INTERVIEW: Frenzal Rhomb

Published in The Music (NSW, QLD, VIC) and on, Aug 2016


A Lesson On Australian Values With Frenzal Rhomb

In the midst of a project that’s “ruining” his life, Frenzal Rhomb vocalist Jay Whalley tells Daniel Cribb why they’re selling out.

If you were to round up all the letters of complaint that Frenzal Rhomb have been issued over the years, you’d probably be able to publish a book. “I love that so much,” Frenzal Rhomb frontman Jay Whalley laughs, recalling a memo they received while booking their upcoming 25th anniversary tour.

It seems one venue refused to let the Aussie punk icons celebrate the milestone there. “What was the wording,” he pauses, “Oh, ‘We are a family pub and Frenzal Rhomb do not reflect Australian values.’”

After 25 years offending the masses and poking fun at the world with quick-wit, catchy melodies and tight hooks, they’re releasing a Best Of in We Lived Like Kings (We Did Anything We Wanted). “It feels like we are doing something that my 20-year-old self would kick me square in the balls for,” Whalley explains. “Just going like, ‘You fucking sell-out prick, what the fuck are you doing, Best Of, you idiot.’ So yeah, total cash grab, and I think it’s going to work. I think we’re all going to buy houses after this.”

Carefully curating the release of “wall-to-wall” hits, single Never Had So Much Funalmost didn’t make the cut, “because my band is a bunch of fucking idiots.”

“I spent a lot of time on the flow too, like Ball Chef going into Home And Away; people are going to lose their minds,” he says.

But Whalley’s had little time to think about the album’s supporting “requests only” national tour, in the midst of a recording project he says is “ruining” his life. He’s currently working with Blackie from the Hard-Ons, who is recording a song a day for a year. “We’re up to 219 songs,” he tells. “It’s like doing 30 full-length records in a year. It’s ridiculous, and it’s ruining my life, to be honest. But I do love it.

“He’s a legend, he’s one of the reasons that I sort of started Frenzal in the first place…it was pretty exciting for me to be working with him even if he wanted to do such a nuts project.”

With Frenzal Rhomb scheduled to hit The Blasting Room in Colorado with punk drumming legend Bill Stevenson on Oct 16, Whalley’s collaboration with Blackie might have an influence on their new material. “I’m basically just ripping off heaps of it,” he says.

The follow-up to 2011’s Smoko At The Pet Food Factory was put on the back-burner while drummer Gordy Forman recovered from a broken arm he suffered in Perth last year, but now it’s all systems go. “Everyone started panicking a few months ago, and about a month ago everyone went, ‘Aw fuck, we’re going, it’s happening.’ It’s like, ‘We’ve got our tickets, we need songs.’

“The hard thing with Frenzal is trying to get that balance between sounding energetic and how we’ve been getting slightly heavier sounding over the years. The songs have to be good by themselves; we could write a million fast, melodic songs, but just getting that slightly intangible thing is a bit elusive sometimes.”