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Photo by James BunoanThe Main Frame aren't electroclash (here's our lunch money; now, please, don't ever say the word "electro" again), and they're not quite doing the retro thing, either (although their music blissfully tugs on our we-really-do-love-and-miss-the-Manchester-sound-too heartstrings). And just because they happen to tote around a truck full of synthesizers, that doesn't necessarily mean they're riding the newest of the new wave. So what, then, is their scene?
"Our stuff is like a wind blowing through the open forest," says guitarist/he-sounds-a-little-bit-like-that-guy-from-the-Plimsouls vocalist Steve Krolikowski.
To which the player of said stack o' synths, Rob Wallace, quips, "You just got the quote of the story, buddy."
But seriously (or was Krolikowski serious?), the Main Frame's haunting, stark pop sound stands out—and relatively alone in the oft-flashy LA music scene. Repeatedly described as "dark" and "serious" (and once even "Interpol with synths"—doesn't Interpol have synths?), the Main Frame are a band half-calculated/ half-fluke.
So, yeah, we should explain that further.
The notion to create—and then straddle—such a musical dichotomy sprang from the desire to form a band with "a big keyboard presence" (that's the half-calculated part).
"We'd been listening to Devo and Tubeway Army," begins Krolikowski. "Classic new wave stuff like that. And surprisingly quickly, I found Bill and Rob to play with me."
"Our old drummer decided it wasn't important to be in the band anymore," continues Wallace, "and then, luckily, we got Trip. At that point, everything really changed."
Enter the half-fluke part.
But being an "it" band was never their intention. There's no KROQ, bandwagon or kitsch buzzing around here. Instead, the Main Frame are four guys—friends and musical comrades —with common goals.
Carefully choosing his every word, Krolikowski pronounces, "We have so many ideas and are constantly changing and progressing. I can't wait to see what the band will be like in a year or two. These songs we're writing are filling a void as far as bands I would want to go see. I would want to go see my band."
Wallace underscores that: "There are times where it's just . . . magic. I love the music we're playing, and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing."
It's at this point they begin to realize how lovey-dovey this is all sounding, and it snaps Krolikowski back into reality. "I think we've looked enough at how happily we play together."
The shy guy, bassist Bill Repke, agrees with a laugh, "It's kind of embarrassing."
So instead of talking about how much they love one another, why don't we talk about how much they love their album? Curse of Evolution was recorded by the band ("That was the easy part," says Krolikowski) and produced by a friend, who just happens to be a professional. "It's amazing what you can do with friends and a computer," says Wallace.
What they have to show for minimal cash payment is their first full-length: a collection of 10 beautifully crafted songs that span the sound spectrum from the Cure to Soviet. Desperate vocals and darting lyrics dance over a bass played more like a guitar and synths used for more than an afterthought. "It really changes the whole band," says Repke, "because it frees up Steve to use the guitar to make noises and stuff."
Waterhouse adds, "If you took any instrument out, it wouldn't be the same band at all."
And even though they're completely happy with the results, the Main Frame aren't a group to rest. "We all agree we would like to complement our full-length with, say, something five songs long—and soon," says Krolikowski. "Just take those songs, record them and produce them very well. Then print it and get it on vinyl. I don't think we mind taking it slow because, right now, it's fun for us to play and keep getting better and better shows."
But feeling a kinship with other bands in the LA area is kinda tough. "We have some really good friends," states Krolikowski, "but sometimes we just can't play with them. It's not the right show."
"We'll play with these bands, and they're good bands," continues Repke, "but they're not the same. I think of the music that I grew up with in the late '80s and early '90s—music like the Cure and Depeche Mode. Music that so many people liked and still like, but there's just not a lot of bands in this area that play in a style like this."
"Our band stands alone," Waterhouse adds. "Unfortunately, we really don't have that [camaraderie]. Not yet, at least."
Luckily for the band, there are new ways to find kinship, fans, and, most important, lots and lots of friends. In fact, the Internet is how we first fell in love with the Main Frame. (For the record, it was "Ravenous" that we downloaded and played incessantly.) Oh, and then there's this little thing called Friendster.