Once upon a time, mentioning surfing and music in the same sentence conjured
up sepia-toned images of the early '60s. But thanks to artists like Donavon
Frankenreiter -- who, unlike most of the old-school surf-rockers,
knows his way around a wave as well as he does a fret-board -- those images
have been updated radically to focus as much on musical adventure as on
the spreading of good vibes.
Over the course of the past half-decade, the California-bred Frankenreiter
established himself as one of the more original voices on the acoustic-rock
scene, through tireless touring and the innate catchiness of songs like
Free (which became a Triple-A radio staple upon its release
two years ago). But, unsatisfied with simply heading further down that
path, he opted to shift gears for Move By Yourself, his sophomore outing
-- and first for Lost Highway.
The brisk 11-track disc is something of a sonic sea change for Frankenreiter.
While the sun-kissed openness of his songs is still in full effect, hes
now couching those feelings in a whole new set of sounds, from the keyboard-drenched
Let It Go (which blends Allmans-styled soulfulness with an
undeniable pop sensibility) to the low-slung funk grooves of the smoldering
I listen to so much music, and I pretty much feel comfortable singing
all of it, so I didnt want to come across as a guy who does nothing
else but sit on a beach with an acoustic guitar, playing around a fire,
says Frankenreiter. The funky stuff, especially, is fun to play
-- it really lets me tap into a different part of my personality.
In order to more fully explore different aspects of that personality,
the Laguna Beach-based singer-songwriter decided a change of scenery would
do him good. After releasing his self-titled debut on Brushfire Recordings
-- the label run by longtime friend and collaborator Jack Johnson -- Frankenreiter
chose to link with Lost Highway for the release of Move By Yourself.
Jack and Mario [Caldato] did a great job on that last record and
I had a beautiful time making it. I just felt like I needed to make a
change, and there were definitely no hard feelings involved, he
says. I wanted to succeed or fail on my own merits and I jumped
at the opportunity to be part of a roster like Lost Highways.
Frankenreiter has been moving towards being part of that roster for ages.
After establishing himself as one of the most acclaimed free surfers in
the world -- a talent that took him halfway around the world before his
16th birthday -- he picked up a guitar in order to master riding a different
sort of wave. By his senior year of high school, he was part of a popular
live act called Peanut Butter and Jam, in which he learned that taking
the stage provided an entirely different sort of pleasure -- for him and
The reality is that surfing is my first love, he admits.
For a long time, it was my life -- I made a living at it starting
when I was 16 years old, and it took me all a round the world. But its
vastly different than doing music. If I call up a buddy to surf, there
can be a moment of clarity, but if I get a wave thats really incredible
and try to convey that feeling to someone else, they may not be able to
relate. But my wife -- or anyone -- can see me on stage playing and really
feel what Im feeling. Its magical, theres so much togetherness.
Exploring that communal feel was one of Frankenreiters primary
goals when recording Move By Yourself. Hes adamant about crediting
his bandmates Matt Grundy (bass), Eric Brigmond (Keyboards) and Craig
Barnette (Drums) with helping shape its alternately funky and blissed-out
grooves, and equally eager to spread the gospel of the sort of old-fashioned
recording process they used in making the disc.
We recorded at a studio in St. Augustine, and this guy, Jim DiVito,
had tons of really old equipment, which was terrific, recalls Donavon.
He had two inch tape, no click tracks and we had to do things the
way stuff had been done before all the modern studio technology was invented.
Just seeing the tape roll was fun. That had a lot to do with the way the
Those sounds are undeniably, unabashedly, organic. Acoustic interludes
like Girl Like You (Cali Honey) exude a back-porch vibe so
vivid that its easy to imagine the sound of ice swirling around
in glasses hoisted by fellow party-goers. And when the volume ramps up
to the point where such sounds would be drowned out -- as on the fiery
Fool, which showcases Frankenreiters deft, bluesy fretwork
-- other senses get a workout via the smell of sweat and the feel of heat.
Move By Yourself has no shortage of such sonic mood swings, but theres
a definite evenness of spirit. Sure, the disc has its share of assertive
moments, but its hard to miss the delight with which Frankenreiter
approaches life, whether hes relating his feelings about his child
(as on These Arms) or simply waking up to greet the new dawn
addressed on Beautiful Day. Hes a happy guy, and hes
the first to admit it.
Its a totally positive thing for me, Frankenreiter
declares. Ive talked to people whove asked why
dont you write more depressing songs? Sure, I have bad days like
anyone else, but mostly, I feel lucky. When I pick up a guitar, I feel
good. It makes me want to open a bottle of wine and have a party, and
thats what Id like people to feel when they listen to my music.