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EYE | MAY 10, 2001
The Fawn Also Rises

Opening for Rainer Maria. Sunday, May 13.
Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen W.
$8.50 from Rotate This, Soundscapes.
No alcohol.

After Carly Simon sang "You're so vain/You probably think this song is about you," she never did tell the tabloids which celebrity Casanova she was singing about. Raising the Fawn drummer Lesa Hannah doesn't have to question her vanity, because singer/songwriter John Crossingham is quite open about the subject matter of the band's debut disc. "This whole record is a song cycle about my relationship with Lesa," Crossingham confesses without hesitation.

"Seeing as no one knows who the fuck I am, it's not really a big deal," he rationalizes. "If I was some famous guy, I might think about coding it a bit more, but right now I don't have any invasion of privacy to worry about. It enriches the experience.

"I toyed for a while about how I was going to put this across, and I realized that I was going so far as to make this a song cycle about Lesa, and I didn't see any point in hiding it. It's a gift to her, so why not say so? It is a little coded, but it doesn't take too much time with the record to glean that from it.

"In the artwork, the lyric sheet is written like a letter, and at the top it says 'Dear Lesa,' and at the bottom, 'Love, John.' It's either really beautiful or really corny, depending on your perspective. I've always been drawn as a music fan to bands like Eric's Trip or Yo La Tengo, or even that new Low record where you can hear their kid squealing in the background. With records like those, you realize that this isn't just about a fictional character -- you're being let in on their world. There's a powerful resonance that comes with that."

But it's the fragile beauty of Raising the Fawn's music that makes it more than a vanity project. Delicate guitars, shimmering xylophones and whispering drums wrap themselves around Crossingham's falsetto for a perfectly pillowy experience. The album was recorded over a year and a half, with Crossingham playing much of it himself, during downtime from his other project, the considerably louder rock band ThanatoPop.

"These were always the songs I couldn't bring to ThanatoPop," says Crossingham, who has also recently joined the Broken Social Scene. "Every time we'd try them, they would be too busy or too heavy or not what I was thinking. It was always easier to do them myself. I knew how I wanted them to turn out. I can get notoriously impatient. A lot of the songs in ThanatoPop are not completely irreverent, but it's fun stuff about having a good time. But these songs are more personal. When you're dealing with stuff like that, it makes it all the more hard to put it in other people's hands.

"ThanatoPop is a really loud band, and people get pissed off at that after a while. Sometimes it's exhilarating and fun, and I don't want to change how that band operates -- if everyone played hush-hush, it would be pretty boring. So far, even with this whole 'quiet is the new loud' movement, more often than not a band is going to be loud. We do have bits where the volume peaks when we play live. When those loud parts come, you feel there's a reason for it and the crescendo is all the more dramatic because you've exercised restraint in the rest of your set."

The live band -- which includes drummer Hannah, guitarist Julie Booth and bassist Scott Remila -- has been learning how to overcome the notoriously talky Toronto audience syndrome, especially during a recent show opening for Mogwai.

"For the most part, I embrace the challenge of it," says Crossingham. "Sometimes you hit a brick wall and you know that half the room is listening to you at best. If anything, I like to accentuate that. The final song on the album, 'New Moon Goodnight,' has very pregnant pauses in it, and we've been opening our sets with that because it draws people in. For every time that it falls flat on its face, when it works it's really magical. When we played the Mogwai show, where I totally expected to get drowned out, I could hear everyone listening. It was very intense."