MEET CALIFORNIA INDIE POP BAND FREQz

FREQz, the vibrant indie rock ensemble hailing from Oakland, California, unveiling their debut album earlier in June, Grizzly Peak, a sonic journey blending pulsating rhythms with electrifying rock and intricate electronics. With their lead single "All Of The Days" already making waves, the band offers a glimpse into their unique creative process, which involves cherry-picking moments from hours of recordings enjoyed in the warmth of a wood-fired hot tub. Comprised of Nelda Kerr, JaMile Jackson, Alisa, and Harry, FREQz delivers a captivating fusion of atmospheric and rebellious sounds, promising an album that reflects on the chaos of life while seeking connection. Stay tuned as they redefine contemporary rock music with their eclectic blend of influences and raw emotional depth.

How did the band form and what does the band name mean?

Nelda (FREQz’s singer) used to live in a legendary artist house, Granny House, in downtown Oakland. They still throw epic parties. At one of them, about 8 years ago, she was sitting on the porch around 1 am when she heard these spiraling, ambient sounds coming from the living room. WHO IS THAT? She wondered, and stepped in to find JaMile, turning knobs in electrical circuits to emit frequencies that were braided together like nothing she’d ever heard.

About a year later, he went to one of the first shows of her band, Day Ghost. After the show, he told them, in no uncertain terms, that he was joining the band. 

A couple of years later, Day Ghost was playing a festival in Mendocino. At that point it was all electronic drum beats.  Harry joined in the afternoon jams, at first on hand drums (his background is afrobeat). His warmth and genius immediately meshed, and he never left.

After a few years, the key player and violinist fell in love and ran off to do their own thing. Nelda, JaMile, and Harry became each other’s quarantine bubble, jamming every week during lockdowns, writing the songs that would become their debut album, Grizzly Peak.

Enter Alisa, badass bombshell bass player. She lived across the street from Nelda (yes, Nelda was blessed twice with life-changing neighbors) and when she started coming to the jams, the songs felt complete. 

Two years into our final form, and we love each other madly. Making music together is a lifeline for us, a source of pride and deep connection.

FREQz (pronounced like Freaks) is a nod frequencies—the basis of our sound comes from synthesizers, vocal loops, guitar manipulation. The z is small like Hz in hertz, a unit of measurement for frequency.

It is also an acknowledgement that we have always felt outside the norm. We make rock music with pop hooks, but our methods and soundscape are widely irregular. We feel like freaks, sometimes within our own music scene, though we’re finding our people along the way.

Previous musical projects? How'd you first get into music?

Day Ghost, mentioned above, included JaMile, Nelda, and Harry.

JaMile has had several projects in Oakland such as Night Work, Swanifant, and Mecha-Shiva. Though he plays guitar in FREQz (and handles our circuit board with Harry), he considers himself primarily and sound artist, with W.O.E and his solo project under his name, JaMile Jackson.

Nelda started singing with the Kansas City symphony when she was 9 years old. Much of her training is classical, but moved toward folk and rock n roll with her first bands, Brother Sister Good Time Band and Sweet Mountain Mama Serenade. She has sung for Extra! Extra! and currently sings in Free Key Choir, and her solo project, NELDA.

Alisa has her own solo project, Saalt, and also plays in Cave Clove. She’s worked with Thunderpussy and James Wavey. 

Harry currently plays with Lagos Roots and Elizabeth Lubin.  Previous projects include Cat You Dog You, Cultural Affairz and Bike Trip in the DC area, Dosstheartist and the Play Good Association and Rubberz in Providence, RI, and Layaway and Policy in NY.

First concert that you ever went to? (Locally and National acts)

JaMile - My first concert was seeing Wesley Willis at Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville, FL when I was 17. Wesley was truly a genius and visionary, even if he and the people of time didn't realize it. We headbutted several times!! That experience taught me how to use music/art as a tool to express my “demons”/feelings, but also making it enjoyable and accessible for others.

Nelda -  My dad was a drummer, so my first shows would have been his. Metal, country, and hard rock bands. One was called B.U.G. (BIG UGLY GUYS). I remember him taking me to see BB King, Kiss, and country greats like Brooks & Dunn from a very young age.

Alisa - My first concert was Papa Roach, Moby, and Fuel at Key Area in Seattle. I was 11 and wrote “Papa'' on one eyelid and “Roach” on the other. I got the idea from a scene out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and am still truly mortified by my actions to this day!

Harry - Wow, sick, Wesley Willis!  My first show was a Bela Fleck solo show playing classical etudes, but in my hay day you could find me at a hardcore show at L’amor or crying in the back of an emo show.

 What's your writing process like?

We jam. A lot. We are so in sync with one another that even a warm up jam ends up having strong climaxes, tender turns, and improvised melodic lyrical hooks from Nelda. We have hundreds of demos, little nuggets that could become songs.

Studio jams start with live drums, house jams start with Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine beats. You can hear the difference in the final product. For example, “Lake Chalet” is a fun studio song with epic live drum stops and starts. “Clover” is a house jam, with midi-driven vocal loops and layers of snappy percussion.

It should be noted that while writing this record, Nelda was going through some epic bullshit in the dating world. A lot of these songs are about those trials. Grizzly Peak is a famous makeout spot in Oakland that overlooks the bay. Lake Chalet is a restaurant on Lake Merritt, a popular place to meet online dates and hang on the grass or walk in Oakland. 

After a period of jamming, usually we’ll have an all-night acid jam where we take acid with absinthe and jam all night. Nelda is sober sober now, so we’ll see if that continues or takes new shape. 

Then, we have a hot tub night. We get in Harry’s wood-fired cedar hot tub and scrub through the demos until we find the earworms we love the most. 

When we get back in the studio, we take those morsels and expand them to full songs. This can be the most tedious part, agonizing over chord changes, electronic arrangements, guitar tonality. We will often play a song 100 times, even live at several shows, before it settles in.

 What other artists or songs inspire your music? 

 JaMile - Radiohead is a big one for me. They literally saved and changed my life. But musically, it's complex, intricate, and has meaning and intent. Plus out of this world sounds and tight grooves in the rhythm section.

The Cars, I mean rock pop at its finest IMO. They also were doing some interesting things with timing and non-traditional structures not heard on the radio at the time. Just try to get a Cars song out of your head! Haha.

I grew up listening to rap, hip-hop, and R&B. So I love deep grooving bass lines, sample loops, and etc. I chose Flying Lotus because, to me, it's a  culmination of the RZA’s style with the nasty drums and scenery creating samples and J Dilla’s off-kilter timing and sounds. Even though I don't typically make hip-hop beats per se, that influence is all up in FREQz biznaz. Harry and I really vibe out on that. 

Alisa - When I first saw Warpaint in 2010 while attending Bard College in upstate New York they rocked me right out of a drunken blackout. Jenny Lee Lindberg’s rhythm and sway had me transfixed and their chemistry as a band was mesmerizing. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have a similar energy that inspires me to push the boundaries of good ol’ rock n’ roll. 

Harry - I put some freestyle guitar on there because that is representative of what we’re up to at any given jam if we don’t have the shoulder to the grindstone.  Charlie McAlister because he’s a beautiful soul and we should all be so cool.  Some early B-52s because we like to yell and dance and sing.

Nelda—Jamile and I share a love for The Cars and Radiohead. Thinking about it now, blending the two might be our aspiration— clean pop hooks with deep sonic exploration. 

I’m hugely influenced by powerful female singers like Karen O, Chrissie Hynde, and Solange. I seek to captivate and connect as they do. Warpaint too— fucking baddass rock babes— I will never forget the first time I saw them in St. Louis at the Gargoyle.

What's the live experience like and your philosophy on playing live? Do you think the music live should be identical to the recorded version or should it be its own thing?

Our songs are written to be played live. Because they start with jams, it’s all about the energy in the room. This can make it tricky to capture and record, and we owe a lot to our producer Danny Echevarria for helping us find that sound on Grizzly Peak.

That being said, because we have so many electronic components, there are embellishments we can add in the studio that aren’t possible live. Often Harry will live loop auxiliary percussion on stage before he sits down at the kit. On a record, we can bring elements in and out more easily. “Don’t Hang Your Hat On Me”, for example, has over 90 drum loops embedded in the final beat.

Has the band toured? What has the touring experience been, best shows? Worst shows?

We haven’t played outside of the Bay Area yet. We love to jam in our own studio and are gearing up to hit the road more. It wasn’t until the songs were so done, so repeated, that they were begging for an audience (about 2 years) that we knew we needed to book shows. Now we play regularly in Oakland, and have a great community who pack the house for our shows— especially at our favorite venues, Thee Stork Club and Eli’s Mile High Club, which are featured in our first two videos— “Clover” and “All of the Days” respectively. 

We do play in San Francisco, too, and are plotting to get on the road with a Pacific Northwest tour coming up. We are playing our first out of town gig in Santa Cruz at the Catalyst Atrium on June 28th. 

Best show would have to be our first. Alisa, the bassist, had just recovered from Covid in the nick of time to play and from that moment on we knew we had to keep playing and sharing our sound with our community and beyond.

What's up next for the band?

New songs! This next project is about healing. JaMile and Nelda have deeply bonded over losing some loved ones in the past two years. Harry had a baby. Alisa lost her job and is looking for the next chapter, but music will always keep her rooted in the Bay. It has been a time of growth and we have so many demos we are excited to turn into full out ballads.

In July we’re getting into the studio to record a single, “Archie”, with Beau Sorensen, one of our favorite producers at Tiny Telephone.

We hope to get on the road to share our music with wider audiences. We want to keep making music that is true to us, that we love and are proud of.

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