Battle Tunes

quirky new EP from The Frenettes

Tyler Henderson, photos by Andrea Paulseth

TWO OUT OF THREE ROCKERS PREFER TO NOT SQUINT. The Frenettes performed Aug. 18 at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series at Phoenix Park. Their new EP is called Battle of the Network Stars.
TWO OUT OF THREE ROCKERS PREFER TO NOT SQUINT. The Frenettes performed Aug. 18
at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series at Phoenix Park. Their new EP is called
Battle of the Network Stars.

The recurring theme throughout my conversation with The Frenettes was summed up by a mission statement from bassist and vocalist Paul Brandt: “This is the band where we can do whatever we want,” he said.

Drummer Davy Sumner and guitarist and vocalist Eric Rykal echoed those vibes throughout our chat (guitarist and vocalist Trevor Ives couldn’t make it), while I also listened to topics ranging from hatred of loud motorcycles to the band (accidentally) hitting a bear with their car on their way back from Appleton after a gig. Basically, the last thing I expected was a formal interview, and The Frenettes delivered.

Proof of the informality of the group  – whose lineup includes current and former members of Meridene, the Gentle Guest, and the Michael Rambo Project – lies with their new EP, Battle of the Network Stars.

The five-song, 13-minute CD brings back a sound made popular in the ’90s by bands such as Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, and Jimmy Eat World, but gives us a fresh twist of originality. Instead of your typical angst-filled love songs of that era, we hear fake love stories involving TV stars of today. While the songs are full of satire and sarcasm, the musical talent of The Frenettes is obvious. Inside the jokes and pop culture references lining the walls of their music, The Frenettes have a sound that features strong vocals and guitar from Rykal and Ives, a strong connection throughout the album that is displayed during the alternating dissonant guitar pattern during the intro and closing of “Margaery.” The vocal harmony and self-dubbed “guitarmony” of Brandt and the creative stick-work of Sumner are prominent in a style of music that is typically dry and repetitive. Sumner’s fills in “Cobie” are tom-heavy yet tasteful as they mesh perfectly in unison with the guitar lines in between vocal lines.

During the album, listeners hear about the struggles of growing up in “Gravedigger’s Biscuits,” learn about Ives’ affection for one character from the ABC show Community in “Britta,” and are updated on the lifestyle choices of the queen-in-waiting in the popular book and television series Game of Thrones during “Margaery.” You can even catch an “O Canada” or two during “Cobie” as Rykal sings about Canadian heartthrob Robin Sherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother. And the best part? Having fun is all that drives them to write their lyrics.

“Any time people say that they like our songs, that’s just an added bonus,” Brandt said. “We’re doing what we’re doing and having a really good time, and hopefully other people like it too.”

Adds Rykal: “We didn’t set out to do this, it just kinda happened.”

Other examples of things that “just kinda happened” would include Ives’ choice to title a song “Milky Joe,” Rykal’s idea to name the band after his good friend Kyle Frenette just because it would annoy him, and the band’s surprising ability whip out a Dashboard Confessional song (that they had never played) mid-gig at their EP release show.

“I tried to stop that …” Brandt said. “I failed.”

Sure, they may not have been proud of that last example, but that was a sure sign of a band that knows how to have fun on the stage, endearing them to a local audience that shows up for both great music and a few laughs.

The Frenettes’ second EP, Battle Of The Network Stars, is available at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., and Revival Records, 418 S. Barstow St.

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