Easy Being Green

Fred Green explores new rhythmic permutations on its third album

It seems that every time Fred Green plays in California, the funk trio winds up relying on the kindness of rock heavyweights.

At the group's most recent Redondo Beach gig, a guitarist friend brought ex-Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, and Watt proceeded to get high in the band's van before the show. When he asked how he'd be able to get into the show without paying, someone jokingly suggested that he carry some of Fred's gear into the club. To the group's amazement, Watt did just that.

The time before that, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez showed up to see Fred play and was so impressed that he ended up buying Cuervo shots for each of the band members.

Unfortunately, Cuervo shots and roadie help from big-name musicians don't necessarily translate into recording contracts, and, though they've long been a source of interest for labels, Fred remains unsigned.

But this band has never been inclined to wait around for other people to create opportunities for them. They have their own production company, which helps other local acts follow the same Colorado circuit that Fred blazed a couple of years ago. And this week, they celebrate the release of their third self-released CD, an 11-song self-titled set.

The album follows in the rhythmically adventurous mode of its predecessors, Dillywagon and Groover, and actually finds new genres for exploration. "Awake" and "Off the Ground," for instance, reveal a growing fascination with Afro-Cuban rhythms. And, as always, the band doesn't hesitate to go from reggae to metal to jazz in the space of a single tune, defying standard notions about song form.

"There was no real theme involved," drummer Chris Peeler says of the new CD. "Some of the tunes were from the first days of writing, that we finally finished, and some tunes just came out of nowhere. We're just the kind of band that does whatever comes to mind as far as tune-style."

"We're still in kind of an experimental mode, but we were more into writing good songs this time--whole, full songs," says Ben Gilley, bassist for the band.

Like the band's previous efforts, the new CD was recorded in a tight space of time (seven days) with Larry Elyea at Mind's Eye studio. The band's creative confidence is so high that they've taken to creating songs in the studio, and they frequently leave arrangements unresolved until the studio clock starts running.

In Elyea, they've found a perfect match. "Larry's a good boy," Gilley says with a laugh. "You can verbally pummel him as much as you want, and he just loves it."

The group's rampant playfulness is featured on "Jefro Bridge" (which lifts a vocal section of Sam & Dave's "I Thank You") and on what's described as a "fryin' pan" remix of "Hybachi," one of the highlights on Groover. The album's most absurd moment, though, is saved for last. "Talkin' to Bob" is a nonsensical disco song that finds Peeler doing a Les Claypool-type rant before the entire band kicks in for a three-part harmony on the chorus. The group says the song grew out of a discussion with their then-manager Willobee Carlan.

"We had a studio in the basement, and he actually lived upstairs," Peeler says. "We'd had a meeting that day, and he said, 'You really need a radio song. I love you guys, but you need a radio song.' So we went downstairs into the studio, and somehow that guitar riff came up. Ben started playing kind of a disco bass line, and I just played the goofiest, most simple drumbeat I could. It is kind of a goof on the idea of a radio tune."

Of course, when you parody something, you always run the risk of becoming what you're mocking. "Talkin' to Bob" is so catchy and so brazenly ridiculous, it could unwittingly become a "radio song." The band is prepared for the dangers.

"It would be ironic if it got played," Peeler says, "because the lyrics are the most annoying ever."

Fred Green is scheduled to play three sets at Boston's in Tempe on Saturday, June 12. Each set will consist of one of the band's CDs, in its entirety. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Bass Instincts: Breakfast of Champions bassist and co-founder Leslie Barton has decided to quit the band, effective August 1. Barton has decided to focus more energy on her fine-art work and plans to move to Scotland at the end of this year.

Barton, the original guitarist in the band, formed the all-girl punk trio early last year with Sioux Milgrove (who started on bass and switched to guitar) and drummer Mary Esquivel.

The band--which is currently working on a CD expected to be released by the end of the summer--plans to continue and is actively searching for a new bassist. Meanwhile, the Barton incarnation of Breakfast of Champions will play twice on the same night this weekend. On Friday, June 11, they'll be opening at Hollywood Alley in Mesa at 9 p.m., and headlining at Cannery Row in Tempe at midnight.

Elvis and Courtney: "There's something about the desert air that makes you rock more, right?"

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