The Frights? Yeah, those fools are liars.
Don’t believe s--- they say. Especially when it comes to this new record of theirs, out today, Friday, Feb. 12, on Dangerbird Records. It’s all in the title: “You Are Going to Hate This.” Right. Rarely have I heard anything more misleading. Because this new record? You’re going to f---ing love it.
First off, let’s talk about these kids -- guitarist/vocalist Mikey Carnevale, drummer Marc Finn and bassist Richard Dotson. They’re young, have been all their lives, probably sick of hearing it, and they started the surf-punk band in high school as kind of a joke. But it caught on, and hey, they were actually pretty good at it, writing fun songs that high schoolers could identify with. They’re full of that sort of youthful, f---less charm that feels reckless but not dangerous. They’re funny. They retweet bad stuff fans (ex-fans?) say about them on Twitter. It’s a good time.
After just a couple minutes on the phone with Carnevale, however, you know there’s more to it than all that. Bright, quick to laugh, and at ease as he speaks at a pace I can’t keep up with, he evidences that the Frights are growing up -- and their sound is following suit.
“You Are Going to Hate This” was produced by FIDLAR frontman Zac Carper, and appropriately so. Both bands share that infectious onstage energy, and with this album, the Frights dip into a FIDLAR-esque debaucherous party-rock sound. But there’s still the doo-wop wa-was that fans of the Frights’ older material can keep pace with. Hell, both bands even think that fans are going to hate their new material, as Carper told SoundDiego’s Dustin Lothspeich before they came to Observatory last year (where, be-tee-dubs, the Frights opened for them).
So. That all brings us to their record release party. And for this one, they’re moving to the mainstage at SOMA, a first for them (“Kids can’t get onstage as much,” says Carnevale, “so I feel bad about that”). You Are Going to Hate This Fest takes over the venue on Saturday, Feb. 13, and they’re bringing some homies along for the party: SWMRS, the Garden, Plague Vendor, Melissa Brooks & the Aquadolls, Shady Francos, the Soaks, Bad Kids and Animal Style.
Maybe it’s reverse psychology or something, but I’m pumped AF on the show and on the album and on the Frights in general. (Disclaimer: opinion, opinion, opinion.) Carnevale and I connected last week to discuss the fest, the new album, FIDLAR tattoos, freestyling rock & roll lyrics, the power of persuasion, writing lyrics that don’t make you cringe, quintessential high school music and a whole lot more -- because homeboy can talk.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz: Did you guys put together the whole You Are Going to Hate This Fest, choose the bands and all?
Mikey Carnevale: It wasn’t all us. It was our idea. Basically me and Richard and Marc kind of -- I forget actually how we… We wanted to do something different for the record. SOMA was like, “Dude, why don’t you just mainstage? There’s too many kids who will be turned away [otherwise].” And if we’re gonna do mainstage, we may as well make it a thing. So we thought, let’s make it a whole San Diego fest, and San Diego doesn’t get a bunch of festivals -- at least not like this -- and it was coincidental and cool that we were able to base it around our album coming out.
HLS: And you’re in San Diego, right?
MC: I live in San Diego. The rhythm guitarist who goes on tour with us does too, but Richard and Marc moved to LA.
HLS: Ah, man, I was going to ask if there was talk of you guys defecting to LA since San Diego can’t seem to hold onto a lot of artists, and this to me sounds like it definitely has the potential to be a pretty pivotal record in your career.
MC: When I was writing the record, it was definitely different songs. The last record we put out was two and a half, three years ago. We were 18 and writing about high school. Not that we’re old men; we went to college -- well, I didn’t [laughs], but they graduated college. So it’ll definitely be different, but it really got different when we got into the studio. When our single came out, kids freaked out. They’re like, “What the f---, we miss the old stuff!” We retweet all the mean things people say. The album is called “You Are Going to Hate This” -- we knew this was going to happen. We knew we were going to get this. The only reason we sounded that way before is because we couldn’t afford to sound better. But yeah, this is definitely a pivotal record for us and is going to change a lot of our fan base.
HLS: Well so for me it wasn’t so much that you guys are changing direction entirely, but that you’re growing up a bit, you know, tastes change. Like, I loved that kind of music when I was in high school, which I think is fairly typical, but as I grew up my tastes expanded.
MC: Right. That music that we were doing then is the quintessential teenage music. It’s happy, funny; it’s about girls; it’s about growing up and all this fun stuff. And we put it on tape, and we felt like real back in the ’50s, like, “Man, this is how we did it. It’s so cool.” But now there’s still that doo-wop sound on some of the songs, but because it doesn’t sound like it’s recorded in the ’50s, people are going to miss that because it’s not apparent immediately.
HLS: I was going to ask what “this” refers to in the title, whether it’s the record itself or something more subtle than that. But it sounds like then it’s the record.
MC: It’s talking about the album. It’s talking about what they’re going to see at SOMA. We’ve got a f---ing synth, a drum pad. We’re Coldplay now [laughs]. It’s what they’re going to hate. When we put out the "DeathFrights" split [which made its way into the SoundDiego Record Club], we got s--- for sounding too hi-fi. And we brought a fourth member on, and we got this weird feeling that people were like, “Oh man, the Frights are changing.” And that feeling that people are changing… When I was 17, my favorite band was like Grouplove and then they blew up, and I was like, “Oh man, they’re changing.” And I don’t want… We’re not hating on anyone for hating this. Just like, you’re gonna hate this. We’re warning you now.
HLS: Your first full-length felt a little more retro, whereas this one is punkier in a more modern party-rock way, though there still is a doo-wop feel on a few tracks. Does that reflect a new direction for you guys?
MC: I hope so. I definitely feel like we’re on a new direction. The records been done for almost a year now.
HLS: Old news.
MC: Yeah, it is. I’m working on the next record now. I hope this one does good so I can put out the next one sometime [laughs]. I do hope it’s a new direction. I mean, I want to keep the same fans. We have a loyal fanbase in San Diego, and I don’t want to scare them off. I hope San Diego can hang in there while we do all this weird s---.
HLS: So from the band bio I read that you got Zac to produce because you harassed him after opening for the band. Is that right?
MC: Well we played with FIDLAR twice, and I was just emailing, like, “Hey dude, take us on tour.” So we did those shows and then so probably a year after emailing every couple months Zac replied, “No tours right now, but I have a different idea. What if I produce some of your songs?” And I was basically, f--, I had a heart attack. I went up [to LA] and recorded a demo and met him or re-met him. They did their record in December, came back from Tennessee. And when they got back, we spent January through April doing our record with them. That was huge -- so weird. I was a huge fan. I have a f---ing FIDLAR tattoo, my first one when I was 18. It’s so funny. It took us like two months to get used to it. But it was awesome. But that’s how it came, me harrassing them to get shows -- and this is way better.
HLS: You’ve said that making this record has changed how you look at writing music. How?
MC: A lot of ways, mainly… So before with the first record and stuff, it was just like, we had a song; we played the song together, and then we recoded live, and I’d make up vocals on the spot.
HLS: Wait. You were basically freestyling rock & roll?
MC: That’s why all the songs are f---ing dumb! Sometimes I’d have a chorus, but besides that… If you listen to it now you’ll hear I get lazy and just repeat s---. And [Zac] was like, “Why the f--- do you repeat that? Don’t be lazy.” Basically the whole writing process changed to write a song: sit down, write the words, record a demo, send it to Zac, talk about the song, record another demo, and we’ll all sit down together. And now even more so, I know how to write songs after doing the record. We learned so many tidbits from him. It’s completely changed. The lyrics on this record, I’m actually happy with them for once. I can listen and not cringe at them.
The Frights headline You Are Going to Hate This Fest on Saturday, Feb. 13, at SOMA. SWMRS, the Garden, Plague Vendor, Melissa Brooks & the Aquadolls, Shady Francos, the Soaks, Bad Kids and Animal Style share the bill. Tickets are $15, which includes a digital download of the new record. The fest is all ages and starts at 4:30 p.m.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.