Our latest Q&A is with Frog, who recently released “Count Bateman”, a great album for fans of indie folk, lo-fi, and bedroom pop. Check out the record and interview below!
To get us started, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do a Q&A with us. We always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about bands, their creative process, and who is behind the music. Can you tell us a bit about the history of the band?
Tom and I were in a different band together called Uncles that played folk music. One day for whatever reason it was just us and he changed to the drums, which he didn’t play, and we screwed around for a little while and frog was born. Frog was named after the keyboard we play with, which has a setting called frog that is not useable. We thought that it was fitting.
What music did you grow up listening to?
As a child I listened to music my parents liked, which was classic rock, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Tommy by the Who, etc. I also took piano lessons from a young age so I got into Debussy and Mozart, things like that that piano teachers use to teach kids to play. I didn’t get into alt music until high school, when I became an enormous Pavement fan and learned about weird rock music from markprindle.com. Mark introduced me to lots of music, and he really liked out-there punk-type stuff, so I got really into that as well.
On “Hartsdale Hotbox”, you sing, “just chilling is a virtue.” I interpreted that lyric as a reminder of the importance of humility. What sort of messages do you hope to communicate through your music?
Hartsdale Hotbox is about the culture of New Rochelle and life in lower Westchester. “What’s good?”, or its equivalent “Wascu”, is followed by “Just chillin’”, in everyday parlance in my wonderful world. It’s just a stupid joke, like many of my lyrics. I have no idea what kind of message I hope to communicate, it’s not something that I can really articulate. Life is vast, each detail can be taken in many ways, a song is the same.
I feel like it is rare to hear of bands in this era that are duos. What are some unique benefits and pressures of being a duo?
Well, this is an interesting question. Tom, my drummer, recently moved to England and has therefore not been available for any shows or recording sessions since then, including the ones for this record. Count Bateman is therefore my debut solo variation of frog. My brother has been practicing with me and I hope to debut a live version of frog with him on drums as soon as possible.
In any case, to answer your question, being a duo is interesting. You try to squeeze a couple different instruments out of both people. Therefore, you really need people who are good musicians that can play any instrument after a little practice because they listen well. Tom is definitely like that, my brother Steve seems like he could possibly be like that as well. In any case, playing music with someone is like talking with them, it’s only good if y’all are a good fit personality-wise. Being a duo is easier in this way because you only need to have good chemistry with one person, but it needs to be really good chemistry.
Your song “Bones” is beautiful and makes me feel like I witnessed a very personal experience. I read a musician mention that one thing they try to do is tell stories that are illustrative enough of their own experience for it to be personally meaningful, but also try to leave space for interpretation and connection on the listener’s end. How have you navigated the relationship between personal disclosure and the public nature of your songs?
This is also an interesting question. I take things about different parts of my life, whether things that happen to me, things someone told me about, something I read in a book or saw in a movie, anything that captures my fancy. They all get pureed up into some sort of frog smoothie and end up in the songs. Bones is mostly taken from first romantic experiences with my now-wife Kelly. I was living in Woodside Queens near the rollicking, loud elevated 7 train, it was a transitional time in my life. The details in the song aren’t that important, what’s important is the feeling that it gets at, which is to me, the feeling of being in love with a friend that you see a lot but don’t know if they feel the same exact way.
I read in a previous interview that you are a big Silver Jews fan. What role do you think David Berman played in influencing your musical style?
This is a very emotional subject for me. Dave was a big influence on me personally in more ways than musical ones. It’s hard for me to talk about.
On “You Know I’m Down”, you sing, “listen to The Apples in Stereo.” Where would you recommend someone with limited exposure to them begin?
LOL. To be honest, I don’t actually know very much about this band, other than they were Elephant 6, so I probably would like it. I find the lyrics to the songs inside of the melodies, which I find inside whatever musical passage that I find inside whatever piano or guitar or synth I’m playing. For whatever reason, I found that band inside the second verse to that song.
Songs like “Photograph” have this almost anthemic but still comforting feel, which I feel is rare. What was your songwriting process like for this track?
This was written in my favorite way to write songs, in the room while I was practicing with Tom. After we finished a different song I found the chords, the melody, the hook and some of the lyrics and themes just by having fun and fucking around with T. I think I wrote three songs in that 10-minute span just by doing that. The reason why this is the best way is because the arrangement/orchestration is written at the same time you write the song, so everything fits like you always hope it will. When you write things on a piano or guitar and then adapt it for the band, you always have to translate your idea of the song to the new environment and something is usually lost in this process. Or gained! But it’s not the same.
What was it like shooting “Kings of Blah”?
This tour was one of the most fun weeks and half of my life. At that point most people who knew my music that I didn’t know personally lived in England, so it was incredible to meet all of them and have shows in places that I’ve never even been close to be well attended. As far as the movie, my friend Alex did it and he’s incredibly talented and a great tour buddy. I mostly forgot he was filming which turned out to be a bad decision as seen in the movie whenever I get drunk or annoyed. I actually cannot watch the film because I get too embarrassed, but everyone tells me that it’s good.
Are there any shows you’ve played that stick out in your mind as particularly memorable?
The show at the Hug and Pint in Glasgow on that tour was amazing, I loved every moment I was in that city. Scotland is a magical place. However, I usually remember the shows that are really bad as opposed to good because they’re burned into my skin, so to speak. We used to be the house band at a comedy show run by a friend of mine, and most of the show was really funny, but some of the sketches were kind of bad. Being on stage while someone else is bombing is like a nightmare.
How did you get connected with Audio Antihero? Can you tell us more about the label?
Jamie is my Punch and Judy-style life partner. We love each other deeply. We connected over the internet, and he was the only one who offered to put out Kind of Blah. History was made. Audio Antihero is a collection of people that Jamie knows, who all patiently react to his escapades. He keeps saying he’s gonna shut it down, but he’s been saying that for most of AAH’s tenure.
What is the music scene like in Queens?
Good question, it’s a mix of spillover Brooklyn hip music, embarrassing cover bands and metal. Queens is getting hipper which means the music is changing. I actually moved to Harlem, but don’t ask me what the music scene is like here because I just stay in my apartment all day when I’m not at work.
What’s next for Frog?
Great question. Trying to play some shows. Hit me up if you want us to play your town or venue!
Are there any bands you want to give a shout out to? What bands should we be listening to?
I recently really got into Clifford Brown and Mulatu Astatke, which you should definitely listen to but Clifford Brown died in 1956 and Astatke is 75. As far as current bands, I really love Frankie Cosmos, and also some of the Philly indie musicians that are releasing music right now. Tbh, most of the music I listen to is by dead people.