Track by track: Rabies, What You Know About Me

Rabies’ debut album is a 14-song feat of emotional pop. Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Rachel Fry breaks down her unexpected influences like Taylor Swift, Fergie and Shania.


Rabies w/Geil
Friday, May 26, 6pm
Halifax North Memorial Library garage 2285 Gottingen Street
free, all-ages

Rabies' infectious pop can't be denied. Rachel Fry's powerful voice, mixed with harmonies from bassist Bria Cherise Miller and synth player Jeremy Costello, with a backing beat by Fry's Surveillance bandmate Dave Burns, creates a heavenly mixture—satisfyingly dramatic and lots of fun. Good, classic pop tuneage. The band's debut, What You Know About Me, touches on Fry's bluegrass and country background, the Top 40 zeitgeist and politics. Fry spills the scoop on each song.

I wrote that song after last year's OBEY. Every year I feel really inspired by the Convention and I've often written a song during that time—last year this was that song. The primary reason I wrote the song was to acknowledge my existence as a white settler in Halifax and wanted to talk about the fact that this is all happening on Indigenous land. I like to play that song first when we play, it's like opening my own mind, acknowledging it in my own way. Plus I know my bandmates get to freestyle—Bria gets to make her bass sound like a motorcycle, which she loves.

When I started writing three years ago for Surveillance, I was learning to play bass in my early 20s and one of the easiest ways to learn was to write songs and melodies—it was faster for me. I was listening to a lot of Taylor Swift, and this song is always referred to in the band as "the Taylor Swift song." I wrote it about friends trying to lift each other up to talk about the truth and recognize the things that are stopping them from doing the things they want to do, but it reminds me of Taylor and One Direction.

The idea was kind of from the perspective of someone standing on the edge of an ocean cliff, I wanted it to have an east coast feeling, that ocean sort of feeling. Jeremy added a lot of depth and made it a lot more evil-sounding and I really liked that. The little bit of riffy guitar that I play is a bit of a branch-out.

This is about being friends with someone who is in a toxic relationship. When you know a relationship isn't what's best but you can't help how you feel. I also want my music to have a sense of humour and sometimes the overdramatic element is the sense of humour.

There's quite a few songs that I've just done on my own, that we don't play live. This song is sort of about regret and trying to move on from bad memories. It's definitely got a country feel. I'm pretty influenced by country musicians—I love Lucinda Williams and Shania Twain—a bit of twang sneaks in, especially when it's just me. I grew up on a farm in Ontario and was singing doing chores on the farm over the noise of the tractor, my parents are huge bluegrass people and my brother is a bluegrass musician.

This is a song that is overdramatic and funny, I love performing this song because I get to sing it with Bria. The verses are about lifting your friends up, trying to be kind and loving and the chorus is all about self doubt, that sensation of not being sure of what to do. Jeremy's synth also reminds me of the Sesame Street theme song.

Dave helps me arrange a lot of these songs. This is a more gothy, punky song, at first I didn't know if I'd play it in Rabies or Surveillance. It's fun.

It's about the feeling in your head like "I know this isn't the way it is but this is the way I feel about it." Like not fully logical but there's something inside you and you can't fully help but feel that way and perceiving the way that someone else feels possibly incorrectly as well. Also about being part of a music scene and trying to navigate that world as an introvert. I'm a pretty private person, I don't necessarily feel that comfortable in a crowd and this song is a reconciliation of my mixed feelings of that. A huge motivator is songwriting, I've found a hobby in that, it's fun for me—the hard part is realizing the songs.

One afternoon I recorded a demo on my laptop speakers and that is actually what this is. I wrote this thinking about my grandmother who has since passed away, but at the time I was having these conversations about how quickly life moves and how different it is for her now and this technological age to see how much has changed since she was young and how different our lives were. I don't know if it's going to be different when I'm old or am I going to feel the same way?

A straight up a fun Ramones-y song—energetic, poppy, straightforward. It's sped up a little bit and it gives me a baby voice. Jeremy says that's when the child version of Rachel appears.

It's an ode to growing up in the country. But there's an element of sadness to that song—that feeling of guilt that comes along with being alive, which sounds so dramatic but it's about the constant desire to apologize for everything and feel ashamed for taking up space. You're apologizing for things that you don't need to apologize for. A huge influence on me is thinking about the experience of women and marginalized people in general, feeling those injustices that exist in the world and trying to live your life despite it and also to challenge it.

This is one of those songs that's so overdramatic it has a sense of humour. About going through depression and difficult emotional experiences—it has an end of the world vibe. Singing with Jeremy is a dream come true and he wrote his verses. I've never felt comfortable playing a solo ever but my bandmates are so encouraging. They lifted me up to a point where I can do that without feeling cripplingly self conscious. There's also a melodica part that's a nod to Fergie's "Glamorous."

It's written from someone else's perspective, kind of about mistrust and feeling like you can't trust your partner. It's a throwback to what I'd love to write—old country songs, trying to riff on that in my own way. At the time I was listening to a lot of Dolly Parton, she's a huge influence. She has something like 3,000 songs catalogued, so can you imagine how many songs that aren't catalogued?

This is really simple, and it's one of my favourites. I just learned to play guitar a few years ago but I think emphasizing simplicity is fine. When you start to play and you're playing with people who have been playing for a really long time how can you possibly expect yourself to perform at that level? The value should be placed on the songwriting and the feeling you get from the band and the sound. I love technical playing but there's room for lots of different levels. My confidence has come from just doing it and playing and getting better and challenging myself despite my skill level and disinterest in certain elements—like gear, and I hate cables, I joke I'm going to get a cordless guitar and a Britney Spears mic. You can play a two-chord song and it can be awesome.

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