The Colorado River toad is actually native to the Sonoran Desert, but there's another legendary psychedelic croaker that calls Arizona home, or, at least there was. Alas, after five years, the boogie-woogie train known as Boss Frog is making its final stop, but not before the four-piece releases one of the most bewitching local albums to arrive this year.
When we call up Jack Bennett, the Frog's frontman, he only sounds a little frazzled, even though he only has a few hours left before deadline to finish organizing the album's 12-page booklet filled with original art and poems. Plus, it's the day before his 22nd birthday.
"[STEM Recording producer] Curtis Grippe has been pulling all-nighters the last few days to get it mixed," Bennett says. "Me and Bud, my brother who is designing the art, are gonna be pulling all-nighters to have the record done [in time for the show]."
The new album is Twilight Throb, which Bennett insists is not some twisted euphemism. "Dusk Boner would be an easy synonym, but that's not it," Bennett explains, exasperated. "It's an existential throb, you see, not a penile throb."
The title fits well with the voodoo style of the band, which somehow manages to mix in traces of early jukebox rock and Captain Beefheart's absurdist trappings, all of it rooted deep in '70s-era R&B and dressed up with a distinct theatrical bent. Songs like "Our Tune" or classics like "Two Mouth, One Mouth" fit more bounces, warbles, deep-throated rasps, and other typical amphibian conduct in two minutes than a Franz Ferdinand song.
"I always say to myself, I try to have my lip on the fish hook of grooving frequencies," Bennett says, noting that the band gigged for a year before he even finished some songs' lyrics. "[I was] just singing gibberish on stage. Our early shows were really weird."
Twilight Throb also features a few remastered cuts from Boss Frog's first album, Bone Woman Come In The Night, recorded in Bennett's mother's living room and released on Rubber Brother Records. Boss Frog has also been through numerous lineup changes, but is currently Bennett (keyboards), Max Wieden (drums), Jamison McQueen (bass), and Dalton Kelchner (guitar).
Bennett started Boss Frog when he was a junior in high school. It took some time for the band to gain momentum, but they gigged hard, averaging two shows per week for a while; they even recently opened for Diane Coffee. Tied to dozens of house shows and DIY gigs, they became one of the most recognizable and regular figures to emerge from the rebellious days of Parliament, the DIY venue.
But all of that is coming to an end for the foreseeable future.
Bennett, who lives in Cave Creek, is moving to Los Angeles to jockey for a career in acting. Judging from the Dr. Hyde persona he assumes onstage, which Bennett attributes to Screamin' Jay Hawkins, such audacious ambitions make sense for him. Plus, the Frogman has a varied background in theater: He and his brother started an independent theater company called The Something Show, and for a few years in college, Bennett studied acting.
"I'm not saying things aren't going great. We've been very lucky to play some pretty good shows, but things are either cooking or they're not cooking. Life's just kinda moving on," Bennett says, adding that the other members of the band also have plenty going on. But he's remaining optimistic.
"The next show is just a few phone calls away," Bennett says. "Who knows what's going to happen?"
Boss Frog is scheduled to play Friday, July 8, at Rebel Lounge.