You can say that Reggae's not your thing, but then you remember those summer deck parties where tanned cuties belted out Marley tunes like true rastas. And it's alright if you don't dig Ska, but then how might you explain the fact that 311's "Down" still brings about that inexplicable yearning for boys in Etnies and skate pants?
One great thing about local three-piece The Frankl Project is that they fully grasp the human inability to completely reject any one genre of music — their music is an embodiment of that one great Slipknot song, that admittedly hypnotic Dave Matthews guitar solo, that fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever type of music you said you simply couldn't tolerate. The incredible part? The members of the Frankl Project range in age from a wee 17 years old to a slightly-closer-to-legal 20.
This "young" band's penchant for smashing genre boundaries and delivering shining examples of each with uncanny clarity is something that should come as no surprise, according to lead singer/guitarist Jake Tippey, who excitedly recalls the Frankl Project's modest beginnings.
"Our first show was with the Boy Scouts at Coney Island," he says, and he's not laughing — because that was five busy years ago and but a moment on the cusp of "real gigs" like those at Generations, a now-extinct venue that burned down in 2004. Tippey describes it as "tragic," but he never specifies whether he's talking about the club or the fire.
"We've heard it before, about the age thing," Tippey says. "But we were lucky to have people like Frank (Hulefeld, of the retired Radio Down in Covington).
Then there's Top Cat's and Mad Frog ... people have been really good to us."
That generosity, though undoubtedly in part a product of a those clubs' genuine interest in supporting original music, might have also have had something to do with the fact that the Frankl Project draws fans well outside the Hot Topic-clad, MySpace-lovin' crowd you'd normally find surrounding musicians of their age. Their infectious brand of blender'd genres — expect bits of Blues, Jam and New Punk dotting the terrain — prompted a listen from local Pop Rock/Punk masters the Black Tie Bombers, whose eventual contributions would make up one half of the Frankl Project's newest 14-song "split" CD, Procedural Shortcuts and Operational Failures.
The DIY basics of unsigned music are pretty much old hat to Tippey, drummer Joe Frankl and bassist Paul Schroder. A five-song EP (2004's Pirate Radio), as well as the band's aforementioned new release, were recorded lovingly at home by artists who know something about sacrifice and the grassroots approach. Those five formative years together could have undoubtedly been put to lazier, more illicit use, but the individual convictions of each member and the sweltering tightness of their combined sound convinced the boys to soldier on, relying on one another and close friends and family for help. "My cousin Tommy is the sexy merch guy," Schroder sniggers over speaker phone. As the jokes and laughter rise to a crackling buzz, the only thing discernable is the reassuring closeness of three young men who work hard to play hard.
Soon the Frankl Project will embark on a two-week tour of parts of Tennessee, North Carolina and the Eastern seaboard in support of the new album, which is rooted in influences as diverse as Sublime, Bela Fleck and Bad Religion. Although it's a common mantra for many bands — "Our sound is unclassifiable!" — in the Frankl Project's case, that's much more than a candy-coated cop-out. Remarkably, within a seven-song spree, one track is a tender ode to love-turned-stalking with dark acoustic sweeps, while the next track is a funky, punky commentary on the devastation of war. They're still finding themselves, sure, but the common threads in the Frankl Project's musical fabric — like Tippey's powerfully emotive vocals and the dead-eye rhythms and beats laid by Schroder and Frankl — are strong and they suggest that the destination is already locked in. Nothing wrong with enjoying the journey.
THE FRANKL PROJECT (myspace.com/thefranklproject) play The Mad Hatter Friday.