Cole Smith (left) and Will Friesen became fast friends through the jazz program at Capilano University. (Submitted photo)

Cole Smith (left) and Will Friesen became fast friends through the jazz program at Capilano University. (Submitted photo)

Okanagan duo emerges from COVID lockdown with debut hip-hop EP

Will Friesen and Cole Smith put their musical education to work on this high energy EP

Will Friesen, also known as Tallboyeti, recently released his debut hip-hop EP, Appearance. The EP is a 17 minute listen, jam-packed with witty lyricism and dynamic beats produced by Cole Smith.

Friesen is from Vernon and Smith is from Peachland originally, but the two first met in the jazz program at Capilano University in September 2015. Friesen and Smith became fast friends — it wasn’t long before they were jamming out together for class projects, and hanging out outside of class.

“During school, there were a lot of projects where we were in bands together,” Smith said. “Some of the time we’d be rehearsing for a school project, then we’d stray off course and jam some other random stuff.”

While they were in school, Friesen introduced Smith to hip hop. Although he has primarily worked on jazz and electronic music, Smith began producing hip hop instrumentals using the digital audio workstation, Ableton.

READ MORE: Kelowna hip-hop artist makes waves on the West Coast

After they graduated, it was time for the two of them to create something of their own.

“For this project, it came together because I had been writing my own music for a while — making some but never focusing on it,” Friesen said. “This year Cole gave me the kick in the pants to make something out of it. It was really great to work on over the summer and stay focused on something that wasn’t quarantine.”

Some of the tracks on Appearance deal directly with the feelings of being in the COVID-19 lockdown. In the song “Ennui”, Friesen writes about the feelings of being stuck inside his house while finishing his UBC teaching degree online. Others like “Sommelier” and “Volition” are designed to showcase Friesen’s lyrical prowess.

Smith said that the feedback to Appearance has been overwhelmingly positive.

“A lot of people that I don’t talk to all the time have reached out to congratulate us,” Smith said. “It’s really cool to know that the project made an impact on people that I’ve lost touch with. There’s been tons of great feedback from friends and family.”

Both Friesen and Smith have returned to the Okanagan and now live in Kelowna. When Friesen isn’t behind the mic as Tallboyeti, he teaches music at Kelowna Christian School. Now that Friesen finds him on the other side of the sheet music, he said teaching students is a surreal experience.

READ MORE: My Kelowna: Filmmaker captures underground arts and culture scene

His first year teaching music has taken place in the COVID-19 environment.

“I’ve got a band with three different grades in it where I’ve got everyone separated by grade in different parts of the room. It’s definitely not your average year, but we’re making the best of it,” Friesen said.

If the students are lucky, they may get to hear some rhymes from Mr. Tallboyeti at the end of class.

“It’s a carrot I can wave in front of some of the classes. If they’re quiet for a little bit then I’ll rap for them at the end of class,” he said.

“I have been getting them rapping a little bit, and talking about how we can express ourselves with spoken word as well,” he said.

Friesen said he’ll continue expressing himself through spoken word inside and outside of the classroom. He hinted that he’ll be creating future projects with Smith, and Smith is ready with beats for the next project.

Appearance is available on all streaming platforms, and on YouTube.