Toronto’s New Fries are as new as their name suggests. In 2013, Anni Spadafora Jenny Gitman and Tim Fagan cobbled together a three-song EP called They, I which converged on the former duo’s ardent but inexperienced tinkering and the latter’s more seasoned proficiency in writing and recording. The results were fortuitously wayward bursts of energy, a sound that conveyed urgency by way of The Slits or Lydia Lunch.
Even though They, I gained some traction within the local music scene, New Fries scrapped the songs and stopped playing them altogether shortly after the release. It took them another year to put together another offering of songs but the results, last year’s Fresh Face Forward cassette (via Pleasance Records), was an even more concentrated application of Spadofora’s untamed wails, Gitman’s barrelling drums and Fagan’s steadfast bass. Almost every track clocks in between a minute or two and are self-contained brawls wherein Spadafora wields her words, repetitive and venomous, as her weapon.
Sure, this is Spadafora and Gitman’s first foray into music, but their enthusiasm and, most notably, their spirit is what carries this band into the ears of its listeners. I sat down with the two over a plate of nachos on a frigid evening in Toronto to discuss their growth into musicianship, how they convey their thoughts to Fagan in the studio and how they deal with “imposter syndrome”. Their spirit, both onstage and off, is always vehemently fun and, to them, that’s all that matters. After all, it’s still just a fresh part-time gig for New Fries.
Your music is often described as “challenging”, but I have a feeling that’s what you’re going for. Do you take those comments as a compliment?
Jenny Gitman: We love it. It feels honest. We know it’s challenging, we’re not making something you want to groove to.
Anni Spadafora: We for sure have an investment in making music that isn’t easy. Someone wrote a review of a show we played recently and said that we were directionless at times and I loved it. It is directionless and that’s the point; the songs are meant to sound incomplete.
Gitman: And they are incomplete! Parts get shortened on purpose and there are parts that we may never finish so we’ll just end it in a different way. I’ve been told by people that, sometimes, just when they start to get into it, the music stops. And it’s like, yes, that’s what we wanted to do!
Neither of you are professionally-trained musicians, so when and why did you decide to pick up an instrument and start a band?
Gitman: We used to say we’re not real musicians, but we’re not allowed to say that now. That was a safety blanket when we first started so we could go, ‘No, no, we don’t play music so that’s why it sounds so terrible!’ As for why: Always a fangirl, never a bride? Personally, I just never played instruments. I was always a computer person. I don’t want to say I didn’t have the access, because everyone does, but I never went for it. It wasn’t the time. But at some point I traded some drumming lessons for some computer thing and when I was doing that, we started joking about starting a band and we did it.
Spadafora: I’ve been playing the guitar since I was a teenager, but not in a way that was formalized or committed. I would fiddle with it, but the way I play guitar now is really scrappy and I mostly just bang at it. I’ve always wanted to play music, though, so badly. I don’t think I was brave enough.
How do you convey thoughts and ideas when writing music?
Gitman: The beauty of when we first started was that [bassist Tim Fagan] really wanted us to not know how to do stuff and that was so encouraging. He just liked the sound of something innately sounding wrong so when we would practice, he would be like, ‘What the hell are you doing? That’s awesome!’ It made me think that I could do it my way. I don’t know how to hold drumsticks, still. I don’t know what fucking paradiddles are, I can’t even really move all my limbs at the same time, but in this band, it’s okay. Just do it the way that you know how to and have fun.
Spadafora: I love those moments when someone’s doing something super intuitively and then someone would shout, ‘Oh my god, keep doing that!’ and keep building that way.
It is directionless and that’s the point; the songs are meant to sound incomplete.
Is that how all your songs are written?
Spadafora: That is; just a lot of fiddling and waiting for a good thing. We’re starting to find a language, but we’re also still psyched to take risks and doing things playfully, essentially.
Coming from that type of background and experience, do you sometimes relate to the ideology of “imposter syndrome”?
Gitman: Oh my god, yes. Completely. I have a hard time accepting a compliment about this music because I feel like we’re not supposed to be here, we didn’t put the time in, you know?
Spadafora: That’s so well put; like, I’m not supposed to be here. I snuck in through the back door.
Do you feel like this is especially a symptom in women?
Spadafora: The music world is littered with men. It’s like dicks in the air. [Laughs] That’s our new saying now. I feel like, for a really long time, we were not using that language, but at some point, you realize how wild it is that we’re often the only women there at shows. When we’re talking about women playing music, I have less of an investment in talking about why there aren’t more women playing music, but instead, why are there so few women working with chance? I want fucking women making a mess and experimenting, that’s my investment. Our band’s spirit is mess and chance, that resonates with me the most because I love this idea of what happens when you just fool around and trust what comes up naturally.
Gitman: It feels more relatable than this culture of knowing how do to something properly or well.
Spadafora: Like, women who want to inject themselves in a creative way, their tactic is: ‘I want to be the best at my instrument. I want to show them how good I am.’ That’s not our way. Our way is how we can find this little nook that feels like ours, that came out of our accident. Our joke.
Gitman: This whole thing is our joke.
So what are New Fries’ goals for the future?
Gitman: We’ve been playing a lot of shows, but I’m starting to realize the value of not playing so much. We don’t have as much time to write anything, but we’re doing it now. Two whole new songs were written!
Spadafora: Just keep on writing and put out a full-length. I think we have to do a full-length before we run out of steam because there’s no super long-term plan. It’s been such a surprise for us; we didn’t even think we would play a show so it’s hard to say we want all of these things – one step at a time.
Gitman: This is such a part-time thing; I wish it was a full-time thing. Like, if we could all go full-time, it would be so cool. How do we do that? I want that. We also want to tour; we want to hear what other things people are doing in other places. A lot of the support we have in Toronto is our friends who are also in bands and people we’ve previously known, or a friend of a friend. I wonder if people like us because they know us. I want to know what it’s like somewhere else. Maybe we’ve got haters. Let’s find them.