Interview with The Frogs
The Frogs are a primarily two-man band hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, composed of the Flemion brothers, Jimmy and Dennis. They first appeared on the scene in 1980, when they played a show at the 8th Note Coffee House in Milwaukee. They have also played under the names "The Gila Monsters" and "The Stupid Frogs".
Over the past few years, The Frogs have gone through nine bassists, mostly last-minute replacements hired on for live shows. Their current bassist, Damian Strigens, has been on board since 1993 and is one of the only bass players to stay on for more than one show.
Despite their relative anonymity, The Frogs have managed to earn themselves a respectable following of fans, including Billy Corgan, Butch Vig, Eddie Vedder, Courtney Love, and Joey Ramone. They've also toured repeatedly with Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam.
Their latest release, Starjob, is somewhat of a departure from their previous albums. While the albums before Starjob were mostly acoustic guitar and some drums, accompanied by Jimmy's "twisted-old-man-voice" crooning and Dennis' muffled giggling in the background, Starjob features a full band with loud guitars and actual singing. The subject matter of the songs remains the same, however-giving drugs to children, having sex with nuns, and weird old men in parks are still grist for The Frogs' creative wheel.
Holly So what did you guys want to be when you grew up?
[Jimmy] Well, the first response that popped into my head was you, but honestly, I had no plan, I had no clue.
Holly You didn't want to be an astronaut or anything like that?
[Jimmy] I think it probably changed all the time, I don't really remember. As a little boy, about age five or so, for some reason some troupe came to town, it was a, uh, traveling troupe. They came to our playground and they put on a show. They came with a truck---
Holly What kind of troupe? Were they mimes or clowns or-
[Jimmy] Oh, no. Singing and dancing. (breaks into operetta "Kill the Rabbit"). I've always remembered that. I think it was that combined with the impact of the Beatles-I decided then and there that that was what I wanted to do. I've not actually done it, but that was the concept.
[Jimmy] I also remember back then at the playground adjacent to where I lived they had some kind of program where another troupe gave out harmonicas-no, it was a dollar for a harmonica. And, uh, that was a rude awakening, that day. 'Cause I thought you could just pick up a harmonica and start playing it. That was a rude awakening indeed.
Holly Oh, no! And you spent a whole dollar, too.
[Jimmy] Oh, no, not my money. Someone else must've kicked in a buck for that. And, well, here I am.
So you can blame The Frogs on those two things: the troupe coming through, the Beatles, and the harmonica. Oh, and somewhere in some friend's house, their parents had an organ propped up, like a keyboard thing-this was way back, mid-'60's-we were always trying to play the thing. Of course, I couldn't, I was really young and really only banged on it, but, you know, you see them playing them on TV and you think, "Hey, this is easy! I can do that!"
Holly Yeah, I have an accordion, so I can relate. It's not as much fun to play as Lawrence Welk makes it look. And no bubbles come out.
[Jimmy] Oh, I bet! No, I wouldn't want to try that-that's a tough one. But that's what she said.
Holly What are you trying to tell the world through your music? Is there a message in there somewhere?
Holly None at all?
[Jimmy] Nope. I'm just an insipid dolt.
Holly Oh, okay. Why did you start playing music? Besides the troupe-thing.
[Jimmy] Hm. Why did we start playing? Well, I guess it was one way of sorting through our well, in my case, all my teenaged angst and just finding my place in the world, sorting through my garbage, the psychological problems, all the damage. Sorting through all that and trying to find myself-I've been doing this since I was fifteen, made tons of recordings and lots of avante garde things, lots of screaming into tape recorders in my house. I started taking organ lessons and started incorporating that into my stuff, and eventually it all became music and songs. I guess I started writing songs from the start, I just couldn't figure out how to play the stuff I was hearing in my head or on the radio. I kept practicing, though, until I got better-which I never actually did
Holly I've noticed there's an absence of love songs on the last two CDs.
[Jimmy] An absence of love songs? I thought they were all love songs. I've got 'em, man. We've got 'em. We're going to unleash a couple of them on the world, maybe do a whole album of love songs. Then you'll see the tears fly.
[Dennis] That's for sure.
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