Six Questions for ... Frodus
Frodus almost certainly wins the award for Most Accidental Reunion. The D.C. post-hardcore/screamo/spazzcore band was one the city's most fiery, unforgettable live acts during the '90s -- and that's saying something -- but had been dormant for nearly a decade after calling it quits in 1999. That was until one night last fall at the Swedish Embassy, of all places. The band members were there for a show by their friends, Swedish rock band Division of Laura Lee. Divsion was having technical difficulties. All of its equipment was feeding back, and they briefly gave up on their performance and left the stage. So the Frodus dudes took their place, played a song, and a reunion was born.
From there the rambunctious, ultra-political group played an official comeback show at Murky Coffee in Arlington, a few shows in Austin during SXSW and a handful other gigs. They also took time to record two new songs, plus a remake of their seminal "The Feelgood Song of the Year," this time with some children singers assisting them during the chorus. (No details yet on the release plans for the 7".) The band makes its way back to the Black Cat on Saturday for its first proper D.C. show in a decade. Expect screaming, sweating, pandemonium and just general chaos. I got screamer/guitarist Shelby Cinca on the phone as the band was mixing its new single and talked about the reunion, the band's credo and differences between Frodus crowds in 1999 and 2009.
What was the impetus for getting back together?
We had no plans to get back together. And we were all at the Swedish Embassy. And we sort of just took over the stage when Division of Laura Lee was having a tough time and left the stage when all their stuff was feeding back. And we were like, huh, that was kind of fun. Spontaneous. And then this label Gilead Media re-released "Conglomerate International" on vinyl. That's the one about corporate corruption and it had lots of societal criticism in it. And that came out around the time the banks were crashing.
So I thought, if there's a perfect time for Frodus to do anything, it's now, with the banks crashing and the record being relevant again and basically the frustration of writing these songs in the '90s. We were 21, 22? It was so long ago. And nothing's really changed as far as the "adults" that are in power, who run corporations. So that definitely fueled it. It was like, OK, we're still [angry], we're not just going to scream because we're getting back together and we're a bunch of dudes getting back together to rock out like old times. It's more like, wow, this is screwed up and these things fell into place. We're feeling that we should do some shows and play behind the record again.
(Rest of the interview after the jump.)
There are a lot of messages in your songs. The presentation can sometimes be tongue in cheek, but there's clearly a serious side to it. Is there a defining credo for the band?
We've kind of always been the Devo of hardcore. We even did a Devo cover back in the '90s. We did the song "Explosions," which meant a lot to us because the lyrics in that song -- "We like ideas that change the world for good" -- are more aspirational. Despite that part about the potatoes. (Laughs.) The spud gun. We've always had a credo of criticize the world around you and just look at what's happening. Be aware. If anything, that's what a lot of our songs are about. The human condition and just being aware. This is screwed up. This is why we're screaming behind it. Because it's screwed up. It's kind of like that movie "Network" -- "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it!"
During the first go-round you were part of a very underground and tight-knit community. What are some of the things you've noticed that are different, for better or worse, this time around.
It's just different. Younger kids, people who are in their early 20s, take music and culture in at a different speed. And at a different level than maybe we did in the past. The odd thing with Frodus, for whatever it's worth, is that when we were trying to experiment more we kind of felt misunderstood because it was very cliquey. Scenes are always cliquey, but we were stuck between being too weird for hardcore and too screamy for indie rock. In some ways it's better because we get these kids who have never seen us before who always wanted to see us. And in some ways it's just weird because the labels that were indie labels when we were around in the '90s are virtually major labels now. Like Victory and Equal Vision Records, these hardcore labels, they just market the hell out of everything and make things [expletive].
The first show back around here was at Murky, a tiny, tiny coffeehouse, so you were right in everyone's face when you were playing. Is that your preferred way to do things?
Oh, definitely. We had this song covered by this big MTV band last year, Thrice. And some people are like, wow, you had this song covered by this band, you should try to really get out there and play bigger shows. But that was never interesting to me. The most important thing to Frodus was the Swedish Embassy-style thing where it just happens. Playing at a DIY space for our first show just made the most sense as far as what we really are about as a band and as people and what's important to us. You know, growing up in D.C., being influenced by Dischord, kind of getting our heads screwed on straight early on. It made complete sense. I actually wish we were playing the backstage of the Black Cat because it would be lower and closer to the crowd.
A lot of the shows since we've been playing again have been a lot more participatory. People singing along, which never happened before. We even have a guy in the crowd with a mic who is like the karaoke leader. So we try to make it more about the songs and the ideas than about us as dudes playing music again because it's cool. It's about the ideas of Frodus and the songs of Frodus than the people of Frodus. More about everyone than it is about the musicians.
It's not like you're the only band this ever happened to but it seemed like once you broke up, all of a sudden everyone really, really missed Frodus. Is that frustrating, especially when you were trying to move onto something new?
It is strange. I tried to do different things, with the Cassettes and my electronic stuff. I couldn't really escape from Frodus stuff when I played guitar and sang. I came to terms with it. It's the thing that I did that resonated with people. Al from the band Milemarker said, when you don't scream it's like a painter that's doing drawings. And I was like, I guess you're right. The singing stuff's cool and it's really record nerdy, the stuff I do with the Cassettes, with references to '70s records and old prog records. It's like the sketches, the pencil drawings. And for whatever reason screaming and playing guitar is the paintings.
You've obviously played in bands since then, but is it weird looking out at an audience in 2009 compared to a decade or so ago. I imagine you look out now and it's just a bunch of people texting or taking pictures.
The Murky show not as much because people were singing along. Same with Baltimore. But some of the other shows ... at the Philly show I asked, how many people have seen us before? And like three people raised their hands. So it was all new kids and they were just kind of standing there and we ended up playing on the floor like in the '90s to try and bring the show to them. The texting and Twittering and taking of photos at shows is definitely weird. I wonder are people really there in the moment with us? Or is it just about this old band being back and wanting to get a crazy photo to put on my Facebook page? And it's hard to tell.
The irony is that the Brooklyn show, I didn't feel like we played as well as the other shows, and the sound was bad. But the pictures look insane and Brooklyn Vegan wrote about it. So as far as history and reality for some people, that show was totally insane. But for me it wasn't as insane as the other shows. So it's just a weird state of culture we're living in. I think it'd be good to not see everything through lenses and just be in the moment. But at the same time, for newer people who haven't seen us, it might take some time to realize we're encouraging that barrier to be gone.
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