SM PIER Summer evenings in our city by the sea are the best.
Where else but Santa Monica can you listen as the waves gently break, watch as the summer sun slowly sets and join in singing as music rings out from the Santa Monica Pier still one of the most incomparable settings in which to take in a free concert.
Kicking off this years 28th edition of the Twilight Concert Series today is Donavon Frankenreiter; a laid-back surfer and troubadour and though currently based in Hawaii hes still the personification of breezy Southern California coastal living.
In fact, his new album, his fifth, is even entitled Start Livin the impetus of which came from the title track of one of the songs on the record.
We didnt think about the recording too much; we were really just livin in the moment. We went in [the studio] and tried it and just had a lot of fun, recording two songs a day, Frankenreiter said with a chuckle.
Frankenreiter returned to his southern California roots to join up with his longtime bassist Matt Grundy to work on a record they recorded in a mere seven days. This casual, in-the-moment vibe is not uncommon to the wave-rider Frankenreiter, who embraces all things surf-related.
For surfers things happen really quickly, in a split second, he said. You can try to find the perfect swell, but you cant expect everything to be perfect.
Its the slight imperfections that give the new album its textural playfulness.
This is one of the most organic and original productions Ive worked on. Its not like any of my other albums. The last album I put out was very polished. This one is a little different because of the instruments we used and those we didnt, said Frankenreiter.
Essential to the records feel is Frankenreiters inspired use of instrumentation.
We skipped the basics and went for a whole lot of different instruments, he said. We never brought in a drum set instead theres handclapping for percussion, or the two of us banging on pots and pans. We were using everything from bells to singing bowls to Zippo lighters; at one point we put some beans and salts in a can and shook it around.
Grundy played a key role in the wildly varied sounds on Start Livin, Frankenreiter said.
Matt was playing ukulele and lap steel guitar and banjo hed grab an instrument and wed do a take live and just build the track up from that, Frankenreiter said. It was a real fun vibe.
Keeping it fun is paramount to Frankenreiter. He didnt expect to be a professional surfer and he didnt pick up a guitar until he was 16, so his success and fame still surprise him.
I fell in love with surfing, he said. I fell in love with the essence of riding, of going down the line on the wave and how incredible that felt. For me it was like, what do I need to do to make sure I can [surf] the rest of my life? I never set out to be a professional surfer but thats what happened and it was a dream come true, and Im still living that dream. And with music as with surfing you never get to a place where you feel like youve mastered it all. Its always changing its never the same gig twice. You never catch the same wave twice.
The folk-infused songs on Start Livin sweetly reflect the simplicity of the recording. With Frankenreiters rich, honey-thick vocals and masterful guitar work, Start Livin bears all the intimacy of an impromptu back-porch performance and the tenderness of a treasured love letter.
Opening for Frankenreiter is the Song and Dance Society featuring Jeff Young and Dannielle DeAndrea performing soulful, organic and electrifying music. For the Frankenreiter show at the pier Grundy will be playing guitars and they will be bringing in a bass player.
To me the most beautiful thing about this record is it really reflects who I am today, said Frankenreiter. Start Livin means stop worrying about where youve been, where youre going just start embracing what you have around you. Start loving what you have right now.