Listen to Frontier Folk Nebraska's Lounge Acts session in the audio player above.
CINCINNATI -- Frontier? Perhaps if you count that muddy expanse dividing Ohio from Kentucky.
Folk? A stretch if you consider their acoustic guitar, bass and fiddle roots.
Nebraska? Definitely not.
Northern Kentucky rockers Frontier Folk Nebraska's name is “basically just words” that singer/guitarist Mike Hensley said popped out to them as they got their start a decade ago.
As they kick off their Warpig EP SXSW Tour on Thursday in Nashville, the rock 'n' roll foursome leaves no false pretenses about the reputation they’ve earned as a set list-shunning live band.
“(Not having a set list) scared him to death when he first started,” Hensley said, pointing to bassist Matt McCormick, who came on in 2014 with drummer Mark Becknell. “This is who we are. We can’t get up and try and morph into something else. It’s either going to work or it’s not for everybody else. We’re there. We’re just going to be ourselves.”
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Taking the stage at the largest music festival of its kind would give anybody stage fright, but Frontier Folk Nebraska is staying super chill about its swing through the Deep South before hitting South by Southwest on March 18 in Austin, Texas.
“I’m going to get through work for this amount of weeks, and then I’m going to go hang out with my buds and go play music. I can’t make it a huge thing or I’ll overthink it and I’ll crumble,” Hensley said.
“If there’s anything we’ve figured out, it’s how to be realistic about what we do to a point that we don’t hype it up so much in our head to the point that it becomes a do-or-die kind of thing,” added guitarist Travis Talbert. “We try to be realistic about it, and that has made us better at it in a lot of ways.”
The 11-stop tour celebrates the release of their four-song EP Warpig, available March 24 via digital download and on cassette tape. Yes, you read correctly. Cassette. Too bad my dearly departed 2000 Pontiac Grand Am now rusting at a Tri-State scrap yard is my closest existing link to a cassette player.
“It seems like the punk bands are doing it,” Hensley said. “It was just something to make it a little different from just doing a CD EP. In my opinion, I think CDs are becoming coasters. It makes a cool little item, and some people might play it on a cassette player.”
This release marks a departure from Frontier Folk Nebraska’s do-it-yourself aesthetic since it’s their first recording in a proper studio: Cincinnati’s Cappel Recording Studio. Former bassist Steven Oder recorded their previous releases in sonically superior spaces such as bedrooms, basements and a boiler room complete with a furnace chugging away in the background.
Watch Frontier Folk Nebraska perform "Cut You Loose" from their upcoming EP "WARPIG."
Studio Engineer Tommy Cappel handled last year’s “This One’s for the Kid in the Back” when Frontier Folk Nebraska recorded back-to-back live shows at the Southgate House Revival in August 2015, so it made sense to turn to him for this one. Hensley said the professional space allowed for a “bigger kind of noise” and “more focused kind of sound.”
Heather Turner and Lauren Houston (of fellow Northern Kentucky quartet Honey & Houston) provided backing vocals on all four songs.
“It really made them sound incredible,” Hensley said. “I’d have been a real jerk if I forgot to mention that.”
Frontier Folk Nation will perform at South by Southwest alongside fellow Tri-Staters Dawg Yawp at the Old Flame Records Showcase. Entirely unprovoked by us (honestly!), Talbert listed former WCPO Lounge Acts visitors Leggy and Beach Slang as groups he can't wait to see at SXSW, as well as West Virginia singer-songwriter William Metheny, whose debut album dropped Feb. 24.
Frontier Folk Nebraska EP Release Show
The Southgate House Revival-Revival Room
Saturday, March 25
Get there early and have a case of beer on FFN! They’ll have the WARPIG parked out front, AC/DC blaring with a case of beer in the trunk. Buy the new EP on cassette and have a cold one on FFN's tab! They’ll even snap a photo for you to remember the occasion.
WCPO Lounge Acts features intimate in-studio performances and interviews from outstanding musical artists.