Frankincense: Our music isn't that complicated -- it's not like we're Rush or Yes
Photo by Paul Johnson
Two is always better than one; that's why Minneapolis band Frankincense will release two albums at the CD release show on Thursday evening. As different as they can be, Oomph and To Be Seen show the growth of the band -- much like comparing two photos of a child and a teenager. On both albums, Frankincense is extremely talented when it comes to assembling a collage of noises and making them into a happy, restless scrapbook.
Before the band's album release at Cause, Gimme Noise spoke with Frankincense on how they turn such intricate music into something an unfamiliar listener can get into.
Band Members: Samantha Wenwoi, Dan Freborg, Caleb Thilges, Paul Collier
Gimme Noise: You explain Frankincense as a band for musicians. Why write such complicated music?
Samantha Wenwoi: As an avid music listener, I am extremely sensitive to clichéd song structures and melodies so personally think that it's pointless to rehash stuff that's already been done. Our music isn't that complicated -- it's not like we're Rush or Yes. It's more that we try to put some thought into what we're doing, because we don't want to sound derivative.
Dan Freborg: While I think our desire to not recycle the same old riffs has made writing music more complicated for us, it doesn't always result in a complicated-sounding song. Though it's impossible to avoid overlap with established riffs 100 percent of the time, we try hard to do our own thing. As I like to say, "no C-G-A-F chord progressions allowed."
Gimme Noise: How does this translate to the casual listener?
Samantha Wenwoi: I'm not sure.
Dan Freborg: It's unrealistic to expect someone to hear our stuff and deem it unlike anything they've heard before. Our influences certainly are present in our music, but I think people will appreciate that we aren't taking the easy road of resorting to tired chord progressions. On the other hand, the downside to this route is that our music may not immediately hook people, because the riffs and melodies are not super familiar and comfortable sounding. But I've always respected musicians who create songs that reveal something new with each listen and have lasting appeal. That's why I really like the parameters we've set for ourselves.
Caleb Thilges: The casual listener probably won't pick up on the time signature changes and the complex chord progressions, but they'll hear the richness of the songs. Maybe they can't define why it sounds different, but they'll get the melody of the song and be sucked in. There's a reward in listening to layered and complicated music, whether you understand the mechanics or not.
Gimme Noise: What is everyone's musical background, and what do they bring to Frankincense's sound?
Samantha Wenwoi: I have always loved music -- heard bits and pieces of songs in my head and spent a lot of time singing very loudly around my house as a kid. I played the viola and saxophone in grade school and took classical guitar lessons as a music minor in college. However, it took meeting Dan and being encouraged by his enthusiasm and support to actually take writing music seriously. Bjork, At the Drive-In, Jimi Hendrix, and '90s R & B/hip hop are some of the influences that I bring to the band.
Dan Freborg: I began playing guitar and drums in eighth grade. From the start I enjoyed writing my own material, but it was after I discovered Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill a couple years later that I really fell in love with writing music. Caleb and I played in a junior high band together in Alexandria, MN. And up until a year ago I was also playing in another local band called Sans Aura. The other two members, Jonathan Kramer and Blair Ransom, have gone on to form the bands Grolar Bears and End Quotes, both of whom you may have seen play around town.
Caleb Thilges: I began playing cello at nine years old, and I've been playing bass and guitar since I was an angsty 14-year-old trying to emulate the grunge and punk rockers of the '90s. Much more recently, I studied music theory and sound arts at college. Due to the influence of '90s grunge and punk, I tend to keep the bass as a backbone to the rest of the music. I try to bring out the melody, and add to the timbre without stealing the show from the rest of the band. I keep the tone bright and poppy, while not being afraid to use lots of dirty, sexy distortion.
Gimme Noise: The band has not one, but two, albums being released on September 5. Why did you decide to do it this way? Why not just one full-length album, and what's the difference in the two?
Dan Freborg: To me, there's too much contrast between the two EPs to place them under one title. But who knows, it feels that way to me but perhaps listeners won't feel the same way. The Oomph EP was self-recorded a year before the To Be Seen EP was finished, and so I think splitting them up helps show where the band was in two different periods in its history.
Gimme Noise: Any standout tracks on the albums?
Samantha Wenwoi: "(Pazuzu Hearts) Regan" and "Summoned to Hell." Those are probably the most poppy, immediately accessible songs.
Dan Freborg: "To Be Seen" and "There's Something Beneath."
Caleb Thilges: "Saturn," the song is filled with interesting dynamics that catch the listener off guard and draw them in: loud/soft, bass/treble, clean/distorted, serenity/chaos.
Gimme Noise: Are you working on material for the next album, or what are the current goals for the music right now?
Dan Freborg: Yes. If people are interested in our next musical steps there are a few demos on our Bandcamp page that we'll eventually refine and release on another EP or full length. But first we'll record a couple of our newest songs that we're incredibly excited about (and will play at the EP release show). Normally we write slowly and songs take shape over the long term, sometimes years, but the new material has moved along very quickly, and so it'll be a new experience for us to share material with an audience when we barely have established a relationship with the songs ourselves.
Gimme Noise: What can we expect to see at the album release show?
Samantha Wenwoi: A band that's still adjusting to performing for people but that's extremely eager for its songs to be heard and digested.
Dan Freborg: A band confident in its material, but a band that's still getting its sea legs. It's exciting when bands hit this moment, because it can go really well or hit a dead end. Obviously we're hoping for the former!
Caleb Thilges: "KY twister."
Frankincense will release Oomph and To Be Seen at Cause on Thursday, September 5, 2013 with Bongonya, The Desert Vests, and Congorats.
21+, Free, 10 pm
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