The Frog Eyes Manifesto

The Frog Eyes Manifesto
Whenever an interesting album is released, critics rush to tie it into a homemade pseudo-philosophy of popular music. Frog Eyes singer Carey Mercer, whose songs are as interesting as they come, understands this, and that’s why his interviews sound like they come straight from the J. Peterman catalogue — he’s beating everyone to the punch. If anyone is allowed to be verbose, it’s the guy who wrote the songs. It may seem pretentious, but it’s congruent with the music he makes — loud, flamboyant and occasionally garish, but very likeable.

"I am not intentionally weird or intense; I have no mission or intent to ‘crush apathy’ or ‘broaden horizons,’” says Mercer. "I only have one way of approaching music. If I close my eyes and think of myself, I think of a dumb ox, a beast in a field, blindly thrashing at its fencing. Emotionally thrashing. Please don’t put that in big quotes.”

Four full-lengths in, Frog Eyes (which started, according to Mercer, as an exercise in teaching his wife Melanie the drums) continue to develop their style of hectic, theatrical post-punk. "I think we are shifting, moving into some space that is a little less like acid rain,” Mercer comments. Yet their latest, Tears of the Valedictorian, sounds far from subdued; Mercer’s trademark vocals sound seconds away from dissolving into either sobbing or maniacal laughter (sometimes for nine minutes at a time), and Spencer Krug’s conspicuously bright organ lines provide the only semblance of order while the other notes bang around like microwaves hitting metal. "We are not session musicians. I don’t think we even know ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ We only know our own songs,” Mercer says. It’s a communion that might explain how the band keep their songs listenable while seemingly bent on turning their instruments into scrap. The album’s title is, surprisingly, literal — it’s an affectionate tribute to a schoolmate who cried during his graduation speech. "I think lyrically I do have an interest in pomp and ceremony, so the valedictorian setting is important: remember, the speaker is giving a speech in one of the most formal and meaningless settings we have, as opposed to a funeral or wedding, both formal and quite meaningful.”

If words fail to describe Frog Eye’s sound, a peek into Mercer’s childhood (an "only in British Columbia” situation) might explain it better: "I think I am really influenced by the music that my Dad listened to when I was six. We lived on a gulf island, and our lives were the blessed lives of hippie children: fishing on a sailboat, swimming in the ocean, looking away while the adults played naked beach volleyball… a kind of personal Camelot. That era for me is linked to what was blasting out of their stereos: the Clash, Talking Heads, Beefheart, Neil Young, Roxy Music.” So, combine classic influences with a complete lack of self-consciousness, and you get the idea. It should be said that Mercer’s formative years were not without the usual tribulations, however. "I remember being so embarrassed one sunny day on the deck of the small inter-island ferry, when my dad acknowledged this proto-punk dude with a Sex Pistols T-shirt, by stating for all to hear: ‘Hey man… I like your T-shirt! Sex Pistols rock!’ My dad is and was cool: I think he got arrested for drunkenly pissing on a cop car outside of a Clash concert.” So that’s where the creative anguish comes from.