – and we also let Don Pyle, king of all mixing engineers, kind of run wild for the finale. All in all, a pretty cool experience.
RW: Even though they run the gamut and are totally unpredictable there’s nothing better than any given show while we’re touring. A huge part of a great show to me is about the five of us and our headspaces and if we’re in “show mode” or not. The onstage chemistry for us seldom lights up the way it does on the road if we’ve all just come from work, or whatever else is going on in life. That said, if we’re in town, I’d take 3030 or the Dakota Tavern any old night of the week.
RMM: Who writes your songs?
RW: We have a pretty democratic division of “he who writes it, sings it” duties. Of our original material for the last few years, I’ve clocked in at roughly half, Ryan’s hot on my heels at about 40% and Theo’s had a couple originals in the mix as well, though he more often prefers to arrange the traditional numbers we play live. We expect that ratio to soon shift a bit though; we’ve been working hard on a few Brian-penned tunes that we’re all quite excited to start throwing into the live sets.
RMM: Toronto has a long history of supporting indie music. Does Canada as a whole nurture the scene?
RW: Interesting question. I think we’ve always felt like outsiders to some extent for the time we’ve been playing around town. We’ve met wonderful people and gotten along with almost all of them, but often find ourselves drifting between “scenes”. If there are scenes, are there scenes, guys?[laughs] It’s probably got a lot to do with the mishmash of styles we do. It’s not always easy to fit in.
I’ve never felt like Toronto was cold to us exactly, but there certainly is a feeding frenzy between bands on the ever-dwindling number of show-goers that you might get out to see you play in this city. Or anywhere really. . . it’s not just a Toronto problem, as we’ve discovered through touring. We’ve often remarked that we’re competing with what’s technologically like the greatest time ever in history to just stay at home. With all that you can get on your TV or even on your phone, why deal with going out or paying a cover charge? Putting on pants? So many more people just think of seeing live music as a hassle now – like it ruins their evening. A shame. But, in the end, I do think the city benefits from having a calibre of artist on any given stage. . . or like a relative range of artists anyways. . . that’s unparalleled in almost any city in North America. In a place like Toronto, only the tough kind get better and you’ve gotta be tough to stick it out.
RMM: If you could collaborate with any artist/musician, who would that be?
RW: Speaking for myself, I have to say I don’t often get daydreaming about that sort of thing – playing with these four loveable goons really satisfies me, and I’m so ridiculously focused on how far we’ve come, where we’re going and how to improve. Even six years in, I’m in a happily married band! [laughs]
But, fantasy of fantasies, I suppose, I think I’d go with someone like Noel Gallagher. I think if I passed the initial get-along test with him, those sessions would be legendary. Same frame of reference. A good stylistic push and pull – not too far away, but not too close. Or like. . . go to northern California and make one of those insane jam records with Neil and Crazy Horse that nobody wants to listen to except us. That would be a time!