Andy Frasco is living proof that if you really, really want to be something, you should just go out and be it. Live it, create it, experience it—whatever it is just go do it, and do it right goddamn now. Put enough of your life into something and it will return the favor. Inspiring? Certainly. Intimidating? Probably. Difficult? I asked him myself, and he told me what it takes:
“Yeah, I do two hundred and fifty shows a year. For the last ten years.”
No one said this would be easy.
“I’ve lived in a van like ten fucking years. I started when I was 18 and I’m 28 now. I was my own booking agent for five years, cold-calling venues, bullshitting my ass off.”
Frasco started his touring career by hiring new musicians in each new city he played. He’d find them on craigslist, rehearse a bit (maybe), and then just go for it.
“It taught me how to be a frontman, to conduct a band, learn how to write solid three/four-chord songs that anyone can hang with. Throw a party. Tell the drummer four-on-the-floor, gimme a one-two on the bass, and I’ll entertain these fucking people. I’ll crowd surf, whatever. I look up to the Frank Sinatras of the world, the James Browns; it’s all about the live show. You can have listeners by getting a song on the radio, but if you want fans you gotta make sure your live show is the shit and that they come back every year. A lot of these bands are so into their hair or their fucking flannel, super pretentious. No, music is
supposed to be here for fun. You gotta live in the moment. We’re trying to bring rock & roll back. People are scared to crowd surf, do drugs on stage, get kicked out of bars and stuff. But that just raises your rep.”
Now, remember that he does this for ten months out of the year, every single year, for ten years and counting. One recent flier dubbed him “Mr. Human Cocaine” (which I admit is rough, but fair). Over time he has assembled a huge network of musicians and related personnel throughout the country, the best of which he hand picked for his now-permanent band, The U.N.
“Me and my eight piece band, we live in a van down by the river. Everybody’s from a different city. My goal was to get the alpha-males, the fucking rock star of each town, and then we all join a band.”
The approach seems to have paid off. Andy Frasco and the U.N. have a great understanding and appreciation for the live-show experience. They exude an outrageous energy and have earned a solid following because of it.
“We played with this hippie band The String Cheese Incident, and also Umphrey’s McGee. We’re in the jam scene, like four hour sets and stuff. That’s one thing about the jam scene, they really appreciate music and they’ll stick with you. If you give them energy, they will fucking stay.”
This flexibility—playing an epic, four-hour jam as naturally as a tight, forty-minute set—is uncommonly awesome, and it reflects Frasco’s varied experiences and continuing ambition. When I asked what’s next for the band, he laid out an elaborate, month-long European tour, to be followed immediately by three additional months of touring the U.S. (beginning at NYC’s Rockwood on May 11th and continuing through the end of July). I defy you to identify a harder working band than Andy Frasco and the U.N. They hail from all over the country and travel all over the world. Their music is a vehicle for their insane energy, and it bleeds through no matter what they play or where they play it. But through this rock & roll chaos, a consistent theme shines through: it’s all about the music.
How does he keep this going year after year after year?
“I mean, how badly do you want something?”