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Frog Eyes emerge from dissection with new perspectives

May 27, 2010 |  8:38 am


After a few years of self-dissection, the Canadian indie rock group Frog Eyes are swimming back to the surface with new perspectives. In anticipation of their show at the Echo on Friday, singer Carey Mercer shared his thoughts on how live performances should be done and how much time bands should wait before releasing new records.

On the latter point, Mercer has calculated his magic number: two years.

"There's too much media. It's kind of making me sick when I think about it -- how much music there is out there," he said on the phone Monday. "So I thought, well why don't I reduce my cultural footprint and wait a few years? Put a record out every two years."

It's actually been just shy of three years since Frog Eyes' last, "Tears of the Valedictorian" -- unless you count their 7-inch split with Hello Blue Roses, their final release on the Absolutely Kosher label. Contributing to "Tears of the Valedictorian" after a lengthy absence was founding member Spencer Krug, the indie rock sweetheart behind Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown. Johnny Depp named the latter as an inspiration for his twisted portrayal of the Mad Hatter in the live action "Alice in Wonderland."

Pauls-tomb While Krug is no longer a part of Frog Eyes, the overall product isn't any less weird. Mercer speaks in a warm, unmistakably Canadian accent, but in front of the mic, he spirals into a series of yodels, yelps and whimpers. For all the parallels you can draw between Frog Eyes and Sunset Rubdown, Mercer's group hasn't been able to achieve the kind of mainstream attention of either Krug project.

"In my mind, there are 100,000 people in the world who would really cherish the kind of emotional ground that we stake out," Mercer argued. "The themes and the kind of passion of the music are fairly universal."

The songs deal with motifs of faith, economic turmoils, war, domestic disputes and drug use. And that's just the sixth track on their new record "Paul's Tomb: A Triumph."

"To me, Frog Eyes is as normal as the sound of my own voice," Mercer said. "It couldn't be more mainstream to me."

Still, their third-ever headlining tour will be more accessible, "much more inclusive," Mercer said. That springs from what he calls a "revelatory experience," where the band members have kind of changed their outlook on live performances.

In the past, Mercer said, Frog Eyes' members were "not very interested in connecting with an audience. I had this kind of conception for a lot of our music career that a very true performance was the kind of antithesis of connection," Mercer said. "My life has changed a bit. I've started to see people in a different light."

Frog-eyes2Those changes span several aspects of Mercer's personal and music lives. For one, he and wife Melanie Campbell, the drummer in the band, have a 6-month-old baby. He's coming along for the tour, and a friend stays at the hotel to babysit during shows.

To accommodate dual duties of rock stars and new parents, the band is doing 1- to 2-week stints of performances instead of a standard two-month tour. When not on the road, Mercer and Campbell live together in Victoria, British Columbia, practically a stone's throw away from Seattle.

The newest album and tour are together a milestone because the group finally has a dedicated lineup. Krug was one of the three pioneering members, and he's off doing what seems like a dozen other projects. Since Frog Eyes' founding, it's seen members filter in and out.

"I think we were just scared of having a fixed band," Mercer said. "There's always these wonderful things about playing with new people." Namely, new perspectives, new styles and new instruments to facilitate sonic diversity.

But Mercer is confident that Frog Eyes has matured in all the right way. "You haven't seen the new Frog Eyes," he said, addressing critics. If you wrote off this band after Krug took his leave or following one of the performances when Mercer figuratively urinated in the faces of fans (his words, slightly cleaned up), now might be the time to dive in again.

-- Mark Milian

Frog Eyes performs with the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band at the Echo on Friday, May 28.

Photo, top: Frog Eyes. Credit: Shawn Macdonald. Photo, middle: The cover of the new Frog Eyes album "Paul's Tomb: A Triumph." Photo, bottom: Drummer Melanie Campbell and her husband, singer Carey Mercer. Credit: Shawn Macdonald

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