Track by Track: Frog – ‘GROG’
Posted: by The Editor
Frog is the project of Daniel Bateman, and GROG is the first album that his brother is a fully fledged member of the band. The band describe GROG as “gothic and cartoonish” like “big gargoyles, dark skies, storms, but the statues are of–ah!–real monsters.” The album is so weird and wonderful, built on experimentation and a brotherly bond. If you like the idea of The Muppets playing Bruce Springsteen on a rainy street corner with instruments that don’t have names yet, this album is for you. Frog spoke with The Alternative to dig deeper into the process of songwriting below.
This was originally a whole song that lasted 4 minutes – I still really love that song, but there were some thorny sample-related issues that I didn’t have time to deal with, so I just cleared the intro sample and then cut it right into the second song. You don’t get paid on streaming for any song that’s not at least 30 seconds, so this is a little free appetizer for GROG for y’all, like the little chocolate they give with your coffee sometimes.
Thanks to Townsends! Check ‘em out on YouTube.
“Goes w/o Saying”
I was really pumped about the way this one came out. Steve hated his drum sound but I thought it was awesome. The piano sound is a happy accident – in whatever (mad old) version of logic I used for this, if you record multiple takes at different tempos into the same take folder, it breaks the take folder and the audio regions get stretched and aren’t in time with each other. I forgot about that problem, again, and I made that same mistake, again, all because I wanted the delay to be hooked to a slightly different tempo. Frustrated with myself, I expanded the take folder and then played all the piano takes at once. They were all slightly out of phase with one another because of the bug and it just sounded incredible. Thank God for happy accidents. This was supposed to be the ender, but in the end the sequence you hear on the record was the only one that worked.
This is about a day my junior year of high school, when my friend Will made me cut class on 4/20 and go to Taco Bell. This was relatively early in my relationship with him and some of the other seniors that became my core group of friends, and who still are my best friends to this day. It seemed like every day I hung out with these people new and exciting worlds opened up for me, universes of music and people and jokes that I didn’t know existed. We did a couple versions of this; this was the demo, and there was something about it that I couldn’t recreate and that I decided was essential to the song.
“U Shud Go 2 Me”
My mother-in-law used to work at an advertising production company in the ’80s – one of her co-workers went missing and her doctor husband showed up at the office asking everyone if they’d seen her. It eventually turned out that he’d murdered her, rolled her body up in a rug, and then dropped it from his single engine plane into the Long Island Sound. I was obviously struck by this story and it shows up in this song. The Butthole Surfers line seems to confuse a lot of people – if you didn’t know they’re a band from the 90s. They have some pretty good songs!
“Black on Black on Black”
Wrote this on a banjo – I’d gotten really into the Odyssey and Ulysses, and I guess it started showing up in the songs! Certain images resonate throughout time for reasons that aren’t always clear, and this includes Odysseus marooned on the beach with Calypso. We tracked the bass and the drums live & then dubbed guitar to the 8 track – then I think we dumped to Logic. My tape machine has all sorts of problems, the tracks bleed into one another, I think they’re not in phase sometimes, but somehow it still kinda works. I watched the Eagles documentary in 2018 and I think some of that energy ended up in this song.
This has a G minor tuning – we wrote and recorded this song in like 30-40 minutes probably. The full version has a whole other verse and chorus/outro, but Steve thought it was too long, so we cut it for the version on the record. I structured it so this is like a lob in the air for Maybelline to hit out the park.
I dreamt Bruce Springsteen was screaming this song over a piano and it was incredible – I woke up and ran out of the room so I wouldn’t wake my family and sang the melody into my phone. I don’t know how the heck to get ahold of Bruce but if anyone has his number – we need to get him to do a version of this. It would literally go to number one. This song is also about a murder, but from the perspective of someone who had a romantic relationship with a girl who’s found dead years later.
“So Twisted Fate”
I wrote this song like in 2014 or something – I have a version with Tom from the Whatever sessions, for whatever reason it just wasn’t working. It never got totally figured out until I started it on piano like you hear it here. If for some reason a song isn’t working in whatever place you find it first, sometimes you can dress it up in different hats and outfits until something starts to make sense. I kept the original lyrics though, hence the vine joke. It seems pretty amazing, insane even, that they already created a social media company made entirely of short videos, fully formed and working great, a decade before TikTok; it was just bought by Twitter and shut down because Twitter is that incompetent.
“Ur Still Mine”
I wrote this song right before I had kids, about someone who screwed up at being a father and is trying not to hate himself for doing it. Being a dad turned out to be so much harder than I could’ve ever imagined – it takes not just everything that you have to give but requires you to become much more than you ever were before, just to survive. Or at least that’s how it was for me. The ending section is a recording of my daughter Sally, age two, singing “Bah Bah Black Sheep” and saying, “listen to the music daddy!” as she bangs on the bell toys at the playground.
Me and Steve are from New Rochelle, if that’s not obvious. I bought a house here in 2020 so now me and my kids live here too, after 15+ years in the city. There are a lotta good songs about people’s hometowns, but for some reason nobody ever attempted New Ro before. Except there is that one song about being 30 minutes to Broadway. I loved growing up here, and hopefully my kids will too. “New Rochelle, Ideally yours” is the tag line that the city government chose for some reason a few years back – there are signs everywhere for it. Like some other songs on the last two records, I was actually not in favor of releasing this one, but Steve insisted and I couldn’t talk him out of it. I guess you just don’t know what people are going to respond to.
“Gone Back to Stanford”
I wrote this song in 2015 and could never get it to work with Tom, sort of like So Twisted Fate. Somehow I finally finagled all the right elements into place and got it to hit right. I think I was just too excited about the song when I first came up with it, that can happen; if you over-write an idea that you love, write too many verses, come up with too many ideas etc., the song just gets lost underneath it. We recorded this live with guitar, vocals, and drums, so I couldn’t redo the vocals because they were in all the other mics. The second verse, where the strings come in, was supposed to start “She’s gone back to Stanford / she craves adventure,” which I think is a little cuter. C’est la vie.
GROG is out now.
Jami Fowler | @audiocurio
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