In a time when music is often created with more software than instruments, Cold Fronts is by all means sticking to the basics.
“We’re trying to bring back rock music,” Cold Fronts drummer Alex Smith said. “There’s no computers involved, no loops, no electronics. We’re trying to bring back actual rock music, good songwriting, and keep it as raw as possible, because people can really feel that.”
Comprised of Craig Almquist, Jake Hammill, Dylan Hammill and Smith, Cold Fronts has become a must-see band in the Philly music scene.
After leaving the city at the beginning of March to do a spring break tour with fellow Philadelphians mewithoutyou, Cold Fronts headed straight to Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest music festival.
According to Smith, the guys ended their stay in Austin with yet another show, but this time an impromptu one. After running into some friends of friends with a public address system, the band transformed a parking lot into a venue. Even after the music stopped, the fun continued – the band’s spontaneity inspired an hour-long dance party in the street.
When Cold Fronts’ members aren’t starting dance parties in Texas, they are planning and playing shows at their own West Philly venue, the Rathaus. Started in 2010, the Rathaus was created when Cold Fronts’ members and others from a former project decided a new practice space was necessary when, in Smith’s words, “a new yuppie family” moved in below them, and consistently complained to the police about band practices in the apartment. Though it began as a one-show-a-month venue, the Rathaus hosted four shows in the month of May alone.
Cold Fronts will perform at MilkBoy Philly on Chestnut Street on April 13. The Temple News touched base with Smith during a break from the SXSW festival.
The Temple News: How is the music scene in Philadelphia for an up-and-coming band?
Alex Smith: I think if you work hard to write the best songs that you can, and put on a really great live show, you can find success anywhere. But, Philly is definitely great for a lot of reasons. There are so many young people. The cheap rent is very important too, I think. The music scene is definitely good [and] I’d say it’s a lot less competitive than New York [City].
In some ways that’s good because you can kind of isolate yourself and work on your own thing. But I almost like New York better because there’s constant competition and everyone that plays is so good. The concentration of people in certain neighborhoods is a lot higher, so you’re always running into musicians everywhere. But the Philly music scene is on the rise.
Out here at SXSW we’ve gotten a lot of respect from people just because they know about the Philly music scene. Each neighborhood has its own audience.
TTN: Is there something that you look for when booking people to play at the Rathaus?
AS: We look if you’re going to be in the area, but also [for] someone who has really good songwriting. We stray away from more folky things, unless we plan a certain night that [folk music] might be oriented to. We like bands that people can dance to and that have a unique sound – people who are down to party with us and who play great music.
TTN: On the band’s twitter (@Coldfrontsmusic), you guys tweeted a picture of Andrew WK playing on your drum set. What’s the story behind that?
AS: We’re friends with this band called the Gay Blades from Asbury Park, N.J. – we toured with them over the summer. Their singer James was at SXSW for working purposes and to play some shows. Their drummer didn’t call off so he asked me to play drums for a couple of shows that Cold Fronts and Gay Blades were playing together.
He started out the set, James started playing a couple songs solo. This was at 3 p.m. on our first day in Austin. Fox and MySpace were having a party there. Andrew WK was kind of the host/MC of the whole apocopation. I was about to go on stage to start playing drums and Andrew came from out of nowhere, jumped up on stage, and started playing drums.
He was acting like he was totally trashed but he was just putting on a show. By the third song he sounded horrible and was just knocking the drum set over. The dude from Gay Blades was pretty unphased. But Andrew WK was up there, and my whole set was pretty much in pieces [except] song number three. I never even made it up there to perform with the Gay Blades. So we’re like, “Alright, cool. He’s down to party. We’re gonna go hang out with Andrew WK. We’re the hardest partying band from Philadelphia – he’s the hardest partying musician from New York. Let’s combine forces and see what will happen.”
So, some of my band members are hanging out with him, trying to get him to party. And he’s like, “Well the cops said that [they] don’t want us doing stuff like that inside.” He was not a partier. I think that we partied much harder than Andrew WK this whole week.
TTN: How was your experience at SXSW?
AS: Imagine a Wild West Philly house party, plus a major festival like Bonnaroo, plus Mardi Gras combined into six blocks of Austin. It was crazy – pure chaos, fun and joy. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more fun experience in my life.
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.