Frown Upon Thisby Brandon Edmonds / 04.08.2010
Tim is the hooded one who turns the beatbox on in the video below. That’s all we know. But how about that Eve Rakow? She’s the (un)real thing. A pop entity. Self-made. A willed synthesis of girl signifiers purloined from the hip femme canon – there’s Bjork, there’s Gaga, there’s a baby doll Bond girl, there’s anime princesses and Eastern European fatales. Rakow arrived in the goofy electro pop duo Love On Rollerskates, then graduated to “post-gypsy woodland war music” with Gustavo Fasani and the Frown Family Caravan. Whittled down now to the Frown. They turned the tables on me. My ridiculously overblown questions become the content of the interview. They’re tricky. You gotta watch them. I’m frowning.
Mahala: You studied drama etc. You were an actress. When I’ve seen you perform there’s a wonderful attention to your body, gesture, the visual-performative impact you’re making on the audience. This doesn’t happen often enough in local music. Are you a performer first and foremost? A singer second? What is the role of theatricality in music?
Eve: I studied performance, yes. I think a lot of people listen to music with their eyes so it becomes important to be both singer and performer. It seems like one cant exist without the other in a live show.
Mahala: You’ve been in quite a few bands (3 or 4?) – how has your music changed over the years? What are you trying to do with the Frown? It’s a duo. Is that new for you? How did you two meet? Do you thrive on collaboration?
Eve: I guess it just grew up and started paying rent. The Frown is currently working on a show for the day the sky falls down. Someone said “euphoria-core”. I like that. Oh, you should probably meet Tim. Tim, World. World, Tim.
Mahala: You have a kind of synth-electronic-digital aspect to the music. A machine made quality. Synth pop thrived on great duo’s: Pet Shop Boys, the Postal Service, Erasure, Yazoo. What are some of your musical influences? What era’s in music have influenced you most?
Eve: We are machine. Well at least parts of us are. What are my influences? Are you crazy? Thats the single most impossible question to answer. So much. From The Smiths to Fever Ray to Lady Gaga. Yes I said it. I like Gagz.
Tim: I like Lady Gaga’s box.
Mahala: You do amazing things with your voice. It has a breathy, broken, fragile, Joanna Newsome, Bjork “Oh So Quiet” quality. Almost like you’re a woodland creature. Is this girlish passivity, this
inwardness part of an aesthetic you’re mining? Because in person you’re very funny and articulate and totally relaxed in your bones. Is this a
kind of post-feminist examination of popular culture’s obsession with
young girls? Are you playing with pre-adolescent signifiers? You tend to
wear a wedding type dress too and second-hand glasses a lowly
clerk in a shipping company in the 1940s would wear! Tell us about your
Eve: My look? My teeth are too big for my mouth. I had to have four removed. I’m okay with it now. *weeps* Tim?
Tim: I have all my teeth.
Mahala: What was it like opening for Die Antwoord? What was up with your stage show? Dudes in g-strings was it? Was it tough playing for an audience primed for rude zefness? Your stuff is far more cerebral and delicate. How did you adjust?
Eve: They welcomed me on stage with a “Who the FUCK are you?”. But once I realized they just wanted me to abuse them we were able to work out a mutually beneficial relationship. I swore at them and they shouted for more.
Tim: I got bounced. Too many teeth.
Mahala: What kind of space is there for women in local music to explore femininity? It seems you either have to be Yolandi and show your ass and be more unhinged than the boys, or as anti-pretty pretty as Sannie Fox, or flagrantly beautiful like Simphiwe Dana or Inge Beckmann. How do audiences respond to your willingness to play with your femininity? You’re clearly not putting yourself out there as a “sex object”.
Eve: I don’t just put out for anyone.
Tim: I do.
Mahala: How do you enjoy Kate Bush? Is she an influence? It seems she set the bar pretty high for self-exploration as a woman in music.
Eve: I’m dead into self-exploration. Bush? Did she start the war on terror? Nope, I don’t think we’d be friends.
Tim: I fully support self exploration, and exploration of others.
Mahala: Your video set in the forest was beautiful. Very withdrawn and tentative. Set in the gloaming as the sun set in the trees. It
evoked nature and the disquiet of modern life. You were in a hoody and we
had to struggle to see your face or make out the lyrics. It was possibly the most somnolent and poised local music video I’ve ever seen. Where the Parlotones beg for your attention in the most obvious ways, you guys seem to choose to disappear, to keep your cards close, to retract from the light. Tell us about the thinking behind the video.
Eve: We’re afraid of the light. Our music travels at the speed of dark.
Tim: What she said.