The electronic, noise-pop phenomenon Born Gold is back with new material after releasing his third album, I Am An Exit in 2013. Cecil Frena, the Edmonton-born face behind this experimental one-man band, has decided to do it differently this year, releasing new music in the form a video series with the upbeat and catchy “I Want To Be Naked” debuting this past summer.
The Varsity had a virtual sit-down with Frena to talk about his experience as an independent Canadian artist, his roots, and the story behind some of his latest music.
The Varsity: Where did you grow up? How do you think that’s influenced your music?
Cecil Frena: I grew up in Edmonton and that environment shaped me. There is a lot of really strong punk rock from Edmonton and kind of always has been, so the first shows I went to were all-ages hardcore shows hosted at halls throughout the city. I spent a number of years putting on all-ages shows and playing in punk bands in the city, so that also coloured the approach I take to my music, as well of some of its aesthetics. And by that I mean, the stifling, deadly cold; the resultant shut-in behaviour; the Nietzschean thrill of surviving winter; the amazing humans; the glass ceiling – it all made me who I am.
TV: What pushed you towards music, and particularly, why the experimental-electronic-glitchy-noise-pop that you so brilliantly bring to life?
CF: It just got to the point where I was spending all of my time doing it. Given my personality, it became clear that I needed to either go all in or suffer the consequences. I still feel that way – there’s almost nothing I’d rather be doing and I’m so grateful that I still am. Every day I wake up and feel pretty good about it.
TV: What’s it been like being an indie Canadian artist – pros and cons in your opinion?
CF: The best thing is that there’s a really incredible network of artists that I guess all get to be friends, or at least acquaintances, the same way that artists who all play the same circuit of festivals get to be friends or whatever. There aren’t many downsides, to be honest.
TV: What keeps you motivated to make music and art in today’s cut-throat industry?
CF: My amazing friends and my utter and complete devotion to music itself.
TV: Your songs are undoubtedly pop-y and catchy, particularly your recent release, “I Want To Be Naked”, but underneath the beats and vocals is the address of some pretty heavy-duty body politics. What draws you to that topic?
CF: “I Want To Be Naked” is about a lot of things, and the body and our relationship to it is definitely one of those things. Singing that lyric myself I guess locates it in a confusing space for a lot of people, but I hope that that confusion itself is useful and makes the song relatable or useful to people. I’ve been concerned with the body since Bodysongs – I think I just had far too tenuous a relationship to my own body for a very long time and needed to explore it in my work.
TV: What advice/words of wisdom do you have to give students who are looking to go into the music business or who are just stepping foot into it?
CF: To do this stuff, you have to want nothing else. Cliché, yes, but I haven’t been able to find a truer formulation. I’ve been at it for long enough that I’ve already seen flowers wilt and plenty of road kill drift past on the side of the road. There will always be more people willing to make three records and tap out, or write one novel and despair when it doesn’t take than there are people willing to keep on their path irrespective of circumstance. And I understand why – the world doesn’t need another artist and it is always enthusiastic to remind you of that fact. So for a lot of people their first many years of being a “serious artist” are really just a test of how bad they want it. There is no shame in deciding that you would rather create art as a hobbyist — in fact that can be glorious and some of the best work out there originates from that circumstance.