French curve 

The musical faces of Lily Frost

WHO: Opel (featuring Lily Frost)

WHERE: Garibaldi Lift Co.

WHEN: Every Sunday and Monday

"I never have day jobs per se, I always find a way to make a living by playing live gigs."

And with a blossoming solo career and three side projects, Lily Frost seems to have no shortage of gigs to keep her busy.

Frost has been a regular in Whistler for a number of years with a number of bands. Currently she can be seen and heard Sundays and Mondays at the GLC with Opel.

Frost began her musical adventure in Egypt, where at the age of 19 she found herself singing on pleasure boats on the Nile River. Soon after, she returned home to Canada to study jazz vocals at Concordia University. The bilingual community of Montreal would help shape Frost’s musical path.

"I didn’t want to stay in residence (at university). I moved right downtown Montreal and spent time with French people and got interested in the French end of things. I just threw myself into it. I just had this hunger for foreign culture."

During these schooling years Frost met up with The Minstrels. This collaboration soon became known as The Colorifics. With a "’60s surf, jazz fusion" the band found great acceptance on the swing scene and was close to signing a contract with Atlantic Records.

"I decided to give my resignation though," says Frost, "I realized I didn’t want to sign up for a life of just one style of music."

The Colorifics continued on for a few years, without the lead vocals of Frost, and only recently disbanded.

Frost found an outlet for her French interests in her second project, Mimosa. This four-piece band offers Frost the opportunity to work with a close friend, Anna Lumiere, and to experiment with French ’60s organ music.

"There’s a woman by the name France Gaul who is the daughter of a famous composer in France and she did several albums that are in that vein. So it’s based on that concept but we write our own songs. I also studied in France when I was 16 and I guess that’s where my interest in French culture started."

Mimosa started as the songwriting duo of Frost and Lumiere, who plays left handed bass and organ. Jamie Amerika (trumpet) and John Raham (drums) were recruited to complete the unique, funky quartet.

"Mimosa though is still a side project," stresses Frost. The band released a full length CD, Bucolique , in 2000 but has stuck to doing gigs just on the West Coast, including a run as regulars at the GLC. This allows Frost enough time to continue working on her solo career. Mimosa has taken a temporary hiatus as Lumiere prepares to bring a new life into the world, but band members have set their sights overseas for later this year. Frost hasn’t confirmed whether she’ll travel with Mimosa to France, citing her solo efforts as her priority.

In the meantime, however, the next Frost reincarnation is equally unique but crosses into a new musical genre.

"Opel is trip-hop jazz. For me that’s a real challenge and it interests me to be able to update my sound. I’ve just done a lot of retro. Basically it’s like a cross of Massive Attack and Sade."

Opel has just come together in recent months with Ray Garraway (drums), Kris Joss (lead guitar), Scott Sanst (keyboards) and Brad Ferguson (bass). One of their first regular venues is again the GLC. Opel is still at the point where they’re performing covers, but Frost does intend to apply her song writing abilities to her latest project.

This walk through Frost’s musical background will help explain the multitude of sounds found on her soon-to-be released solo CD, Lunamarium (Nettwerk Records). The first single, Who Am I?, is a bright, sunny, radio-friendly tune, but Frost says don’t expect a straight-up pop album.

"In my head I don’t hear it as a pop record. I can understand why people would say that because it’s so guitar based… but there are flamenco influences, some bossa nova and jazz melodies. With the producer’s help, he made it all sound uniform."

Frost’s rhymes are simple and the lyrics are clever, offering a new adventure with each song. She spins tales of promiscuity and heartbreak, vulnerability and longing. A glimpse of the real Lily Frost?

"The songs are a mix of observations and stories that I make up and integrate with tiny pieces of my own experience. It just develops into something bigger and I don’t worry about whether it’s necessarily true.

"Even if it’s me singing and I say ‘I’, it doesn’t mean it’s about me. And if I say ‘you’ it could actually mean me. Some people take it personally and think a song is about them, but most of the time it’s not about them or me. I just create a character to completely portray the song."

Such is the case with Lily of the Sky, a hauntingly sweet tune of the ups and downs of manic depression: Sunsets on river streams, currents flowing over Lily’s dreams; Staying afloat it seems, takes all the strength of her being.

"That was based on the rhythm of the song, and the words just kind of fell out… It just has that feeling of when everything seems incredible and then it can seem completely horrible. And to take it a step further, it happens because of a chemical imbalance. It has nothing to do with whether it’s sunny outside or the robins in springtime, it doesn’t matter because inside you, you’re still depressed."

Frost’s love of things French also has a strong presence on Lunamarium , with two songs sung in French and an ongoing visual theme.

"I think some chords lend themselves to a certain language. I don’t know that it was a conscious effort to relate to French people or if it’s just part of who I am. Some sounds just make me sing in French.

"One of them, Laure Elaine, is a cover written by a French person. I really loved it and wanted to include it. The cover (of the CD) is basically a hats off to The Ballad of Melody Nelson, which was written very much in the style of Laure Elaine."

The video for Who Am I? also carries the same feel and circular symbolism of the CD jacket. Frost and director Bill Morrison agreed to shoot in Paris, making an obvious connection to the French-influenced songs. But Frost says a particular area of Paris helped tie everything together.

"Along the Seine there’s an area which is sort of futuristic from the ’60s perspective. We liked all the modern art and architecture in the area. We then created another set. I had originally suggested a white room with a big circle, but Bill was able to take all my ideas and embellish them with graphic design."

Frost is embarking on a major tour in support of the solo album this spring. Her first stop will be in Toronto and the Canada AM show. This summer will include NXNE, Edgefest and several festivals across the country. Her live shows, too, will showcase circles, with a geometric wardrobe and projections of shifting shades and circles. And that image seems perfectly suited to a musician who has remained centred through her many musical colours.

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