The Fattenin' Frogs: Our hearts are in the music scene of the '60s

The Fattenin' Frogs: Our hearts are in the music scene of the '60s
Photo by Peter Lee

Don't tell Minneapolis band the Fattenin' Frogs it's 2013; it would be a shame to break their hearts that the '60s folk movement has passed. Yet, that is exactly where their sound lives. The band's new single "Comin' Home" draws from the never-ending momentum of the banjo as much as the wistful sound of lead singer Chris Holm's voice. The drive doesn't allow the song to drift into mindless self-indulgence, leaving a song that taut and heartfelt, a blissful bridging of the generation gap.

On a break from getting ready for the 4onthefloor's new album, on which Holm plays bass, Chris spoke with Gimme Noise about the Fattenin' Frogs' new music and what's in store for the band.

Band Members: 
Chris Holm - lead vocals, banjo
Berek Awend - guitar
Mark Larson - drums
Paul DeLong - bass guitar, vocals
Amanda Awend - mandolin, jew's harp, vocals
Danielle Scofield - vocals
Amanda White - vocals

Gimme Noise: How does a Minneapolis band get to playing southern rock 'n' roll?

Chris Holm: It all started about four years ago. Mark Larson (drummer) and I had been playing in bands together for a couple years and both shared a love of '60s-era rock music, especially bands like Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Stones, Cream, and CCR that were inspired heavily by southern American roots music. Realizing that our efforts to create music that we felt lived up to the standards of those bands, Mark realized that we were approaching things wrong. We decided to take a month and listen only to artists who inspired the artists that inspired us. Thus, we went out and bought as many old blues, folk, and country albums as we could get our hands on. That month stretched into a whole year and by that time we knew we needed to start a band to start making use of what we'd learned. I saw an ad on Craigslist that Berek Awend (guitars/keys) had posted about wanting to jam on old blues and invited him to come jam with us. He'd been living in Chicago and playing in a more modern blues band for a few years and just moved back to Minneapolis. The other major factor is the movie, O Brother Where Art Thou. That movie ignited a love of roots music in all of us that we had just failed to act on up until that point.

GN: You all have such a diverse background in music. What do you feel each person brings to the sound of the Fattenin' Frogs?

CH: I'm definitely the rootsiest of us. I do a lot of the songwriting and if you listen closely you'll hear a lot of Delta blues combined with early country music influences. I'm also kind of the details guy of the band. I try to keep everyone's influences flowing in the same direction. Mark is the "fun" guy. Nothing can be too ridiculous in a song as long as it makes the song more fun to him. He probably listens to more of the Coasters than any other man alive. He also loves a good rock and roller where he can let loose on the drums. And most of all, he loves to just jam. A lot of our songs come from him playing a drum beat and then coaching ideas out of the rest of us to build a song. Berek brings a lot of the soul to the band. He's very into old gospel and soul music and brings that element into our songs. Paul DeLong (bass) is the best musician of all of us. He's the guy that knows what's going on and how to make it all work. 

GN: Who are the Lily Pads, and how did the Frogs come to incorporating them into the band?

CH: When we began recording our first album two years ago, we had the idea to add some female backing vocals to a new gospel song we had written. Berek's wife Amanda, and my girlfriend, Danielle Scofield, volunteered. We found a couple of other girls in addition and they began informally calling themselves "The Lily Pads." As we went along, we just kept adding them to more songs in the studio and they began performing with us regularly. Amanda White recently joined the ranks and they now contribute lead vocals on many songs as well as backing vocals on most.

GN: Does the band do covers? Why do covers, and how do you reinterpret them to make them new?

CH: Our hearts are in the music scene of the '60s and everybody back then played covers. Much of our material is old blues and folk songs that we've turned into rock 'n' roll. But we never just take a song and make it louder. We always add some of our own creativity into every song. We also have done several tribute shows, such as our annual Howlin' Wolf tribute, a Robert Johnson 100th Birthday tribute, a Hank Williams tribute, and an O Brother Where Art Thou 10th Anniversary tribute. In these shows, we played only covers and played the songs either very true to the original artist or added a lot of our own interpretation based on what we thought we could bring to the song versus how much we wanted to honor the original.

GN: Why only a single release?

CH: Again, hearkening back to the '60s, when a band had new song to release, they just released it. Albums came later. We figured that seemed like a pretty good model. Why wait until we had a whole album's worth of material to begin putting out new music, especially in this day and age where it's so easy to self release. This way we can keep giving our fans and friends new music as we work on making more.

GN: When is the rest of the album coming?

CH: We've tracked about half of the album already but we have probably five to eight more songs we want to record before we put out an album. We're shooting for an October or November release date.

GN: What can we expect to see at the single release show?

CH:You can expect to see a band on stage that puts everything we have into our show and that believes live music is supposed to be fun for everyone. There will be tons of energy and we'll do our best to get everybody clapping, singing, and dancing along with us. You'll see a wide mix of southern folk music influences so that the audience never really knows what to expect next.

The Fattenin' Frogs will have a single release show Friday, April 6, at Harriet Brewing Co. with Awkward Sorrows.
21+, Free, 7 pm

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