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Beggars In Brand New Shoes
What About Frank?
We really feed off of each other when we play; it's the kind of thing a band either has, or they don't. We do. - Sam Bey
by Matt Mrowicki
What About Frank?
What About Frank? (Credit: Keith Laub)

One of the hottest bands around the New Jersey music scene for the past couple of years has been What About Frank? Formed in 2004, the Red Bank, NJ-based band has managed to make their mark quickly and decisively in a short period of time, as the band plans recordings for a new album in 2006, amid rumors of major label interest.

The buzz for this five-piece, consisting of Paul Ritchie (guitar), Mark Melicia (vocals), Dave Rosen (guitar), Sam Bey (drums) and Nick Villapiano (bass, 2004 Asbury Music Award Winner as Best Bassist), started very soon after they started their 130+ show per year schedule. Twice recognized as Best Live Band at the Asbury Music Awards, the attention from fans and media helped earn WAF? high-profile slots on the 2005 Van's Warped Tour, The Great Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park, NJ, and the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City.

Their debut self-titled release was one of the top-selling albums in local retail, and received airplay on both satellite and commercial radio. Considered one of the top unsigned acts in the area, press accolades and endorsement deals have been piling up as the band looks forward to a break-out year and increased national attention.

Chorus and Verse caught up with What About Frank? while they were on a brief hiatus from their rigorous performing schedule to write and record new material in preparation of what should be a momentous year ahead. The band comes across as focused, determined and ready to bring their music to a wider audience. They are devoted to their music and their fans, and we expect to be hearing great things from and about them in the year ahead.

You released your debut album in July 2005, only about a year after the band was formed. Fill us in a bit on how the band came together and how everyone knows each other. Who originally created the band and how did the other guys come on board?

Sam: Paul came to me saying he wanted to start a rock and roll band after playing in metal bands throughout high school. I had never played in a band, I was just fooling around on the drums at that point. So we started a band and we called it "What About Frank?" We snatched up a singer, a bass player and another guitarist and started writing and recording songs and playing shows. That lineup didn't work out, and we had played a couple shows with another band that had a singer, Mark, who was just wailing. We asked him to join the band, and after a little while he did. Neil joined around the same time Mark did with no questions asked, and a few months later we picked up Dave as a second guitarist.

Was all of the material on your self-titled debut written for the album, or was it stuff that was left over from past projects? How long after you started playing together did you begin writing and recording new music?

Dave Rosen
Dave Rosen

Dave: The songs on the album were written over about a year, mostly before I was even in the band. They definitely got tightened up as we headed into the studio, but the tunes were all there. With the lineup we have now, it's been about a year and we pretty much started writing new material together right away after we finished recording the album. We just got out of the studio recording three of our newest songs, and we have a whole bunch more songs still in the works, so we're ready to go back in and record them.

Where was the band's first gig and where have been some of your favorite venues to perform at? Did you know from your first time on stage that the band had potential or did it take a while for your stage presence to develop?

Sam: The band's first gig was in some girl's basement in Middletown. Warped Tour was awesome, Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, and it's always fun to play smaller clubs like the Saint. As far as stage presence goes, it definitely developed and got better the more shows we played, but there was definitely a connection from the beginning. We really feed off of each other when we play; it's the kind of thing a band either has, or they don't. We do.

You've twice been awarded Best Live Band honors at the Asbury Music Awards. What do you think are the qualities that make the band so successful as a live act, and is that something that you work on, or does it just come naturally to everyone?

Dave: I think it's the authenticity of the music that makes us a powerful live act. Our music is honest, and people respect that. Like Sam said, the five of us definitely have something together that makes performing effortless. It's not something you can really work on; if you do, it loses its authenticity and becomes false. And people can see right through that. Kids are smart enough to know what's real and what's not. It's natural.

The band also received an award as Best Indie Band. Do you anticipate that your next album will be an indie release or are you hoping that the band will be signed in 2006? Do you get nervous about taking the step from indie life to the world of a major label, or is it something that you're looking forward to?

Sam: We're definitely planning on being all signed up in 2006. No one's guaranteeing that it's gonna be a major label, but indie or major, we're willing to work with anyone who wants to help our music grow and spread to the masses. When it comes to the idea of going to a major label, there's nothing to be nervous about because we're not planning on signing our lives away. There's no way we're gonna work with anyone who is going to try to handcuff our creativity. So I'd say we're looking forward to it.

What was the experience of playing on the Van's Warped Tour like? Do you like the large concert experience and playing festivals where lots of bands are on the bill, or is it more fun to play more intimate venues where the fans are right on top of you?

Dave: Warped Tour was fun. It's funny 'cause we're really a raw rock and roll band, and there wasn't anything like us that we could see at all on Warped Tour, so we felt a bit like a whore in church. But I think the kids really dug it anyway. Festivals like that are a whole different monster, and they're great exposure. But some of our favorite gigs have been the ones where we're not even on a stage at all, like our record release show. We were down on the concrete, and the kids were all around us everywhere, hundreds of them crowded in. I was swinging my guitar everywhere and they wouldn't back off. It was amazing. There's something about being at eye level with these kids, not above them.

Members of the band have been fortunate enough to land some endorsement deals recently. Can you fill us in on who is endorsing what and how those deals work? How is the connection made to put an endorsement deal together and what do you get as part of it?

Sam Bey
Sam Bey

Sam: I hooked up with a local drum company called Bib Drums first, and they built me a drum kit. Then our manager got me endorsed by Attack Drumheads. Paul and Dave got endorsed by Fender Guitars. They also got photographed to be in the 2006 Fender catalog. Our manager, Justin, pretty much put all that together to put those deals together along with KCNY clothing. Like most endorsement deals, they hook us up with gear and we promote the companies and they promote our band as well.

You've posted on your website that you're taking time off from playing shows to "write, record and prepare ourselves for the new year." How much material do you have written for the new album, and what is the current schedule for when you are planning to record and then release the new CD?

Dave: We've written a whole bunch of new songs, but with the way we are, nothing is final until it's on a record. We're always experimenting, always changing. We don't have definitive plans to do a new record right now. Like I said before, we're demo-ing everything and just writing. Our next record will be in the future.

How about your touring schedule? When do you expect to start booking shows again and you do anticipate matching the 130-plus show schedule that you did in 2005? Do you expect to get high-profile gigs, such as The Great Bamboozle and CMJ, as you did this year, and is there any chance that you'll tour other parts of the country outside of the New Jersey area?

Sam: We will be playing locally again in January, and expect to be on tour by spring or summer. I anticipate playing twice as many shows this year if everything goes our way. And we expect to play every high-profile gig around. In the next year we plan to make it to every state in the entire country.

What are your New Year's resolution for 2006 and what would you like to see the band accomplish within the next 12 months?

Dave: I don't know that we have a resolution, as a band. We want to do exactly what we do in front of a bigger audience. More people should experience our band. That's it.

[ Website: www.whataboutfrank.com ]

Matt Mrowicki
Matt Mrowicki [[email protected]], is an Internet entrepreneur and owner of Chorus and Verse. In 2002, he founded Impression Technologies LLC (www.imprtech.com) a digital design company offering website development, graphic design, online marketing, social media and technology consulting. He has been interviewed on topics ranging from how bands can best use their websites for promoting their music to current trends in social media. He has successfully launched over 100 websites and branding projects for clients and continues to develop new online opportunities and promote effective uses of technology and online media.
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