Glam rock quartet the Frontier Brothers think you should start a band
In the summer of 2005, Brett Moses, the just-out-of-high-school piano and synthesizer player for the boisterous, joyously loud Fort Worth glam-rock band the Frontier Brothers, put an ad for a drummer on Craigslist.
"Do you like dolphins?" wrote Moses. "Do you like robots? Do you like lizards? Do you play the drums?"
Apparently, astonishingly, nobody fit those criteria. Three months passed with nary an e-mail of interest. Moses and fellow Frontier Brother, vocalist and guitarist Marshall "Galactic" Newman, eventually made plans to audition a 35-year-old father of two — an unlikely addition to a duo of rowdy then-18-year-olds.
That was before Marshall's older brother Travis, fresh out of college studying business, music and psychology at Southwestern University, returned home. Years earlier, he had played in a band with his younger brother, picking up guitar, then bass, then piano. And he had recently added a fourth instrument to his repertoire.
"I had just started playing drums. I couldn't do much more than keep a beat, but I was like, 'Hey, I can play for you,' " Travis Newman says. "Fortunately, I received lots of on-the-job training."
And so the Frontier Brothers came to include an actual pair of brothers. The Newmans relocated to Austin to pursue the band — Moses eventually following after a year in New York. The band spent three years touring relentlessly, gigging at house parties from coast to coast and throwing animated, electric live local performances.
Acolytes of their infectiously upbeat live shows — face-painted, spandex-wrapped rock 'n' roll parties high on giddy energy — can catch them Wednesday at the Mohawk, playing a residency series curated by Austinist writer and man-about-town Adi Anand.
The Frontier Brothers' trek began — as these things often must — in a moment of boredom. Moses and Marshall Newman were juniors in high school shirking responsibilities at the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest Arts Festival, an arts showcase for private schools. Moses, a piano player since infancy, and Newman, a guitarist who took after his older brother, decided to play an impromptu performance at the festival's coffeehouse.
"We were losers who didn't want to do anything. So instead we wrote two songs, one of which was a robot song, and the other one was called 'Face Up for the Funeral,' and it was so depressing that it was quickly retired," Moses says. ("I feel like there were two directions the band could have gone in," Travis Newman says. "Super-happy and absolutely ridiculous, and cry rock. Fortunately they went with super-happy.")
"So we played a show for the students there, and out of nowhere there were a ton of people and it was really enthusiastic," recalls Moses. "Marshall signed his first breast there."
Amazingly, that wasn't quite enough to persuade Moses and Marshall Newman to pursue the band seriously. They gigged intermittently before roping in Travis. It wasn't until a house party in the summer of 2006 — a space-themed affair in the Newman family garage — that the Frontier Brothers decided to pursue this rock band thing a little more adamantly.
After migrating to Austin, they built a buzz on the backs of their frenetic live shows and a series of recordings, including EPs "Electronic Progress" and "Solar Power Struggle!" and debut album "Space Punk Starlet," a high-concept, Ziggy Stardust-evoking effort. For a time, the band insisted in their press bio that they were aliens raised on Earth.
They've shed most of those eccentricities on this year's three-song "You Should Start a Band," a bouncy piece of pop-rock. The title track is equal parts repudiation of haters and joyous exaltation of the pleasures of music, while the posturing of "Don't Try and Take My Guns" is a thundering anthem that can play to red and blue states alike ("I'm not a member of the NRA, but I have a piece," Marshall Newman says. "Sure, who doesn't? I encourage both liberals who think we're making fun of people and conservatives that think we're being serious. It's funny both ways.")
"With 'Space Punk Starlet' it was very much a concept album, very much about these characters we were creating from outer space. We wanted to start something completely different," says Moses. "So with this EP we tried to put out some diverse songs and show a wide range of what we're interested in right now. There's a lot of content in those 14 minutes."
That expanded range — including the addition of bassist Matt Hudson — will define the band's upcoming second full-length album, says Travis. They hope their sonic diversity will serve to distinguish them from the crowded scene when they relocate to New York later this year to join Moses, who recently returned to the city to study at New York University.
"Ever since 'Space Punk Starlet,' people have been trying to put us in this space rock box," Travis Newman says. "We've always been sort of hard to classify and now we're going to be impossible to classify. It's your job to figure it out."