Basement Life - 2001
Interview with S. Cinca

In 1994 Frodus crept out of the D.C. music scene with their own agenda. Using heavy rhythms, distorted and at times angular riffs, the wonderfully grating screams of guitarist and singer Shelby Cinca, and a wild outlook on the general state of all things, they took their sound and ran with it. It is now 2001. After over a dozen releases, 500 shows, and the birth of a reputation for constant musical progress that still retains its original and brutal core, Frodus has called it quits...

Far from disappearing without a trace, the wake of the group's disintegration has spawned the release of their final record; the multi- dimensional And We Washed Our Weapons In The Sea. The at-that- point-unbeknownst swan song was actually recorded in 1999, but after a split with their then label Tooth & Nail Records and the untimely demise of their next label, the NY based MIA records, it is only now that the record is finally able to see the light of day thanks to Florida's Fueled By Ramen Records. The album itself may well be Frodus' best to date. Chock full of the powerful indie/punk that the group established their sound with, there are also a number of new and refreshing surprises. Cinca, for one, has started singing on the new record, and while his jugular screams still have a commanding presence, the increased variety adds new depth to the group's sound. In addition, And We Washed... contains atypically heartfelt sentiments in the form of "6/99," unexpected instrumental endeavors like the drum machine fueled "Hull Crush Depth," and a few blistering numbers that truly expound on the ferocity of albums like the group's powerful 1997 release, Conglomerate International.

Thankfully, the members of Frodus have moved on without forgetting the past, and the band, bassist Nathan Burke, drummer Jason Hamacher, and Cinca, are all still very involved in a number of creative outlets. From joining a bunch of new bands, (Cinca is currently in the studio recording as the newest member of Bluebird) to studio production and graphic design, and even to writing novels, the members of Frodus are not about to allow themselves to be forgotten, and with what they've left behind, such an outcome is already quite unlikely.

I recently had the chance to talk with Cinca about the band's final recording, the future of the Frodus conglomerate, and what he will take with him from the experience. As you'll see, Frodus' frontman is moving on, but like so many fans, he will never forget what once was.

Does the lengthy period between the recording of And We Washed Our Weapons In The Sea and its recent release leave you feeling any different about the record than you did when it was originally completed?

Shelby: I feel like I am happy with the record more now that I've been a while. There were things that I wasn't completely sure about when we first finished it, in some ways I was tired of screaming and would have preferred to do a complete 180 and have all singing on the record. However, in retrospect I feel the screaming had it's place in those songs and I am completely happy with how the record turned out.

Did the title of the record and its imagery (ideas of the end of the battle/war) come about before or after the decision to end the band? Do you feel that this is in fact a suitable end, a sort of washing your hands of all things and a complete closure?

Shelby: The title came quite a while before we decided to end the band. It's a quote from a Joseph Campbell book Nathan was reading on tour. We thought it was pretty epic and we were ready to make an epic album.

I do feel that this is a suitable end, it's bowing out respectfully with the best record we have made. In all reality, who's to say if the record would have as much force if we were still a band? It could have easily been "oh... Frodus, aren't they that Tooth & Nail band?? I heard they put out a great record... blah blah.. what do you think about [insert hyped band here]," and people would continue to bother themselves with semantics of "what label are you on?" Which is rampant in the punk community.

Why the decision to use Brian (McTernan) again for this record after already using him to produce F-Letter but not for Conglomerate International? What did he add / how much did he influence the sound?

Shelby: He moved back to the DC area from Boston and had a whole new studio setup with all analog gear. He's been a friend of ours for many years and he wanted to do the record. It seemed like the right thing to do and he was giving us a great deal for a month of studio time. He worked hard to help guide our vision to it's ultimate reality. He pushed us to perform better and listen to everything more critically.

The sound itself seems fuller and more overwhelming. What steps do you think may have influenced this? Did a lot of equipment change in recent years, or did you guys just figure out how to really manipulate it all?

Shelby: Just progressing musically, knowing what sounds better and becoming more skilled at expressing what we are hearing in our heads with the equipment at hand. Our gear did change indeed... Jason played a Mapleworks custom maple drum set on the record, Nathan used an all tube Ampeg head and cabinet, and I used a Vox AC30, Marshall JCM800, and occasionally an Ampeg head that I used on previous recordings. For guitars I used a Fender Jazzmaster, and Epiphone Coronet. Nathan used a G&L bass throughout the recording.

Previous records have had a handful of specific themes, (aliens, incorporation), but And We Washed... seems to be more spread out thematically. There are elements of the earlier ideas, but nothing that commands the entire record. Was this a conscious decision, or just a direction that the final product ended up going in?

Shelby: It's just what happened. We weren't looking to do another concept record like Conglomerate this time around. I also feel we let our guard down and had some more personal songs on the record.

This record also features a lot more singing (melodically that is) than previous efforts. Again, was this a desired direction to take things in, or did you just find you were writing songs of this nature? What effect do you think the presence of your two different vocal styles has on the overall sound, and , how do you think older fans will embrace the more melodic Frodus?

Shelby: It's what fit with the songs, plus we were getting a little tired from screaming all the time. I think having both vocal styles makes it more exciting to listen to. It enhances the different moods and atmospheres throughout the record. I think people into Frodus will embrace the more melodic sounds. We have never been about having tunnel vision in regards to our sound; each of our records is a big step from the one previous.

Clearly "6/99" is a very emotional track. It's clear from the first time you hear it. It's also an unexpected amount of emotion (i.e. sadness, love) to be found in a Frodus song. How important to you guys was it to have the song on the record, is it a sort of catharsis, and did you have any doubts about putting such a "non-Frodus" song on the record?

Shelby: It's a Frodus song if we wrote it, we can write a song that sounds like Serge Gainsbourg and it would still be a Frodus song. It's an important track, one of the only songs that Jason (drummer) contributed to the lyrics on with Nathan and I. It's about the hardships we endured in the month of 6/99 with my father having a stroke and our friend (who was also Jason's girlfriend) being diagnosed with cancer.

"The Awesome Machine" on the other hand seems like an outtake from Conglomerate in its theme. Is it related to the last record, and does its proclamation that "The machines never died" have any bearing on the current state of Frodus?

Shelby: The Awesome Machine was written in a primitive form around the time right after Conglomerate. We played it quite a bit in 1998 and 1999. The lyrics don't relate to us as a band, it is in relation to the progress of humanity and technology. After we recorded the song, we adopted the lyrics into our Frodus slogans. We will always exist in some form... the music never goes away... the recorded form doesn't disappear. Someone can unearth our sounds years from now. As far as a reunion, we have all gone our separate ways but you never know what the future will bring. Crazy things happen, The Chameleons UK just got back together after 15 years of not being a band.

"Belgian Congo," and more specifically, "Hull Crush Depth," seems to be a new sound for the group. What influenced these tracks, and were they specifically written as their final form presents them, or are they more free form than the tighter and heavier compositions on the record.

Shelby: We were toying with the "Belgian Congo" riff at soundchecks during our Swedish tour with Refused in 1998. I don't feel it's a direct influence from anything other than continuing with the instrumentals we were always writing. We had similar instrumentals on Conglomerate, i.e. "Chrome Corridors", "The Day Buildings Mysteriously Vanished" and "Transmissions From An Unknown Origin".

500 shows, 6 years, and over 15 different releases. Is there anything you wish you had accomplished with the band that you didn't, or in light of what you achieved are you completely content?

Shelby: I would have liked to play a show in Antarctica. I would have us reform and play in Antarctica if someone could fund it. Play for scientists and have it webcast... then bury my guitar in the snow. Besides that... I'm happy with everything we did.

What was the best part of your time spent in Frodus? What do you walk away from the band with?

Shelby: Writing songs, releasing records, and going to different countries. Going to Japan was one of the best things we have ever done. I walk away from the Frodus experience with good memories of being creative with some of the greatest people I've had in my life.

How do you feel about being considered one of the founders of a genre as bizarre as "Spazz-Core"? I assume that you don't label yourself in such a fashion, but in the many styles you've experimented with and the many different bands you've been grouped with, (either at shows or even just in mentioning) How do YOU put think the band will eventually be remembered?

Shelby: It's kind of funny... I came up with the term "spazzcore" as a joke for some Lovitt ads I designed. I thought that it would be funny to coin a term, much how Sub Pop coined "grunge" as a joke in their early ads.

I think we will be remembered for the unique sounding records we made during the expanding punk/indie scene of the 90s.

On a related note, how do you feel about the attempts by just about everyone to pigeonhole everything out there into the most specific type of category imaginable? Was the group adversely affected by this?

Shelby: Yes, I feel like we were. People like to know where to place you... we weren't punk, we weren't indie... we were something in between.

Propaganda has always been a part of the Frodus attack; while the band is done as far as playing goes, the web presence and the current Fueled By Ramen sponsored "stencil" attack only seem to be furthering the band's name. What are your feelings on all of this: are you behind it and what is the final goal?

Shelby: I am completely behind furthering the concept of Frodus. I have a plan to make Frodus a media venture to continue propaganda attacks on modern society in this Age of Disintegration.

All of you guys seem very occupied at the moment. What is your preference right now, your design work, the bands you're working with, or even the production you've experimented with?

Shelby: My first preference will always be making music. I do design to pay the bills and also to get involved with expressing my visual ideas with bands/labels that I enjoy by doing their packaging. The production I've done with Dead Meadow has been great- I hope to continue working with friend's bands that I enjoy to help them reach their ideal vision. Production isn't something that I plan on pursuing too actively in the near future... it's just a way to learn more in the constantly evolving musical process.

Thanks a lot.

Shelby: Thank you! Rock & Roll is war...