Held Like Sound 'Zine - January 1998
Interview with S. Cinca, J. Hamacher, N. Burke
I must admit that objectivity is pretty hard when I write about Frodus. They've been good friends of mine for a few years now and it's been exciting to see them change over time. They've endured countless bass changess, but they've now hopefully settled with Nathan Burke, an outstanding fellow. Shelby Cinca (guitar/vocals) and Jason Hamacher (drums) are two of my favorite D.C. people. Although I do not write about bands on Tooth & Nail (Frodus' new label) as a rule, I decided to stretch it a bit since these guys are such a great band and nice fellas as well. Anwyay, I sat down with the band at the Hard Times Cafe in Arlington in January '98 and here's what happened.
So how did you wind up with Nathan as your bassist?
Jason: Nathan should've been in Frodus three years ago. But he said "no, I'm going to start my education at William & Mary." We said, "ok." Then, this summer, I hadn't seen Nathan for like two years, and I walked into Convergence [Record Convergence is a record store in Fairfax, Va.] and told him we needed a new bass player. So I went off on tour with Battery and then next thing I knew, Nathan and Shelby had written a song together. I called from Detroit, MI. and that's when I found out.
Shelby: Basically, while Jason was gone, Nathan and I just got together and jammed and we four-tracked some ideas, one of which became the middle part for one our new songs, "Invisible Time Lines." Jason got back and we did a proper tryout cause we wanted him to learn some of the old songs. So Nathan learned all the songs and we were like "let's do it." Since then, we wrote our album, which is coming out on Mar. 10 and is called Conglomerate International. It was a good experience. We all write very well together. Things definitely fell into place.
Nathan: I guess my version of the story would be that I went to three different schools in three years and then I tried to get Real Cool Rain [Nathan's band of the past few years] together. I spent last year in Scotland and nothing was going on with music. When they asked me, I said "screw going back to school."
Is it much of adjustment from school life, which is pretty sedentary, to the touring life for you?
Nathan: This is the first year that I haven't gone to some kind of school since I was six years old. So it's definitely strange, but it's fun. You can always go back to school.
How has Nathan changed the dynamic of the band?
Jason: It's easier. Personality-wise, Nate works out with us better than anyone has. We toured with Nathan and we toured with Howard. Howard was a totally different story. Mason was awesome, but he was quiet. He was quiet around people he didn't know. But Nate's more like Shelby and I. Not like Howard and Mason weren't good people, but I know Nate's not gonna be in the corner.
So why did you decide to sign with Tooth & Nail?
Jason: They do a great job. You want the full story?
Jason: I hated Tooth & Nail. I thought they were an exclusively Christian label that charged high prices for their records and ripped off Christian kids. And when I did a show for Roadside [Monument], I told them I liked the band and that I'd only buy their record from them and not from Tooth & Nail. We ended up having a long talk about Tooth & Nail and a lot of the things I thought about them weren't true. Like, all the rumors saying that you have to be a Christian band. Or you can't do this and you can't do that. The majority of the rumors aren't true. The employees there some of them are Christian, some of them aren't. It's a regular record label.
Granted, I'm sure there are a lot of unfounded rumors about Tooth & Nail, but this is the label that puts out bands that compares the pro-choice movement to the Holocaust.
I don't remember the name of the band offhand, but I can find it. [The band is Overcome and the song is "A Case For Life" - ed.]
Nathan: Well, I'd never heard of Tooth & Nail before Shelby and Jason had told me about them. All I know was what I saw and that was that they were helping us out. They were helping us out on tour and with promotion and that's what really matters. They never said anything about asking us if we were Christian. They don't even ask us what our songs are about, they're just like, give us a record.
I don't think the problem that people have with Tooth & Nail is that they're Christian, it's because of what some of the bands are saying.
Jason: Right, but they're not going to tell a band not to say something.
Shelby: Yeah, freedom of speech. People are so quick to forget that Victory put out One Life Crew.
Jason: But I didn't know about that pro-life thing. He does put out the religious bands, but I don't care about that.
Shelby: We don't care what he puts out. We're on a label to put out our records. Our records haven't changed at all. This record is the same record we would've made on Double Deuce or Lovitt.
Jason: But the fact is, there's not many labels that wanted to put out Frodus to begin with. We don't have a big selection. It's either a small label or someone that will support you in anything you do, immensely.
There's an interview in the latest Muddle with Roadside Monument where one of the guys in the band says that you are "done" with smaller labels, and there's kind of an arrogance to that quote and I was wondering if that's how you felt.
Jason: Hell no!
Shelby: We're doing our full-lengths on Tooth & Nail, but we're still going to put out 7"s on small labels.
Jason: I never said that [that being that Frodus was "done" with small labels]. That's what was weird. I would've liked to have done something on a Troubleman or Gravity, but none of those labels cared about us. It's not that I'm bitter, it's just that we only had so many options.
Shelby: We did take into consideration that some people might think we're a Christian band. But listen to the record. We're not a Christian band. We're the same Frodus we've always been.
You haven't gotten much shit for it, have you?
Shelby: Not really.
Nathan: It just comes up a lot.
Jason: I think people just have questions about it, as opposed to being pissed.
But aside from the religion thing, this is also a label that does a full-page color ad in Alternative Press. I think it's cool that, if they have the money, they're willing to spend it on promoting their bands really well. But I think it's kind of lame that in the bottom corner there's a big Blockbuster Music logo letting people know they can buy it there.
Jason: Oh, man.
Shelby: A lot of the audience that reads AP doesn't buy records at Mom & Pop stores. You know, AP is a pretty wide audience.
Jason: "If you want the record, you can buy it here."
Shelby: People made a big deal about Sony distributing Epitaph in Japan, but who really cares. They're still independent and completely owned by themselves. They did it for their bands so they can be found in any store. They didn't compromise any of their ethics, yet people still have a problem with it. Epitaph had offers to buy out and they haven't.
I think people feel passionate about independence, at least people that care do. And the knee jerk response to seeing Epitaph and Sony next to each other is "what the fuck?"
Jason: But with the record store logo in the ad, it's for kids that live in the middle of Texas or Arizona.
But when I first bought punk stuff, like Rites of Spring or whatever, I didn't need Dischord putting "available at Tower" in their ads for me to find it there.
Jason: Right, but they're Dischord. But I think it's mostly so people just don't have to think. Like some little kid will be like "MXPX is cool! Where do I buy it? I guess at Blockbuster!"
Anyway, I know you had the two-record deal with Double Deuce, but only put out one. So, what's up with the next record and what happened to Double Deuce altogether?
Shelby: I don't know what's going on with Double Deuce, but if they're still going to be putting out records, we're gonna do a CD of our early material.
Jason: When we were talking to Tooth & Nail, I called Dalton [Ross, owner of Double Deuce] and told him we didn't want to screw him over. We didn't want him to feel we were cheating him or anything. He totally understood. It was kind of a weird thing for Double Deuce cause they weren't really in a scene. So we didn't have the hip factor. They couldn't give us the support like Tooth & Nail could, or like a lot of labels could.
How did your motif evolve from aliens to big business?
Shelby: Well, if you notice, our first demo tape had a song about business.
Jason: "Business Creep."
Shelby: I don't think it's evolving, but we just got older and a little more serious. Instead of singing about aliens, we sang about something else.
Jason: You're saying we.
Shelby: I mean we.
Are you worried that people might think you're laying it on a little thick at some point?
Jason: What do you mean? We are.
Shelby: Well, Pink Floyd laid it on a bit thick.
Well, with the press photo I could see people not getting the joke.
Shelby: If people think we're a cult, then I'd be happy.
Jason: Explain more, John. I'm confused.
Nathan: He means that people will think we're being serious when they see what we're doing. Well, with Nation of Ulysses, I didn't know them, but I thought it was funny. But with our whole Conglomerate thing, it's funny but there are are some serious messages behind it.
Jason: What do you mean by taking it seriously?
Shelby: The artwork, the pictures...
Jason: Like we want to be a corporation?
Shelby: We're completely employed by the conglomerate. But really, look at Manowar. If you have a Manowar record with medieval art on it and there on the back, and look like guys that work at Blockbuster Video, you're not going to be that excited. As opposed to wearing armor.
Nathan: I think it is funny to a certain extent. When I look at the artwork and the pictures and just the whole band itself. But it's not an international plot.
Jason: I just thought we were going for a uniform look. The record has kind of a theme to it.
Shelby: It's kind of tongue and cheek cause it's a punk rock record but it looks very corporate.
Nathan: As a Frodus fan, the thing I honestly missed from F-Letter was a sense of humor. It's subtle, but there's definitely a sense of humor to the new record.
I know I'd heard people missed the humor.
Jason: I don't miss that.
Nathan: It's less wacky.
Jason: Whoa! It's less obviously wacky. I think it works cause when you look at the record you don't know what we're going to be like live and then live we just go crazy.
Shelby: People would have no idea what the band sounds like. I think that's a good thing