When Brittney Rand calls the Georgia Straight, she's fresh from a rehearsal at the East Van jam space she shares with artists including Art D'Ecco and Actors. The common thread is drummer Adam Fink, who is surely one of the Vancouver music scene's most valuable players. Fink plays with the aforementioned acts, and he's one of the two people Rand called upon to help her bring the music of her latest project, Cherrie Laurel, to the stage. (The other is Jackie Bartel, guitarist for dreamy popsters Babe Corner.)
“It’s been a challenge to interpret the songs live, because obviously I do everything in the box," says Rand, who wrote, performed, and produced all of Cherrie Laurel's six-song debut, A Furnace, A Fire, herself. "I’m using a lot of sampling, doing a lot of layering. Each song has maybe 80 to 150 tracks in it, so it’s like, what do I pull out? What do I keep in? I stripped them down a lot. I’m still doing the electronic part of it, Adam’s doing drums, and Jackie’s taking on some of the guitar parts I recorded, and adding texture to the songs.”
In their recorded forms, the songs on A Furnace, A Fire already have plenty of texture. In that sense, Cherrie Laurel isn't that far removed from the music Rand made in collaboration with Francesca Belcourt as Mu. In contrast to that duo's more pastel-hued output, however, Cherrie Laurel numbers like "A Little Noise", "Pleases Me", and "Alkaline" thrum with darker synthesizer timbres and more propulsive beats.
Rand tells the Straight that, although Mu hasn't disbanded, the duo is on an indefinite hiatus reinforced by geographical distance. “Francesca is based out of London now," she says. "We don’t want to put that to bed yet. We’re just taking a rest on it. We were really writing different songs, both of us, and hers became her album Buds, which just came out. I think it was an important exercise for us to do our own things for a little while. So it’s not necessarily dead, but it’s on hold for now.”
Having said that, Rand notes that Mu fans won’t have long to wait for something new from the duo. Well, sort of new.
“We recorded a song that I had sort of intended to be on this album, and then we made it into a Mu song," she reveals. "We made a beautiful music video with Jordan Findlay, the person who did ‘Pleases Me’. We shot it on film in this amazing house in Trout Lake. It took about two years to get this thing done, which is insane. It was supposed to be a single that was released two summer ago. It’s so beautiful and Jordan did such a good job that we kind of felt we should just release it to say ‘Okay, we’re on hiatus for a little bit, but here’s this thing.’ So we’re probably going to release that in a couple weeks.”
In the meantime, there's A Furnace, A Fire, a project into which Rand says she has channelled a great deal of "heartache, frustration, and anger".
“It’s weird the way that it came out, but I was reflecting a lot about my health and being a woman and what it meant," she says. "At the time I was having a lot of medical problems. That’s where my frustration came from. I was in a really bad, dark place, so I guess I was using this as a way to explore where that anger was coming from, why I was feeling like that, and trying not to be overcome by it and have it put me into a bad place. I always think of songs as creating something out of the worst thing that can happen to you, especially when you’re writing aggressive music. I feel like maybe this is my version of aggressive music without it being punk or whatever. I wanted to push through the veil of language that I used in Mu to sort of disguise whatever was happening to me at the time when I wrote whatever song, you know?”
Rand says her new songs are “more direct and obvious” than her previous work, although she would prefer listeners to interpret them for themselves. Don't expect her to provide a lyric sheet.
“If you read the direct lyrics, then you’re already taken out of the story," she says. "Whereas if you can pull out these little bits, it’s usually the bits that jump out to you that are the most meaningful to you, because you’re sort of wanting to hear them. But if you’re reading them, then it feels like you’re taken out of the magic of it.”
Which brings us back to what Rand is trying to achieve in that East Van rehearsal space: magic, specifically the kind created when a performer makes an authentic connection with the audience.
“I just want to play," Rand says when asked about her goals for 2019. "I miss playing music. I just miss playing, so I’m going to try to play as much as I can.”
Cherrie Laurel plays a release show for A Furnace, A Fire at the Fox Cabaret’s Projection Room on Monday (January 28).