If you were alive in Australia in the early ’90s, then you know Frente.
The quirky alternate-folk group dominated every radio and TV in the country in 1992 with their hit ‘Accidently Kelly Street’ and its retina-disabling video clip. Their début album Marvin The Album went platinum back in the days when record sales actually meant something and they recorded one of the most memorable covers of all time with their take on New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle‘.
The band never reached the same heights of Marvin, despite releasing four subsequent records, but what they failed to achieve in the charts they more than made up for in cult status and notoriety. Front woman Angie Hart, in particular, is still recognised by many as an icon of the local scene.
The group recently announced they’d reformed and are set to do a special Marvin The Album tour, playing songs that, at one stage, they’d vowed never to play again.
MAX writer Nathan Wood caught up with Hart to discuss coming to terms with the music of her past; how trying to match the huge success of early albums is like trying to compete with an older sibling; and what she thinks of songs written about her.
NW: What made it feel right about now to reunite and tour Marvin The Album?
AH: We’ve put it off a few times. It just feels right now. There’s no particular reason – we’ve attempted it a few times and haven’t felt good about it. It just does feel like the right time.
Because I was doing research for this story and I read an interview you did a few years ago you did with Fasterlouder where you said that you never really wanted to play ‘Accidently Kell Street’ and that you had “a little learning and growing up to do and some forgiveness of myself for that to happen.” I’m assuming if this tour is going ahead you’ve gotten to that place of forgiveness?
I think age really helps. I just listen to everything with a different perspective now. I finally removed myself from being that person I was back then and I feel a lot more compassionate towards the journey that we went through and understand it a lot more and have a lot less cringe about all of it.
How do you reflect on this record in the context of Frente’s career as a whole? Was it one of your favourite albums?
I think you have a different opinion when it is your band and when they’re your songs. I don’t see them the way other people might. They all serve for different periods of my life and Marvin was a pretty big time in my life and it changed everything. It was kind of an iconic thing for us I guess – that was the moment when we became a household name. I identify with it that way and that’s a really important thing for me.
You were one of the first artists to really embrace your Australian accent and put that at the forefront of your music. That’s still something that’s not really common in Australian music 20 odd years later. Do you lament the fact more musicians here haven’t embraced their national and cultural identity?
Yeah my thing really is about being true to yourself. I don’t think you have to sing with an Australian accent. I think you’ve just got to sing from the heart and make music that expresses who you are. I’m not campaigning for everyone to have to sing in Australian accent. I like to listen to something and have it hit me in a way that I know it was true for the person.
You’ve had a diverse and varied career away from Frente. Is it refreshing to come back and sing this music you created when you were a much different artist and re-live the thoughts and ideas you had when you wrote these songs?
Yeah, it’s great. I’m struggling at the moment – I’m writing a book, I’m trying to write a memoir. It’s bloody hard [laughs]. I can’t remember anything. So I’ve been having a good look at the whole time in Frente and trying to remember what we did and trying to think about who we were back then. It’s really great to visit after having done all of that and also after having really explored music for myself. Now I can come back and see where it all came from. I can see our influences a lot more clearly, which is kind of fun.
It’s almost staggering to think that an Australian record sold 1.2 million copies these days, but that was a feat achieved by Marvin. That’s such an impressive figure, particularly considering modern music sales numbers. Was the popularity of the album at the time it was released an all-encompassing experience? Did you feel overwhelmed by its popularity at the time?
You know, for anybody that goes through that it’s a first. I was quite young when it happened for us and I didn’t really have that on my mind; I don’t know if any of us did. We were still working out what we’d like to be as a band and what we liked about music and getting our relationship together with the four of us. It just came out of nowhere. It was a real sideways way to approach being in a band.
Was it something you had to adjust your expectations to when you released subsequent albums? Was there a lot of pressure to follow that success up?
I think it’s a life long journey once you’ve had anything like that happen. Everything that I do, that’s always in the back of my mind and it’s a funny relationship to have I guess. Comparing yourself – I guess the successes almost become like an older sibling at this stage and I’m always looking up to it and wondering how what I’m doing is comparing to that and you do get a lot of outside commentary on how you measure up to that. So it’s a long journey to coming back to what it is about your craft and what you want to do regardless of all of that.
You’re almost a cultish figure to a generation of Australian music fans. Even speaking with people in the office about interviewing you, people still say your name with almost hushed tones of reverence. Is that something that’s strange to deal with when you speak with fans of the band and yourself, particularly on these tours?
I’m always presently surprised when I hear stories about the fact that people still know who Frente is and that it has relevance in peoples’ lives – I can’t really grasp that concept completely. But at shows Simon and I are so down to Earth I think we have a pretty good report with our audience as far as definitely getting down there and having a good chat and a hug with everybody. I think we’ve been pretty lucky as far as our crowd and how we respond to each other.
This is more of a personal question rather than about the tour but I’ve just recently discovered this band Modern Giant from Sydney and they wrote a song about you and I was wondering if you were aware of it?
I have! I’ve actually formed this great relationship with Adam Gibson [the Modern Giant frontman] because of that track. I wouldn’t have been aware of them otherwise. I’ve also been trying to do some spoken word and writing poetry and stories alongside the memoirs and he and I ended up doing a spoken word together – we put together a spoken word show with some of our favourite artists and based it on what Australia means to us. And it was such a beautiful experience to be up on stage with him. He’s incredibly talented. He’s a great raconteur.
You’ve had ups and downs in your career and troubles with record labels, but the record industry has evolved a long way since even the mid-2000s where you can have a much more direct and engaged control over your career. Are you feeling that new control? Do you feel a lot more powerful when it comes to you and your music?
I just feel more control of it in my mind [laughs]. I’m like the least practical person in the world, so as far as admin and self-management goes, my career has desperately suffered. I feel like my creative world has really benefited from the fact that there is no structure like that and there is no great big music industry to answer to. It is coming back to really about being an artist and I think that’s my most important life’s journey with music if I’m going to do it.
Originally published on maxtv.com.au