Fram is short for Framus, and the "I" is Ryan Phillips, who discovered his passion for music at a young age while growing up in Cochrane.
He went on to create Silkstones, and his fourth full-length album "Fram and I" went wide on Jan. 27. It's a collection of nine stripped-down songs, most of them performed on what he called a cheap East German Framus guitar purchased in Lethbridge. It's his second collaboration with Eric Den Hann, who produced the album and played the synthesizer.
In 2020, the two worked together on the 2020 EP "In the Meantime" with Den Hann playing multiple instruments to offer a more layered production than his new album.
Fram and I is his first full-length album since 2017's "The World Began with a Yes," which featured several musicians. This time around, he wanted to produce a relatively uncooked sound, drawing inspiration from Nick Drake's Pink Moon (1972) and the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970) albums.
"Through COVID, I was just listening to [Pink Moon] on the repeat and enjoyed how personal it sounds. You kind of leave space so you can imagine where things could go. That's something I'm still enjoying exploring. I find, especially now with all the technology we have, it's so easy to keep layering a synthesizer, a bass, drums, vocals. I wanted to leave it sparse, so it's up to people to hear what they want in it."
He drew upon the rawness of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.
"John Lennon on that album is definitely not trying to play perfectly; he's trying to put himself and his feeling out there. I just love that attitude and the rawness of that album. He double-tracks vocals and does effects, but you come away sort of feeling that you know him. That was something I wanted on this album, so it felt like you were sharing space with me.
"I wanted to try and capture a feeling, and if I screwed up, not stop the take and try to perfect it, or slice in the perfect guitar part; just close my eyes and let the whole guitar part and the vocals, too, be recorded in one take. I was feeling it more than trying to be perfect."
A fan of Den Hann's impact on the Lethbridge music scene and contribution to the album, Phillips says he has a growing obsession with synthesizers, pointing to their impactful use, like how it opens the Pink Floyd song "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."
The lyrics on Fram and I focus on the positives we can take from the pandemic, and were rooted in his readings at the time of Buddhist/Stoic philosophies and Haruki Murakami's fiction.
"I found a lot to be thankful and grateful for with COVID, just having the time to spend time with my wife, my dog, and just go for walks. I found that influenced my writing, and I think all the songs have that in them. I tried not to get too stuck in the negativity of it all because it was so hard not to do that during those months."
Phillips moved to Cochrane when he was 10. His parents are from the UK. His father was in the British military and fell in love with Cochrane while based in Medicine Hat.
His parents continue to reside in Cochrane and his mother-in-law lives just outside of town. Phillips now resides in Calgary.
Phillips got his first guitar here and went on to play for bands like The Caverns and Whiskey. His first show was at the long-demolished old town hall when he was in grade 6, playing with his friend's older brother's band.
While inspired by Supertramp and the Beach Boys at a young age, it was hearing the Beatles song "Ob-La-Di, Ob-Da" played at a Calgary Flames game that sparked his desire to write.
"I already had a guitar, and at that moment all I wanted to do was to write music."
"I had a lot of bands. That's where I learned how to play by jamming with people from Cochrane and I use to do the open mics at Java Jamboree."
He went on to create Silkstones while attending university, living on Silkstone Close, and becoming part of a robust Lethbridge music scene that he continues to admire. Released in 2015, his first album "Record Machine" reflects on his childhood in Cochrane. It was also produced by a former Cochranites Cam Mcdougall, who now resides in Vancouver.
"It was a bit about moving away from Cochrane and looking back. I don't listen to it too much now, but it's about realizing that you do grow older and look back at your childhood."
There's more to the name Silkstones than the street where he wrote his first album.
"It's kind of a throwback to the Rolling Stones. I was taking archeology, so I thought it was kind of funny that it had 'rock' in the name, as well."
Silkstones has had interchange players since it formed and has numbered as many as five musicians. That's changed, for now.
While he anticipates doing some shows, his primary focus is writing new compositions and recording.
You can find the latest album and past work of Silkstones on Bandcamp here.
There are magnificent collections of photographs by acclaimed Cochrane photojournalist Patrick Price on his YouTube channel "thepassionatepackrat," one of which is set to the music of Silkstones. It's entitled "40 Incredible Reasons (in colour) Why I Live Where I do... Cochrane, Alberta, Canada." and can be found here.