Famous Framus had released five EPs by the time our paths had crossed some fifteen years ago. Michael MaGarrey would create a new persona named after a well known guitar brand and then find a home at the Staircase open mic among others and was inspired to release a plethora of music. Famous Framus has always been about stripped down blues played from the heart with perhaps a gritty Steeltown style but with each album sometimes offering different shades of the blues.
What started as a solo act became a trio with harmonica and drums added for a five year stint but things would change. When we last spoke, Framus was solo again for his Learn To Live CD released in 2016. Three years later and Framus is back with his better half in tow and they have a new album as a duo to be released this weekend.
“I had acquired the guitar with some ill–gotten bartering and everybody seemed to love the guitar as much as I loved playing it — I named it the Famous Framus and then took on the name myself,” recalls Framus on his earlier days. “The guitar really inspired me to write music and I transferred the inanimate object name to the animate object — me. The songs have always started with just me and guitar before they might have other arrangements and other players added. I’ve always identified with about feeling so good when you’re howling about feeling so bad. It’s a cathartic howling at the universe of the blues since the first time I heard Robert Johnson.”
“It was all about Betty Bomb wanting to get into the game — from being a passive music receiver to becoming a music machine,” adds Framus on his more recent duo. “After I released my last album, I was doing acoustic shows with guitar and banjo for a while but that had run its course. After seeing Monica Wilson (of local band Perennials) play drums, she decided she wanted to play drums too and it was as simple as that. I gave her a few rudimentary musical ideas and she expanded on it. She already knew all of the songs so it wasn’t a real stretch after knowing the songs for ten years, she just had to find her place within the songs.”
As a duo, Framus and Bomb have taken marital bliss and created a musical delight often tempering Framus’ raw gruff and simultaneously adding to the rhythmic dynamic. There’s the same grit but with a more sensitive approach perhaps on New Horizon.
"The rules of a wedding don’t take precedence over the rules of the band,” says Framus. “We were wood–shedding four days a week for two years and it’s working. It’s work and it’s play and she’s become one of us now. She doesn’t want to play, she has to play. Betty’s always had an effect on what I do but with this album, I kind of took a spiritual approach with performing. Maybe not a textbook gospel approach, but some of the songs have that call and response ethos asking the universe for a hand up. I think I made an unconscious or maybe semi–conscious effort to try and be a little bit more beautiful with it, if that’s even possible for me because the depth of deep suffering and joy are just two sides of the same coin if they’re really present in your life. It’s about taking suffering and turning it into euphoric joy.”
“Anybody in Hamilton that knows anything about music would aspire to get inside the rooms of Grant Avenue Studio at some point in their career,” adds Framus. “Once we met with [producer] Amy King and we started kicking around some ideas, it was fait accompli. We’ve been working these songs live for a while so that by the time we got into the studio we were as sharp as samurai swords. The record was done in one day, recorded live off the floor and probably seven of the twelve songs on the album are first takes.”
With a brand new collection of songs, Framus and Bomb set to offer not only a CD release party but also what they call a late afternoon matinee dinner party extravaganza with some special guest Hamilton music legends. Together Famous Framus and Betty Bomb start another chapter of their musical journey and their own kind of love story.
“We thought we’d try going outside of the box for our CD release party and we got the chance to get some musical legends who might normally be busy in the evening on a Saturday,” says Framus. “These people opening for us are heroes and it’s always good to be able to have heroes on the bill. There’s going to be food options there being that the show happens during the dinner hour. We’ve got cool t–shirts and some special black and white prints as well as CDs for sale. Once the doors close in there it’ll be night time regardless of what the clock says.
“It was Betty’s idea to name the album New Horizon,” adds Framus. “It is a new direction for us together as musicians and the cover photo is a photo of me and Betty walking off into the night in front of the Lionshead. We’re definitely heading to a horizon together whatever that may bring. Everything is a love story. Love lost, love gained — it’s all about love. That’s what people feel. I hope those kind of people come to the show. People that want to hear real stories, feel real emotions, and see real people play real instruments could enjoy our show. We want to grab people that want to be present in the ride of their life. You take the bad, the sorrow and go through a little catharsis and get out the other side and make something positive out of it and show it to people — that’s humanity.”
Famous Framus and Betty Bomb plays this Saturday November 2 at This Ain't Hollywood with Ginger St. James and Snowheel Slim, Edgar Breau and Colina Phillips of Simply Saucer, and Tim Gibbons. Show starts 4pm and $15 gets you in. Click on famousframus.com