NYC rocksteady band The Frightnrs list 10 songs that influenced new LP ‘Always’
Queens reggae/rocksteady band The Frightnrs have just released their new album Always, via Daptone Records. It follows 2016's Nothing More To Say, which was recorded before before frontman Dan Klein tragically passed away at age 33 from A.L.S, and this new one was made with vocal stems that Dan had recorded during those same sessions. "Before Dan Kleinʼs unfortunate passing, The Frightnrs agreed to keep a promise he asked of them - continue making music together," the label said.
The stems came from the "period of intense songwriting" with producer Victor Axelrod that led to Nothing More To Say, and there ended up being enough of them for an entire new album. "The Frightnrs and Axelrod returned to the studio and painstakingly conceptualized, tracked, re-tracked and mixed them into a complete album with their beloved friend singing lead."
As on Nothing More To Say, The Frightnrs' new album has an intentionally vintage sound that hearkens back to the reggae, rocksteady, and soul of the vinyl era, but it also expands into jazz, dub, and more. To get a better idea of their exact inspirations, the band made us a list of 10 specific songs that influenced the album. Listen to the new LP and read on for what they had to say...
10 SONGS THAT INFLUENCED THE FRIGHTNRS' ALWAYS
To start, it’s worth mentioning we have many many influences, some obvious and some very much not. Nothing More To Say was clearly inspired by rocksteady from the late '60s of Jamaica and the American soul, R&B, and Motown inspirations. For Always, we expanded into the '70s and experimented with less genre restrictions and wanted to explore more of what we knew, learned, and appreciated. We were excited to blend elements that we wouldn’t always hear together; For example, sticky guitar styles of funk playing in between skanks, jazz melodies and arrangements in a lovers rock style… things like this. It’s a bit challenging to pick 10 songs as we weren’t really inspired that way but more by styles, sounds and eras.
1. Sugar Minott - "My Love Is True”
We’ll start with the more obvious ones. Sugar Minott, longtime Frightnrs favorite. So we LOVE it. We’ve always been enamored by his charm and charisma. His playful and dancing melodies always stood out to us and were really a style of his own. A particular thing we loved about him was his re-workings of classic rocksteady rhythms. Old classic rhythms with dope overdubs and Synare and Sugar floating over them made Frightnrs very happy. See “Vanity" by Sugar Minott and "I’m Just a Guy" by Alton Ellis.
2. Myrna Hague “What About Me”
Love love love this song. The melodies, the harmonizing parts, the feeling Myrna exudes in her voice. This song is a dream to us. An experience we tried to create in Always.
3. Big Youth - "S90 Shank"
This is another Frightnrs classic fave. The space, the emptiness and fullness somehow existing as one. The freedom in Youth’s spirit, sometimes casual, sometimes explosive. And man, every time that organ comes back in, literally, every time.
4. Willie Lindo - "Midnight”
This song really showed us how sometimes the genre barriers can be ambiguous. It was quite liberating. We’ve all heard and loved something like this in one way or another.
5. Hortense Ellis - “Never See My Baby Anymore“
Wow, another longtime Frightnrs favorite. This whole record was a major influence for us. This song in particular, if you notice, is not the dub version…it’s the regular vocal version! Another liberator. We used to play this, rarely live, but more at rehearsals just for fun and therapy. We’d be so happy when we did 'cause we had the pleasure of listening to Dan nail the Hortense vibe. It really suited his voice. We never practiced it a lot because we all loved it so much we all knew every nook and cranny so well, we’d even mimic the dub moves live. We incorporated moves in Always to keep up with this style of production.
6. Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra - "You Go to My Head (Take 2)”
This one has comforted the Frightnrs deeply on many nights. Especially this Take 2 version. Very nostalgic for us as well. She has so many songs but this one in particular did something to us. We were infatuated and mesmerized. One of our plans for the future was to have Dan sing this over some simple but hot two-chord dancehall riddim. Nothing groundbreaking but man, that would’ve been pretty sick. There were some amazing singers who already did this. They would take the melody, which was originally accompanied by a constantly changing jazz arrangement with passing chords and sing over literally just two chords over a hard beat and it would be an instant banger. Many can think it, but only few can execute. Dan was one of those few.
7. Spinehead - “Answer Me”
See what we mean?
8. The Ambassadors - "I Really Love You”
Now some would say, hey, great song but this sounds like shit. By some, we mean, jabronis. We were really into the explosiveness and the abrupt stops, and of course the shitty sound of what's supposed to be a love song. We love it. One way to really upset your world class producer extraordinaire is to ask if he can make the beautiful sounds and mix that he carefully crafted sound more shitty.
9. The Jackson 5 - “Darling Dear”
Man, weird things happen to your body and heart when you play certain notes over certain chord movements and your boy sings like an angel. Something about the purity in Mike’s voice in this song (and "Never Say Goodbye," and countless others) resonated with us. Dan had a similar thing when he sang with a particular cadence and it sparked a pursuit to hook our boy up with interesting arrangements that we were too shy to try in Nothing More to Say.
10. Little Beaver - “Joey”
Again, explosiveness, raunchy, and arrangements that you would think were not written but discovered in nature. When listening to Little Beaver, it can feel like you’re following him in free organic emotion, not like you’re listening to something he wrote. It's something that intrigued us into exploring the possibilities. Not saying we succeeded, but we certainly enjoyed trying and loved what it brought out of Dan.