Published Jan 01, 2006When Frog Eyes played a storefront bar in Austin this sweaty SXSW spring, scores of mystified rock tourists hovered by the open window, alarm and wonder on their faces. Is this shit for real? Inside, the ecstatic, testifying crowd answered: yes. Oh yes.
Frog guy Carey Mercer is the real shit, a self-taught bundle of wound-up creative mayhem, channelling some testy spirits from the rock'n'roll beyond. You could liken Frog Eyes to a great symphony of buzzing saws, or is that bees? You could liken Mercer's voice to Bowie having night terrors. But the best thing about Frog Eyes is that they sound... like Frog Eyes.
"It just kind of comes out that way, as fucking flaky as that sounds," laughs Mercer, who in person is a low-key, genial guy. "It's like singing, it's a very physical thing." On stage he becomes a frenzied mass of flailing guitar and shaking limbs, and the rest of the band sprints intensely to keep up with him. It's possible they are the most intuitive band in the world. Drummer Melanie Campbell started playing three weeks before their first show; Mercer doesn't read music and has never learned how to play guitar conventionally. "Mel has no musical history either, so it was onomatopoeia. I had to kind of sing out the drumbeats to her. I never really thought about that, but it contributes to the melodic nature of her drumming."
Records come at a frantic pace: this year alone Frog Eyes released Ego Scriptor, an acoustic re-interpretation of past and future albums, and their first for the Absolutely Kosher label. It was followed by solo project Blackout Beach, and current record The Folded Palm. Mercer insists that he's not that prolific, but had a lot of projects on the back burner.
"Where you start and where you end up is inevitably a shockingly different place," he says of all the records. "Once I become accustomed to it, that's something I cherish. It points to the mystery of music. It's probably the best part of the whole thing. It swallows up your will and that's kind of neat."