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The Frisbie Interview Part One: Liam Davis

By Jocelyn Geboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 17, 2005 7:39PM

Chicago is in the midst of producing yet another go around of hot , new, pop bands . At Lollapalooza, both of the days' early lineups read like Chicagoist’s power-pop dream: The Redwalls, The Changes , and OK Go . A whole international pop festival is named in homage to Material Issue’s first album. Chicago is no stranger to the indie pop scene.

On May 6th, 1999, there was a pseudo-reunion show for a little known, but highly influential band: Big Star. Their opening act was a band called Frisbie, and they would go on to gain their own Chicago following in the years to come. The poster for that show was hung on John Cusack’s apartment wall in High Fidelity. They released their debut album, The Subversive Sounds of Love in July of 2000. Frisbie flirted with fame, growing an unmistakeable buzz in the indie pop world; drawing glowing praise from rock critics and even getting enough critical acclaim that they drew a backlash in certain circles .
Liam Davis, Schubas 7.19.05, J. Geboy However, due to a variety of factors – members moving away, tension within the band, and the breakdown of their drummer Zack (a driving force and an incredibly talented songwriter) due to untreated manic-depression – they sort of faded away. They released a live album of all of Zack’s previously unreleased songs called period. in 2003, but didn’t really seem to do much to support it.

Frisbie has begun to play out again – electric with a full band. The lineup has changed, but the sound is as strong as ever. Chicagoist interviewed the voices of Frisbie -- Steve Frisbie and Liam Davis -- to see what they have in store next. This is part one of the Frisbie interview, with Liam Davis.

Chicagoist: You guys have been sort of off the scene for awhile. What have you been doing since Subversive Sounds of Love? Have you been working on solo projects? Working together on anything? Are there day jobs?

We've been living and working--It's a long, long story. But in a nutshell it goes like this: Band releases album. Album is favorably received. Band tours to support album. Drummer suffers breakdown and quits band. Drummer rejoins band. Drummer re-quits band. Horn player loses father-in-law and quits band. Guitar player gets divorced. Guitar player starts taking it out on bass player. Band records a live show of drummer's material. Bass player quits band. Band is now two guitars and vocals. Live record is released. Band struggles to regain momentum lost in the tangled web of personal drama and mayhem. Band begins to write new material and perform it acoustically. Band gets new drummer, horn player and bass player. Band is kick-ass. Band is very happy. Band takes over Whole Wide World.

I do have a day job as a record producer and performer. I also work across the country as a music educator.

C: You released period. in 2003 but there didn't seem to be a lot of follow up to support that record. It seems like no one's really heard it except for die hard fans. There are some great songs there: "i know what's in store," "girlfriend," "another story". Are you absolutely never going to play those songs again?

Those songs are Zack's (aforementioned drummer) and yes, they are great, truly. period. was a way for us to get those songs 'out of our system,' so to speak, so that we could move on and re-attach to new stuff. We (Steve and I) are very emotionally tied to/caught-up in those songs and there was a time, when we were regularly performing those songs, that it felt as though we were trying to be something we no longer when you leave home for the first time and you come back for Thanksgiving and your own behavior doesn't even make sense to you because it belongs to a version of yourself that is obsolete.

So, we decided to get these songs to tape and capture them in an affordable way so we could get on with our life as Frisbie. As a full band, we've been concentrating on new material and it feels good. If the current group is amenable to it, then yeah, I think it would be great to play those songs for the fans that came to love them as Steve and I do. The truth is, they are great fucking songs by a great fucking songwriter and they should be heard in whatever way possible.

C: There's been some live shows recently with a full band and nearly all new songs. You sound like you're still at the top of your game.

Thank you. We are still at the top of our game. In fact, I would endeavor to say we've never been better as an ensemble--that is to say, we have a chemistry with this group of individuals that is a genuine pleasure to experience as a player, and we hope that experience is as pleasurable for the audience.

C: When can we expect a new record? Will you tour behind it?

We are working on the new record--money is tight, so we're doing the best we can (if anyone wants to donate to the cause, feel free!). We plan to do a full release and tour behind it--yes, absolutely.

C: Trip Shakespeare, another band who broke up and rearranged themselves, held two reunion shows in their hometown, Minneapolis in 2003. Unfortunately, they were not joined by their drummer, who has faded into obscurity. Is there any hope for an 'original' Frisbie reunion?

Personally, I think reunions are lovely in the sense that they bring people together who shared a common experience. But at this point, if I may be frank--or, at worst, curt--hoping for an 'original' Frisbie reunion is like hoping your parents will get back together--it's possible, but unlikely.

C: Some of your songs always receive huge audience response. One of them, off your first album, is Vertigogo. Did you try to get that turned into a single? Will you actively pursue radio play with this new album? What, if anything, will you do differently with this album?

I think "Let's Get Started" and "Shine" were the singles off Subversive... that's my recollection, anyway. It's hard to know what will be a single that will make the impact you hope for as a songwriter.

Of course you want ALL the songs on the record to receive the kind of attention a single receives, but that's unrealistic. "Vertigogo" is a great song in a live setting and I think we arranged it with that in mind. It was the first song I brought to Frisbie after I joined and to me, it still smacks of a certain un-Frisbie-ness--probably sounds weird if you like the song as a listener--but that's my hang-up, I'm sure. I will say that its a little anachronistic (VH-1 called it "spit-shine Camaro rock"...a perfect description) to be considered as a single.

This is college radio we're talking about--like most independent labels, ours didn't have nearly enough capital to get the record to commercial radio. "Vertigogo" sure is fun to sing, though.

C: Where do you see this band in the next year?

In the next year, if all goes well, we'll have a new record and be touring the US, UK and Japan.

C: The next 5 years?

In 5 years I pray we'll still have it together like I feel we do now. We'll need some kind of management or representation of course, but I think we can do it.

C: Who do you admire in music today?

Hard to answer, because I always feel bad when I leave someone out. Steve and I were just talking about Sufjan Stevens and I think he is remarkable. We're big fans of The New Pornographers, Spoon, Matt Wilson, Queens of the Stone Age, Tahiti 80, The Shins, Wilco...all that's kind of obvious, I guess. I really admire Mirah, Ted Leo, Josh Rouse, Azure Ray, Feist, and in the mainstream: Outkast, Franz F, Alicia Keys, Missy Elliot, Foo Fighters, and at the risk of sounding completely uncool, I really like Black-Eyed Peas--not necessarily their songs or whatever but the heart that is there...I believe it. Like I believe Wyclef. It seems real to me, despite the Pepsi and Intel commercials...we all have to pay bills. Wyclef's probably still got family in Haiti for all I know, shit.

C: Who inspires you (today or from any time)?

Inspired: I continue to be inspired by (read: rip-off) the artists that made me want to get into this in the first place: The Beatles, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, AC/DC (yeah, you heard me), Harry Nilsson and The Cars. But inspiration is a tricky concept--one gets inspired by music and musicians, of course, but that can get weird and ugly sometimes. I don't know if you can call it "inspiration" when I just want to write a song better than Matthew Sweet's "Evangeline" or Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out"(really penned by Nile Rodgers) --I think that's also competitiveness. Apparently Lennon used to bitch about McCartney bringing in a "stack of songs" to Abbey Road and John would have to get off the stick and produce a volume of material equal or better (I'm talking about Sgt. Peppers'), when John came up with "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "A Day in the Life," "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," "Good Morning," etc.--not too shabby)...inspiration? eh.

I do get inspired, though, by other art or media--films, paintings, books--and also by just what happens, in life, to all of us. Sounds corny, maybe. But "Neverend," which will be on the new album, was inspired by a conversation with my adoptive father and a drunken night trying to read Pablo Neruda. "SFB" and "Yes, Impossible" (which is REALLY ripped-off) were inspired by simply being in a band: Frisbie. So there you go.

C: Time for the Chicagoist local snapshot:

What's your favorite place to eat in Chicago?

Mirai Sushi.

Favorite place to buy clothes?


Best activity for $20 or less?

Well, shit. For free there's the Grant Park classical series --that's largely overlooked.

I like to spend my last few bucks at DUKS on Ashland and Erie, where you can eat one of the greasiest, most unapologetic cheeseburgers ever made.

But I have to say my favorite Chicago activity is driving down to the North Ave parking lot ($14 unless you can find street parking or take the bus) at the lake and running south along North Ave beach, where you can see everybody and all the wonderful people that make up this excellent city, and then to Oak St beach, where you can see all the beautiful people that make this city glamorous, and on to Monroe Harbor --which is still a part of The city you rarely get to see--because boat owners are a RARE BREED. Those people know how to recreate and they come from all over the city and suburbs.