Greg Harrison give us the skinny on this year’s FUZE New Music Festival, presented as part of the New Brunswick Summer Music Festival.
If the summer keeps moving at its current pace, the New Brunswick Summer Music Festival will be here before we know it and that means another edition of FUZE, the popular contemporary/electronic/far-out branch of programming that has helped broaden the festival’s audience over the past two years bridging the gap between black ties and biker shorts.
Fredericton expat, percussionist extraordinaire, Greg Harrison, will once again be at the helm programming much of this year’s lineup. Harrison works as a freelance musician in Toronto and over the past year has toured the country with Vance Joy and released the debut album by his marimba duo project, Taktus.
Now entering its third year as part of the NBSMF, FUZE has become an important part of Harrison’s annual schedule.
“This festival means a lot to me,” said Harrison. “I’m constantly thinking about FUZE throughout the year. Wherever I am, I’m thinking about how to make it bigger, better, and more unique. I usually bounce new ideas off our director, Richard Hornsby and our awesome administrator, Meaghan Underhill. It’s very much a collaborative effort with the three of us, and the wheels are constantly in motion. The response after each year is so great, and that feedback really gets us pumped to work on the next one.”
As Harrison points out, FUZE has been constantly evolving since the idea was first tabled in a conversation back around 2010 and much like the music itself, each new year of programming presents new ideas and new sounds.
“FUZE has grown significantly since its inception,” he said. “The concept actually started about five years ago when I would program an afternoon concert with the New Brunswick Summer Music Festival. The concert would showcase a more contemporary side of classical music. At that time it was really just about me coming back to my hometown and showcase some things I was working on in Toronto, which usually borders along the lines of classical, contemporary and electronic. Richard and I decided it would be neat to expand this idea to feature local talent and fuse the worlds of classical and non-classical music together.
“There seems to be a stigma attached to classical music, that it belongs in concert halls and embodies a particular formality. FUZE is an attempt to break down those walls, allowing music to be music.”
“After two years of FUZE we’re starting to find a rhythm of the festival,” said Harrison. “We learn a lot after each year about things that worked and didn’t work. However, we’re still in the in the experimental phase, which is an exciting place for us to be.”
This year’s events will once again take place at both the Capital Complex and Memorial Hall on the UNB campus. Presenting new music at a popular downtown bar known primarily for rock-rooted performances is part of what makes FUZE work. The same could also be said for the work it presents at Memorial Hall, a venue long recognized for hosting classical themed performances.
“The venues play a big role in FUZE,” said Harrison. “Part of the initial idea of FUZE was inspired by a show I did for one of the FeelsGood Xmas parties years ago. We had a marimba trio in the Phoenix (an upstairs dance venue within the Capital Complex), which was well received. I thought ‘man, if marimbas can rock in a bar, why can’t other classical instruments?’. There seems to be a stigma attached to classical music, that it belongs in concert halls and embodies a particular formality. FUZE is an attempt to break down those walls, allowing music to be music. It really works both ways, bringing classical and contemporary music into pubs, and bringing art-rock and experimental music into concert halls.”
This year’s program will see the return of FUZE Constructions, an event launched last year that challenges contemporary musicians to reinterpret classical works associated with the NBSMF’s annual theme.
“Constructions will consist of four bands either pre-existing or new, who will each create fifteen minutes of music inspired by the NBSMF’s theme, which is Russian composers this year,” said Harrison. “We don’t give any other instruction other than that. It was really neat seeing it unfold last year. Each group took a very different approach which made for a very unique and interesting set.”
Last year’s Constructions series also resulted in the collaborative project C-N-U-S, made up of Cedric Noel and Tate LeJeune. The two later recorded and released an EP inspired by their FUZE collaboration.
Alongside FUZE Constructions, the Friday night lineup will also include sets by Brad Perry (Grand Theft Bus, Heat & Lights, Mayors, Gravity Strike) which Harrison describes as “chance-based, generative electronic improve”, followed by Harrison’s sample-based drum improvisations. Fredericton’s NUAGES will close the night with an instrumental-heavy set.
Saturday’s FUZE programming will include a performance at Memorial Hall by the Ottawa art-rock group, Pony Girl.
“I’ve seen Pony Girl play multiple times in Toronto and really been blown away on so many levels,” said Harrison. “They are such a dynamic group that fuse many concepts and styles together. However, there’s a catch. This year we’re trying something completely new and introducing a FUZE ensemble made up from some of the Maritimes’ hottest classical players. Following Pony Girl’s set, we will have the ensemble improvise with the band. It should be an interesting project and it has me equally nervous and excited.”
To stay up to date with this year’s FUZE New Music Festival, keep an eye on www.nbsummermusicfestival.ca
FUZE | Friday August 12, 2016 | The Capital Complex | 10pm | $8 | View Event
FUZE | Saturday August 13, 2016 | Memorial Hall | 8pm | $15
FUZE is presented this year by FeelsGood.