Frenzal Rhomb are back with a new album Hi-Vis High Tea and an Australian tour as well. Recorded once again by Bill Stevenson (Descendants, Black Flag) and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado, Hi-Vis High Tea is a concept album about a whole bunch of different concepts with twenty songs clocking in at just over thirty minutes. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Jay Whalley about the album and upcoming tour.
Congratulations on Hi-Vis High Tea, did it feel like a labour of love?
It was definitely laborious! It’s good! It’s finished! Thank god! It only took six years…
Is that part of the reason why the songs are so short because you were getting sick of it?
Um, no! I think I realised in 2003 that there is no point writing third verses so I haven’t written one since. I enjoy a concise song especially once you’ve done two verses and a couple of choruses, maybe even some kind of middle bit. Then I enjoy finishing the song and starting another one.
Was that deliberate right at the beginning to write short punchy songs?
Yeah, that was the aim. There were a few through the keeper, Lindsay has written a couple of epics on there and the last song might even go over three minutes which was a dreadful mistake but we’ll live with it.
Where do go after a career that spans twenty five years musically when thinking about a new album?
I always try with my song writing to make it more concise and within the parameters of the Frenzal Rhomb sound I like to make it sound as poppy, hopefully miserable whether it is lyrics or melody hooks that is always my challenge. Anyone can write a song that is fast and melodic but it is quite difficult to make it good. So that is always my challenge.
How was the studio experience a heap of fun or do you wear on each other’s patience?
It is difficult because we hate each other so much. At the end of the day it is a matter of who is physically stronger as to who wins the inevitable cage match! We’re good friends you know, so it is a bit of a holiday whenever we record as we have already done all the work demoing and writing the songs and fighting about that. When we’re in the studio it is a matter of just playing the part as good as we can.
Being a little bit older and a little more wiser does it get harder coordinating diaries these days being at the same place at the same time?
Definitely! We’re always trying to tack on writing sessions to the beginning or end of tours and work out when we’re going to be in the same place but we got there?
What is the background to the single Cunt Act? Is that the Liberal Party theme song?
It should be! Lindsay actually wrote that one and was his opus. I think as political he would like to think that it is, it is actually a whole bunch of stuff that rhymes with act. I like it though, it has a good balance between the political and the ridiculous.
How do you come at the decision that would be the first single as I would imagine that would have been a tough one for the record company?
I think that for anyone who agrees to take on the Frenzal Rhomb experience will probably know that Today FM isn’t their first stop and that radio in general is probably mostly irrelevant to what we do. I wanted to put out something that was a very slight progression on what we’ve done before but still has that Frenzal vibe.
Does that make it even more significant now that you’re still forging on without any radio support?
I don’t know, there are so many things outside of your control as a band like getting on the radio, playing festivals or whatever. You don’t have any control over that as a band but what you do have control over is getting together with your mates and writing songs and putting on shows and making t-shirts, pressing records and making albums… that’s the sort of stuff which is all you can do.
Have you ever thought about organising your own festival?
I think we did that in 1995 and we called it “Irresponsive-thon” and that was a horrendous failure. I don’t we’ll ever do that again. We’re still paying it off but we probably shouldn’t have got Powderfinger as they’re very expensive, still expensive even though they have broken up.
How the album concept of Hi-Vis High Tea come about?
We did have a few ideas for that, there’s one song on there Digging A Hole For Myself and the concept of that is the idea that everyone has a responsibility for the destruction of our planet especially in Australia that we’re just digging shit up and selling it, our children will be suffering because of it but we’re all living it up! We’re all living with the rewards of destroying our planet. That was the concept behind that song then we just decided to call the album Hi-Vis High Tea. As long as you can get a decent mid strength beer and a pie everyone is happy!
Are you excited to be getting back on the road playing some familiar venues around the country such as The Gov here in Adelaide?
Oh yes, yes! That is my favourite venue in the whole of South Australia, well actually my third favourite. I like The Gov and a lot of the venues we are playing we have played before and there are some we have not and I am terrified of those ones! I like familiarity…
Are you playing the album start to end?
Oh god no! We couldn’t play any album start to finish I’m pretty sure. A lot of people do that now, a lot of people touring on one album and that is like saying we have no bad songs on our album. I don’t know any album in existence of albums that don’t have at least a couple of real bummers. We would never inflict that on our audience especially when they have paid upwards of thirty one dollars fifty for a ticket. We always make sure we end out albums well and begin our albums well and in middle their littered with substandard music but the older we get the more consistent our records are, there are more solidly good songs on this record than our last record than there ever have been on our previous albums.
Twenty-fifth anniversary of Frenzal Rhomb, are there any special plans to commemorate the milestone such re-releases or a special tour?
We did our request only tour last year where we put our Frenzal Rhomb best of which we swore we would never do but we did it anyway. It was a really fun tour, the audience got to pick all the songs so if they didn’t like it was their fault. I feel like we have commemorated that, we have a lot of albums, I’ll try and think what was released, every year we could do a commemorative skateboard!
You can never have enough skateboards!
You can never have enough even if you’re hammering them on the wall!
Interview by Rob Lyon
Hi-Vis High Tea is out now and check the poster below for where Frenzal Rhomb are playing near you…