This Frontier Needs Heroes, an indie-folk duo that originally hails from Shelton, CT (Now living in New York, where it seems all musicians except for me reside these days) is comprised of two siblings: Brad (guitar/vocals, musette) and Jessica Lauretti (percussion/vocals, ukelele). I actually ran into these people a few years ago in Shelton at the local Starbucks, and we must have discussed music as they gave me the business card they had made up at that time. When I dug it up recently during a cleaning fit, I decided to actually check them out online; I was simultaneously won over by them and peeved that I didn’t follow their music sooner. They have since made quite a following playing around the country, touring in Europe, and making some media rounds as well. When I saw them recently playing in New Haven at Rudy’s, despite some technical sound-related mishaps (All of the acts playing on this night seemed to be plagued by these mishaps), they put on an intimate but engaging set, and the intimacy was punctuated by some sibling-related humor. They took some time out from their schedule to talk to me.
CM: Can you guys please talk about your musical upbringing and also the beginnings of This Frontier for me? What were the artists, the groups that inspired you, or the things that happened that spurred you guys to want to start this up?
Jessica: TFNH started because Brad’s last band “The Mountain Men” broke up. I was the tambourine player in a band with 5 other dudes. It was intense. We decided to keep playing and it took off!
Brad: The artist that really inspired me to start writing songs was Woody Guthrie. Listening to him for the first time made me feel like I could write a song. The Smiths and Camper Van Beethoven are also two bands that I really loved and were very important to my development as a songwriter. We both really love Neil Young, The Kinks, and The Who. We aspire to bring that kind of energy to the show.
CM: You may have already heard this, so, my apologies for saying it, but, Brad, your voice sounds a lot like M. Ward. Is this an appropriate comparison for you?
Brad: Any comparison that is a positive point of reference for people is cool with me, but I haven’t listened to his music at all. I hear he is really good, so I’ll take it as a compliment. Thank you.
CM: I really enjoy the sparseness of your albums (It kind of reminds me of Opal) and you keep it even more minimalist for the stage as well. Has there ever been any suggestion by anyone that you should expand the act into a group for any reason or occasion, or is that completely out of the question?
Jessica: Well we always think about having more musicians, and occasionally our friends will jump on stage with us, but there is something special about it just being the two of us. There [are] no distractions, you have to listen to what we are saying and feel it. Our parents should have had more kids!
CM: The self-titled CD is really good; Your new CD “The Future” is a great follow-up, and I can’t help but notice that I hear much more of Jessica! Was this an executive decision, or was there simply more confidence this time from you to sing out front on a few songs?
Brad: Some of the songs lent themselves to Jessica’s voice, and she is very popular. Like on “Don’t Treat Me Like A Dog” that song is about our Grandmother so it made sense she would sing it. Other songs like “Space Baby” she sings the chorus, or “Key West” is a call-and-response novelty tune.
Space Baby (Official video; Film by Shaun Kessler & Olivia Wyatt)
CM: It appears that your song “Just Because” is a very heart-felt piece that documents your feelings towards modern whaling. Was it inspired by something you saw on TV like in the song?
Brad: The song was inspired by the show “Whale Wars.” One of the verses goes “I was sleeping on the couch watching the TV…” I was literally passed out on a couch in Cape Cod, over 4th of July weekend, and we were hanging out with some comedian friends “The Whitest Kids you Know” and that’s where the song came from, I woke up and decided to write a song about Saving the Whales, although it’s a really hard thing to do without sounding cheesy (EDITOR’S NOTE: To these opinionated ears, it doesn’t sound cheesy! :)).
Just Because (Official video)
CM: Great to see that another CT native singer/songwriter Kath Bloom has worked with you on the new record. Talk about what it was like to work with her.
Jessica: We love her! We met Kath a few years ago when we played at Bar in New Haven. Ever since then Kath has become one of our best friends, like family. We toured Europe with her, and we play as many shows together as possible around New England. We get to play and sing with her, we are incredibly lucky to have met her. Singing with her every night on tour is like a wow moment.
CM: The new record, incidentally, has a 3-D cover, and you’ve also had some vinyl copies of it pressed!
Brad: It was Jessica’s idea to make the album art in 3D. I think of it as a satire upon the idea of “The Future”, somehow that you need novelty glasses to enter into the 3D world of reality. It’s about the disappointment of the promises of technology. It also just looks really cool. Our future, the future, whatever you call it is a shaky unknowable thing that we have to create! Think positive.
Jessica: We had the idea of the large photos of just our faces and thought it was too boring as just a plain photograph, the 3D makes it fun, more of an experience.
CM: Will there be an 8-track pressing of the next album?
Brad: I remember when I was 3 years old listening to Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, James Taylor, and the Eagles on 8 track in a really old Mercedes that had a hole in the floor. I also remember listening to Return to Pooh Corner on 8 track by Loggins & Messina, but not sure if that is financially viable for us in the new economy. Maybe the next album will be called “The Past” and we can do it then!
2012 (SXSW 3/19/11)
Interesting clip of TFNH from 2007 with an unknown song, Jessica on drum-kit, and additional musicians on violin and autoharp
TFNH’s Bandcamp page
You can stream their albums and/or purchase the downloads of them.