|ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS THE FRONTIER BROTHERS
SPACE PUNK STARDOMFor those of you who are not in the know, THE FRONTIER BROTHERS have a yarn they like to spin about themselves. They say that they come from outer space and that they are on a mission to change the face of rock music as we know it. This messianic mission statement might get a few laughs or it might get them laid , but THE FRONTIER BROTHERS are definitely not of this world. The pop world, that is. In an indie music stratosphere filled with prescribed anger, misplaced aggression, and facelessness - all done with a sexy pout - , THE FRONTIER BROTHERS are mesmerizing live audiences with their primal beats, electronic CASIO symphonics and punk styled war whoops. All of these aspects are on full display on the bands first ever LP 'SPACE PUNK STARLET'. After years of releasing excellent albeit brief EPs (2007's SOLAR POWER STRUGGLE was a revelation!), the band has clearly revelled in their studio time and have released a superior effort in the vein of an early - less anoying - FLAMING LIPS. Personally, I hope THE FRONTIER BROTHERS don't fall into celebrity and pretentiousness as WAYNE COYNE has. I hope they are more concerned about giving listeners that link between the spirit of the garage band and the future.
BRETT MOSES AND MARSHALL GALACTIC
OF THE FRONTIER BROTHERS
TALK TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THEIR DEBUT LP 'SPACE PUNK STARLET'
LIFE ON THE ROAD
AND BRINGING LIGHT INTO A CYNICAL ALTERNATIVE MARKET
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with MARSHALL GALACTIC and keyboardist BRET MOSES. Here is how it went.
THE FRONTIER BROTHERS have released their first LP after having released a series of EP's. How does it feel to finally have one released.
BRETT: I think the reason we were releasing EPs was that we wanted wait until our artistic vision had come to a certain point and we wanted to wait until it was worthwhile for us to make a definitive statement. I know that MARSHALL is going to laugh at me, but I think of an EP is sort of like a coma and the album is sort of like period.
MARSHALL: That was actually pretty good! I think this is your interview. Do you need me on here?
If you want to stay, you can.
MARSHALL: I'm just gonna stand by and listen but I think this is BRETT's interview so I'll just leave it to him.
I've noticed that half of the album is compromised of material that was on SOLAR POWER STRUGGLE. Is the other half new material?
BRETT: You're just about right there. Five of the songs are re-recorded from ELECTRONIC PROGRESS and SOLAR POWER STRUGGLE and the rest of the material is brand new material. This is the first time that we've ever cut to record in a proper studio with proper studio time. Our prior releases were recorded in like three or four days at a project studio. For SPACE PUNK STARLET we got in touch with WIRE RECORDING in Austin Texas. It's a top-notch facility. We got to spend two and half weeks cutting tracks. With all of this at our disposal we wanted to go back to the songs that we felt were the strongest from the previous EPs and give them the treatment that they deserved.
MARSHALL: This new album is a combination where we are now and where we've been. It's the perfect summation of who we are. What we had done in the past was like a demonstration of what we would like to do.
BRETT: I hope that this is just the beginning. I want an album that going to kicks SPACE PUNK STARLET's ass in a year or so.
I'm looking at a photo of the band and I'm just trying to get who is who. BRETT, you're the short one right?
BRETT: Yeah, I'm the tiny keyboard player with the afro. MARSHALL is the ugly one.
And the tall gorgeous one (drummer, TRAVIS NEWMAN) - Where is he?
BRETT: He's out making out making love to beautiful earth women.
BRETT: It's sad because MARSHALL and I stand up front on the stage and TRAVIS is in the back and he gets all the girls.
MARSHALL: That's not true, I got most of the girls on this tour. It's all about your attitude. It doesn't matter how you look. Some of the ugliest motherfuckers in the world have been rockstars.
I Know. KEITH RICHARDS is still alive and getting some.
MARSHALL: And look at that guy. He's a fucking skeleton and I'm sure he still gets laid a lot.
I'm sure. Otherwise he would have given it up a long time ago.
MARSHALL: He's probably getting the thirty year olds. It can't be the twenties.
BRETT: Is it the girls that you're talking about?
I'd probably have to say forties. He's sixty five now.
BRETT: There are still some hot 36 and 40 year old women out there for him.
So what's the age bracket for you guys as far as girls go?
BRETT: We were dealing with some 31 year olds in Tulsa a couple of days ago. MARSHALL and I are the young ones in the band so thats a plus for us.
MARSHALL: I ussually carry around a little black light ID swiper and make sure that the ID says eighteen. Once its verified then we can go through with it.
How have the live shows been going?
BRETT: I love our album. I'm very proud of our album but there is nothing that makes me happier than playing a show. The live show is our strong suit. This past tour has been the first time that we've hit our stride. We've done the East Coast before and we're just about to go into te West Coast. We've played alot of shows especially in Texas. With this tour, it's like everyting has fallen into place and I feel like we've really found our audience and that was what we set out to do.
MARSHALL: We did all of our own sound on this tour. Instead of going to these vacant clubs, we've kind of been doing half of our shows in clubs and the other half at college house parties, so it's a real grass roots effort. Before this tour BRETT and I went out a bought this fantastic sound system. We running our own sound on this tour and its great.
BRETT: We listened to a ridiculous amount of NPR while we were on tour. We didn't really listen to as much music on the road as you might think. We've really been following politics a lot. I think the way that we're running the band and the way we're trying to grow through grass roots efforts is a lot like a presidential campaign. It's so much more effective for MARSHALL, TRAVIS or me to sit down with somebody and play the album in front of them. If we can do that and connect with them personally, then we have a band that's going to be around much longer than if we just relied on the big club shows alone.
What songs have the audiences gravitated towards more than others?
MARSHALL: No matter what you put out in front of the audience, you'll always be able to give them something they like. Obviously JUMP BLUES is one that always gets the biggest response. BRETT and I always refer to it as the "easy rocker" which is something that we've picked up frm that WILCO documentary. I think alot of the songs really come to life on stage and audiences have related very well to some of our harder edged punk howling and a little bit more to our dynamic musicianship.
BRETT: Strangely enough, I've found that the weakest songs on the album are some of the strongest songs live and vice versa.
Give me an example.
BRETT: I think the track GET UP GO is good on the album but I think it kind of lacks the edge that we can accomplish when we're playing live. Maybe the same thing goes for JUMP BLUES on the album. In a way I think that was the one song that might have been more successful on our previous EP than it was on the album. On the other hand some of the songs that I'm most proud of on the album like -
MARSHALL: A song like STARRY GLOBES & STEREOS is always perfect live.
BRETT: SPACE PUNK STARLET is a perfect exampe of a song that carries the album and it's good live but you end up losing some of the sophistication when we play it live. Live, we're playing as a trio and on the album we have trumpets, french horns, trombones, violins, and bass.
MARSHALL: Listen BRIAN and BRETT, I've gotta go. A long time friend just arrived. It was a pleaseure talking to you again.
MARSHALL: Give me a call anytime you wanna talk. Later.
Since the band started from the first moment that you played in that high school auditorium and played T.E.S.S. in front of everybody,what's been the biggest surprise for you? What didn't you expect?
BRETT: When we played the high school auditorium, I didn't imagine that THE FRONTIER BROTHERS would become the sort of serious long term project and career that it has become. I think we always wanted to be weird and because we're weird guys but I wasn't sure that people were going to get it or not. We're not INTERPOL. We're not making this sort of cynical breed of indie-rock that I think is really common right now. I feel people have responded to us and I feel that people are willing to open their minds and accept it. That has been the biggest surprise for me.
You guys talked about going into this state-of-the-art studio to cut this album. Who all did you work with in getting this record done?
BRETT: Our producer was STUART SULLIVAN and he has a studio called WIRE RECORDING in Austin. He is absolutely phenomenal. He is a GRAMMY-winning producer and he did the engineering for SUBLIME. It was a little intimidating because he's achieved so much more success than we have in pretty much every measure that you can imagine. We were nervous when we got into the studio and he made the environment such that all that we focused on was the music. We didn't have to think about how we were going to technically achieve this. If we dreamed it, we could do it and that was precisely the reason we wanted to go back and re-record TAKE IT FOR LOVE and JUMP BLUES and some of those tracks. Suddenly, the process was streamlined and it was all about the creative process and we let the pros take care of the technical aspects. I think we had the best time of our lives recording this album.
It sounds like it. I think of your music as being very visual music. Have you guys put much thought into doing a music video or anything like that?
BRETT: Actually, on the 26th and 27th of this month, we're going to be involved in a double music video shoot. We found a director who has done a lot of very incredible things. He's a really young guy. We're going to shoot JUMP BLUES and SPACE PUNK STARLET. The JUMP BLUES concept is going to be simple and straight forward in the vein of that video with the treadmills for OK GO. I hope it'll be something that will really take off on the internet and really help us spread ou music virally. The video for SPACE PUNK STARLET will be a lot more ambitious. It's an ambitious song. It's a rock opera and it has a full storyline that plays throughout the song and we're going to try to capture that on video. We're going to implement a lot visiuals on that one. We have an armageddon scene, we'll have the SPACE PUNK STARLET herself and lasers coming out of guitars and shit like that. I 'm sort of embarassed that we don't have a music video yet because I agree that we think in terms of visuals and narrative. I'm really excited to see how it finally turns out in terms of images.
You touched on this a little earlier when you brought up a band like INTERPOL. I'd like to get your opinion on the state of "alternative" music. What's your spin on it?
BRETT: Like I said before, I think there is a lot of cynicism in the world of music today and everyone sort of walks around with this grin on their face and this self-awareness in regard to how they are going to achieve success and become rock stars. I don't think that is the way to achieve success. I think that you have to sort of stay the course and make the music that reflects your beliefs. We listen to a lot of new stuff. We really like the new MY MORNING JACKET album so I think that there is a lot of music that is inspired, but there is a lot of it that is cynical and unoriginal.
With that being said, what would you like a person to come away with after they've heard SPACE PUNK STARLET?
BRETT: I think that in all of our music there are two competing emotions. There is a real sense of optimism and excitement for the future and I think that comes through on parts of the album. On the other hand I think that there are other moments on the album that are very sad and sort of introspective and I think is what we want to accomplish with the album. The album is a narrative and it functions almost like a poem. MARSHALL has compared it to an Italian sonnet and it has this sort of movement to it. I want our listeners to feel the emotions that we were feeling when we were writing the songs. I want them to follow the same sort of rollercoaster that we did.
It's more about achieving some sort of simpatico then?
Talk about MARSHALL and talk about TRAVIS. What's it like working with them?
BRETT: TRAVIS is the brains behind the operation. He's a hard worker and he's gone above and beyond any of our expectations in learning the ins and outs of the music business and learning how to make us work. We don't have a booking agent. We book ourselves and he does a vast majority of that work. Before he joined the band, he was a bassist and his drumming was non-existant. He is so disciplined and so focused that he's turned into a phenomenal drummer in a very short time. MARSHALL is our poet and he sort sets the tone. MARSHALL and I do the songwritng and bounce ideas off of each other. The songs always contain these crystal fragments of MARSHALL's mind which I imagine is a very bizare place. MARSHALL and TRAVIS are brothers and when the band was getting started, I think I had a little bit of anxiety about that. They've spent their whole live together and can read each others thoughts. I didn't quite know if we could synergize as a group at first but, I've been impressed. We get along phenomenally. The band really functions as a democracy.
Is it always easy to maintain that democracy?
BRETT: I think that I definitely have ego problems and that what the song EGO PROTECTION is about. It's about how easy it is to run away with yourself and your own celebrity. TRAVIS and I work together on a lot of the business side of the band and the business side of it is a difficult. It's not like the creative side where we're all on the same page. Conflicts may arise, but we're always able to work it out.
Talk about your background. What put you in this position?
BRETT: I started playing piano for no particular reason when I was about 3 years. I'm self taught. Five or six years ago, I was working for a cigar bar playing weekend gigs and I realized that there's nothing else that makes sense to me to be doing. There was no reason to work my ass off at a desk job when I could be touring the country and performing. It's something that I came into slowly and it's something that required a certain amount of maturity before I realized that I was capable of doing this. Since the band has been going I've really developed myself and improved my capabilities as a keyboardist. I'm also the best piano dancer in the world.
A piano dancer?
BRETT: You've never seen us play before?
BRETT: I would really love for you to come to a show.
I'd really love to see you guys. It's sounds like it would be a lot of fun.
BRETT: Back to the piano dancer thing - I dance when I play the piano. I think of it as a subcategory of musicianship where I can really be the best.
What sets THE FRONTIER BROTHERS apart from the rest of the lot.
BRETT: When we perform I notice that we inspire people in a way that is different from a lot of other bands. There is an honesty to the way we perform. When I play there is a genuine smile on my face and it's not self-congratulatory. It's the pure gratitude and awe for being able to get in front of people and be my weird self and have them connect with that. There is a lot of honesty about THE FRONTIER BROTHERS in terms of our music and our performance style and the way we talk to people. It's less calculated then I see in a lot of other bands. It sounds like bullshit coming from a band that claims it's from outerspace. Our mythology as a band is a way of getting people to loosen up to us and unbutton their shirts and appreciate the music. It's not about whats trendy and whats cool. I think that is what sets up a part.
READ THE PREVIOUS ROCKWIRED ON-LINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE FRONTIER BROTHERS HERE