-Interview- ReFrame (8/29/22)

ReFrame talks about their signature Progressive tinged sound, upcoming new music and much more.


Sounds like: Progressive Metal
From: Tennessee

ReFrame is:
Drew McFarlane: Keys/Vocals
Ed Johnson: Bass
Matt Sweatt: Drums and Percussion
Christopher L. Webster: Vocals
Phil Berger: Guitar/Vocals

1. How did you get started with music and how did you develop your sound? Who thought of the name "ReFrame" and is there any meaning behind it?

Drew McFarlane(Keyboards/Vocals): My personal introduction to music actually kicked in with the Phantom of the Opera when I was in elementary school. Watching that movie made me swear that I was going to be a Broadway singer, but then I found out that it requires a little something called "a singing voice." Still wanting to be a performer of some kind, I took full advantage of the day that my brother brought home a Yamaha keyboard, and from that point I was hooked. As for developing the sound, that's something that's constantly changing as I'm introduced to new people, bands, and equipment that give me a chance to learn.

Ed Johnson(Bass):My journey with music started when I was 8 and I saw a man playing fiddle on TV. I told my parents I wanted to do that and so they got me into Orchestra right away on violin. The year I started was also the year my music teacher started, Rick Neal. He was my music teacher from third grade through senior year. I loved him because he would incorporate rock into our catalog; Purple Haze, Kashmir, Bohemian Rhapsody, etc. And he would teach us all these (at the time) wierd scales and sequences that would eventually become commonplace. 12 Bar Blues, Modes, it really was just a great intro to theory. I picked up bass guitar in Freshman Year of High School as my Brother in Law would always let me pluck around on his acoustic, and thanks to my uncle who said, "Violin is great, but bass is where the chicks are at.", I decided to stick with it. But while it started with curiosity and continued with a supposed way in with my crushes, the more I played, the more I fell in love with the instrument itself. I was in a high school band called "Fresh Squeezed Funk" that wasn't from concentrate and was very much a copy of very early Red Hot Chili Peppers. In college I was in exactly zero bands because I was too busy partying, and being in Chicago without a car, it was logistically difficult to do so. So instead I learned how to play basslines and melodies at the same time. I developed my tapping and slapping and whenever I came home, I would play with my old drummer and have the best times. I took a lot of influence from Victor Wooten, Flea, and Les Claypool. I finally got into cover bands, and original bands, several times over, and now I'm just happy that I'm a bass player.

Phil Berger(Guitar/Vocals): I grew up with a somewhat musical family, a step-father who played drums, an uncle that played bass, another uncle that played bass and was around music constantly.Started playing snare drum and percussion in the school band in 4th grade or so I remember at 10 years old seeing a friend of mine who had just started playing guitar play the riff to Paranoid by Black Sabbath and Crazy Train by Ozzy and being hooked...drums didn't interest me anymore I wanted a guitar .I remember mowing so many yards to save up money to get my first electric guitar an Ibanez Iceman and a cheap little Quantum amp (they actually went to 11 believe it or not) As far as developing a sound it's a constant struggle, like most musicians I know, I constantly am searching for the next amp, pedal or guitar that will get me the sound I hear in my head. The Name ReFrame actually came from a group chat with the original singer of ReFrame and the rest of us one night. We had to change the band name from what it had been and we were going down all sorts of rabbit holes from what it had been. Joe (original vocalist) said something along the lines of we just need to reframe the way we're thinking...and we just continued on with the conversation. About an hour into the conversation it was kind of like a lightning bolt of inspiration, and I said what about that name...and no one had any idea what I was referring to. I said "ReFrame" and started looking it up to find out if it was available and doing some due diligence.And it stuck. That was the name we all agreed on.

2. What do you want people to take away from your music?

DM: Honestly? I would love for people to walk away from our music with a new favorite band. Maybe not necessarily favorite, but I hope they will enjoy our music enough to want to listen again and share with others.

EJ: I don't know about a "take away". I want people to enjoy listening to us. Yes the lyrics have meaning, and we support that as musicians through theory, but I really don't want people to be pulling red yarn across their walls trying to figure it out. I want them to rock out.

PB:I agree with Ed that if people want to get into the music from a purely visceral standpoint I want our music to give them the doorway to do that. In the same breath if they want to dig deeper into that and find all the layers that we give them the opportunity as well. Whether it's musically or lyrically there are plenty of "easter eggs" to find if you want to look for them.

3. How would you describe your sound to the average listener?

DM: usually just call it rock or metal with a proggy twist.

EJ:I generally describe it as being a classic prog. For fans of Dream Theater, Rush, and Kings X, though there are a great many more influences. If you headbanged to any complicated stuff between 1970 and 1990 you'll probably dig us!

PB: to make it easy I describe us as a Prog band. I hope in the truest sense. We are influenced by Rush, Zappa, Dream Theater, Queen and maybe sometimes wear those influences(in the most vibrant colors) on our sleeve. Hopefully on the new album some "broader" influences appear. There are definitely some Hans Zimmer/John Williams moments on the new material and some heavier influences as well, ReFrame already is based around 7 string guitar and 5 string Bass but I'm bringing an 8 string in for a few songs.

4. Who are three bands you’d like to tour with?

DM: In a dream world, I would love to tour with Styx, Nightwish, and Barry Manilow.

EJ: Living Colour, just to have Corey reprise his role live, Tool, though we have developed a friendship with Schism(Tool's only official tribute band) and that would be a blast, too, Dweezil Zappa, because we're all fans, and also so I could see our drummer lose his mind.

PB: I'm going to agree with Ed on Living Colour, having Corey appear on (our song) I Want To Be More is a huge honor and being able to look over onstage and see him singing that song with us every night would be surreal, As well as his choice for Dweezil Zappa, We're all huge Zappa fans and have thrown in bits and pieces of Zappa songs in our show and recently covering I am the Slime being able to open for Dweezil and his AMAZING group of musicians would be our closest way to directly pay tribute to the music of his father. who has so greatly influenced us and so many other "Progressive" bands. For the 3rd I'm going to play a little fantasy booker and cheat a little and split it into 2 choices. I would love to have opened for RUSH while Neil (Peart) was still alive and same with Queen while Freddie Mercury was still here. That would have truly been an amazing experience. to limit it to 3 or even 4 leaves out so many bands that I think we'd fit in well with.

5. How has Covid affected what you do?

DM: Not for the better, I can tell you that much. It seems to have slowed a lot of the music business down in general, but it's helped to expand what musicians can do online. Live music may not be quite as popular as it was, but some of the creative things that I have seen bands do in order to make up for that lack of live performing has been absolutely fascinating.

EJ: We adapted fairly quickly. We pivoted to recording and online interviews and content. Obviously we couldn't play live, but we did take that time to re-record some stuff, and start working on new material. Personally, my job experienced a boom. As everything went virtual and to teleconferencing, this being what I do for a living, my company could hardly keep up.

PB:At the beginning it destroyed any momentum we had leading up to that point. We had just gotten done playing shows with Tony MacAlpine, Michael Angelo Batio and Neil Zaza and had plans to go out on some much bigger shows that all had to be put on hold. Fortunately live streaming became a thing that we could turn our attention to as well as writing and recording some new material, and fate also found its way to us via working on a soundtrack to a movie as the backing band for some huge names, Al Pitrelli(Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Jeff Scott Soto(Sons of Apollo), Dee Snider(Twisted Sister), Derek Sherinian(Dream Theater/Billy Idol), Corey Glover(Living Colour) Eric Gales and more).

6. What’s your take on the current state of Progressive Metal?

DM: Progressive Metal is getting huge, it feels like! I've had more conversations with random people about Prog Metal in the last year or two than I ever would have expected, and I absolutely love that fact. I'm not saying that it's become popular, but I love that more and more people are getting into the genre.

EJ: I wish it was more present in America. I know Europe has a tremendous audience for it, but I just haven't seen that love persist here. The genre still exists, and bands still play it, I just don't see the people coming to shows on a whim. Online content has a much larger draw. It's just another thing that we can pivot to.

PB: I host a radio show entitled Prog Time dedicated to progressive rock and Progressive metal and over the last 5 years have seen the scene for both grow immensely. My show's numbers have grown to 70,000 weekly listeners in 85 countries. I think it's definitely the healthiest it's been in a long time.

7. What’s the current music scene like locally there in Arkansas/Tennessee?

EJ: Here in Memphis, it's vibrant. There's nonstop shows for metal, rock, rap, indie, and jazz. I love it here. If I'm not travelling for work, there's a good chance I can see a friend of mine play a show and rock out to a crowd.

PB:I am a transplant to the area, coming rom the Philadelphia region and having lived in Dallas when I first moved here it was an area that was just starting to grom back an original scene over the last 8 years that definitely has happened and Memphis is within short driving distance to Nashiville, St, Louis, and several other areas and will hopefully continue growing exponentially.

DM: The music scene in Arkansas is so varied. I live in the Fayetteville area, and up here I see a big mix of psychedelic jam bands, DJs, and folk. However, if I go down south to Little Rock and that area, there's a lot more metal and country bands that are making their way around. You never know what you're going to get when you go out to a show, and I love that.

8. What’s your take on the royalties that streaming services pay out to artists?

DM: Eh, I don't really pay too much attention to that aspect. I love that they make our music accessible to practically everybody, since that's something that would otherwise be VERY difficult to accomplish.

EJ: Well obviously I wish it was more, but that's the state of things. Platforms with smaller audiences pay WAY more, like Napster, oddly enough. But platforms with larger audiences pay way less, like Spotify. But that's the business. Of course 1000 listens on Napster will yield a dollar, because that means something. But 1000 listens on Spotify doesn't, because that isn't much for Spotify. I don't wish to rely on streaming for income, because that isn't the point of streaming. I want people to stream my music in the hopes they show up and pay a cover charge, and maybe buy merch. I don't mind not getting a check from Spotify, because it's an advertisement and it used to be bands paid for that.

PB: I know there's some legislation that's been floating around which is Pro-Musician in terms of the Royalty Rates and I can only hope that it finally passes. As a "growing" band unfortunately Spotify and other platforms are a necessary Evil and a positive thing to help in marketing new music.

9. What’s next for ReFrame?

DM: That's a beautiful question! As for right now, we've been working on some new music, and I think the tracks are coming along beautifully. It's a different route that we're taking with the writing for this one, and I think that it will be noticeable when we get to release what's been going on.

EJ: Our second album is almost done being recorded and I look forward to how it does. There may also be a livestream of us smoking a brisket, or possibly me taking the plunge and finally doing a Katz style Pastrami.

PB: As Ed and Drew both mentioned the new album is coming along. We've got 9 songs that have at least been demoed and are in different states of production now. There were 3 rules going into this album.
1. No Limits we wanted to push our limits with this one. 2. No Auto-Tune, No Beat Detective. 3. And we were going to do it live on the floor with minimal overdubs. We are a true band, this time the first album we were recording in different studios in different parts of the world. Now that we all live in the same vicinity, all basic tracking is being done live to try to get as close to the vibe of how we sound live. We are very fortunate that Al Pitrelli (Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Savatage/Megadeth/Alice Cooper) has stepped in and is helping us in an Executive Producer role. He has given us some great encouragement and advice and look forward to his participation going forward.

10. Any shoutouts?

DM: Sure! If you can tell Laura Dern I said hi, I'd appreciate it.

EJ: Nordstrand Pickups, this Big Blademan 5 is a beast. Mark Bass Amps, I never thought you would have competed with my Sunn 300T. Matt Sweatt, I love your satirical sketches of me, keep 'em coming. Memphis Area Bands to listen to: Sunweight, Eastwoods, Evince, and Glorious Abhor. Memphis Venues have to be The Hi Tone, Growlers, and The Peterson Compound.

PB: Music Man Guitars, and Mesa/Boogie amps.. Thanks to the amazing people at George L Cables and Xotic Effects for taking great care of me.Michael Smitty Smith and Corey Glover for their support. Al Pitrelli for simply being one of the most generous people I've ever met. The ReFrame family and Martin Peterson at The Peterson Compound there's many more but hopefully Ed or Drew have covered them.