Frenzal Rhomb interview by Peter Blythe. The Drum Media. Issue #302
It's quick, it's snappy, it's sharp, it's... mm... it's 1996. Jason, vocalist with local punk rockers Frenzal Rhomb, describes the band's new album, "Not So Tough Now," in his best advertising voice. "We wrote most of the songs really quickly, just before we recorded them, because we'd been really lazy the year before. We hadn't written any new tracks, so we decided we should write some quickly, and we did."
"How lazy Frenzal Rhomb has been over the last year could be debated; however, considering the fact that their debut album, Coughing Up A Storm, came out only last year, they're obviously not too concerned with the nice two- to three-year gap that numerous bands aim for. 'I think it's normal for bands who can afford to do that or have that liberty with their audience, but with this kind of music, ideally, it'd be great to put out a new album every 10 months or so, but we're probably too lazy for that,' Jason says. But the band did take the liberty of recording the album in two week-long blocks—somewhat of a luxury, some may argue. 'Well, you know, we are the kings,' Jason argues. 'We'll do it in our own time, in our own special way,' Lex, the band's bass player, agrees. In their own way indeed, as while Jason, Lex, and guitarist Lindsay chat about the album, Jason discovers a bottle of Jacob's Creek white wine in the bar fridge of Shock Records. What follows is a 20-minute struggle to open the bottle with a Texta and a hard implement used as a hammer. 'We'd really like to talk about the perks of being signed, recoupable costs, that kind of thing. And especially the lack of free lunches provided,' Lex laughs."
"FRINGE benefits, or the lack thereof, aside, one of the features of "Not So Tough Now" is that it actually has 53 tracks — 34 of which are of the 'silent track' variety (clocking in at around two and a half minutes in total) that has become the norm with every record released over the last year.
"We do like the secret tracks. We're big fans of the secret track," Jason admits. "You should put your CD player on shuffle, it becomes much more interesting. The masterer said to us that there was some idiotic band that put a new idea every four seconds, and we thought, 'ding! That's a freaking great idea,'" Lex says. "Actually, our next album won't have any individual tracks. It will consist of a single track for the whole album, with multiple four-second segments."
"Of course, an ever-present feature of Frenzal's music is the lyrics, with topics as diverse as environmental devastation and human excrement. And the single, 'Parasite,' is obviously about the scores of fans that inevitably crowd the band after each gig, or so I thought.
"It's actually about you, Peter. Specifically about you and people like you," Jason laughs. "No, you're right, it's about groupies. Because in Frenzal Rhomb, we get so many groupies that we just have to sift through them. No, really, it's about people who are more inclined to speak to you because you're in a band."
"But while Frenzal may not be big fans of sycophants or rock journalists, the same can't be said about the wonderful concept of the game show. Indeed, adoration is a word that wouldn't be too out of order, with 'The New Price Is Right' and 'Wheel Of Fortune' obviously high on the band's viewing priorities.
"Larry Emdur? Yeah, he's the king. He's not real though, he's not actually a guy, he's a robot," Jason says in reference to the aforementioned host who features on 'Punch In The Face.' "Actually, some distressing news. I heard recently that John Burgess is no longer going to be hosting 'Wheel Of Fortune,' and Tony Barber is going to be taking over. And Tony Barber's nothing compared to baby John Burgess," Lex adds.
"Exactly. Because Burgo's got all those sexist double entendres that he uses on Adrianna all the time, like 'nice dress, Adri' and the time when he said, 'you're looking a bit school-marmish today, Adrianna'," Jason says.
"Another feature of the album is the cover art depicting a devastated McDonald's restaurant in America, which Lex found in a book of natural disasters. "It's probably the only reference to the fact that America exists on the album," Lex says. "We're all for the proliferation of Australian culture as much as possible, rather than focusing on the intimidating American stuff."
"Indeed, while many local bands feel it necessary to sound like their US counterparts, Frenzal Rhomb is proud to have an Australian sound. "Too many bands sing in silly American accents. I just think, if you're going to sing in an American accent, why bother? Why not sing in an Australian accent?" Jason says. "Especially when they sound half American, half Australian."
"Jason has always insisted, since we started singing together in this band, that I should abandon my English roots and sing in the broadest Australian accent possible. We're not ashamed of it," Lex adds.
"The idea of doing your own thing, being your own band, and existing as your own entity is important. You can't just start dressing like everyone else and be part of it just because everyone thinks alike and you've finally found your own gang. There has to be more to it," Lex explains.
"So, you haven't exactly jumped on the punk bandwagon?"
"Certainly not," Lex agrees. "We've been accused a few times of jumping on the bandwagon, which I thought was completely unfair. We have been around for four years, and the only thing that's changed is that our music has become marginally faster, but that's our musical choice."
"Of course, we'll be ready to jump on the next bandwagon when it comes along," he laughs.
Despite a few critics who view Frenzal's sound as somewhat abrasive, that's clearly not the opinion of those in influential positions. The band is scheduled to sign a deal with the highly influential Epitaph Records in America, home to the likes of the Offspring. This deal will ensure the distribution of "Not So Tough Now" throughout the US. And true to Frenzal's style, it won't be a half-hearted attempt at spreading their 'Australianess'.
"Well, we're about to conquer the world very soon," Lex says confidently. "In about 30 minutes," Lindsay assures me. "Yep, then it's game over for everyone else. Armageddon Frenzal Rhomb style," Lex adds.
However, if the inevitable domination of the world's music industry doesn't materialize, Frenzal is already plotting their next career move - politics. "After the last election, we were thinking we could start a political party. The combined record sales of a few bands, with the 'chair involved, and the under-age market that will turn 18 by the next election, would probably be around 20,000. That should be enough for one member," Jason calculates.
"It would be interesting. We should test democracy and see how it works," Lex agrees.
Frenzal Rhomb will be performing at the Metro on Saturday, August 3. "Not So Tough Now" is available now through Shock.