“Frengers.” It seems like a word that should already exist in dictionaries. Maybe it’s an anxious, nervous state of being. Maybe it’s a medical condition.
According to Mew bassist Johan Wohlert, with whom I spoke over a year ago, it’s actually a word the band made up to describe people who are both friends and also strangers.
More importantly, “Frengers” is the title of one of Mew’s earliest and most important albums. It’s been a decade and a half since its release, and the Danish quartet-turned-trio (now sans Bo Madsen) are currently on a 15-year anniversary tour in tribute to that fact.
“It [‘Frengers’] was super important. It was our first proper international release, the first time we really got to tour,” Jonas Bjerre told me over the phone in July.
It was also the first time they worked with producer Rich Costey. Prior to that, Swirlies shoegaze pioneer Damon Tutunjian has his hand in coloring their records.
“He produced the very first album we released. Swirlies played in Denmark in 1994, and we went to see them and we loved their sound. We approached Andy [Bernick] after the show and we got his contact and we sent them a demo. Damon graciously said, ‘You sent me a dud. It now has the Frank Sinatra Christmas album on it,” Bjerre said.
Though they’ve never necessarily had a quintessential shoegaze approach (there’s a clarity, pop sensibility and progressiveness that sets them apart) Mew have always had an affinity for the genre.
“We started out listening to ‘80s pop — what my parents listened to: Kate Bush, Eurythmics.... But we were amazed by the grunge wave as well, and that opened up to other bands. We went to see My Bloody Valentine, and they completely blew us away. They were a gateway drug,” he explained.
The harder the drugs they continued to do, metaphorically speaking, the higher they got. From “And the Glass Handed Kites” to “No More Stories...” and 2015’s decidedly more electro pop-oriented “+ -“, Mew evolved again and again.
“I like progressive music, but I’ve never been a big fan of the virtuoso part of it. Only if it serves the song but not when it gets showy. We’re just trying not to repeat ourselves,” Bjerre said.
“We can still make a living off it. We still have total freedom,” he added.