Not a purveyor of reproduction “surf” music, Donavon Frankenreiter all but takes you to the beach for the beer, the horsing around and the righteous endorphin afterglow, grateful for the cozy fireside singalong with a family-tight surfing circle. A beach is anywhere you feel good.
Frankenreiter went pro as a surfer at 16 and took up the guitar while on the competitive surfing circuit. He could still boast Billabong as a sponsor, surfing the world’s most exotic settings for their videos and helping design a line of their clothing.
His music has been compared to Jimmy Buffet, but it might be more fun—his voice more lived-in and his lyrics a bit more literate. He has a sizable—and passionate—following: 225 thousand Facebook fans can’t be wrong.
We connected with him soon after he landed in L.A. after a show in England.
You know we don't have beach here in Tucson, right?
But I heard that somewhere in Arizona you have a really great wave machine!
Is there a philosophy or a frame of mind that's transferable from surfing to making music and managing your music business?
I think the greatest thing in common is that they're forever changing. You never get the same wave twice. I never have a gig where I go "Oh gosh, here we go again. Another same 18 songs." Every night's different—the crowd's different, the venue's different, how you feel's different. So you don't ever know if you're going to go to the beach and catch the best wave of the day or the best wave of your life. These moments happen and they keep you coming back for more. Great music is sort of like the uncommon surf, sort of the denominator of everybody's feelings, you know? I feel like it's an international religion for everybody. It's been a part of everybody's culture forever.
Your last record Start Livin' has a sense of intimacy and a lot of offbeat instrumentation I would think would be tough to pull off on a big tour.
It's actually a really unique and super fun show. I have this bass-player/electric guitar player. He plays both at the same time. He has a double-neck guitar that's a bass on top and a six-string guitar on the bottom. So he'll make some bass loops and then go to the guitar. And then I got this electric guitar that inside the body of it is the sounds of a Hammond organ, so it's called a "guitorgan." And then the drummer switches off to percussion. So it's super fun. We're creating the sound of maybe five or six people. It's all live, no pre-processed loops.
You have more than 225,000 fans on Facebook! What's your secret to social media domination?
Things have changed a lot over the last 12 years I've been doing this. We just recorded our brand new record (The Heart, out August 4 on Frankenreiter's own label, Jamboree.). We streamed (the sessions) for eight hours a day, ten days straight. We did a song a day, and every one of those songs is up on YouTube. Go to my Facebook, you can click on the links that are on there and you can watch what we did each day. It's a highlight reel and the song unmixed and unmastered, that we did that day and you can hear the whole new album, in its entirety and watch the whole video.
So you'll be playing new material at the Rialto?
We'll probably slide in a couple of new songs but I don't want to play a bunch of stuff they' haven't heard before. I want to play what they want to hear. They like "Free." "They like "It Don't Matter," "Glow," and just certain songs off every record.
Don Frankenreiter plays with Leila Lopez at The Rialto Theatre, located at 318 E. Congress St, on Wednesday, May 27. Tickets are $26 in advance and can be found online, along with more information, on the Rialto Theatre website.