Why Fet.Nat Rules by Peter Bradley (2015)

 In Why This Rules


I have a few things that I need to disclose before I move on to fawning over Fet.Nat.

First, I need to admit that I was the stupid anglo kid that grew up on French turf without ever really figuring out the language. One year, I was signed up for a few months to a French boy scout troupe as an emergency learning intervention. It didn’t work. Sorry, mom.

Second, I need to admit that I have never seen a Fet.Nat show. Now I’m in Alaska and bands from Hull, QC rarely make the trip. So all I have to go on here, as I imagine the magic that must be a Fet.Nat show, are my foggy but fond memories of J’Envoie and then… intervening… this voice.

This voice! This guy! Who the hell is this guy? Moaning and groaning and squacking and fuming his way through violently felt somethings.

Ok, hold on, one more: I need to admit that when I think of Hull, QC, I get a little nostalgic. Not for the gambling, or strip clubs, or underage drinking, not even for nearby Gatineau Park, but for the Hull Olympiques and the QMJHL. Those games were marked for me by speedy skaters, no defense, tons of goals, goons a’plenty, concrete, popcorn, hockey fights, very, very dedicated season ticket holders, and years of spilled beer. We went to a lot of games for a while there at the Robert Guertin arena, and for some reason the most strongly felt impressions of those games are the unfamiliar things that sort of sparkled with mystery. For me, and surely not for you, the music of Fet.Nat evokes a nightlife daydream, the sinister and seductive fog of not knowing, the seedy and dangerous undercurrent that accompanied those late night hockey games in the strange town on the other side of the bridge, and the story of a town that for all I knew and all I know doesn’t even exist in daylight.

This, then, is a band that rules because they make music that, to me, is as evocative as any I have heard.

When I hear Fet.Nat, I can’t help but package seven-year-old-me’s noir vision of Hull into the listening experience. From the moment we hit the noisy metal-grated bridge across the river, Fet.Nat are there, around every corner, offering a soundtrack to the proceedings. I imagine the [instrumental elements of the] band invited to play the anthem at the hockey game before puck-drop. They go rogue; Olivier Fairfield starts things off with a grisly break-beat, and then is joined by some moodily pyrotechnic post rock. Everybody realizes pretty quickly: the anthem isn’t happening. The more discerning players on the starting lineups are relieved: they did not need to hear another bilingual youth choir this evening and are sort of excited about the turn of events: there will be many goals and many fights this night. The season ticket holder in row 2, however, is pissed. He’s gone to games twice a week for decades and has earned the right to call the shots around here. He lifts his styrofoam finger in an accusatory point with one hand and launches his beer onto the ice with the other. His voice cuts through everything as he tells the band what he thinks of what they’re doing.

From there, chaos: the hockey players coalesce in a fist-pounding mess, the ice gets littered with half-consumed canteen detritus, and all the while, the band plays on. The referees gain control of the scene, and then, sweet catharsis obtained, the crowd joins in: 250 red plastic trumpets yowl in solidaritous dissonance. In the meantime, the season ticket holder in row two has not ceased his dialogue with the band, and the sounds have melded together in perfect unison. Fet.Nat, revealed!

At the intermission, against odds, the band is invited back down to the ice. Maybe the early turmoil sparked heavy beer sales. This time, there is a new truck on the ice with them, available to the winner of the raffle later in the evening, and as the truck is showcased by driving slow circles around the rink, the band creates an urgent and unsettling tension with arpeggiatted synthesis, punctuated drumming, and the interrogative upspeak of the guitar. The man in the suit – wait, is that the guy with the styrofoam finger?! – on the ice yells into the microphone “No engineer in the world have created a better mechanic than the original four by four. No one! no one from Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the USA, even Maniwaki, no one has done better than the original FOUR! BY! FOUR!” and points at the truck. A stunned silence, but then, quickly, the plastic trumpets again join the fray.

The band, now in league with the finger guy, head back to his place – just a couple blocks away, by our car, by the way – but he leaves them at the door. Seen through the window, he’s in the living room, throatily murmering like Gainsbourg to a shadow out of sight. The rest of the band lingers, dejected and rejected from the diverted attentions of their new friend, playing intricate music softly on the stoop.


I don’t know much about the mechanics of how bands form in Hull, but that’s my best guess. Maybe I’m missing something, but that’s how it goes. Their music is full of precision and bombast and mood and vitriol and theatricality and I just can’t get enough of it. That I don’t know what JFNO is saying most of the time is probably regrettable because I’m sure it’s all brilliant, but in the end I’m grateful for the space left for me to imagine, and maybe that’s just as good. Anyhow, they rule and I’m sure you’d be a fool to miss them if you have a chance.

Peter Bradley is an ex-Guelphite whose contributions and involvement in the arts community in Guelph have been many and run deep — and are sorely missed. Peter is currently the Executive Director at the Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska.

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