SM PIER ¬ó 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 ¬ó still one of the most incomparable settings in which to take in a free concert.
Kicking off this year¬ís 28th edition of the Twilight Concert Series today is Donavon Frankenreiter; a laid-back surfer and troubadour ¬ó and though currently based in Hawaii ¬ó he¬ís still the personification of breezy Southern California coastal living.
In fact, his new album, his fifth, is even entitled ¬ìStart Livin¬í¬î ¬ó the impetus of which came from the title track of one of the songs on the record.
¬ìWe didn¬ít think about the recording too much; we were really just livin¬í in the moment. We went in [the studio] and tried it and just had a lot of fun, recording two songs a day,¬î 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.
¬ìFor surfers things happen really quickly, in a split second,¬î he said. ¬ìYou can try to find the perfect swell, but you can¬ít expect everything to be perfect.¬î
It¬ís the slight imperfections that give the new album its textural playfulness.
¬ìThis is one of the most organic and original productions I¬íve worked on. It¬ís 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 didn¬ít,¬î said Frankenreiter.
Essential to the record¬ís feel is Frankenreiter¬ís inspired use of instrumentation.
¬ìWe skipped the basics and went for a whole lot of different instruments,¬î he said. ¬ìWe never brought in a drum set ¬ó instead there¬ís 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.¬î
Grundy played a key role in the wildly varied sounds on ¬ìStart Livin¬í,¬î Frankenreiter said.
¬ìMatt was playing ukulele and lap steel guitar and banjo ¬ó he¬íd grab an instrument and we¬íd do a take live and just build the track up from that,¬î Frankenreiter said. ¬ìIt was a real fun vibe.¬î
Keeping it fun is paramount to Frankenreiter. He didn¬ít expect to be a professional surfer and he didn¬ít pick up a guitar until he was 16, so his success and fame still surprise him.
¬ìI fell in love with surfing,¬î he said. ¬ìI 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 that¬ís what happened and it was a dream come true, and I¬ím still living that dream. And with music as with surfing you never get to a place where you feel like you¬íve mastered it all. It¬ís always changing it¬ís never the same gig twice. You never catch the same wave twice.¬î
The folk-infused songs on ¬ìStart Livin¬í¬î sweetly reflect the simplicity of the recording. With Frankenreiter¬ís rich, honey-thick vocals and masterful guitar work, ¬ìStart Livin¬í¬î 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 ¬ó 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.
¬ìTo me the most beautiful thing about this record is it really reflects who I am today,¬î said Frankenreiter. ¬ì¬íStart Livin¬í¬í means stop worrying about where you¬íve been, where you¬íre going ¬ó just start embracing what you have around you. Start loving what you have right now.¬î