S2E4 Bernard Frazer (from Church of Trees)

Bernard Frazer, from synth-pop group ‘Church of Trees’, is a passionate, talented and knowledgeable musician, and we had an excellent chat about variety of topics, including the genre of music known as ‘synth-pop’. His current group, Church of Trees also includes fellow band members Allison Stanton and Tara Hope.

As Bernard explained, he first got into synth-pop in the 1970s, which was when the genre first came to the mainstream. Synthesizers had been around since the 1960s, but portable ones weren’t widely available until the 1970s. The Beatles were among the rock groups in the 60s that experimented with synthesizers. As you will quickly discover from listening to this show and reading my show notes, eventually everything comes back to the Beatles! A good description of the synth-pop genre can be found here.

Every musician has their idols, and for Bernard, it is unquestionably David Bowie. He speaks with reverence about the music, and rightly points out that Bowie was a trendsetter and a game changer.

We discussed the latest Church of Trees album, ‘New Bold Dawn’, and I asked him about the story behind the cover. As you can see in the photo below, it depicts an apocalyptic streetscape scene with a blazing sun in the background. The scene is actually from the financial district in Toronto, and features The Gooderham Building, an iconic structure that also goes by the nickname ‘the flatiron building’ due to it’s pointed shape.

I encourage you to listen to the album, as all of the songs are well-written, and the production is excellent. The musicianship of Bernard, Tara and Allison shines through, with each of them being spotlighted throughout the album. Even if you don’t think that you are a synth-pop fan, I think that you’ll find yourself enjoying it.

After the interview was finished, I asked Bernard to provide me with some seminal albums that he thinks are a good introduction to the synth-pop world. Here they are:

  • David Bowie “Low”
  • Depeche Mode “Some Great Reward’
  • Japan “Quiet Life”
  • New Order “Power, Corruption and Lies”
  • Human League “Dare”
  • Simple Minds “New Gold Dream”
  • Gary Numan “The Pleasure Principle”
  • Kraftwerk “Autobahn”

As I mentioned in the episode, one of the best parts about being a musician is having the opportunity to learn from fellow musicians. For instance, I am primarily a jazz player, so synth-pop is not a style that I have ever studied. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Bernard, and am grateful that he took time to be on the show. I hope you enjoyed the interview!

Listen to more Church of Trees music here!