Four or so years ago a I received a generic yellow mail pouch outside my front door. Inside was a record credited only to a "Frankel" entitled Lullaby For The Passerby; it ended up being one of my favorite LPs of the year. Frankel, as it turned out, is L.A. native Michael Orendy. In an age when the threat of "big brother" is laughable---as most everyone seems to have forgone privacy for Facebook---Orendy is that much more antiquated and mysterious. This spring sees the release of not one, but two new EP releases. I couldnt be more excited.
A musical fixture in and around Echo Park since the late 1990s, Frankel, as it turns out, was the sound of inevitability.
It's been a couple of years since your last full-length. Locally, you're known to be a bit infamous for not performing out live, touring, etc. Any chance you've had a change of heart?
Yes, I'm definitely going to be playing some shows. Not a ton of shows, but certainly more than I have over the past few years. Although, I suppose it's not a very lofty goal to play more than once or twice a year. Writing and recording is still my favorite part about music and I like the idea of shows being something on the rare side. Of course, that comes at a price. When you don't flex that muscle often enough, performing becomes more nerve wracking than it should be.
Your last LP was entitled Anonymity Is The New Fame. Was this---in part---a bit of a wink in reference to the lack of any "real-life" Frankel performances? I recall a lot of the press centered around that release certainly nodded to some sort of Jandek-ness.
I came up with that title based on Andy Warhol's notion of "15 minutes of fame". In the current Twitter/YouTube age, we have become a culture of voyeurs and exhibitionists who constantly live in public. There's a Banksy piece that reads, "In the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes", which is right on the money. I think the press enjoyed pairing the album title with my reclusive nature and lack of public promotion, via shows and social networking. I gave up on MySpace years ago and I have never been on Facebook. I miss the days when there was more of an unknown mystique about who was on the turntable. I don't know much about Jandek and that's exactly what makes me want to know more.
Music industry pundits are big on the line "an artist must tour" in order to "make it" in 2011. I'm curious as to what your thoughts are on that as a non-touring artist---existing in an era where people are not purchasing music like they were a decade ago---who seems to have cultivated a pretty dedicated following.
I think touring can be a lot of fun but I don't think it's necessary. It can be a good way for bands to generate some money, especially selling merchandise (fannypacks!). Touring is not something I have wanted to do, at least with Frankel. Most of my following is in Los Angeles, but people in other cities seem to know about me and it certainly isn't from touring. Actually, I'm baffled how anyone has heard of me, given how little I've done to be heard.
Let's talk about the upcoming records. You're doing a double EP. In terms of sound they seem to marry the more organic approach of 2009's Anonymity Is The New Fame with the experimentation found on your debut, Lullaby For The Passerby. Was this intentional?
It just naturally fell in between those 2 albums. I think this one has more refined production. Kirk Hellie co-produced it with me. His musicianship and creativity is off the charts, so there's some very unique stuff on these songs. Traditional acoustic instruments like banjo and mandolin give it some of the organic qualities of the Anonymity album. Then there's the more experimental sounds and textures that feel more like the Lullaby LP. I still trying to find the perfect combination that sounds like an early McCartney solo record produced by Jon Brion and Kevin Shields.
We've discussed a shared appreciation of Bradford Cox's work both with Deerhunter and Atlas Sound in the past. You have a long history working n the realms of noise rock and more avant guard side of things. Do you see yourself using the Frankel moniker in the future to explore that side of your craft, or keep the Frankel material rooted more in the traditional singer-songwriter arena?
Definitely. These last two albums have been mostly traditional verse/chorus/verse songwriting. They've hinted at some of the fuzzed out shoegaze stuff that I've always been into. That's why this double EP feels like such a natural thing to do. It's a chance to present both of those sides at the same time in a way that still feels cohesive. As long as Frankel is a one-man operation, I hope to continue reinventing myself under the same name.
Would this other side of your work be something you would be more interested in performing live with a group?
Yes. Playing some music that is less fragile would be a nice change. Actually, I like the idea of both---playing some sparse troubadour type songs peppered into a set of louder and more layered material.
Switching gears a bit, you always seem to have a good amount of disparate albums circulating on your turntable. What all are you listing to these days you might recommend the readers?
I'm liking the new Kurt Vile and Papercuts records. Also, an album called "Canned Laughter" by Whitey. That was probably my favorite underdog record of 2010.
Since reading the Keef Richards book "Life", I've been revisting some classic Stones albums which are sounding better than ever.
Thanks Michael, see you out there.
Disclosure: I was lucky enough to work with O'Rendy in 2009 on his Anonymity album. His forthcoming EPs are being self-released. - JG