Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People
Gig Seeker Pro

Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People

Brampton, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2004 | INDIE | AFM

Brampton, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2004
Band Alternative Avant-garde




"Dregs to Richs"

Creepy-cabaret conductor and proud Bramptonian Friendly Rich is on a mission to disturb the 'burbs


Halloween CD release for The Friendly Rich Show with Mike Hansen, Michael Keith. Sat, Oct 28, 8pm. Music Gallery, 197 John. $10, $7 for members/seniors or those in costume.

A quick perusal of Richard Marsella's CV might give you the impression that he's mild-mannered. There's little on-paper evidence to indicate that the composer and MA-holding music educator by day moonlights as a demented cabaret frontman. And the parents of Marsella's Peel Region students would probably be surprised to see him in his element -- flinging snot at the crowd while performing alongside a middle-aged modern dancer stripped down to his underwear. The Friendly Rich Show could probably slip past today's censors with a G rating, but it's kid-friendly the same way Shel Silverstein's ABZ's was -- only for the very precocious.

On the other hand, Marsella's professional experience isn't exactly run-of-the-mill. He leads Music Roots -- an alternative music program that teaches Grade 4 kids how to make their own instruments -- and he curates the annual Brampton Indie Arts Festival. His composition credits include The King Stanlislav Show, a Russian children's series (one can only imagine), and background music for the Tom Green Show, a name more familiar to North American audiences for better or for worse. "It allowed me to buy a house at a younger age than most -- most people I know that aren't pornographers, anyway," Marsella says of the gig.

Though Marsella has little in common with Green, they do share one similarity: both performers thrive on making audiences uncomfortable. While Green achieves this through wanton stupidity, however, Marsella's tactic is quite the opposite -- The Friendly Rich Show is carefully calculated to unsettle. "I do what I think would entertain me if I was an audience member," he says. "Having a guy yell into my crotch with a megaphone would probably entertain me, so...."

Marsella's show began as a live guise for his nine-member band, The Lollipop People, who play avant-vaudeville music on instruments from bassoon to banjo. Under the auspices of stage manager David Hannan (otherwise known as Soot, the mute clown), the show has become a twisted carnival sideshow including puppetry, crank calls, costumes and homemade multicoloured stage props.

Despite the flamboyant backdrop, Marsella steals the stage as emcee and vocalist. While the show's excess alone is enough to embarrass a bashful audience member, Marsella's emphatic stage directions -- drooling, cringing, twitching -- make a jaded spectator feel like a virgin at a Rocky Horror Picture Show staging. "I like playing shows with discomfort as a kind of emotion. People have left saying, 'I couldn't make eye contact with anybody during the show,' and that's a huge compliment."

Marsella isn't all shock value, however -- his music is expertly composed and borrows from a broad range of influences, from klezmer to Captain Beefheart. Surprisingly, Marsella's biggest supporter is his hometown -- the city of Brampton funds the Indie Arts Festival whatever the content ("We're having Istvan Kantor come this year, and I'm hoping he lights himself on fire"). For the Parade of Noises -- an annual public showcase for his students -- the city donates not only funds but a whole strip of its downtown core.

In return, Marsella has made it his goal to bring culture and creativity to the suburbs, or at least flush it out: "There are a lot of shut-in, creative people staying in their parents' basements and making odd art." His festival is part of a greater mandate to bring interesting acts to smaller communities. "A lot of [promoters] book from a menu of B-rate Canadian artists... I don't know if the people in these cities realize that what they're getting is not necessarily that different than the city next to them."

Thankfully, Marsella is willing to share his own work with the rest of the world. Germany's Hazelwood Records (King Khan, Saccharine Trust) will be releasing The Lollipop People's first studio album, We Need a New F-Word, overseas. The band's pre-Halloween performance will double as a release for their second album, The Friendly Rich Show, to be released domestically by the Pumpkin Pie Corporation -- Marsella's vehicle for his own musical endeavours. "There are a few in the audience who will actually get it," Marsella says. "But I enjoy it... so until I go bankrupt, I'll be funding this." - Eye Magazine

"Prostitutes and STDs: a concert one may want to walk out of"

Take a rock-concert-goer and put them in a room where, on the stage, there sits among the instruments a harp, a bassoon, a banjo, a harpsichord, an accordion, and a saw (yes, a saw). Your concert-goer is clearly now out of their element, not that this turned out, overall, to be such a bad thing.

The big fuss of this evening was the imminent performance by the Tiger Lilles, who apparently are making quite a stir in their native Britain, and had finally come across the pond for a one-night-only show. The crowd inside Innis Town Hall looked excited when I got there. As excited as a fairly small crowd could, anyway. But I wasn't worried. After all, the opening act hadn't even hit the stage yet.

Okay, that was a lie. I was worried. The entire reason I was at the show was to see the opening act, a local "experimental cabaret" group known as the Lollipop People, and the small crowd was disheartening. But the room was filling slowly, so by the time the ten assorted Lollipop People took their places on stage I felt better able to enjoy the show.

The set began with Friendly Rich, Lollipop frontman, playing a creepy, tinkling carnival tune on a wind-up music box. From here, the People launched into what Rich called a "suite", because the entire set was only 20 minutes long and the audience was expressly forbidden from clapping between songs. The People ran their set with enthusiasm and professionalism, playing tracks from their album "We Need a New F-Word" while some of the strangest claymation this reviewer has ever seen played in the background. All the songs were catchy and entertaining to listen to, even if none of what the Lollipop people played would have sounded out of place in the Moulin Rouge movie.

The highlight of this set was the "10 round" song about Torontonian boxer George Chuvalo. As well as being an interesting musical number, the song also featured the dance stylings of the one and only Naked Marvin, although he was, thankfully, only "98% naked". The set concluded with the band members picking up their instruments while continuing to play (except for the harpist), and walking out of the room a la Arcade Fire. A thoroughly captivating 20 minutes from a band I'd definitely seek out again.

The Tiger Lillies, however, I'm still not able to find much praise for. They are probably best described as "quirkily amusing", for the first five songs, anyway, after which point they slide into "vaguely unsettling" and "repetitious", and finally hit "just nod and smile, it'll be over soon". When the three Tiger Lillies came onstage, I was expecting to see evidence of a typical British sense of humour, and the bowler hats, rubber chicken stuck in the drum kit, and clownish painted face of the singer did not disappoint. Nor did the "nagging-Monty-Python-British-woman" falsetto the singer adopted through practically the entire show.

What was disappointing was the fact that, by the sixth song of the 19 song set, it became apparent that all of the Tiger Lillies songs were about a) a prostitute, b) a psychopathic killer, c) an STD, or d) some combination of the above. This was funny for the first three songs, then it was just creepy. The music of the Tiger Lillies would also have fit well into a cabaret, but that would be the sort of cabaret where you have to present three different pieces of I.D at the door.

Despite the song lyrics, there were a few good moments in this show. The drummer causing his drum kit to collapse because he was hitting it with a pair of giant plastic hammers was one. The bassist playing the saw was quite entertaining, particularly because it didn't sound like you would think a saw would sound. The use of a baby doll to illustrate a point about kicking small children down flights of stairs was another, the first time they did it. However, the best moment of the show was when one woman sitting in the front row got up and left. The band stopped playing and watched her as she headed out, and insulted her as she did so. From then on, any character in a song that either was the devil or died and went to Hades was honourarily titled 'the lady who walked out'.

As I was leaving the show that night (after it had finished, mind you), I overheard someone say how events like this were 'so cultured', with culture clearly being meant in the sense of high tea and caviar. Fair enough. I never liked caviar anyway. - The Strand

"Profile: Friendly Rich"

Richard Marsella (best known as Friendly Rich) is the hardest working artist in Brampton. Over the past ten years he has been a part of a handful of musical projects, from the group Studenyatz to his own Anal Assassins, and created the background soundtrack for the Tom Green Show. But it is in the past six years that Marsella has made his deepest mark. In the fall of 2000, he started a project called the Brampton Indie Arts Festival. It began as a few nights of focused programming (such as an Indian Arts night, Nihilist Spasm Band night and film night) and has since progressed into an eclectic mix of sights and sounds. The last two years have featured artists such as Ron Sexsmith, Hayden, Cuff the Duke, Scott Thompson of The Kids in the Hall, and the films of cut-and-paste animator Martha Colburn.

But the burgeoning winter festival is not the only thing Friendly has on the go. Through the school year, Marsella puts on the hat of teacher and goes into Brampton and Mississauga primary schools to show grade-4 students how to build and play their own wacky instruments. From a guitar made from a styrofoam cooler and guitar strings to a handmade mini record player, students get to show off their instruments at the end of the year in a recital that takes the form of a parade. Every year the parade gets more elaborate, and last year Marsella incorporated an orchestra of professional musicians to accompany the students starring Montreal turntablist Kid Koala.

In addition to these oddball (and time consuming) projects, Marsella is first and foremost Friendly Rich, the band leader of the group The Lollipop People. Culling together a nine-piece orchestra of musicians including a bassoonist, an accordionist, a harpist and a banjo player, the music that results sounds something like Captain Beefheart fronting a Klezmer band. They have just completed their first album, "We Need a New F-Word," which is due for release this summer. - Broken Pencil Magazine

"Good Ship Lollipop"

I finally saw the Lollipop People yesterday. Newt's been telling me about them for a year. They were my Snuffleupagus. It was well worth the wait. Turns out the lead singer is this guy, from my music classes. He's rather unassuming, friendly, on the quieter side. But man, when Friendly Rich performs he is transformed! He writhes, yells, takes his pants off, and conducts a wild orchestra! It was awesome...a glorious aural chaos that's logical in the way only music can be. His voice reminds me of Tom Waits, which already, is a-okay by me. But when the band gets going, it's a crazy music box!

The Cameron House was a great venue for it, I'd say, with its overhanging bower of plastic foliage and velvet drapes. I spent some time watching the band through this sectioned mirror. Somehow, the music made even more sense.

At one point, this song (don't remember the title) sounded like scenes from a cardboard cutout fairy tale, with coloured Christmas lights punched through the background for stars, and a face-painted little girl as the heroine.

So good. Watching Rich reminded me of the cathartic abandon only ever possible when performing in a dimmed room with a rapt audience. At times I wonder about the link between exhibitionism and performance. -


1996 - Friendly Rich and the Anal Assassins
1998 - Diarrhea of a Lawnmower
2000 - Brampton
2002 - Magnified Lyle [book/CD]
2005 - The Lollipop People Live at the Cameron
2006 - The Lollipop People in We Need a New F-Word
2006 - The Friendly Rich Show
2007 - Goodbye Blue Monday (Summer Release)



Friendly Rich is a composer from Brampton, Ontario. Mr. Rich has composed background music for 3 seasons of MTV's The Tom Green Show. Since 1994, he has recorded exclusively for his own eclectic record label, The Pumpkin Pie Corporation, with retail distribution across Canada by Sonic Unyon Distribution. He recently graduated from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music with a focus in classical guitar and music education. Rich just finished a Masters degree in music at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lee Bartel and composer R. Murray Schafer. His main areas of study include musical instrument construction and parade pedagogy.

Friendly Rich has produced and composed 10 full-length CDs to date, having been featured on CBC Radio One (3 documentaries for Outfront), CBC Radio Two (continuous airplay on Brave New Waves and RadioSonic), TFO (VOLT) and Muchmusic (Muchnews, BradTV).

Friendly Rich is also the founder and director of the Brampton Indie Arts Festival, an annual event which promotes underground artists, held in February at the Heritage Theatre in downtown Brampton. Since 2000, this event has attracted such notable artists as Nash the Slash, The Nihilist Spasm Band, Ron Sexsmith, Cuff the Duke, Bob Wiseman, John Oswald, Scott Thompson, Hayden, Lee Demarbre and many more...

Friendly Rich just finished a new studio recording entitled "The Great Blue Heron", which will be released in the Summer 2017. The album features Kevin Breit and Hawksley Workman.  Rich will be touring Germany in the Fall of 2017 to promote this new recording.