Weekend Warriors

14 June 2012 | 6:26 am | Daniel Cribb

Frenzal Rhomb vocalist Jason Whalley tells Daniel Cribb about singing in tune 80 percent of the time and being blocked on Twitter by Russell Crowe.

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Watching boats sail around Sydney Harbour, Frenzal Rhomb vocalist Jason Whalley ponders life as a sailor: “I'm thinking, 'Should I get a boat?'” the frontman begins. “And I think, 'Well, I can't afford a boat, but even if I could, I don't know if I want a boat.' Our bass player likes sailing. He sails those little tiny boats. He's very good at it, but I don't know if that really appeals to me. Anything that you could die from if you make a mistake doesn't really appeal to me,” he explains.

But you won't find bassist Tom Crease sailing Sydney Harbour; rather the coastline of South Australia. The only two members of Frenzal Rhomb that live in the same state are Whalley and guitarist/triple j's Lindsay McDougall, aka The Doctor – with drummer Gordy Freeman residing in Victoria. The separation, and thus somewhat intense commute to unite as one single unit, can render simple tasks, such as jamming, a difficult one. Which usually isn't a problem – it's only when it comes time to record or prepare for a tour that said distance requires the Rhomb rhythm section to head for NSW.

“It feels like we could do it all in three weeks, but I like spreading it out,” Whalley explains of the band's weekend tour structure. “And I also like only playing on Friday and Saturday nights. It gives you much more of a bigger party vibe and you don't end up playing in Warrnambool on a Tuesday night. We used to tour for seven months of the year and that can be a little bit of a drag, when you're just kind of going through the motions every night. I feel this way we can put more of an effort into the actual shows and everyone's got more energy.”

Now that their latest record Smoko At The Pet Food Factory has had several months to breathe, Whalley looks back at it with fresh eyes. “It was a horrible, miserable failure,” he jokes. “Nah, it went pretty good I think, all things considered. And I like the sound of it. It sounds better than our other ones, thanks to the top notch team at Blasting Room Studios in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I like the songs – I like about 70 percent of the songs, which is a higher ratio than most of our records. I like a few songs off most of our records, but this one I feel is quite consistent from start to finish.

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“I didn't really want to use Auto-Tune or anything, so I figured, if there's one thing that I can do, I'm not the world's best singer, but I can sing in tune at least 80 percent of the time. Even if it takes me like 20 or 30 goes, I want to be able to try and get it right… I actually got the shits because some reviewer afterwards was like, 'By the end of the record you get a bit sick of hearing all the Auto-Tuned vocals,' and I'm going 'Fuck you! I did that fuckin' a thousand times to get that right',” he laughs.

One can't help but assume Frenzal's ode to Russell Crowe's band, off their '03 release Sans Souci, is one of the tracks that has made his favourite list. Over the past little while Whalley has been chucking Crowe the odd retweet here and there. “I'm probably missing some as we speak,” he says. “Frenzal Rhomb followed him on Twitter and he blocked us straight away. I don't think he's made the connection with me yet, and I actually haven't said anything controversial. All I do is give him a little retweet of his gym stats every couple of days. Hopefully we can forge a new relationship into the future.”