Q&A: Simon Austin ~ FRENTE

Tell us about your tour?

We’re celebrating 30 Years since Marvin the Album was released. We’re reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

What’s your favourite work at this point in time?

“Air” from the Shape album. It’s like a cult hymn. I play it late at night, driving fast on the beach road, windows down, on my way back from….somewhere.

How would you describe your sound in food form and why? 

Three square meals. Breakfast: very very strong Flat White.  Lunch: Kid’s Party Food! Fairy bread, Cheezels, red cordigal and for the Adults, extremely stiff G&Ts (because your host knows that this is the third party today, your kid has released all the inmates from the petting zoo and all you have for the 4yo birthday girl is a Bunnings voucher) and Party Bags for EVERYONE, so you go home with huge smiles on your dials until – too late – you remember that the Q8 is too wide to make a left into Evelina Road, you tonk over the Heritage street sign and have to have another one of those chats with Senior Constable Karla. Dinner: Pizza delivery and bed for the kids, while you stare vacantly at each other over the bottle of rose and Thursday’s butter chicken, then the other bottle, the dregs of the party bag, then you turn on Spotify and get “Accidently Kelly St where friends and strangers sometimes meet”. You owe me 0.00002 Euro Cents. Hangover in 5 hours, school dropoff in 6. “I never thought life could be so sweet”.

Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote.

We were in rural Marin County near San Francisco looking at a studio and the folks who were recording that day kindly let us in to check it out. The live room was decorated with lacy curtains and plush cream carpet. Three very old, very expensive microphones (AKG C12s for those interested) were arranged in front of an antique chaise lounge. Curiouser and curiouser.  We went into the kitchen to chat with the very nice and patient Engineer. A lady who could have been my aunt Judy joined in. After making at least 10 stupid pretentious statements, I realised I was talking at Linda Ronstadt. The nice patient Engineer was George Massenburg, one of the greatest producers of all time. My frontal lobe seized up. They were so tolerant. They were recording the Trio record with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Thankfully those two weren’t there, I would have spontaneously combusted. Lesson learned: Shut your mouth and enjoy the flow of existence.

What, or who, inspires you?

Great songs – from ABBA to Zang Tuum Tumb. The temple-like holiness of an empty stage. Singing along with the audience. Early mornings.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel. A complex song that sounds very simple. Universal themes expressed via the deeply personal. A telephone book used as a kick drum. Genius.

What’s next for you?

A new Frente record. We’re writing it now.

What’s your scene?

Walking for hours on the Port Philip Bay Trail, singing song ideas into the phone. Bliss.

More than 30 years after they took the world of Australian music by storm, Melbourne indie-pop icons Frente are hitting the road to celebrate the anniversary of their iconic debut record, Marvin The Album. Set to do a full lap of the map in May/June this year, the tour will kick off with a hometown show at Corner Hotel on May 6, before moving to Oxford Art Factory (Syd), The Zoo (Bris), The Gov (Adl), and finishing up at Badlands in Perth on June 10, with supports from Sally Seltman in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and Lo in Perth.

Tickets go on sale from Oztix (Moshtix for Sydney) at 10am AEDT on Friday, March 3.

First forming in the late ‘80s around the core duo of Angie Hart and Simon Austin, Frente gained a following for their quirky, catchy, and dreamlike compositions, living up to Simon’s own description of the group as “pop that doesn’t know any better”. Following the release of their 1991 EP Whirled, Frente signed with Mushroom Records, and swiftly gained widespread attention for 1992’s Clunk EP, which hit the top three on the Australian charts, eventually going Gold. Mere months later, in November 1992, Frente would up the ante once more, sharing their debut full-length effort, Marvin The Album, with the world.

Almost immediately, Frente became a household name throughout Australia and the wider world. Singles such as Accidently Kelly Street, No Time, and Ordinary Angels received widespread airplay, while the record would go on to reach #5 in Australia, #4 in New Zealand, and top the US Top Heatseekers chart ahead of an eventual Platinum certification in their home country. Before long, Frente were everywhere, touring internationally, playing alongside the likes of Counting Crows, The Beautiful South, and Alanis Morissette, and even appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in the US.

Now, following a 21st birthday celebration (and reissue) of Marvin The Album in 2014, Frente! are set to honour the record’s pearl anniversary with an Australian tour which will see them playing the album in full across the country. “It has been my dream to be a ‘lifer’ in music and hitting a milestone like this while still practising our craft is fulfilment personified for me,” says Angie of the achievement.

Angie and Simon will be joined on the road by an eclectic lineup which includes bassist Tamara Murphy (Spirograph Studies, Kate Miller-Heidke, Paul Grabowsky), award-winning songwriter Sophie Koh on keys, and percussionist Ben Wiesner (Missy Higgins, The Audreys, Rob Snarski). “These three are all bringing a different energy and sound to the music and keeping the eclectic ethos of Frente alive,” says Angie.

Following the release of Marvin The Album in 1992, Frente would release the album Shape, to critical acclaim, in 1996 before calling it quits two years later. Since then, the group has been active sporadically, releasing an EP together and touring on and off. Angie and Simon have both embarked upon various musical ventures consistently from that time. Throughout it all though, their 1992 debut album has maintained a constant source of enjoyment and fulfillment for not only their fans, but themselves as well.

It’s so great to be playing these songs live again. They take on a new meaning and I gain a new and deepened reverence for them every time we open up the book on these songs. In the decade between the last time we played this album, we seem to always forget how the songs go and what they are about. We are approaching them with fresh ears and hearts and seeing them with a different perspective that only time can bring. The love we have for our younger selves now is full of compassion and, at this point, intrigue – we did that?!” says Angie.

The upcoming shows will also be an opportunity for Frente to connect with their legion of fans, while bringing back the personal, heartfelt nature of the music that has meant so much to so many for so long. “We are really looking forward to seeing everyone,” says Simon. “We look forward to bringing some supports to the shows that celebrate where we are now and who we are inspired by at present time. We are also armed with anecdotes and bad jokes, so beware!” warns Angie.

Alongside the newly-announced tour dates, Frente’s sold out vinyl reissue of Marvin The Album (released late last year) will have a second pressing, ensuring fans can get their hands on the deluxe physical treatment at the shows. “Since we recorded Marvin, the internet was invented, social media arrived (we toured nationally and internationally for over six years without either of them), CDs came and went, we released cassingles for Marvin and we are now around to see their return to favour, we released a few 45s and a 7-inch, but we never released Marvin on vinyl until this birthday,” says Angie.

Tickets to Frente’s 30th anniversary tour of Marvin The Album go on sale at 10am AEDT on Friday, March 3.

FRENTE – Marvin The Album – Official album artwork

FRENTE MARVIN THE ALBUM 30th ANNIVERSARY TOUR

FRIDAY MARCH 24 | CASTLEMAINE STATE FESTIVAL, CASTLEMAINE, VIC
Tickets from www.castlemainefestival.com.au

SATURDAY MAY 6 | CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE, VIC | 18+
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

THURSDAY MAY 25 | OXFORD ARTS FACTORY, SYDNEY, NSW | 18+
Tickets available from www.moshtix.com.au | 1300 GET TIX | All Moshtix Outlets

FRIDAY MAY 26 | THE ZOO, BRISBANE, QLD | 18+
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRIDAY JUNE 9 | THE GOV, ADELAIDE, SA | 18+
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SATURDAY JUNE 10 | BADLANDS, PERTH, WA | 18+ *TRIO
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

About Mary Boukouvalas 1611 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.