Q&A with Musician and Illustrator Raymond Biesinger

FredLocals’ Contributor Jake Robinson caught up with Raymond Biesinger, a Montreal-based illustrator and musician (The Famines). His art has appeared in the New Yorker, Le Monde, the Walrus and Dwell. He mixes minimalism and maximalism and concepts of politics in both his illustrations and his music.

The Famines played Fredericton’s ReNeu Boutique with Motherhood, Wild Domestic and Goofetroope on Oct. 29. If you missed the show, or even if you didn’t, you can listen to the Famines HERE while you read.

Q. What have been your major sources of inspiration? I know you work with political and urban themes, do you feel you have a message to relate through your work?

A. I can only speak for myself, but I find most of my inspiration off-medium. Good, sincere, argumentative music is hard to find, let alone music like that that deals with the here and now. I studied history and politics in university, I read on such topics repeatedly and frequently. I try to keep up on what the newspapers, magazines and internet are saying and not saying, and the Famines’ lyrics respond.

The aesthetic theme the band always addresses is that it’s possible to do a lot with a little. You could call it a call for efficiency, or a prep course for a world bound for austerity and limitation. Recent lyric themes range from the dangerous place where fashion meets music (on “Too Cool”), the bankruptcy of the statement “you can have it all” (“Zero Sum”) and the awful means the federal Conservatives use to achieve their ends (“Attack Machine Blues”).

Q. I know that you have done a number of illustrations for magazines, do you find that you are overwhelmed with work or do you take on few jobs that mean a lot to you personally?

A. It’s a mix–playing in a band doesn’t come cheap, nor does having a family. I have to take on “money” jobs, but I’m also lucky enough that I get offers that also offer tremendous autonomy and nice budgets. At the risk of sounding totally boring, it’s hard to decide when to accept one and how long to wait for the other. Scheduling can get messy.

Q. You are based in Montreal, what are some spaces that feed your creativity?

A. I live just west of Parc LaFontaine, and I want to live there forever. My illustration studio, too, and the 8th floor lookout of the studio on Casgrain I borrow whenever writing music.

Q. What drives you need to create art? What got you started?

A. The need to make a living in a way that doesn’t involve hard labour– that’s where I was, unhappily, before illustration happened to me. And I keep on trying to quit music, but it doesn’t work. Part of me just needs to make loud noises with purposes hidden inside of them.

Q. Do you have any pets?

A. Cleo the cat. And a baby named Zuzu.

You can view Biesinger’s art HERE.

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