By Will Yannacoulias
An inspirational story of two friends chasing a vision, Fixed Frequency Records of Assiniboia Saskatchewan has quickly become an important name in local underground music. A circle of friends consisting of the bands Vaudeville Remedy, P5iClone, Maxstone, Ripper And The Jesses and Me The Guts, the label has expanded to represent several artists in the United States such as Strangeness In Proportion, Orphan Riot and This Is A Train Wreck. Co-founders and Vaudeville Remedy collaborators Colin Marit and Shea Drouin talked to NSMZ about the origin of the label, the scene it represents and their plans for the future.
In addition to being partners at Fixed Frequency Records and bandmates in Vaudeville Remedy, you two have been friends since you were young. How did you guys originally connect?
Colin: We met in high school. I was actually in a band with Shea’s older brother Jesse. That band was essentially the current Maxstone lineup without his brother. It was weird metal-emo type stuff that was popular in the early 2000s. Maxstone has been around since at least 1998, maybe earlier.
Shea: That’s what influenced me to get into music, growing up watching them play. Next thing you know my brother taught me a how to play drums and we just kept going. Right after high school I quit the bass and started playing guitar, bought the old Guitar World magazines and learned from the tabs.
Punk Rock is such an urban style of music, so closely tied to working class kids in big cities. It always captures my imagination when kids in the prairies listen to and play punk. How did you guys come to it?
Colin: Again, Shea’s older brother Jesse got us all into that stuff. He was the first guy to show me a bunch of cool music I’d never heard anywhere else before. From there I got a whole bunch of friends into listening to punk music and we started a band maybe a year later.
Shea: I was born in Regina, my Dad got a job here so we moved to a small town, My brother was a city kid who stuck out from everyone else here, he was different and everyone treated him different so he played the part.
The genesis of Fixed Frequency was not as a label but as a studio. You began recording Vaudeville Remedy’s stuff, then expanded to record friends as well. How did that start?
Colin: The first time we recorded another band besides ourselves, was Russ from Ripper and The Jesses, who at that time was in a band called Tigers Broke Free. They wanted a demo for their press kit, we did it all live except for vocal and a couple guitar overdubs. It turned out so good, so different from anything I’d ever done before, it really made me want to put it out.
Shea: We didn’t care as much about our own recordings, it as just about the fun of playing, writing and recording music. Once we got another band involved we got a glimpse into what Colin could do when he got serious.
Colin: I don’t record bands anymore though, I only record our stuff, and (Vaudeville Remedy bassist) Ben Potratz’s songs, the rest of the Fixed Frequency releases are professionally or self recorded. It was too much money to lay out to do both projects, it had to be one or the other: grow the label or the studio.
Shea: P5iClone was the second band we ever recorded. There was never one band involved with Fixed, it was two right from the beginning.
Colin: Evan Decap, who is the individual behind P5iClone, actually started the label with us but he’s been working on his own music for a while now, he has a new album coming out right away.
At what point did you make the transition into focusing on operating Fixed as a record label? What are the benefits bands are gaining from working alongside Fixed Frequency?
Shea: “The label started as everything with COVID began. Our bass player Ben doesn’t live in Saskatchewan so we usually get together when he comes back but it got harder in the last year with the lockdowns, so I suggested to Colin that we have all these bands asking for help so lets just help them out, instead of focusing on writing music and spending that energy all on ourselves.
Colin: We started this as a fluke, there wasn’t a plan to do this, so I have asked the bands on the label ‘why do you do this?’ and most of them say we promote well, their streams double when they join our roster. We’re all over social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Discord- If you’re not networking these days you’re not going to go very far. You’ve gotta reach out to online groups and social media communities, especially with our bands. We also get a lot of support from some punk podcasts like The Punk Bunker, the Punkanormal Podcast, That’s Good Enough For Me has covered a few of our releases.
Fixed Frequency has assembled a fairly eclectic roster of artists, both in terms of style and geography. There are Saskatchewan artists such as Vaudeville Remedy, Maxstone, Me The Guts, Ripper and The Jesses, Nathan John, Jonah Krieser, and The Blood of Keith Richards. There’s also a number of American artists such as Orphan Riot, Strangeness In Proportion and This Is A Train Wreck. How do these bands end up connected with a Saskatchewan based independent label?
Colin: From time to time I do scour the internet for bands but we have had a few submissions too.
Shea: The compilations (Sample This Or Die Vol. 1, Holiday Wrecker, Fixed Frequency Label Sampler 2021) have helped a lot too, just getting song contributions. We post online that we’re making a compilation and get a huge outpouring of bands tossing songs over.
What do you have planned for the future of the label? Coming out of the pandemic restrictions are live shows or a tour a possibility? Any new artists, new releases, new compilations?
Colin: Live music promotion will become part of what we’re doing. The problem is that we started taking the label really seriously after Covid started, so all our time and energy has been put into online stuff and shows have been on the backburner.
Shea: I just started a Discord server for Fixed Frequency and I’ve been using that as a platform for virtual shows. My idea with that server was to have a virtual place for people and artists to meet and share and connect.
Colin: With our Canadian artists especially booking a Fixed tour is unlikely because so many are making music as a weekend thing while focused on family and work. Shows for artists like Ripper and the Jesses and Maxstone are planned months in advance. In terms of what else we're up to, we’re looking at working with a couple new artists, Fish Zoo which is a project from a few members of Strangeness in Proportion and an experimental solo artist Blue Cola, and we’re doing another holiday compilation this year. A guy named Scotty Sandwich who used to operate Death To False Hope Records is going to contribute a couple songs. Aside from that, the only other goal we have is to keep putting out great music that we enjoy listening to and hope others like it as much as we do.