Could it be that Andy Frasco is maturing?
Returning to the road this fall, fans expect Frasco and his band, the U.N., to still bring the party to the stage — or somewhere in front of it, at least. Frasco has become well-known for crowd-surfing.
But the singer and keyboardist is toning down the shenanigans that became de rigueur on the road.
“I’m doing it for my liver,” a 34-year-old Frasco said during a 17-hour drive to the first show on the band’s fall tour. “I’m just really dialing in my songwriting, really dialing in my musicianship, so I know I can’t blame my partying for my shitty songs. I love partying and I love giving the people their entertainment, but I also want to give them something to think about.”
The fact is: By the time the pandemic hit in spring 2020, Frasco was not in a great place. He said he had been drinking too much, dabbling in cocaine, and finding his life-of-the-party behavior left him wondering who his friends truly were. He also battled with bouts of depression.
No one wanted the pandemic, but being forced off of the road, Frasco said, have him a much-needed opportunity to self-evaluate — figure out how to get his life in a better place and decide if he still loved writing music and touring.
“I was just very selfish,” Frasco said, citing one of the contributing factors to his emotional issues. “I was doing things and not thinking about others. All of a sudden people wouldn’t call me back. I was realizing maybe it is me. I always blamed everyone else that I am on an island — but maybe I’m putting myself on an island. So I had to like figure out the (situation) and realize what was making me sad.”
Frasco explained that pre-pandemic, he often faked his smiles despite preaching to others how to find happiness.
“I was just too depleted,” he said of being genuine.
One significant change was to kick his cocaine habit. He also cut back on drinking, although admits he still enjoys libations. But the supply of Jameson seems to last longer nowadays. He and his band have moderated their intake onstage.
“It’s definitely more toned down,” Frasco said. “We’re drinking a half a bottle of Jameson a night, not the full bottle.”
The changes in behavior won’t surprise those who have been paying attention, especially on the band’s 2020 album, “Keep On Keeping On” and “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.” Released in April, the album indicated Frasco wasn’t just offering escapism in his music.
Andy Frasco & the U.N. was founded in 2007, and began touring and released the first of eight studio albums in 2010.
Badwy song titles — “Mature As F***,” “Blame It on the P***y” (2016’s “Happy Bastards”), “Smokin’ Dope n Rock n Roll” and “Commitment Deficit Disorder”(2014’s “Half a Man”) — pointed to the band’s disregard for rules and decorum (and sobriety). Its rowdy sound mixed rock, funk, blues, soul and pop.
The approach generated a good bit of popularity, as Frasco and the U.N. began what became a consistent routine of playing roughly 250 shows a year — a pace that continues to this day. Along the way, the band especially caught on in the jamband scene and festival circuit.
However, when “Keep On Keeping On” was released in 2020, Frasco started to shift the narrative of his songs to more thoughtful subject matter.
“Keep On Keeping On” arrived shortly after the pandemic hit, and with touring halted, Frasco didn’t worry about taking the next musical step for quite awhile.
Instead, he took to social media. He hosted a video I Wanna Dance With Somebody Dance Party, and started an irreverent variety show podcast series he called Andy Frasco’s World Saving S***Show. But much of his podcasting work was devoted to a series he calls Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast. It features interviews – some of which get downright deep — with musicians and other celebrities, commentary and comedic bits. The series has gained considerable traction and Frasco, who is frequently joined by co-host Nick Gerlach, will continue doing these podcasts even as he returns to a full schedule of touring, songwriting and recording.
With all of this activity, it wasn’t until about six weeks before he was due to return touring in 2021 that Frasco realized he wanted to have new music for the upcoming shows and charged into making 2022’s “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.”
Frasco still kept the tone light, with buoyant, catchy music. But his lyrics wrestled with topics like getting older, maintaining mental health, finding happiness, being considerate, and appreciating life as it happens.
He traveled to several cities to write and record with other songwriters, a process that helped him sharpen his writing chops as the album took shape.
“It was basically like going to songwriting school,” Frasco said.
He collaborated with over 30 from the East to West Coast.
“I wrote with a couple of guys in [Nashville,] Charleston and L.A., and instead of like the mind state of, ‘I know everything,’ I went in there with the mind state, ‘I don’t know anything,'” he said. “It kind of helped me grow into the next phase of my career.”
In this creative space, Frasco said he spent a chunk of 2022 focused on creating an even newer album, now finished and targeted for release before next summer. It reflects a new development in Frasco’s life.
“I think it’s a love album,” he said. “I finally committed to someone and I’ve been writing about her.”
The songs, though, don’t completely envelop romantic bliss.
“It’s scary as hell — I’ve never had a relationship,” Frasco revealed. “I don’t even know what the f*** I’m doing. That’s what I’m writing about. Like, ‘Is this OK?'”
Some of the songs are being road-tested on the current tour — popping up in setlists, alongside material from “Keep On Keeping On,” “Wash, Rinse, Repeat” and older fan-favorites.
“I have two different philosophies when I write songs,” Frasco said. “Sometimes I write for the record and sometimes I write for the [live] set. And these new songs, I was really focusing on trying to write for both.”
Andy Frasco and the U.N. will bring their tour to the Brooklyn Arts Center, with special guest Little Stranger, on Thursday, Dec. 15. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of.
[Ed. Note: The Andy Frasco concert is presented in part by the Penguin 98.3, the sister company of Port City Daily; however, the Penguin does not make editorial decisions for PCD.]
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