When we dial up long-time Brooklyn resident and musician Jamie Frey, he has that quick, emphatic tone of a man born and raised in New York. He’s passionate, knowledgeable, inviting, and clearly humbled by the love from the community of artists he’s gathered around himself.
“They inspire me,” he emphasizes again and again.
Before starting his current project NO ICE, now a six-piece band, Frey was the frontman for the scene-adored rock group The Brooklyn What, whose final album “Hot Wine” was debatably the best rock album of 2013. Since The Brooklyn What’s dissolution, Frey’s been busy building out NO ICE, which stands in stark stylistic contrast to the sounds of his former moniker. No Ice has two singles out, one on the horizon, and are preparing to drop their debut record.
BTR caught up with Frey to chat about that upcoming record and the incredibly amazing show he’s putting on tomorrow night** at the DIY-venue Aviv, in East Williamsburg, New York.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): You have a crazy extensive musical background, but how did your latest project No Ice come to be?
Jamie Frey (JF): Well I was in a band called The Brooklyn What, in 2007, we were a native New York rock and roll band until we recently went on hiatus. And No Ice started around that time as a studio project, with me wanting doing some other material and playing more guitar, because I was the frontman for the other band. I was playing with Jesse Katz, the drummer from The Brooklyn What, and then pretty soon on John Napolillo from the old band also started playing with us. So it started as a two person project and now we play with six members. Our bass player is Jacob Katz, who is Jesse’s older brother, and my vocalist is Gwynn Galitzer, who is Jesse’s girlfriend–we are all familial and close. Recently we added Sean Spada, who’s a local musician and plays piano and keyboards with The Nuclears and The Bottom Dollars, and I knew him from around the scene.
BTR: We loved the two singles you guys released, are you thinking you’ll continue with this lineup and do a full EP?
JF: We have a full length record done that I’m shopping to record labels called “Come On Feel The No Ice.”
BTR: Love that title! Nice reference!
JF: Yeah, it’s like the Slade song, but really it’s a tribute to the album “Come On Feel The Lemonheads,” by the Lemonheads, which is an album I listened to kind of obsessively while I was writing the material that would end up on this record. I recorded the album in the past year or so at Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, which is a great studio in Bushwick, and also serves as part of the artist collective that we’re active in.
BTR: Any other singles coming out?
JF: Yeah, the album should be out in 2016, but then we have another single coming out called “Castle Braid,” which is a song I wrote about this really bourgeois condominium in Bushwick that’s sort of dressed up as a bohemian living complex, but it’s actually very expensive. Affluent class tourists might find themselves living there, so I wrote this narrative that mentions that building and that should be out really soon.
BTR: Apart from the Lemonheads, what other influences were going on in your creative headspace while you were writing the album?
JF: I think that I probably started wiring this material when I broke up with my ex-girlfriend and was maybe getting into a dark place. There were certain records that I started listening to a lot that really affected the direction I wanted to go in. Because I was playing in one band that was maybe a little harder, and I started to write some songs that were different from that. I was listening to the Lemonheads record, Big Star, a lot of “Exile in Guyville” by Liz Phair, Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” Neil Young, Chet Baker…all these records that had these catchy but inherently dark, grizzled material. I wanted to get past the bombastics of rock and roll and into that place. A lot of that material came from being single again and re-examining myself through the prism of these albums.
BTR: For “Come On Feel The No Ice,” were you the primary songwriter and then brought it to the others to collaborate?
JF: These are definitely tunes that I wrote in my bedroom, though one is a cover of a song from Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector’s “Death of A Ladies Man,” but the others are songs that I wrote. As a musician I’m somewhat of a simpleton, but I surround myself with far more technically talented people. So I’ll make a demo in GarageBand in my room, but as soon as I get it to these guys..to say that it’s all mine would be ridiculous. There’s so much charisma in the people I play with it always affects the tune. But the album is definitely myself experimenting as a songwriter, I will say that much.
BTR: So you mentioned it was awesome recording at Mama Coco’s, can you tell me more about that process?
JF: Oliver Ignatius is the producer and engineer of Mama Coco’s. He is the type of person who has been a musician since he was very, very young, and he’s musical on a level that most people who are professionals are not. I met him because he had his scene in Brooklyn and I was doing my own thing, and we ended up linking up, and from working together that first time I could see the inherent musicale. The first track we ever did together he heard this tune and then five minutes later he put this harmony on the record and I was like, I have to keep working with this guy. He can just pick out a harmony and then lay it down immediately. From then on I was like, here’s someone who really understands pop music and rock and roll.
So we started recording in Ignatius’ studio that was a big basement space in Windsor Terrace, and then that got flooded and ruined. He moved to a new place across the street from Shea Stadium and called on a group of his music allies, and few people who are actual contractors, and built a beautiful new studio. When that was finished we went and knocked the rest of the record out. Also, we used a lot of other people that are a part of that artist collective–Mama Coco’s provides an atmosphere that helps me create better. It’s essential to the fruition of the record, and the band to a degree.
BTR: You have a really special show tomorrow, right?
JF: Yes, we’re actually playing the DIY venue Aviv in East Williamsburg, opening for the band The Men. We’re playing with some friends of mine, The Junk Boys, from Brooklyn, and The Beach Craft Bonanza, from Long Island. It’s a very special show that I actually put on every year. The band I had mentioned before, The Brooklyn What, we had a member that we lost to cancer, who was also one of my best friends from High School, and same with the other guys in that band. After he passed we set up a charity in his name.
We all went to Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, which is a very special school that helped us be who we are. We go back at the end of every school year and present a scholarship to a student at the school who is battling terminal illness, and there’s one every year. So before that, every year, we put on this concert to raise money for this particular cause.
It’s going to be an absolute blast!
**Addendum: Since a major storm watch has been issued for the tristate area the show has been re-scheduled. Check back soon for the finalized date!