QandA: Eric Frederic of Wallpaper.
- Dec. 2, 2010
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Wallpaper. began with Eric Frederic and a computer in 2005. Frederic sang over his beats using auto-tune — an odd vocal effect previously used only by Cher in her song, “Believe.” Since then, Auto-Tune has taken pop music by storm and Wallpaper. has dropped the effect. Frederic’s solo project is now a full-blown band, joined by drummer Arjun Singh and Frederic’s sleezy, booze-mongering stage persona, Ricky Reed. On stage, Reed and Wallpaper. bring an all-out party of pop beats and excess while satirizing all-out partying, pop beats and excess.
Frederic dialed in with Jayplay to talk about satire, Ricky Reed and the best of Kansas City barbecue.
Jayplay: What role does satire play in Wallpaper.?
Eric Frederic: When I started Wallpaper., it [satire] was addressing issues I had with pop music and the music industry and even had some political sensibilities. Now, “Ricky Reed” is a device used to talk about things like sociological issues, both good and bad, the direction American consumer culture is going and where we’re going to end up in this digital age.
JP: Is being Ricky Reed an easier way to talk about society and consumerism?
EF: I think it’s easy when you have a dude like Ricky Reed singing. All you have to do is personify these issues. It would be challenging to put together some super smart political discourse juxtaposed with funky beats, but it’s much easier to embody them.
JP: Does Ricky Reed do interviews?
EF: We don’t do them very often because it weirds out and alienates journalists. He’s just kind of rude and irreverent. A journalist has to be able to handle an extreme level of awkwardness. He and Arjun, our drummer, were interviewed together. Ricky was talking shit to Arjun and Arjun was looking confused. The interviewer froze up uncomfortably and ended it. Ricky is generally reckless and irresponsible. As much of a cool front he puts up, he drinks too much and deep down he feels insecure with the people around him.
JP: Does the audience realize the satire occurring onstage and in the music?
EF: I think the people that do get it aren’t standing still going “Oh, well this is thoughtful.” I hope what people do understand they apply to their day-to-day life, but when they’re at the show, the bottom line is having fun.
JP: Is the band still as much a response to pop music today as it was in 2005? What do you see as the state of pop today?
EF: The focus definitely changed. We’re more of a band now. I was using auto-tune before it was “the thing,” but now that it’s come and gone I’m way done with that shit. I think the overall goal of the project is still the same — get people up and having a good time while injecting it with the same commentary we’ve had since day one.
JP: How was the live experience conceived and how has it evolved?
EF: It’s become easy to tour with just vocals and drums and tracks. I think drumming is the most visceral musical element you can put into the show, so live drumming is reflected in our recordings, too. I’m a sucker for electronic drums, but live drums are the shit.
JP: What kind of gear do you travel with?
EF: We tour with a very small amount of actual gear. Our tracks run off an iPod in a really nice road case I have. We don’t have a lot of keyboards or laptops like every other band in the universe. We have a really clean thing so Ricky has free run of the stage.
JP: How did your time at Berkeley School of Music influence your sound?
EF:I studied West African percussion at Berkeley. You can hear the influences running through the music. My degree was in classical and jazz composition. One of our songs is fully based on traditional West African rhythm. At the beginning I apologize for kind of taking something sacred and bastardizing it in my song.
JP: A key component of Wallpaper. is the band’s viral presence online. How have you stayed on top of Web 2.0 to make it do your musical bidding?
EF:That stuff has come naturally. As these different technologies develop we can tell which ones makes sense to use and which ones don’t. There are technologies that pop up where I’m like “Wow, that has no relevancy to us and will die a slow death.” But some are really basic. YouTube and the concept of video blogging just make so much sense. It’s one-on-one modern fan interaction.
JP: So in a way, you’re having your cake and eating it too, leveraging the internet while commenting on an internet-obsessed culture, partying on stage while satirizing a party-obsessed culture, and so on.
EF: That’s exactly what I was talking about — the inner conflict issues. We’re using these devices to comment on them. I don’t have a personal Twitter account or my own foursquare account — I try to keep separated. But I make sure the Wallpaper. ones are updated and current. I spend more time than I’m comfortable on that shit.
JP: Anthony Bordain’s favorite barbeque place, Oklahoma Joes, is just east of Lawrence in KC.
EF: Dude, I know. We rushed around town to find it but it was Sunday and they were closed. I was so pissed. Hopefully on this coming tour we’ll be able to stop by. Three people at our KC show told us to try the Z-Man sandwich. Any other recommendations?
JP: Their fries are supposed to be the best in KC. And the burnt ends are pretty great.
EF: Burnt ends? What are those?
JP: They’re the end part of a brisket, a kind of a delicacy in KC barbecue. We’ll trade you some in exchange for some west coast beats.
EF: Oh totally. I got that those beats bottled up in my pocket. They ain’t going nowhere.