It's futurist. It's retro. And it's happening right now - new Los Angeles musical powerhouse Rhett Frazier, Inc. has emerged with their brilliant debut album Escape from Dee-Troyt. This 10 track album is sure to be a welcome end-of-the-year surprise for listeners hungry for something new: a wonderful juxtaposition of funky grooves, expert soul crooning, bold electronics and catchy tunes.
The band's instantly catchy grooves have already earned them a respectable amount of praise from those in the know. Resident DJ A-Ski of the revered nightclub Little Temple described them as "a combination of Funkadelic, Rare Earth, Flaming Ember, Frank Zappa and Al Green rolled into one along with that raw, gritty Detroit sound that would make the late, great Norman Whitfield proud." LA Examiner's Patrick Hamilton declared that Escape from Dee-Troyt "takes Stax-era guitar licks, blues attitude and 70s R&B crossover appeal and blends it into a tasty milkshake of auditory heaven," while Dusty Grooves America said the album has "a classic sound...that reminds us of some of our favorite blue-eyed funky rock from way back."
Composed of core members vocalist/songwriter Rhett Frazier and drummer/producer Donny Gruendler, the band initially formed in 2004 as an escape from their day jobs as some of music's "consummate sidemen" - Gruendler has played drums behind John Medeski, DJ Logic and Motown's backing band The Funk Brothers, while Frazier fronted soul and R & B combos, winning over crowds across the nation. Soon, however, the band blossomed into a full-time collaboration, with both men indulging influences as diverse as Steely Dan, Danger Mouse, Prince and Tom Waits. "We just wanted to make music that was cool to us," says Donny. "Yeah, something no one could touch," agrees Rhett.
The untouchable material is at once funky and playful, obviously the product of two music-lovers who can manage to be forward-looking with both their songwriting and sonics. Lead track "U Can't Stop" marries four-on-the-floor funk riffs with a modern immediacy and attack, all wrapped around Rhett's distinctive falsetto and baritone croon: "It's a fate you can't deny/The future's caught you from behind/You can't stop what's already happened." The song was inspired by Rhett's more philosophic leanings, some which could almost be applied to the group itself: "I worked out a theory that there's no such thing as past, present or future - they're all the same." Concert favorite "BeLong" shines in its recorded version too, a tongue-in-cheek paean to an erstwhile girlfriend - "Won't be long we'll belong together." The track's gritty rock feel came when producer Donny stripped away most of the backing track, declaring it "sounded too much like the Roots, not us" and re-did the music from scratch around Rhett's vocal. A similar story came with the Dr. Dre-flavored number "Nuthin'" - originally an all-electronic DJ Shadow-like track, it became a rocked-out funk number once the two masterminds put their own stamp on it. "Once we found out we could sound like our favorite records, we wondered, 'Why are we doing this?,'" says Rhett. "We already own those records." The result is a defiant song of self-sufficiency with the triumphant chorus - "Ain't nothing you can do for me/I can't do for myself."
Cocky, funky, fresh and catchy, Escape from Dee-Troyt is bound to make a splash with clubgoers and music collectors alike. Let Rhett Frazier, Inc. blur the lines between the past, the present and the future for you this year.