Frost Children on the Midwest, Bloghouse, New York City, and the Sentience of Bob Dylan

Frost Children on the Midwest, Bloghouse, New York City, and the Sentience of Bob Dylan
Photos by Lauren Davis

You are reading a free post from Larry Fitzmaurice's Last Donut of the Night newsletter. Paid subscribers also get a Baker's Dozen playlist every week with songs I've been listening to, as well as some written criticism and thoughts around those songs.

And we're back! Brief housekeeping stuff—I was in touch with quite a few paid subscribers recently regarding newsletter frequency, for the rest of December it looks like I'll be running two interviews every week for the free tier and keeping the Baker's Dozen frequency to one-per-week again since some found it tough to keep up with all the playlists. Obviously it's been a while since I've done a free Baker's Dozen to give non-paid subscribers an idea what they've been missing, and I imagine when the interview bottleneck I currently have slows down a touch, there'll be the occasional two-BD's-a-week dealio. Bottom line, I'm always moving things around, it's a process, and as always I appreciate my readership bearing with me the same way they always have for the last 3 1/2 years.

OK, down to business. Frost Children's SPEED RUN from earlier this year caught my attention because it sounded aggressive and bloghouse-y, and also because Angel and Lulu Prost's music and whole general deal seems like it is contentious and divisive—and when people are contentious and divisive, I only want to talk to them more, of course. Their latest album, Hearth Room, is proof that they are on the move and wasting no time when it comes to exploring new sounds for them, we talked about that and a lot more during a call last month while they were holed up in a Los Angeles Airbnb...

It seems like you two work pretty quick. Are you already working on a new record?
We're never not working on the next thing. It's a daily exercise.
Lulu: We have that "strike while the iron's hot" mentality right now. We have a lot of ideas, and I think we're getting better at songwriting and composition—all the big tools to make something anthemic. We want to figure out what we want to do with everything at the beginning of the year.
Angel: This week we're just writing pop songs. Whoever wants to be the singer will be the singer, but we just want to start writing and producing for other people.

I know when a lot of musicians head out to L.A. for a bit, it's to collaborate with other artists out there.
Yeah, it's always driving to sessions at random studios. We don't do that a ton in New York. Whenever we're working with someone there, it's usually a friend. It's not as industry-feeling. I'm sure we'll discover that aspect in New York at some point, but whenever we come to L.A. we're making music with some stranger that needs production on a song. It's a fun exercise that informs what we're doing.
Lulu: I was not that into it when we did our first session trip to L.A. The problem was that we didn't set what our intention was with going into sessions. We went into rooms with producers who were like, "I'm gonna produce a new Frost Children song." We produce all the stuff ourselves. It took a few more sessions for us to tell our manager that we only wanted to do sessions where there's a 50/50 collaboration—everyone doing everything at the same time. It's always a push and pull. You never know what you're gonna walk into. But the ones we've had in this trip, we have all these instruments and a few laptops open, and all of the sudden a couple of hours later there's a song.

You both are interesting to me because you started to gain a larger sense of prominence at the tail end of scenes existing on a virtual level during lockdown. What are some of the things you've experienced in terms of things that feel new as your profile grows?
It's cool to be working with people who we've admired online for a while. Some of our North Star idols growing up, we know now, which is a crazy feeling. You start meeting people, and you realize—
Lulu: Everyone's just a guy. Some of our idols are the most normal people I've ever met.
Angel: Sometimes, to maintain a crazy level of influence and epicness in music culture, you have to be super normal—unless you're a rare Kanye, who can maintain a spiral for a millennium. And I don't know Kanye personally, so I don't know how much of that is performance. He's probably just a guy too. Lulu and I are almost corny how much we talk to each other at the end of the day saying, "This is crazy." This artist lifestyle seemed so unattainable, but we're in it now. It feels good, and I don't think we've lost the raw energy that started the project over the pandemic. It feels cohesive.
Lulu: We're just better now.
Angel: Every year we get older, and we get better.
Lulu: I think we have intention now. We didn't really have intention, which was the beauty of what we were randomly putting out in the very beginning. There's a lot of beauty in no intention. But the moment you add a little sprinkle of it, it gets more enjoyable.
Angel: That's when you start making the no-skip records.

Were there anyone you were surprised to meet in terms of your idols?
Who could we say without getting in trouble?
Lulu: George Clanton's way funnier than I thought he would be.
Angel: We just finished a two-month tour with him. We were a big fan before and we were freaking out when he was first into our music. He's a normal guy.
Lulu: He's really witty.
Angel: He's tall.
Lulu: Sometimes I get nervous around him because [he's witty].
Angel: Yeah, that's the thing about witty people. In college I'd get nervous around comedy kids that did black box theater and shit. I'd be like, "I can't keep up with them in conversation. I'm not that clever." [Laughs] Elton John is into our music. He played our song on his radio show and gave a little introduction. I haven't met him—yet, at this moment—but just hearing an icon saying our name and giving a four-sentence profile of us...a bridge has been gapped that we're over now. We've crossed a boundary of reality. It's a weird feeling.

Hearth Room is a fascinating turn after the last record. Tell me about the intentionality of what you're doing project-wise, versus just creating and following a natural path.
This project is something that we've wanted to put out for a while. To us, it doesn't feel like a 180. We're just turning to this thing we were doing individually before we started this project, but now it's more refined. It has just a sprinkle of intention. We've always wanted to have songs where we can just pick up a guitar and play it. I don't think we've ever had that until now, which is sick.
Angel: On our earlier records, we were trying to do everything all at once—and we kind of still are. You listen to our records, you feel all these vibes all at once. We wanted to make two projects that crystallized separate vibes, presented simultaneously. I'm a big believer in this thing called switch theory, which is from the '80s. Everything exists in a constellation of binary switches. Every song, every project, are these microcosms of nuggets of focused material, and presented altogether, those micronuggets of focus make a larger portrait. So the idea was these two vibes that are pretty different from each other that you can switch in and out of. One compliments the other, and you get this double record that's larger than the sum of its parts. That was the idea from the outset with both of these records. We didn't just want to do one of them. I wanted them to come out a week apart, but life gets in the way. You can't do everything you want to do. We'll get to that point eventually. Skrillex did that earlier this year, and I was like, "Bitch." [Laughs] It was a similar vibe. This record isn't B-sides by any means. To a lot of people, it's like the A-sides. It's one of our more accessible things, not that that's what we were going for—but, good ol' guitars and vocals, can't go wrong.

You guys worked with Al Carlson on this record, who's a bit of a name when it comes to left-field electronic musicians. Tell me about what he brought to your sound.
Al's the freakin' goat.
Lulu: Our friend Blaketheman1000 connected us. We were talking to Blake, and we had all these demos, but we were both producer-producers first. We played 95% of the instruments ourselves, so it was hard to take all these large drum tracks with different mics when I've never mixed live drums. I was like, "This is clearly not my ballpark," and Blake said, "You should hook it up with Al." Al sent down one mixdown and I was like, "This is light years better than what I could've done." He took these minor creative mixing decisions and showed them to us, and they were stuff I wouldn't have thought to do. We were like, "Oh, of course." Sometimes it just takes that other person, and Al has a trained ear for those things.
Angel: He just gets it. It's more unplugged-sounding electronic music with a pop mentality and a subtle, experimental edge. We could've passed this record for mixing and mastering to someone who does indie rock and it would've been a different experience. It would've sounded good, but it's about the small things. He mixed up the room noise in "Marigold" and turned it into a more intimate, warm sound. We spent so much time at his studio that we ended up shooting the album art at his studio. It's in Studio A of Gary's Electric Studio in Greenpoint. He was down to let us come into there and shoot all day. So, shout out to Al and Mexican Summer and all them.

You both have become fixtures in New York over the last year or two. Tell me about coming over to the East coast after being from the Midwest. What do you feel about you is still Midwestern, atavistically?
I still love Jersey Mike's subs. I always will.
Angel: That's a coastal thing now, though.
Lulu: It was right next to our house growing up. If I'm in New York, I'm not gonna get Jersey Mike's. It's more about the mentality.
Angel: I moved to New York in 2016 for college. I wanted to go there really bad because I was into 30 Rock and music, and I was like, "Yup, that's where I gotta go when I turn 18." I was infatuated with everything, and I still am. What's Midwestern about us is that everything in life blows us away. The Midwest is so awesome because it's so plain and unpretentious that when you step outside as a fully formed adult, everything in the world is crazy. On this tour, you're just driving around and going to the desert and the Northwest. Everything is just insane to us all the time, because it's so different from what growing up in Missouri was like. I think that's why we've been always able to stay so active. I don't want to miss a single moment, and New York is the place to be too active, all the time. When we started performing live in 2021, it was about saying "Yes" to every show and being as active as possible, doing everything. That wouldn't have been possible if we were born into a family of career artists or had an understanding of how all this shit worked already. We wouldn't have seized all these opportunities—and, sometimes they weren't actually opportunities, they were just bad shows that sucked. It's all us. Our parents are supportive of us, but they're not advising on anything we're doing, because this isn't their world. It's just us.

Angel, you were studying neuroscience in college. Did you complete your studies?
I did complete my studies, but pretty quickly into college—like, my sophomore year—I was like, "Well, I don't see a career in this." It was interesting enough to me, but also, when I got to New York I got street-scouted for modeling jobs, and I started modeling. I'd be missing exams to go to Paris and Milan. It was never a question in my mind—of course I'm gonna do that, I'm not gonna stay at school to finish a test. But I wanted to finish school, so I got through it. I graduated over the pandemic, and the last semester of college was essentially a freebie, and I had a scholarship, so I was just gonna knock it out. I was deep enough in it, and I wanted to stay in New York. I was running a house venue in the Bronx where I lived, and I started doing shows in Brooklyn with my old old old band, where I was playing drums, and I was like, "OK, yes, the music world, the art world, it's kind of the vibe." I'd like to think it informs the work still. Music is kind of like brain surgery. You're just going in and altering peoples' minds. I was also doing a lot of psychology, and that is also relevant to every moment of life. But now I think that psychology is kind of a messed up world. I'm really disenchanted with the world of academia and science. With science, a lot of my attraction to academia in the first place was the aesthetics of it, and the vibe of it. Now, I just channel it into my other stuff.

What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't making music?
I don't think I have an answer to that. I don't have any other hobbies.
Angel: It's hard to think about that. It's all I do.
Lulu: My great aunt always told me I could be a lawyer.
Angel: Yeah, you could be a lawyer!
Lulu: OK, here's a real answer. I'd always dreamed of, way later in my life, being a music teacher at a school. My dad is a teacher, and he's such a goofy, outwardly expressive teacher. He's the best. Our drummer also teaches kids drums in New York, and he always says what an amazing experience it is, to teach kids to play a groove. I think there'll be a time in my life where I engage in it. I don't know if I'd be a full-time teacher.
Angel: An NYU adjunct.
Lulu: Exactly. I would definitely be very interested in that. But I wouldn't say that would replace music. There isn't anything that, in another life, I could be doing.
Angel: I'm working on a book on the side, so I'd just finish my book and be a writer. I'd write about my thoughts and experiences on life.

I wanted to hear you guys talk about the song "Bob Dylan." Lyrically, it stands out immediately on the record.
It was an actual dream I had. I woke up and went on the roof and wrote it all down on my phone, recorded a voice memo, sent it to Blake, and was like, "This is really funny." I was listening to a lot of Jeffrey Lewis at the time, who's opening for us at our New York album release show in February. He's an absolute goated New York icon of freak folk and 2000s New York folk revival. He does a lot of spoken word over weird, cool instrumentals, and it was clear that some sort of Jeffrey Lewis voice was speaking through me—a hyper-New York, snarky sort of tone. The actual meat of it is something that both of us talk about a lot with what's considered "punk" and "transgressive." To us, what is punk right now's hard to even say. In the song, I'm pro-Bob Dylan and I'm pro-Jack Harlow. I'm pro-all of those people. It's an anti-anti-sellout song. Selling out seems like a putdown on artists you admire when they start to succeed, and because it happens so often, and it's a weird dynamic with fandom in general, artists like Bob Dylan—I mean, I don't know how sentient he is right now, but at that age they must be like, "Hmm, is what I'm doing truly meaningful?" When people decide that commercial success is insincerity, which it certainly is not. I think Jack Harlow on a billboard is a picture of transgressive success, and truth.
Lulu: I just played the chords.

Tell me about being part of the NYC music scene and the tendency to get boxed in. You've had quite a bit of press over the last year—how do you think you're perceived in the city, and in general?
There's only so much you can do as an artist to protect how people will categorize what you're doing. I've slowly become very desensitized to when people drop an adjective before our name. It will probably never not happen. If I want to live a happy life as a musician, I have to let that go in one ear and out the other. Otherwise I'll be tortured, and I'll never be able to feel like it's purely about making music, which is what it's all about. It'll probably keep happening, and people will probably keep using adjectives to describe this album that I don't agree with—and it's not even bad words they're using, I just don't think that's what it is.
Angel: There's no way to communicate the totality of what you make better than just continuing to make music. We've never corrected anyone for calling us a certain genre, even though we don't agree with it. It's naive to be like, "You should stop trying to understand what we're doing." No, it's a human natural thing to be like, "This sounds like this," and that's fair.
Lulu: I do it with artists I enjoy subconsciously, which would probably sound like a backhanded insult to the artists themselves.
Angel: You experience it enough times and you're like, "I don't want to say that to someone." [Laughs]

Now it's time for me to tell you what I think your music sounds like. As a 36-year-old who grew up in the tri-state area, I almost immediately thought about bloghouse when I heard your music, which is a funny genre to mention to people. Some know what I'm talking about when I mention it, plenty others don't. Does bloghouse mean anything to you?
Absolutely. That's one of the better reads of the Speed Run record. Simple, saw-y bassline music with a club beat. Bloghouse was extremely influential on us.
Lulu: I also feel like I'm discovering a lot of big bloghouse songs since Speed Run came out. I was using Deadmau5 and progressive house as a reference point for that record. The more I heard that music out and about, and the more it became a thing in New York again, I was like, "Oh, wait, this is really sick." I didn't listen to much SebAstian growing up, but now I'm like, "This shit is so sick." If I knew about it back then, I'd be going crazy.
Angel: I was tapped into some of the OG bloghouse shit as a kid, but in the Midwest we didn't have the music intellectual sources to show us that. We were embracing the pop aspect of that sound, like Deadmau5, Wolfgang Gartner, early Porter Robinson, electro, dubstep. Back then I knew a couple of SebAstian songs and Justice, and Daft Punk obviously. Dance music has always been extremely central to us. I'm 25, so I wasn't on MySpace. I missed that era.
Lulu: I didn't have the proper context with regards to electroclash and bloghouse. Now I kind of know what it is, but back then, whatever shit made it to the St. Louis suburbs was what we had.
Angel: I discovered Aphex Twin from Skrillex posting about him. That's where we were at when it comes to where we were getting our music from. We've been listening to this artist Capsule for the last few days, and we're obsessed. Our friend Jen put us onto it, and I was like, "How did I miss this?"
Lulu: Going back to perceptions of us, there's something beautiful about not knowing the context of certain things we're compared to. Our song will get played on Apple Music 1 or whatever and they'll be like, "It's really bringing me back to this artist or this artist," and I won't know any of those names. Then I'll look it up and go, "Oh, cool, this is what this was."
Angel: George Clanton and his drummer were telling us that our song "Lethal" sounds like Coheed and Cambria, and I was like, "I've seen their t-shirts, but I don't know what they sound like." [Laughs] I'm just getting into Nine Inch Nails for the first time. How did I miss it?

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Jamie Larson