Los Angeles rock outfit Froth kick off their new record with six seconds of screeching noise. After a drum count, guitars kick in, quickly followed by one of the most satisfying, fuzzed-out grooves of the year. Then, Joo Joo Ashworth’s vocal appears: “Listened to a thousand times I just hear Laurel.” He’s talking about the “Yanny or Laurel” internet phenomenon that made May 2018 feel like an eternity of pointless disagreement. And thus, Froth’s Duress arrives in striking singularity: groovy, addictive, and oddly hilarious.
“I feel like it’s just adapting,” Ashworth says. “Basically, none of the songs are fully formed ideas until we’re into the studio — we’re just flushing it out there. Most of it is pretty, what’s it called … not slapstick, but off the top of your head — stream of consciousness.”
If Duress has any central theme, it’s simply Ashworth’s curiosities about the weird, wild world we live in. From the Laurel-core conviction of the lead single to a couple’s discussion of extraterrestrial existence on “Dialogue,” Duress is a fuzzy, experimental collection of transmissions from a reality often stranger than fiction.
“It was actually the name of my solo project, named after the actor Buddy Duress. On my own, I never finish anything. But [together], we’re three dudes that are fully dedicated to making it happen.”
Duress, who starred alongside Robert Pattinson in Josh and Benny Safdie’s film Good Time, once served time at Rikers Island for drug offenses. Years later, he’s a budding heartthrob and has starred in films alongside Michael Cera and Jeff Goldblum. Heaven knows what particular inspiration Duress gave Ashworth on this record, but his unique journey certainly lends to a range of existential ruminations.
“All our creative ideas get fully used in the studio,” Ashworth says. “I want the songs to speak for themselves. In the past, we thought more about what we could and couldn’t do. But every album, we just try to have the expectation of what our next thing will be.”
After touring Outside (briefly) domestically, Froth were handed the massive opportunity to play Europe with Interpol on their Turn on the Bright Lights anniversary tour. But the lessons learned there inspired less stadium rock envy than one might think. Rather, Froth came away more confident in what they had.
“It’s cool going on tour with a bigger band like that, thinking, ‘This isn’t so far from what we could do — it’s very attainable,” Ashworth says. “That was the last tour we did on that album cycle, and we kind of came home feeling the same way we did before we left … It’s not like you come home leveled up.”
But with a few years to recharge and a new album in tow, Froth have leveled up. As they hit the road again, they do so newly invigorated for their craft.
“Since the last album, a lot has changed,” Ashworth says. “Jeremy is playing guitar instead of bass. We have some machines that are doing the part of a fourth member. I’ve been getting into a lot of programming. We’ve all come back as more heightened musicians, instead of just guessing.”
Froth will be joined in Phoenix by Seattle rock band Versing. The two bands go back several years.
“I found out about [Versing] when they played in L.A.,” Ashworth says. “They said it was one of the worst gigs they ever did. My friend put it on at a bowling alley. We were just kind of sitting at the bar and thinking, ‘I don’t want to watch bands tonight.’ But I walked in for their last song … and I was so stoned and it was so rad and I ended buying like all their merch and asking them to be my friend.”
Froth.With Versing. 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue; valleybarphx.com. Tickets are $15 to $18 via Ticketfly.
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