One year makes One Hundred Dollars

Ian Russell, Simone Fornow and friends form the heart of Toronto-based alt-country collective, $100

Organ, pedal drums fill out country songs on One Hundred Dollar’s album Forest of Tears.
Organ, pedal drums fill out country songs on One Hundred Dollar’s album Forest of Tears.

Things are happening fast for the alt-country collective One Hundred Dollars. In just one year the former Toronto duo of Ian Russell and Simone Fornow has morphed into a full-fledged band (complete with an organ player), recorded and released an album, toured a little bit and come to terms with Russell’s bout with leukemia.

“Ian got leukemia and we were like, ‘Oh shit,” Fornow said with a laugh, knowing that maybe she shouldn’t. “A year ago we were in the hospital and it was fucking weird and sad. But he’s done the hardest part and he’s healthy enough to stay up and party and put on a good show. He doesn’t really like to talk about it. I do more than him. It doesn’t define him.” What a difference a year can make. Now a six-man act, the group features instruments ranging from Steve Crookes’ pedal steel to Jonathan Adjemian’s organ.

Although the band had their fair share of struggles, Fornow is quick to point out just how lucky the band is. When asked about how the recording process for their new album Forest of Tears went, Fornow was swift to comment on just how blessed they are.

“It’s been really quick and we feel really lucky for it,” she said.

After assembling the band, they had six practices and then went into the studio to record their album. Unlike most studio albums, One Hundred Dollars recorded their album the old fashioned way: live off the floor, all together in one room, and in thirteen hours. In an age where bands take days, weeks, and even months to record an album, Fornow’s statement rings true: One Hundred Dollars does work quickly.

Luck is something Fornow is also quick to point out. She said it was good fortune that she met Russell and sparked a musical connection.

“Me and Ian are like best friends,” she said.

“We’re so lucky to have met. We’re so lucky to be friends. I didn’t make music before I met him. He was the one who told me I could sing.” The two now work together to create country music that sounds authentic and true to its roots. They make your grandma’s country music, in the best way possible, with Fornow scribbling down the lyrics and Russell working out the music.

The band expresses these old fashioned roots not only in their recording process, but with their cannon of “real” country songs and live performances. Lyrically, Fornow isn’t afraid of the term ‘country’. In fact, she embraces it and believes strongly in what a country song is.

“Britney Spears has that song out now “Piece of Me.” And it’s so sad because she’s like ‘listen to this shitty thing that happened to me and dance to it.’ She’s actually contemplating her life for a bit, but she doesn’t finish any thought and there’s no conclusion to it. Nothing,” Fornow said. “Country songs turn around. Sometimes the narrator will slowly reveal himself. Or it’s a sad song but it gets resolved. It’s never open. I like the sense of completeness.”

Fornow also enjoys the sense of completeness the form of country music takes.

“Country music makes statements and draws conclusions, even in its chord progression. Conclusions are important and something that we should practice.” There’s a ton of stuff that Fornow is ready to draw conclusions on. Whether it’s a song about lovers from Newfoundland torn apart by this fishing crisis or the problem she has with oil being drilled and used excessively in Canada, Fornow and her band are ready to make statements, and let’s be thankful someone is willing to.

“I’m pretty sure right now it’s the apocalypse,” laughed Fornow. “Am I the only one, or do you feel this way too?”

One Hundred Dollars play with The Weather Station tonight at The Artel.

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