Most people look for sofas on Craigslist. The founding half of Canadian quartet HiFi Phantom was looking for bandmates. Brett Kibbler and Zorn Pink reached the end of their ropes in the search for collaborators, so they took out an ad that read: “Looking for people with the right fit and the right ear and taste in music. Our focus is ultimately on sounds and rhythms rather than melodies and licks. YOU MUST BE CONCERNED WITH YOUR SOUND AS MUCH AS YOU ARE WITH YOUR CHOPS.” Bill Bedford and Candy Spencer answered the call. The foursome took to the studio Zorn and Kibbler had built in Toronto and used it like a tailor’s workshop, sewing together each member’s back catalog of unused material. The result is the five-song All At Sea EP, a blend of electro-pop, rock and a dash of disco.
Kibbler and Pink met at film school in Vancouver. Pink had failed his grade two conservatory exam for piano as a kid but discovered the bass in high school. When he met Kibbler, Pink introduced him to the instrument, and the pair eventually left the movie biz for music. Discouraged at first by their prospects of finding like-minded musicians, they finally gave in and placed the fateful Craigslist ad with no expectations. Spencer had a master’s degree in public health nutrition but was working as a waitress in Toronto. She’d learned to play drums and guitar through friends. Bedford had bounced around Canada and the U.K. for a while before he settled in Toronto and joined the band while his own electro-rock outfit was on permanent hiatus.
Together they make big-sounding music, largely a credit to sustained chords from an electric organ. The rockish “Backwards Children” is aided by organ fuzz and plays against the shout of the chorus; on “Tear Me Down City” with Bedford on vocals, the dynamics change, and the keys give off a very British new-wave feel. The results of the cross-genre synthesis HiFi Phantom does allows listeners to sense some sound borrowing but never outright imitating. “Our influences are always there and inform what we do, but when we are doing it,” says the band, “we often use certain songs as reference points or examples for what we are trying to accomplish. Yet that varies from song to song.”
HiFi Phantom plays Knitting Factory on Wednesday, October 19, as part of CMJ 2011.