Frodus talk And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea reissue, Fueled By Ramen, Death by Audio & more ++ stream a demo
by Andrew Sacher
Frodus, the now-defunct post-hardcore band of vocalist/guitarist Shelby Cinca, drummer Jason Hamacher and a rotating lineup of bassists, got back together in 2009 -- the same year they reissued 1998's hate-letter to corporate America, Conglomerate International -- for some shows including NYC's Death by Audio and they followed that with a 7" of new music a year later. They say they're done playing live (though more new music isn't out of the question), but they're now set to reissue Conglomerate International's followup, And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, on November 23 via Lovitt Records.
Weapons was their fifth and final album, and though it was set to be released in 1999 on MIA Records, that label went under and the band broke up before it could come out. Eventually Fueled By Ramen put it out in 2001, and despite Frodus no longer existing as a band, the album had a lasting impact that helped inspire the 2000s wave of post-hardcore that was just starting to near the mainstream at the time. Thrice covered one of its songs, "The Earth Isn't Humming," on their 2008 album, The Alchemy Index Vols. III & IV.
The record stuck to the boundary-pushing elements they had been injecting into hardcore since day one -- shifting time signatures, unpredictable switches from sung to shouted vocals and quiet-loud dynamics -- but it was also the clearest sounding thing they'd done, and some of their best work. Maybe actually their best. "[Even if we stayed together] I'm not really sure we could have made a better record," Nate told us. It's great to finally have re-pressed, after basically getting lost for good when Fueled By Ramen sold it along with much of their back catalog to a holding company, and the reissue comes with bonus features too. It includes original lyric sheets, journal entries, never seen before tour photographs, and a 7" of demos, including one of "There Will Be No More Scum," which premieres in this post.
I talked to Shelby and Weapons-era bassist Nate Burke over email to discuss the reissue, Fueled By Ramen, post-hardcore's mainstream period, Death by Audio, Refused (who initially broke up while on tour with Frodus), and more:
BV: So it's not a 10th or 15th anniversary of 'And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea' or anything like that. What made you choose to reissue that album and why now?
Shelby Cinca: We've actually been talking about it for a few years but it kept on getting delayed for one reason or another. Then finally Lovitt Records was ready and I had the time to work on the layout and dig deep into the archives for liner-note photos.
A neat fact is during that deep archive dive, I found in my copy of the LP, a letter bassist Nathan Burke wrote post-breakup that he gave me in 2001. Attached to the letter originally was a cassette of a Frodus cover he did before he joined the band which I also rediscovered. All this ended up as the bonus 7" which really gives candid insight of thoughts around the band during this time as we were actually playing together in various incarnations and were attempting to maybe start things up again in 2000-2001 but it just didn't work out.
interview continues, with the album & demo stream, below...
BV: It initially came out on Fueled By Ramen, and you recently wrote on Facebook, "After FBR's commercial successes promoting asymmetrical haircuts they sold our record and buried it upon making a blood-pact with their corporate overlords." I think the clash of Frodus' anti-corporate message with the direction FBR took is pretty clear, but was there ever anything specific that happened that caused bad blood or the severing of ties with the label that you could expand on?
Nate Burke: I'll let Shelby answer that specifically...but I know I tried to buy the rights to Weapons some years back from FBR to no avail. It was probably just some part of an overall decision by the company and our record was relatively small fish and got grouped in to a mass decision. That said, in the increasingly digital age I'm pleased to see that our music still remains and is even more available in some cases, beyond a specific format.
Shelby: No bad blood directly, but they sold their entire back catalog (including our record) without us knowing to a holding company so it's basically lost, never to be pushed out to Spotify Europe or anywhere else for that matter digitally. I just felt it was disappointing to essentially trash your label history to sell your back catalog and just focus on your commercial stuff hence the Facebook post. I have much more respect for labels like Epitaph that still maintain their label history/catalog and keep some good releases out there alongside their questionable youth-oriented releases.
BV: 'Weapons' came out in 2001, just as the whole post-hardcore thing was on the cusp of taking off on a mainstream level, and Frodus was clearly an influence on a lot of those bands, like Thrice who did that "The Earth Isn't Humming" cover on their 2008 album. How did you react to seeing a sound you helped pioneer achieve that level of success?
Nate: Thrilled. It was incredibly flattering to see that what we had made had some impact. I think all three of us grew up with an affinity for "musician" bands, the ones who never quite broke through, but had impact on music beyond the numbers of records they sold. Brian Eno put it best when describing The Velvet Underground... they may have only sold something like 10,000 records at the time, but everyone who bought one started a band.
I saw Thrice perform that song in 2008 and it was quite an emotional experience for me, to be honest. They totally crushed it, and it was like...I could finally just observe the song for what it was, and I was like..."damn, that's a really great song" without an ounce of pride, because all the people I was standing around had no idea who I was or my role in it. I had nothing left to gain from it. I felt more "vindicated" than maybe ever before that in regards to Frodus. It was a great honor.
Shelby: It was pretty weird as I definitely didn't expect post-hardcore to get as big as it did in the near-mainstream. I was humbled and grateful that our music still resonated with people when Thrice did their cover and when we would get emails over the years from bands/fans.
BV: It seems very possible that Frodus would've gotten similar attention if you kept touring and releasing records in that period. Once 'Weapons' came out and people were responding to that album and that sound in general, did you have any regrets about already being broken up?
Shelby: Part of those thoughts are on the bonus 7" cover art! But no regrets, as it seemed to me that "the fates" didn't want it to happen. We were signed to MIA Records before FBR and they gave us an amazing contract and then had to shut down because the owner had to settle a lawsuit from like 20 years back. So he cut all his businesses, including the label, that weren't making money. I think if the record came out on MIA we would have become active again as they were going to do a video and all sorts of stuff to really push the record and bring life back into the band not too long after we broke up.
Aside from label stuff, we were also pretty fried when we broke up so it was a conscious decision to end so we could remain friends and not burn out on the road despite the good offers we had at the time. Also when we ended there was also a lot going on aside from band tensions like my Dad having a stroke the same week Jason's girlfriend at the time got diagnosed with cancer. Life just avalanched on top of us on June 1999, hence the song on our album entitled "6/99".
Honestly though, I don't think we had "the look" to really be pushed successfully around that time with the musical climate as it was-- MySpace-Emo was so ridiculous and labels were trying so hard to fit a genre I think we would have been drowned out by asymmetrical haircuts and bleeding bird t-shirts. I got to experience my own personal disconnection with this time in the music world with the band Jason and I did called Decahedron in 2003-2005. Not meaning to sound old man here, but ok, I'll sound old man and embrace it!
Nate: From time to time, sure. But I'm not really sure we could have made a better record. Life is full of "maybes"...it's healthy to have some. It could just as easily have been that "success" would have been a carrot dangled in front of us for years to come...time we could have spent towards other things (other music, family, education, work, etc).
BV: You guys came out of the DC hardcore scene, which of course was home to several other influential bands. What were the bands from that scene inspiring you guys early on?
Shelby: Rites of Spring, Fugazi, Circus Lupus, Cupid Car Club, Nation of Ulysses, and Antimony to name a few. I feel very lucky to have experienced the DC music scene in the 90s. It was truly inspiring in a musical way with bands really pushing odd time signatures and a certain sound/vibe. You would see a band do something interesting and then get inspired to do something similar and try to make it even better somehow! Loved it! It never felt competitive but felt inspirational for me creatively. Sometimes I wonder if that's how certain jazz scenes felt like in the 60s.
Nate: For me I was really into Hoover and some of their off-shoots... particularly Regulator Watts (which I actually liked a bit more). And Lungfish. I still like both of those bands a lot.
Shelby: Loved playing there- felt like a proper DIY venue which you don't see enough of these days as clubs (even in DC) do door-polling and stupid stuff like that which really kills the idea of building any sort of united underground. It sounds utopian, but there actually was a functional underground in the 90s with band-etiquette that created a DIY support-network if you will. Simple things like trading shows with out of town bands and making sure that they play before the local act to maximize viewers. So much of that is lost these days, though I do think it's coming back in the house-show world. So it's definitely sad to see Death By Audio go. It was also a neat circle to play there since there was an interview with one of the founders from the venue who talked about Frodus' use of distortion inspiring his building of effects stomp-boxes.
BV: You also put out a new 7" during that reunion. Any plans for more shows or new music?
Shelby: I'm open to do a new Soundlab 7" as it was way fun to do the first one. As far as shows, I don't really feel any need to do any as we already did the nostalgia reunion back in 2009.
BV: You were on tour with Refused when they broke up. As people who experienced that so firsthand, I'm curious if you have anything to say about seeing them become a fully functioning band again?
Shelby: It's great that they are doing it again. I think we would have too if we had the same kind of backing as far as a larger label continuing to keep the narrative going after the band broke up with reissues and support. I also think the record they made now is the record they always wanted to make back when we were touring with them-- so they honestly did pick up where they left off and I totally respect that! I personally question some of the Hardcore meets RHCP-funk vibes on parts of that record but hey, I think that's karma for making the Refused bassist during the late 90s tours hide his non-vegan cake-eating habits and escape with me to chomp on some buttery and eggy snacks! No hashtag!
Nate: I'm very happy for them. Their new music is legit, too. I've seen that band maybe more than any other band ever...must've been like 40 plus times back in the day...and I can tell you that in the two times I've seen them recently they absolutely crushed it. Every bit as good, if not better, then back then. And I took my 9 year old daughter who loved it!
I got to see them both times...and the first time was a very healing experience actually. The last time we'd talked before that was not a great experience. They broke up a few shows into a long tour we'd booked, they were ready to kill each other, we were ready to kill them. I wasn't sure what it'd be like to see them again, but it was great. They were happy...seemed genuinely happy to be with each other again and to see me. It felt like a nice bow on an old chapter.
Shelby: I met Dennis Wedin (Fucking Werewolf's vocalist) through my buddy Niklas who is the artist El Huervo on my label. Niklas did a bunch of art for Dennis' video-game Hotline Miami and mentioned that Dennis is down to play some board-games during our Sunday game-hangs. Dennis joined along and I found out he was a Frodus fan and we just started talking about music and it just fell into place naturally. Dennis also made my digital dreams come true by hiding the Frodus logo in Hotline Miami 2!
BV: Are there any other newer artists catching your attention?
Nate: Ha...my "new" is probably most people's "old" at this point. Some bands I've dug in recent years: Fleet Foxes, Beach House, Phantogram.