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Donavon Frankenreiter laments the death of the album

Three years since the release of his easy breezy album The Heart, US singersongwriter Donavon Frankenreiter has, you might say, been living the good life. Touring the album all this time, visiting every country twice, he’s definitely due for some new music – but before he hits up the studio, Frankenreiter returns to Australia and New Zealand to indulge in his two true passions; surfing and music.

Surfing is, of course, as of equal importance in Frankenreiter’s life as music, so when he travels the world touring his clear and unashamedly open brand of acoustic surf rock, it’s only natural he would take the opportunity to test the waters. “Whenever we get a chance to get to the beach
and surf we will – when it comes together they’re sort of like the dream days.”

To say Frankenreiter is family orientated doesn’t quite do him justice – Frankenreiter is as close to his family as any man can be and then some,  going so far as to take his family out on tour with him at every opportunity. The Heart is an incredibly personal album that addresses everything from love, life and loss – so while his music is not necessarily something Frankenreiter believes people should relate to, he certainly believes there’s something about it to be understood. “I think you can’t really tell people what songs are about,” he says. “They make a song what it is and make it their own.

“I’ve always had this sort of thing since day one, I really just try to make what I feel, the best record I can make at the time. I think it’s a bad formula if you try and second guess yourself like, ‘Oh I wonder what the fans want to listen to?’ If you’re doing that then I think you’re losing the battle.”

Using the final track on The Heart ‘California Lights’ as an example, it carries a particularly heavyweight for Frankenreiter. Written as his father was dying from leukaemia, Frankenreiter describes the record as being emotion-filled and a heavy one to make. “A lot of love and happiness and a lot of loss,” he says. “It was the first time I ever went through something like that.

“I don’t know what people make of it when they listen to it but I got to escape for a moment, at least a couple of weeks, while making the record and just be in the music. It was a hard time, the whole process.”

The discussion then turns to the format of acquiring music and streaming services. “It’s interesting because we’re in a day and age when you put out a record and they’re not hearing the whole thing, they’re just streaming whatever happens to be playing, they’re not buying an entire album,” says Frankenreiter. With the advent of streaming services it’s likely that without experiencing Frankenreiter’s albums in full, much of the sentiment and story could be lost to those who pick and choose from the collection. “I think that’s gone at this point,” Frankenreiter says of the traditional formats of releasing new music.

“If I’m gonna make a record I’m gonna release one song a month for a year, have every song have a story, have a video clip to it, stuff that surrounds that song.

“I feel like if I put up 12 songs… I don’t remember the last time I heard [of] someone downloading a whole album. People are becoming virtually their own radio station.”

A child of the era of vinyl records, cassette tapes and radio, Frankenreiter continues his musings on just how different the times are. “People nowadays aren’t really doing that, especially the kids. They get bored in about 45 seconds, it’s an interesting thing we’re going through, I think you have to adapt to it and make it work – I don’t know, I think it’s all about a song now, put out a song, and then another song.”

There is something to be said, particularly for Frankenreiter’s style of music, for taking a step back, relaxing and enjoying the music and having a good time – an opportunity that fans will be afforded when he performs at this year’s Queenscliff Music Festival.

“It used to be one of those past times where, it wasn’t too many years ago, you’d go to a record store, you’d buy the album, bring it home and listen to it. People aren’t buying music, no one owns your music, they’re just streaming. That’s another interesting concept – it’s not necessarily a lack of interest, there are people who dig in and dissect the music, but people aren’t consciously thinking that they’re buying something. It’s not just the music industry – anybody that does anything, photos, movies, books, all that shit’s gone away, it’s just monetised on the internet. It’s an interesting thing.

“I would love to finish the whole record at one time, I just thought it’d be an interesting concept to release a song at a time. With the way the industry is, I think 90% of people will miss the entire album – I almost have to think of every song as a record, so just treat it as that.”

Catch Donavon Frankenreiter at Queenscliff Music Festival, from Friday November 23 until Sunday November 25. Check the QMF website for playing times.