Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Interview with Frown

 Interview by Elek Malcolm-Madill

"Cemetery Smoke brings forth narcotic Doom" and "Occult Doom of Death" are some of the phrases you'll find on the bandcamp of Brisbane, Australia doom metal band "Frown" to describe themselves, and they're pretty accurate from what I've heard of their music so far. Worshippers of bands like Reverend Bizarre and Saint Vitus, Frown released their demo "Songs of Praise" last year and saw a lot of great feedback on it, my favourite of which came from Nick McKeon of Lizzard Wizzard: "DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM-y doom. Seriously serious music played powerful strong"- this is also a pretty accurate description. I recently got the chance to sit down (in front of my computer because I live on the opposite side of the world from him) with Fergus Smith, or "Gus" of Frown to talk about the band's influences, driving ideals, dream collaborations, and their new album which isn't too far away from being released.

FBN: For starters, who are you and what exactly is "Frown" for readers who have never heard of it before

Gus: Frown was conceived out of a need for Doom music in our home town of Brisbane. The band wanted to listen to slow satanic death metal, there was nothing happening locally so we got high, turned down the Reverend Bizarre record on player and went into the rehearsal space. We felt compelled to pay homage to the gods of Doom. What is Frown? Narcotic Doom of Death. Music for mans predecessors made by primitives.

FBN: Occultism, weed, Satan, and death are subjects that have been thrown together under one roof before by bands such as Cough, Bongripper, Belzabong, and most famously Electric Wizard. In what ways do you think Frown is similar to and different from these bands? How do you bring your own personal touch to the sludge/psychadelic/stoner/doom/whatever genres? Or do you think that Frown supersedes the constrictions of one or more genre label? 

Gus: We believe in the importance of the subject matter that we project forward be of a heavy nature.  All the topics you mentioned have always interested me.  I would study them regardless if I was playing in this band or living in Antarctica.  There is a certain majick that is created when mixing supernatural themes with heavy music.This feeling has intoxicated me for a long time.  To put it simply some things go great together. Tomato and basil, strawberries and cream.  Slow heavy psychedelic riffs and satanism.We wear our influences on our sleeves and are proud to be spiritual flag bearers of doom. Our mixture of influences gives us a unique twist on things.  We draw power from the underground heavy metal scene, crust and psychedelic movement.  We just let it brew and see what naturally comes to the surface.  It's always an interesting mix of an audience at a Frown show.

FBN: Usually when people think of the psychedelic stoner metal that makes up some of the inspiration/composition for/of your music the first things that obviously come to mind are British and American titans such as Black Sabbath, Sleep, Electric Wizard, Saint Vitus, Deep Purple, etc. Do you think being Australian ties into your image or music and sets you aside from these bands whatsoever? In terms of relation to subjects such as history, culture, or identity?

Gus: Australia has always had a rich history of producing hard hitting bands.  There's something special about feeling isolated and removed from the larger scenes of the world. It inspires you to go pick up a instrument and make that you want to hear because you will never get a chance to see your favourite band play live.  Like if you really wanted to see St Vitus play White Stallions you do the next best thing and grab your mates and attempt to play the song over and over again in your garage until the cops start banging on the door.

FBN: So I hear you have a new album coming out soon titled "The Greatest Gift to Give". Is the album going to expand on what you were doing with your first album "Songs of Praise" or are you taking a different approach to this album than the last, or will you be doing a little of both? All in all tell us as much about the album as you're willing to.

Gus: We recorded The Greatest Gift To Give six months after we recorded the demo. Through those six months we played a lot of shows so we got a chance to gauge what the audience was digging and what they weren't. After seeing what parts they were liking and what parts they found confusing and disorientating we wrote an entire album of disorientating and confusing riffs. There is a lot more riffing on this album then we expected. I think we found a nasty balance of what we do well.  It tells dark tales of fantasy.  There is an under current of deep psychedelic sounds smothered in a black tar of doom. We hope it intoxicates, scares and haunts anyone who listens to it.

FBN: What sort of gear do you use while performing live and in the studio?

Gus: We record 100% live so what you get on record is what you will get live.  Our first two offerings where recorded with two guitars and no bass.  We found our guitar sound was so bass heavy at that we didn't need a bass player.  We try to make the sound of a volcano with our guitars.  You have the bassy earth shaking rumble as the tectonic plates begin to grind together, the mids are clouds of lung choking volcanic ash and the treble is skin melting larva. We have however recently added a bass player to the band which has only made our sound more gruesome.  We were bass heavy before now we shake half the bottles off the bar before the end of our first song

FBN: What would be your dream musician or band, alive or dead, broken up or together to collaborate with? Or possibly artist you'd love to have create an original album cover for you?

Gus: I would have to go for digging up the corpse of a dead musician and resurrecting them to create music with me.  I think a very creative and interesting musician who is no longer in this realm is Kris Angylus from The Angelic Process.  I would love to incorporate his use of synths and fucked up noise into my own music.  He had an amazing ability to weave beautiful melody into the most distorted confronting music. A very inspiring musician his unique music will be missed.

FBN: To return to something you said earlier, what Reverend Bizarre record (or records) in particular were played during your recording process? Was there a most played song or songs on it/them?

Gus: I worship all the Reverend Bizarre albums. Amazingly pure doom played with great skill and intelligence.  For me personally I gather huge inspiration from two of there songs in particluar.  I can never quite describe the feeling I get from these songs.  Its as if the dark of my house becomes darker and the candles shine brighter when these songs are spun.  The mood they create is amazing deeply haunting and enchanted in dark Majick.  The first is Cirith Ungol off In The Rectory of The Bizarre Reverend.  Such a trip of a song, from the war drums of doom in the intro to the epic organ soaked outro this song makes my hair stand up on end.  The Tolkien based lyrics are also really amazing, suiting the music perfectly.  The other song is The Festival.  The mood of this song gets me everytime.  Albert's vox on this one is particularly special sounding like a deranged opera singer with taste for blood.  It chills my soul every time I hear it and inspires me to pick up the guitar and play music.

FBN: What other records were or are the most important to the development of Frown's music?

Gus:  I'll keep this one short and sweet as you could imagine there is vast array of music that influenced all of us.  I'll give you three records that have played an important role in my song writing for Frown.

Vomitor - Devils Poison
Saint Vitus - Mournful Cries
Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion

FBN: What sort of reactions or possibly recognition have you received on your music from your local music scene in Brisbane? For someone such as myself (and others who are unfamiliar with it), what sort of bands typically dominate the music scene there and what would be considered more "underground"? Also, on the topic of local music, what are some of your favourite bands from your area, actively still making music or inactive, old or new?

Gus:  Overall we've been well received by the different scenes in Brisbane.  We come from the underground metal scene and will always stay loyal and true to this.  We have generated curiosity from some different scenes also.  In particular the crust scene in Brisbane.  I think they can relate to our sound and DIY attitude.  Always very fun shows to play.  We are definitely a change of pace at those shows...... Underground bands in Brisbane??  We are lucky or unlucky enough to call all these guys mates of ours but they have definetly influenced the band in one way or another.  Portal, Impetous Ritual, Mongrels Cross, Grave Upheaval, Vomitor, Consumatation, Last Chaos, Zodiac, Sick People, Black Diety..... The list goes on.  Orginally I started this band with one of the members of Portal and Impetous Ritual.  It would have been a different beast had he remained in the band.

FBN: Sounds good to me, I think that about wraps up everything I can think of asking you- anything else you'd like to get in before we end this?

 Gus: Thanks heaps for doing the interview!!!! I love reading interviews myself so it was cool doing it!!

FBN: No problem, thanks to you too man!

The Greatest Gift To Give is going to be available on Frown's bancamp on September 27th, it's also being released on 12" vinyl by At War With False Noise and you can grab a copy of it on the same date as well- be sure to either mark that date down somewhere, or head over to their bandcamp to check out Songs of Praise if you haven't already.

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