Sonic boom on the frontier
|By Rich Tupica|
Frontier Ruckus talks new record, new label, new sound
Tuesday, May 1 — When the eccentrically swaggering alt-country star Ryan Adams first spun the “Deadmalls and Nightfalls” LP, Frontier Ruckus’ long and wistful second album, the acclaimed songwriter professed his admiration for the band via Twitter.
“Deadmalls,” the band’s first national release, also earned applause from the likes of NPR and Rolling Stone, which specifically commended the “delicate, finger-picked banjos, aching, oaky violin and the haunting voice of frontman Matthew Milia.”
But that was back in the summer of 2010. Now Milia (vocals, guitar, harmonica, pedal steel) is facing another pivotal moment for his band, one many songwriters dread: the task of following-up a praised album with new material. High expectations aside, Milia seems confident with his fresh batch of poetically vivid and poignant songs about growing up during the ‘90s in the suburbs of Detroit.
Frontier Ruckus, which also includes David W. Jones (banjo, vocals, dobro), Zachary Nichols (horns, singing-saw, melodica, keys) and Ryan Etzcorn (drums, percussion), camped out in Ann Arbor for months recording the new disc at Backseat Productions, the band’s go-to studio. It’s where they’ve recorded all the full-lengths, all of which are lyrically centered on Milia’s “Orion Town myths.”
“We saw this new record as the finalization and the culmination of the trip — kind of like a trilogy of mythology that our first two full-lengths started,” Milia said. “We wanted to keep it all cohesive and finish it off where it all started, which was at Backseat Productions. I don’t know where we’re going to record next, but it’s important for us to have it all come out of the same place.”
“This is the first time I’ve even stated this publicly, but we dropped Ramseur,” Milia said. “This album is everything to the max. It’s really immediately, accessibly pleasant and beautiful. Ramseur didn’t really get it, so we’re talking to a bunch of people who do at the moment. We don’t know exactly who’s going to put it out, but it’s going to be a step forward, I can say that much.”
So what was it that the label heads at Ramseur, a roots/folk record company, didn’t get about “The Eternity of Dimming”? Milia said this new album pushes far beyond the limits of Americana.
“It’s a big piece of work. It’s really huge. It’s just kind of our style. It’s all about over-abundance of memory and over-stimulation.”
Jones, who’s been playing music with Milia for 10 years now, said the new album is lyrically on par with what their fans expect.
“I hope fans will latch on to it,” Jones said. “There are a lot of new aspects to the record, but when it comes down to it, it’s still Frontier Ruckus, and it’s still Matt’s songs — with the incredibly personal and detailed lyrics. But Zachary, specifically, took things to a new level by layering his sonic landscape, making it so much richer; he added a lot of interesting sounds to this record.”
The band, which spent much of its formative years on the campus of Michigan State University, has been a fixture in the indie-folk scene since its debut EP, “I Am The Water You Are Pumping,” in 2006.