Q&A Scene: Chris Frain of Pattern Language

Tell us about your new release.
Total Squaresville” is a six track EP/mini-album that is currently available on the London-based label Happy Robots Records. The EP is my first release on a label, and my first under the moniker “Pattern Language.” The music itself has a very retro/synth wave feel to it, but harkening back more to the sound of the late 1970s than the mid 1980s. I think it would appeal to those who like artists such as Kraftwerk, Stereolab, A.I.R., and Neu!

What’s your favourite work you’ve been involved at this point in time?
I just started doing remixes for other artists and it is a lot of fun! One of my biggest problems is overcoming the “blank canvas” but with remixes you can just dive in and start reassembling and creating new parts based on what is already there. The remix I created for Rodney Cromwell’s “Cassiopeia” (on the “Fax Machine Breakup” EP) is still something I enjoy listening to, and I did several remixes for the band Battery Operated Orchestra which should be coming out soon.

Can you share a quick anecdote with us – from on the road or studio? 
If you pursue music long enough everything starts to feel like “Spinal Tap” after a while, LOL! I remember I was playing bass in a band in a sort of barely-fenced off area along a busy pedestrian-only street. Right in the middle of a song, as I’m playing bass with both hands occupied, a gentleman appeared beside me and sincerely asked me if I had a light for his cigarette.

Who or what inspires your music?
I’m inspired by those who try to create their own sound right from the start instead of comfortably settling in to what’s stylish at the moment. I was watching a documentary about the so-called “Krautrock” artists of the 1970s and one of profound things that really inspired me from that is how they were all attempting to create their own sound outside of the American and British rock scenes that were already dominating the pop music world at the time. That effort to completely reject the dominant forms and timbres of the time and try to come up with something new (but not entirely abstract or unrelatable) is really admirable.


Which song do you wish you wrote?
I wish I wrote “Yesterday” – I’d be filthy rich!

How would you describe your sound in food form and why?
Great question! I’ve been watching a lot of “The Great British Bake Off” recently so of course I’m going to go with a savory biscuit – because it’s not quite what you would expect in terms of flavor but it’s still delicate and delicious.

What’s next for you?
Hopefully a tour of either the US or UK in the later half of 2017 or early 2018. I’d like to do more abstract music projects, possibly to accompany films or stage productions as well. I’d love to continue doing remix projects, too!

What’s your scene?
I rather enjoy road cycling – just as a hobby, not competitively. I’m also a contributing author on a retroculture blog called echosynthetic.com, where I can finally put my knowledge of 1980s PC games and Italian post-apocalyptic movies to good use.

About Pattern Language

London’s Happy Robots Records has announced they will be releasing the ‘Total Squaresville’ mini-album from synth- electronic crafter Pattern Language. From this collection of six tracks, they are teasing the lead single ‘By Time We Get There’ with a catchy retro video by Cheyene Grow at 75 Ohms. Created using obsolete corporate video equipment from the 20th century and generating real-time video landscapes and infinite textures.  This is Pattern Language’s debut release, scheduled for release in June 2017.

Pattern Language is the new project of Chris Frain. Currently based in Boulder, Colorado, Frain was previously keyboard player for the indie-pop band The Giranimals (where he developed a love for the staple sounds of the Minimoog and Melotron instruments) and bassist for the power-prog rock trio Tanuki. In 2013, Frain decided to pursue a solo electronic music career after a chance viewing of the BBC4 documentary “Synth Britannia”, which made him fall back in love with the sound of the synthesizer.

“Each one of the pieces on this album were started from some very basic idea about sound or structure or primary influence, and yet I was surpirsed by all the twists and turns they took through the stages of composition, recording, and mixing,” says Chris Frain. “It’s still fun to listen to each piece and how they took on a life of its own to become something new and unexpected, even to me.”

Apart from sounding similar to krautrock legends like Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia, and La Dusseldorf, the tracks found on ‘Total Squaresville’ showcase Frain drawing heavily on influences from his childhood, including The Art of Noise, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, and the 1980s iteration of King Crimson. Particularly noteworthy is the use of pre-Roland 808 sounds for the drum machine parts, placing this version of synthwave closer to the late 1970s than the mid-to- late 1980s sound currently dominating this sub-genre.

Tracks like ‘By the Time We Get There’ and ‘Squaresville’ sound like lost Conny Plank projects – complete with simple, direct melodies and motorik-beat rhythms. The Mini-Album’s closer ‘Le Chocs des Etoiles’ (named after the original French title of campy science fiction flop ‘Star Crash’) could easily remind the listener of songs by AIR and Stereolab with its liberal use of Melotron strings and bongo-heavy percussion.


While almost unheard of in popular electronic music, ‘The Castellers’ glides along in 3/4 waltz time, replete with flamenco hand-claps. Electro and space disco-inspired ‘A Pattern Language’, along with the moody minimalist piece ‘Deeply Recessed Windows’, round out the tracklist for this debut release.

‘Total Squaresville’ follows up Chris Frain’s remix on the most recent EP from fellow Happy Robots artist Rodney Cromwell, described by Louder Than War as “replete with keyboard accompaniments that could easily be by John Carpenter…one of the stand out tracks of the EP.”

‘Total Squaresville’ is the ninth release on Happy Robots Records and is distributed by Cargo Records, mastered for analogue warmth on digital devices. Watch the video to ‘By Time We Get There’ at www.happyrobots.co.uk

“Like Space Invaders combined with the Blade Runner Soundtrack and set to a propulsive beat” – Overblown

“Rescues the sound of eighties synth pop” – Revista

” Instrumental synthpop with plenty of retro-futuristic sci-fi bleepage” – Bliss Aquamarine

“Embraces both indie pop and indie dance simultaneously” – Louder than War


About Mandy Hall 838 Articles
Mandy is a music photographer & writer. She runs Mandy Hall Media, which includes Photography, Social Media marketing, PR & Graphic Design for the music industry. She is also a web developer - she created and supports this website.

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