LAST OF THE JUANITAS, BEEHIVE, AND THE BARRACUDAS
Graceland, 381-3094, $10
9 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 29
Hey hey. Thank you for your compliments. We accept.
I finally wrote the lyrics down, went to the copy shoppe & all that—so here you go. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them down.
Not much going on out here.
Take care & don't freeze.
I was 16, sans the "sweet." No girlfriend, no muscles, no discernible occupation outside of "rock fan." In a deeply misguided effort to get a life, I snail-mailed musicians constantly, goosing them with what I only at this late hour recognize as stalker-speak. My purple prose wasn't exactly in the "used panties" echelon, but indie rockers oughta take what they can get.
When Drive Like Jehu's resplendently shrill town crier (yup, still got the touch) Rick Froberg sent me the above letter in 1993, well, fuck losing my virginity; my existence was complete. You've probably noted that there isn't a single revelatory, independently interesting detail in that note. During a recent half-hour phone conversation with Froberg about his freshly buffed 21st-century rock machine, Hot Snakes, I likewise failed to inspire the man to new summits of quotability.
"It seems like you're screaming a lot less now." My admonition is poorly disguised as a gee-whiz observation.
"I'm older." Froberg sighs, seeing right through the fanboy sniveling.
"That's a result of [age]?"
"Pretty much. Can't really do it." He revises: "I mean, I can, but I don't feel like it's necessary to do it every fuckin' song."
So that's the rub: Froberg's living in 2002; I'm Bill Murray-ing in 1993.
Still, Froberg's vernacular is as everyman as a Steinbeck standby's. I gained no further insight into the piss and propane propulsion of Hot Snakes from speaking to him that I hadn't already ascertained simply by listening to their records. And I think Froberg prefers it that way. An animator and Web designer by day, his gripe that "explaining art is even worse than explaining music" says it all; in raring to probe the brain of a teenage idol, I neglected how rare and cool it was to pass time in a no-bullshit zone.
Hot Snakes is Froberg's latest collaboration with Rocket From the Crypt ringleader John "Speedo" Reis; their first, high-school-era noise outfit, Pitchfork, earned Froberg his own endearing nickname, "Rickfork." The new Snakes album, Suicide Invoice (Swami), features drastically truncated, punky incarnations of Jehu's perilous, breathtaking math-rock adventures. The one constant is Froberg's richly macabre take on everyday pain, be it a girlfriend's exhausting career ("Why Does It Hurt?") or bad old corporate brain drain ("Paperwork").
"I just tend to resent authority and people who are above me in some way, whether they belong there or not," Froberg admits. "That may come off as a 'working man's' perspective, but as somebody who's doing graphic arts, I don't think I belong in the same category as someone who's digging ditches . . . although I have done stuff like that and I definitely know how that is. But I have no desire to glorify or be in that position again."
RICKFORK ON THE PROS AND CONS OF LYRICAL GOLDEN SHOWERS
Me: You know what [lyric of yours] always got me? "Your 47th birthday cake is peeing acid on your face." Great line. How do you think your songwriting . . .
Rick: Did I say that?
Me: That's on a Jehu record. Maybe "Good Luck in Jail"? [Actually "If It Kills You," dumbass.]
Me: Haven't listened to those albums in a while, huh?
Rick: No. [pause] Um, OK. Yeah.
One of the better rock and roll swindles of the '90s was Drive Like Jehu sliming their way onto Interscope. The major label landscape has farted and belched enough in the past few years to let assorted scream-o torchbearers sneak in through the cracks, but Hot Snakes will not be re-enacting history. Froberg finds it impractical, and considering his modest sketchpad life in New York City and the myriad full-time projects that Reis, bassist Gar Wood, and drummer J. Sinclair have going, Snakes world domination is damn near implausible.
"I never really understood why they wanted to put money into a band like [Jehu]," Froberg says. "But with Sonic Youth being on a major label and blah, blah, blah, they were looking for something that they thought was, in quotes, credible, and they said as much and we were like, 'OK, fine.' And we were one of the few bands [who] don't have any horror stories. We got a lot of money, we made one record, we did exactly what we wanted, and no one told us [what to do].
"In [Hot Snakes we] keep our overhead low. We don't spend a lot of money, and that way we get to keep money." He laughs. "We are all about making money and doing it efficiently."