The floods that days ago engulfed most of downtown Fredericton have just receded. It is unusually cold and gloomy for late April, but downtown’s Shiftwork Studio is warmly lit and in full colour. I arrive just as the first two bands playing Flourish Fest’s opening set are sound checking, and chat briefly with festival founder Jane Blanchard, who hands me my festival pass, a hand-printed geometric piece made by Jane and her co-founder and collaborator Stefan Westner in the very studio this first show takes place in.

I have lived in Fredericton for nearly six years, just a year longer than Flourish has been running. Having arrived as a grad student with no intention to stay in the Maritimes after my first, two-year program, I spent the first-ever Flourish at home or at the library, buried in books. It was not until I became more involved and invested in Fredericton’s small but impressive queer and arts communities that I became aware of Flourish, and I have made a point to come to a few shows and its annual zine & craft fairs ever since. The festival and the artists it features each year make Fredericton feel shimmering and vital each spring.

Waiting in a corner of Shiftwork studio for the show to begin, I watch members of Frooti-Toot-E zip through the room on wheelie shoes post-soundcheck, and am excited for what this year will bring.

“Who wants to get cozy and come closer to us?” asks the singer of indie rock outfit Terminal, the first band to play. “Or maybe have a dance off?” Dressed in monochromatic baby pink, Cameron Corey leads their band through bouncy riffs, with vocals ranging from  Bowie-esque pop tones to cartoon-villain-worthy cackles.

Introduced by the festival program as “fashion icons from the future,” Frooti Toot-E takes the studio stage next. Recently profiled by nybc, the experimental trio is dressed according to the colours of their band personas: Banana, in a yellow polo dress and rubber duck-print bucket hat, Peach, in pink faux fur and fuzzy antennae, and Tomato, in an oversized red t-shirt that reads “#1 Dad.”

Frooti Toot-E’s first song chronicles Tomato’s existential woes (“I’m a fruit, not a veggie,” she sings). After an initial ballad section, the song shifts into a poppy rap sequence as each member of the band introduces herself in character. The back-beats swell in tempo and build up to a high-energy battle, each band member performing riotous choreography with cartoon plastic swords.

The audience cheers and laughs as Frooti-TootE charm us through their songs with unabashed, artful silliness. Though their song lyrics are largely a series of jokes and puns–excellent puns!– on fruit names, the band cover topics ranging from lost love to self-affirmation with a sense of humour that feels both genuine and infectious.

While I am sad to have to leave the opening show early for another, non-Flourish event, I leave joyful and laughing, still buzzed with the energy of the studio.

Contribution by Rebecca Salazar (she/her)

Rebecca Salazar is the author of the knife you need to justify the wound (Rahila’s Ghost) and Guzzle (Anstruther Press). Recent publications include poetry and non-fiction in Briarpatch, Minola Review, and The Puritan. Rebecca is currently a poetry editor for The Fiddlehead and Plenitude magazines, and a PhD candidate at UNB.


As part of the media coverage for FLOURISH (April 25-28), not your boys club will be having conversations with some of the folks that will be organizing, creating, and performing at the festival.

For the fifth instalment of this series, I spoke with Rachel / Tomato (she/her), Claire / Banana (she/her), and Lauren / Peach (she/her) from Frooti Toot-E (NB) – a project that started out as just a joke on instagram between these high school pals.

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Photo by David Cheng

I *loved* the article that The Aquinian recently published that centers all ages programming at FLOURISH and interviews the youth that have been booked to perform or install art at the festival (Flatt, 2019). In this article, you were quoted saying that Frooti Toot-E started as a joke on instagram – could you let me, and the readers, in on this joke and the formation of the band?

Tomato: Well basically Peach and I took the course “Sound and Recording” this year at school. We got to make music using Logic Pro – basically a fancy expensive version of GarageBand. We found it really fun to make funny music and the joke kind of started with “oh my god, imagine if we started a band and it was just weird, funny music! imagine if we PERFORMED!”. We just thought it was funny until one day we said, “wait.. like.. we could easily do that, we just have to make an instagram and soundcloud. It’s grad year – why not!” and the band kind of took off from there.

You were also quoted saying that you had never intended to play a show, but then it “became something real”. How did this happen? Does Fredericton often embrace and centre youth in the music and arts community?

Tomato: No, we honestly never thought it’d be possible to perform live since most of our music is just us singing over a backing track we made ourselves, but our music teacher (shout-out to Mr. Webber!!) really encouraged us and gave us a way for this to happen which was incredible. Performing live has been super fun and I honestly am super grateful to Mr. Webber for helping us start that.

And yeah! I think Fredericton definitely has places where they encourage youth to be creative with music and other forms of art – the Charlotte Street Arts Center has been an awesome place for us personally and i know they do a lot of events to encourage youth to be creative. I think that’s awesome.

What can folks at FLOURISH fest expect from your set at shiftwork on Thursday, April 25th?

Banana: Well.. definitely something they probably haven’t seen before. Our sets are pretty unique but definitely playful and fun – the whole set has sort of a storyline to it which we think is cool. We hope people will like it!

I’ve seen and heard many folks (Jane Blanchard, Motherhood, The Aquinian) refer to Frooti Toot-E as fashion icons. Can you tell me about your aesthetic and why this is a critical part of your performance?

Peach: haha! The day jane said that about us we all freaked out !! Motherhood thinks we’re FASHION ICONS?!?

But yeah, fashion and style is something we really like to incorporate into our performances. Because we are all fruit, we make sure to dress in our fruit colours, so i’m dressed all in pink, Rachel (tomato) in red, and Claire (banana) in yellow.

We just like to have fun with our outfits and be as creative as possible when deciding what to wear to our shows. We’ve worn skirts from value village as shirts and full pastel wigs before – it changes every time!

What are some ways that you feel Frooti Toot-E is paving the way for other youth to take up space in music and arts communities? Do you have any advice for creative youth?

Tomato: I think because we’re so different from i guess “normal” or your typical form of music, it might encourage people and show them that they can make whatever they want. Although not everyone will like it (you can’t please everyone), there’s always going to be people who enjoy it .

This sound cheesy, but as long as you’re creating and having fun, that’s all that matters.

Banana: Yeah I agree. For advice, I’d say just be brave and try your hardest to create for yourself and not to please other people – it’s YOUR art, not theirs. Being creative is fun!

See Frooti Toot-E live on April 25th at FLOURISH Festival!

Contribution by Nikki A Basset