Front Country Exclusive Interview
For those that know me, you'll know Country music is one of the only genres of music I still haven't grown an ear for. Don't let Front Country's band name fool you though - they are anything but. I want to once again thank Emily Ginsberg for granting me access to this wonderful band, whose sound we'll go into more shortly. I talked with Jacob Groopman, part of the 5 members (Melody Walker, Adam Roszkiewicz, Jeremy Darrow, Leif Karlstrom) that make up Front Country, who are currently on the West Coast leg of their tour in promotion of their brand new album 'Other Love Songs', released just yesterday (4/7).
One of my least favorite things to do when being asked to describe a band's sound is to lump it into several genres, as I feel it does a disservice to the uniqueness of the band, and it puts a definition on their sound, in a sense boxing them in. I love how Front Country picked up and embraced a term that a UK publication used in a review of their previous record, Sake of the Sound, being 'Roots Pop', and just ran with it. When I asked Jacob about what Roots Pop is, as I'd never heard that phrase before, he said, "It's a new phrase to us too...It does a pretty good job describing us...The Roots Pop phrase really seems to do a good job describing what we're doing, because even us in the band have a hard time describing the genre we're making. We've been enjoying this Roots Pop thing, and there are a bunch of other bands who are colleagues of ours that I think fall under this umbrella as well - this kind of acoustic, pop vibe." I love that even in the band they aren't 100% sure what they're making - they're just focusing on making good, unique music that they want to make. Not everything has to be a cookie-cutter genre-filler.
The new album Other Love Songs draws from the aforementioned previous album's Sake of the Sound title track. I asked Jacob about how this new record varies sonically from that record; "Well, it's funny because it was actually recorded in the same studio. Sonically, it's different because we're taking elements of Sake of the Sound, which is the direction that we wanted to take our music. We left behind a lot of the straight away bluegrass and folky stuff, and concentrated more on this pop element, the rock element. I think this record is an extension of what we've been trying to do for the last 3 years and just expand the whole Roots Pop thing...It's funny, we recorded this not just in the same studio, but with the same producer too actually." Fans of Front Country will notice the similarities, but also pick up on the new direction the group is taking, in my opinion, for the best.
Not only is this record done in the same studio and with the same producer, but it features almost no collaborations. They linked up with Laurie Lewis, an influential bluegrass figure in California, who helped with some harmony vocals. They also brought in some percussion help, but it featured no special guests otherwise. Nearly all their songwriting is done by Melody Walker (vocals, guitar, percussion), and this was the first time she really sat down and challenged herself to write love songs, hence the title of the record. As Jacob notes though, "There was some want inside the band for some 'feeling' songs, so she really went out there and wrote some songs that were a different take on the traditional love song. Tracks like 'If Something Breaks', or 'Heartbreaker', a song about a person that you know is a drama queen, things like that." There is a quote that really stuck out to me as being a perfect descriptor of Melody's style of songwriting on this album I read on their website, "These songs follow the lessons that everyone learns in their own personal evolution toward emotional maturity and vulnerability - in which all of us learn to break down toxic romantic fairy tales and write our own "Other Love Songs" that work for real people in the real world."
I had a fantastic time chatting with Jacob, and can say I am honored to get to attend their show at The White Eagle in Portland on 4/14 - you can get tickets yourself here (Only $10). Expect a full show review along with images from new Sonically Awkward collaborating photographer, Courtney!
I included links to their brand new record below, and will personally recommend the tracks 'If Something Breaks', 'I Don't Wanna Die Angry', and 'GLYP' (Good Looking Young People) as my favorite tracks off the new album! You can also find the full interview transcribed below, and you can listen to the full interview via the handy built-in player below as well!