Q&A: Fracas on Suburban Housewifes, Joey Ramone and Punk Rock
Langdon Jones, the smartass, hipper-than-you frontman/guitarist for local rockers Fracas , is just happy to have a band. After eight years spent toiling with false starts, personnel problems and learning how to write songs, Jones has finally assembled a seemingly secure lineup that includes bassist Nick Upperman and drummer Matt Chappel. The trio recently released Dallas Suburbia , the second Fracas disc. (The first, Different Like Everyone Else , came out in 2003 and featured a different cast of characters.) Mixing punk, pop and witty rock a la Ween, Fracas gleefully pokes fun at the Dallas lifestyle and mass-market consumerism in general. We recently spoke with Fracas and, democratic to a fault, Jones insisted that the interview questions be divvied up equally among each member of the band.
Is humor in music a lost art?
Matt: No, but I think humor in high quality music is a lost/rare art. A band like Tenacious D comes to mind. They obviously have funny lyrics, yet the musicianship is high quality. Funny lyrics and serious rock kind of seem rare to me these days when musicians take themselves way too seriously.
What have you got against the Dallas suburbs?
Langdon: I have several things against what goes on in the suburbs. I’ve come to the conclusion that the wealthy suburban lifestyle stunts the spiritual and intellectual growth of many a suburban housewife. Many, but not all, of these women just paint their nails, shop, work out at Larry North, gossip on the phone, go to church at Lake Pointe to help their husband with business networking and tote their kids to an extracurricular activity here and there. Then they point their Mexican laborers around to do the housework. Are these atrocities of the soul legal? Sure, but it’s also legal to make fun of them and that’s where I come in.
Does the band cause a fracas when they play? How many times have you’ve been asked that?
Langdon: You’re the first! Most people don’t know the definition of the word and have to ask. We don’t cause a physical fracas, maybe an intellectual one when an audience member feels insulted. One time I think we hit a little too close to home with a bleach blonde suburbanite mother. She got mad and said, “They can’t say prostitution here!” We were playing at the Door! I think the word fracas is cool. It epitomizes rock and roll, which can be an angry release.
Which came first: the punk, the skater or the skinhead?
Nick: Well, the skinhead came about in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s in the UK. Punk was born in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s and utilized a lot of the skinhead dress and social disposition. I’m thinking the skater came much later.
What is emo and why is it killing music?
Matt: I’m not sure if it’s killing music, but I wish my hair were emo so it would cut itself! Like emo bands, we sing about women that won’t date us because they think we’re losers, but for them it’s sad. People seem to laugh when we sing about it.
If Fracas could play a candidate’s inaugural party, whose would it be?
Langdon: Whichever one paid us the most money! Probably Obama’s. Take money out of the equation and I might say Hillary. I grew up in Arkansas when the Clintons were heading up the shindig there. I remember how awful she looked in those really cheap public service TV ads in the mid-’80s. Now, it’s really amazing what a makeup crew can do!
Who is cooler: Joey Ramone or Johnny Depp?
Nick: Joey was the godfather of punk, but Johnny Depp plated Sweeney Todd and got his start in A Nightmare on Elm Street. So I’d have to go with Depp. I hope that doesn’t get me barred as a musician. Of course, if you asked me who would kick whose ass, I’d have to go with Joey because he was 6’8’’.
“All is well in Barbie-land as long as Ken stays loaded,” is a great lyric from the title track of the new CD. How many hours did it take you to think that up?
Langdon: That came almost instantly, as did the song. The entire thing was done in about three weeks. In sharp contrast, “Go Ugly Early” took six months and probably a hundred hours. Funny how it works that way.
Do your parents like your music?
Matt: They like getting into bars for free! My grandmother is still wondering when she is going to see me perform in my cool band.
What does Fracas have to contribute to the Dallas music scene?
Langdon: Appearance wise, we’re not cute or sexy or imposing. We’re just average, pasty white guys. But for those who care about the quality and craftsmanship of melodies and songs and who want moments of sublime musical profundity, we’re the band for you! -- Darryl Smyers
Fracas performs Thursday, February 28, at O’Riley’s and Friday, February 29, at The Bone.
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