Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

September 4-10, 2003

music

Darren Schlappich





of Frog Holler

"Prepare to fight, cuz you see me and all my friends as idiots/ As if that serves as proof, and whatís that say about you?" sings Darren Schlappich, the affable, humble and uniquely gifted frontman/songwriter for Berks County-proud Frog Holler. For followers of the band, songs like "Idiots" (quoted above) from the bandís new album, Railings, is a stunning bit of vindictive. The alt-country bandís energetic live show -- replete with banjo, lap-steel, Wurlitzer, dobro and an omnipresent throng of folks dancing -- has earned it a rep as something of a happy-go-hoedown affair. But sentiments on songs such as "What Went Down" ("You lie, and cheat, how do you sleep?") and "Godís Children" ("Where is this God weíre all fearing?") betray a weary pessimism that, while present in the bandís prior three albums -- Couldnít Get Along, Adams Hotel Road and Idiots -- takes an unsettling prominence on Railings. With Frog Holler on the rise -- their last album charted at No. 34 on Americana Radio, and tours of the South, Midwest and Europe are in the works -- Schlappich spoke via e-mail about the bandís outlook, and recording for the first time in Philadelphia, at Edan Cohenís Soundgun studio.

City Paper: So you've got this thing where a song with the same name as your last album shows up on the next one. "Couldn't Get Along" was on Adams Hotel Road. "Adams Hotel Road" was on Idiots. And "Idiots" is on Railings. Do you have an aversion to "title tracks"?

Darren Schlappich: It's just kinda happened that way. I haven't been sitting there in the 11th hour trying to write a song called "Idiots." I lived on "Adams Hotel Road," and at the conclusion of the first record, the band literally couldn't get along. So it's all been relevant, kind of a continuing story, plus it's a good barometer for who is really paying attention.

CP: Two observations: Railings is a bit darker, a bit more somber, and a bit more spare than your earlier releases. Also, this is the first record that you've recorded in Philadelphia and with Edan Cohen. Coincidence?

DS: I think this record is more angry than somber. I wanted to make an angry record that wasn't aggressive but that was beautiful and confident. Railings are complaints, but I didn't want it to sound whiny. I think now more than ever is the time to let art and music say something that can effect change. Railings is about getting out the frustrations of being the little guy and giving voice to common sense and integrity over money and power. I think the sparseness of the songs makes them even more powerful, and Edan was really in tune with what we were trying to do.

CP: How did you hook up with Cohen?

DS: We did a session at Soundgun with Mike Brenner producing last summer just to try and get the feel of working in a different studio environment. Mike went to L.A. when we were ready to get started on the project, and I had really connected with Edan, so we asked him if he'd like to produce. Edan is an extremely talented person who liked the band and the songs and, most importantly, had the same immaturity level as us.

CP: Frog Holler has great songs, and not just within the country/Americana tradition. Is there anyone, rock band or otherwise, that you'd love to hear covering a Schlappich song?

DS: In the end Frog Holler is about songs and nothing else really matters much in my view. If someone were to cover a Frog Holler song that would be the sincerest form of flattery.

CP: What's your vision for Frog Holler? Have you been asked about moving to a city for the purpose of "making it"? Is that something the band has ever wrestled with?

DS: Not really, I mean it just isn't very realistic. Plus we're pretty centrally located to the places we need to go. Boston to North Carolina is no more than seven hours in each direction, and I really do love Berks County. We're writing and recording songs and playing shows because that's what we want to be doing with our lives. I'm not waiting for anything to happen, it is already happening. I think a lot of people base success on how much money is to be made, and after all these years I've learned there isn't really any money to be made, so I'm happy to just share the music with as many people as we possibly can and to keep having life experiences as a result.

Frog Holler will play record-release shows on Fri., Sept. 5, 10 p.m., $8, The North Star, 27th and Poplar sts., 215-684-0808, and Sat., Sept. 20, 10 p.m., $5, The Brass Lantern, 12th and Pike sts., Reading, 610-372-9311.



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