Ohhh, they’re strange. Strange in a gloriously quirky, curious, hypnotic, mildly disturbing, ethereal and ultimately mind-expanding kind of way.
Coming together just last year, Frogbelly and Symphony is a melding of traditional folk and modern noise influences, filtered through consummate musicians with classical training who like to dabble in experimentation. There’s violinist and keyboardist Liz Hanley, who studied at NYU and frequently performs in traditional folk ensembles. Benn Trott studied jazz and classical guitar in the U.K., and is involved in the traditional folk music scene there. He blends traditional playing with jazz improvisations and rock influences. Ray Rizzo, their drummer, was co-founder of Louisville’s Motherlodge Festival. He’s drummed with artists such as Ben Folds and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Bassist Tom Hanley, who also handles composition and production for the group, collaborates with engineers and studios in Sheffield, UK and Brooklyn, NY. Philip Schewe, on guitar, keyboards and drums, provides additional tour support.
They played on the East Coast and throughout Europe early in 2013, and released their debut EP, the EYE (Labelship, UK). They just toured the East Coast and Midwest, after performing in Finland and Estonia. Not surprisingly, judging from their eclectic and sometimes wild sound (not to mention their curious name), Frogbelly and Symphony usually put on a theatrical live performance. Their shows are said to often involve the audience in improvised pieces. They also perform shows with all acoustic instruments in intimate environments to pay homage to their folk roots.
There are also literary influences that weave their way into the music. Some author’s works that have left their mark include Rumi’s Ache and Confusion, John Clare’s An Invite, To Eternity and Langston Hughes’ Vari-Colored Songs. Explains Tom Hanley, “Nowadays weâ€™re blessed with the possibility to take the inspirational tint from centuries of musical and lyrical repertoires. You may describe our work as a subjective look on an inexhaustible miracle.”
Last summer, they recorded their forthcoming debut full-length album with esteemed producer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans, Dresden Dolls, Bill Laswell) at his legendary B.C. Studio in Brooklyn. It’s due out on Labelship Records at the end of the year.