August 11th, 2009
By Liem Vu
Besides Toronto’s hometown heroes Broken Social Scene, many homegrown bands have become siphoned into indie obscurity. The defining trait of ‘indieness’ that once brought hopeful prospects of reaching the record label promise land soon deteriorates as blog buzz bands an equivalent to yester-year’s one hit wonders.
With filesharing, recession-era meltdowns and the thriving appeal of auto-tune (Sorry, Jay-Z, looks like your declaration of auto-tune’s death may only be in the U.S.), it’s hard not to get jaded when your favourite indie artists don’t get the recognition they deserve beyond the firewalls of the blogosphere.
A little over a year ago I stumbled upon the MySpace for The Framework, a then-unsigned, Toronto-based New Wave/Rock outfit with a synth appeal like no other. With melodic hooks, infectious guitar riffs, killer vocals and stadium-worthy instrumentation, I reached out to them for an interview for a local music e-zine I used to work for.
At the time, they had yet to be signed to Last Gang Records but with an EP-in-tow and a 3rd place ranking in Mix 99.9’s Radiostar contest, they had already worked tirelessly to become regulars on the Toronto live music circuit.
Having previously performed as stripped down, solo-artists (guitarist Chris Graham, keyboard player Rayanne Lepieszo, and lead singer Ryan Isojima aka Chisato Jackson), 2006 marked the year that The Framework became the serendipitous collective that we see today. Well, three-quarters of it, anyways (Bassist Scott Winter and drummer Tobias Smith would join shortly thereafter).
Last Friday, The Framework graced the tiny stage at the El Mocambo for the CD Release of their debut LP, Before Tonight. But while the muted interior of the El Mo ill-compared to previous gigs (i.e. The Mod Club), the energy was palpable as family, friends, and fans of The Framework celebrated the momentous evening that included a #3 ranking on MuchMoreMusic’s Top 10 Countdown.
Although The Framework have toured like clockwork, they showed no sense of complacency as they kicked off the festivities with their first single, “Always Left Behind”, an anthemic tune with an effervescent framework of synths, guitar virtuosity and Jeff Bucklian-resonance from Isojima’s vocals.
“The CD Release show was super exciting for us because we got to debut our whole record for a live audience for the first time…The energy of the crowd was off the hook and we as a band totally fed off of that, so it was a really fun time being on stage. It felt like one big party because because both us as a band and the crowd were having a great time,” explains Framework frontman Ryan Isojima.
With frenetic dance moves and unparalleled charisma, Isojima rarely stopped for a breather during the little over an hour set as he busted out his Brit-Rock inspired swagger. Oftentimes stepping down the small stage and singing to and around the audience, my friend and photographer, Matt C., whispered (well, shouted) to me that it was like a musical marriage had happened between Maximo Park and Jeff Buckley. During “Wasted”, “We Are The Trend”, and “Everything’s Gone”, Chris Graham took to the lead vocals with an equally compelling yet wholly differential energy as he sung with a endearingly coy smile that spoke both of pride but of humility and appreciation for being in that moment.
“I think Chris’ smile onstage really represents what we were all feeling that night. We’re just really happy that people finally get to hear our new record,” says Isojima.
And happy they were, as concertgoers displayed intermittent epileptic bursts of uninhibited dance moves. Unlike many concerts where looking cool is an unspoken rule that creates mass head bobs and chatter, The Framework’s feel good, radio friendly, and positive vibes even caused my photographer to occasionally dive into random spurts of hip-shaking euphoria.
Synth-player Rayanne Lepieszo, stayed stoic and still for most of the set with intermittent of head-bobbing action. But her fierce energy played well against Isojima and the other band members who, as corny as it may sound, fit into the puzzle piece of what makes The Framework, an astounding live band regardless of venue.
With the humidex in the venue rising from jumping bodies, to the delight of The Cure fans, the quartet belted out their own rendition of “Just Like Heaven.” Ending their set with an upcoming b-side, “Into the Sun”, The Framework humbly thanked the crowd as most of the band went to greet fans, family, and friends alike.
Before tonight, many people didn’t know about the band but if the glossy-eyed fella clutching a Framework album beside me was any indication, The Framework have just begun to set the groundwork for something much larger.