Frontier Folk Nebraska celebrate release of eponymous second album
By Kyle Melton
By its nature, rock ‘n’ roll always blurs the lines between musical styles. While its roots can easily be traced back into blues, country, folk and jazz traditions, the modern era rock ‘n’ roll continues to evolve into a seemingly endless stream of subgenres on a near-daily basis. While many bands thrive within these confines, Covington, Ky. quartet Frontier Folk Nebraska (FFN) bucks against artistic constraints and easily definable parameters with their new self-titled album. The band will celebrate its release this Saturday night with a show at South Park Tavern.
Formed in 2006, Frontier Folk Nebraska’s original lineup was formed by Michael Hensley (vocals, guitar) and included Steven Oder (bass) and Andrea Lee (violin, keys). Lee left in 2008 as the group was turning in a new rock ‘n’ roll direction. At this time, the band went from a primarily acoustic/folk act, to not really a folk act at all with the addition of Brett Tritsch (drums) and Travis Talbert (guitar). The band issued its debut album Pearls in 2009, earning the band airplay on WOXY.com and shows from Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago, to Birmingham and Atlanta. As the band built its reputation with Pearls and an intense live show, the band quickly got tagged as an Americana act, although they would dispute its legitimacy.
“Quite honestly, we hate it,” admitted Talbert. “Nothing against ‘Americana’ music, there are lots of things that fall into that category that we all really love — Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo, Drive-By Truckers — but that just simply isn’t what we do. We are an American rock ‘n’ roll band and always try to be upfront with bookers about that. So many people are thrown by the word folk, but seem to miss ‘frontier’ completely. We’re all people constantly looking to learn as much about making music as possible, and while many musicians do find a niche, we look for ours to be only what we feel we can play genuinely.”
As Pearls spread to new listeners and the fiery live show earned it converts, FFN set to work laying down tracks with the new lineup for their new self-titled release. With nearly two years spent on the album, the record was recorded by (current bass player) Steven Oder at a makeshift studio in the band’s practice space owned by then-drummer Brett Tritsch.
“We started recording in the summer of 2009 and completed final overdubs in the fall of 2010,” explained Talbert. “Everything was done by us. We recorded live in the space to get all the basic tracks down and then moved to a smaller space to do overdubs like vocals and some guitar solos and acoustic guitar parts. There are all kinds of extra noises that are part of the overdubs. Lots of layers of things to find in the record.”
While the band may swim against the “Americana” tag, the heart-on-the-sleeve songwriting of Hensley and the band’s twangy tones certainly make a case for the tag on tracks such as “Heavy Heart” and “Tonight a Rainfall, Yesterday’s Nightmare.” However, it’s easy to hear how the band bucks against that genre’s boundaries with the blistering “Electric Satan” and “Cradle to the Grave.” Even relatively subdued recording of “Queen City Serenade” hints at a restrained fury that could open up in a live setting. With its new album, FFN hopes to build on its reputation and dispel many of the misgivings its moniker presented with its last album.
“We felt quite a bit of backlash for not being a folk band even during the promotion of Pearls, so this next step may not have been as big of a surprise to people that have followed our whims thus far as their initial confusion when they first came to see us thinking we’d be just tickled pink to be there to pick for the folks,” said Talbert. “We’re super proud of the record and hope that we get it to as many people as possible.”
As plans are being made to tour throughout the Midwest and South in 2012, FFN members are excited to present their new album to Dayton audiences well before its official release next year. Make no mistake, however: this is a loud band.
“Honestly, bring ear plugs if you aren’t deaf already,” Talbert said. “We don’t think we are that loud, but we’ve been told otherwise. Dayton is always our favorite place to play. We tell everyone everywhere that. No shit. We always meet genuine people in Dayton, and people actually listen. Home is great and we’ve had great times in other cities, but Dayton is always a good time and we are always excited to come back.”
Frontier Folk Nebraska will celebrate the release of their new self-titled album with a show on Saturday, November 19 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are King Elk and the Turkish Delights. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for all ages. For more information, visit frontierfolknebraska.blogspot.com.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden.net.