Published May 15, 2018"I didn't really think it out, but when you announce a new record and go on tour, you play most of the new record," Frog Eyes' Carey Mercer tells Exclaim! "But when you're also like, 'By the way, this is the last time the band will ever be playing all these songs together,' then you're like, 'I guess we should play some old songs.'"
Counting its brand-new swan-song Violet Psalms, Frog Eyes have eight albums to draw from, stretching back to 2002's My Bloody Hand, plus a scatter of EPs and singles. Parsing all of that material for a goodbye has proven an unique exercise in set list crafting, as well as a test of Mercer's memory.
When a longtime friend of the band sent a list of songs he'd want to hear on the tour, Mercer found himself confronted with some gaps.
"He sent me, like, 80 songs," he laughs, noting that the band have trimmed it down to a quarter-to-a-half of those for consideration. "It was really funny to go through: 'Oh my god, I forgot about that song; I have no memory of writing that song.' Because, y'know, 17 years — I don't have a great memory to begin with. So then I had to learn them."
How do you relearn a song you can barely remember writing?
"I don't have anything written down — I don't know how to read music," Mercer says. "I see chords in visual patterns; that kind of thing is really good for short term, but is terrible for your long-term recollection of things."
He managed to find an outside resource to draw on: there's a still-active fan message board that tabbed a wealth of Frog Eyes songs, giving Mercer a baseline to work from in refreshing his memory.
"They'd done the work for me — they charted everything," he says. "That was so rad, and so full circle, that I'm able to go learn my own songs from our fans. It's super cool. And they're mostly right!"
That fans kept such diligent records of the band's work is a testament to Frog Eyes' peculiar impact: 17 years of raucous squalls carved out a niche that's continued to resonate with a core of listeners. That's something Mercer clearly appreciates, even at as he brings the project to a close.
"I'm not walking into the hallowed halls of the rock'n'roll hall of fame," he notes. "But I feel like I do exist somewhere in the story of music in the last 17 years."
Violet Psalms comes out May 18 on Paper Bag Records. Find all of Frog Eyes' final tour dates here.