All the way from Queens, New York, The Frightnrs are a rocksteady, reggae band that use classic tones, all whilst reinventing them for a newer generation. Teaming up with musician and producer Victor “Ticklah” Axelrod, who’s worked with the Dap Kings as well as Sharon Jones, he would produce their second EP and album with the label Daptone Records. Even with tragedy striking this band, this album has brought a vintage varied reggae sound to what is considered the House of Soul without looking back.
Back in 2010, former punk rocker Dan Klein (vocals) found a passion for Jamaican sounds and met Chuck Patel (keyboard) at a party, both comparing their love for rocksteady and discovering their musical talents. Soon, joined by Chuck’s brother Preet Patel (bass) and Rich Terrana (drums), the Frightnrs came to be, leading the charge of their Jamaican reggae through New York, releasing and EP which caught the attention of Axelrod, who went on to produce their second EP. This was the breakthrough for the band, having struggled to find a place for their music, it caught the attention of famous DJ Diplo and Daptone Records who knew Axelrod well, producing the group covering Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” and signing a deal for their debut album. This fantastic track is also when I discovered these guys, their ability to take a soul classic and apply rocksteady/reggae vibes to it is simply a must-listen.
Whilst practicing and getting into the studio, the band had to remember that Daptone Records is known for their soul-based sound, meaning they had to respect the aesthetic as well as stick to the vintage tones this label is renowned for. This factor however came to be a positive one for Axelrod and The Frightnrs, bringing vintage rocksteady/reggae to another level with hard rhythms as well as dreamy melodies taking part in what was a successful album. Their energy and crisp to the sound brings out a distinctive feel to the songs, Klein’s voice brings soul as well as a poignant feel to something powerful that’s taken past notes into a new era.
“Nothing More To Say” with its rocksteady rhythm of sharp guitars, keyboard and guitar riffs jumping in and out alongside the beautiful soul feel of Klein’s grasped vocals about love/relationships “Tell me what to feel, tell me was it real” is a great representation of what this all about.
Tragedy however struck this band right when they were getting their breakthrough, lead vocalist Dan Klein’s health getting worst right when recording was happening to ultimately find out he had ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This cruel disorder leads to fatigue and weakness which eventually is followed by loss of motor function, muscular degeneration, without ever knowing when it will come to full effect. Not only did they have to engineer a specific vintage sound under a time frame, the band now had to complete the record before Klein’s health deteriorated to the point of not being able to sing. Going in the studio, every individual now had this fact lingering in their heads, a certain pressure that very few deal with, tying this with the fact that this is their debut record, the general matters musicians have when recording, the label they’re under and an eagerness to release what The Frightnrs are all about. Producer Axelrod said: “It was a horrible feeling to work with. It felt ugly and surreal for all of us in the final months of completing the record. We got through it and did everything we needed to do. I just think it felt like we all had 50-pound weights strapped to our chests while we did it.”
“All My Tears” has Klein’s stretched voice touching our hearts, singing of crying away all his tears, the guitar taking lead in its rawness, the melody taking reggae vibes with emotive touches of soul especially through the accompaniment of the backing vocals.
The album’s release was never seen by Klein, marking the beginning of the end to The Frightnrs’ entry into the big stage, a cruel one-off album that will no longer contain an important aspect of its feel. Considering everything that’s happened, this record has not only embraced Daptone Records opportunity but done proud by them, the House of Soul now having this great band to add to its fantastic roster of vintage vibes that don’t rely on nostalgia but inspiration of old sounds as their drive for greatness. The album itself is a delightful rocksteady, reggae and soul record full of textures that deserves praise for bringing a fresh perspective to what originates from a different era. “There are all kinds of different rhythmic and textural approaches that are a part of the history of this genre, and it’s not all late-’70s Bob Marley,” Axelrod says. “I could hear that the Frightnrs were loving and learning from different aspects of reggae that I also love and try to learn from. I can’t say that about too many other groups of musicians. They’re also a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. They know how to play together — with each other.” It’s a tragic story, just when things were happening for these talented musicians who had worked so hard. Klein’s voice continuously strikes your emotions on this record and will do so for many years to come, as his leaves behind a legacy that was cruelly short lived.