Marshall & the Fro
Marshall and The Fro are a household name these days, on the roots festival circuit and in their home, the North Coast surfing mecca of Lennox Head, NSW. They have made a name for themselves as raucous purveyors of roots music with a harder twist, known for their powerful, pulsing roots/rock music, the soundtrack to the summer for many a carefree festival freak or surfer. Their songs feature on cult surf films like David Bradbury’s Going Vertical , in Billabong Dvd'd and surf comps. Having played virtually every big festival in the land, they’ve also had tracks on Australian TV shows like ‘East of Everything’ and ‘No Way San Jose’. And they’ve just completed a new album, ‘Friends For Life’, that looks set to eclipse these landmarks.
Marshall Okell, driving force and songwriter, recently recruited his newest member, Luke Ferguson, Fergo, on bass. The big, affable redhead also has a five-octave range that lifts their dual choruses into deep space. Their drummer, Jacob Mann, known affectionately as Poodle, is a hugely likeable unstoppable force, who pummels the kit like it’s his little brother and has done so previously for the likes of Pete Murray.
The sleep deprived monsters have just spent three months hunkered down with producer Anthony Lycenko (ARIA Nominee, Pete Murray, U2, Beautiful Girls, and Xavier Rudd) at 301 and Rocking Horse studios in Byron Bay. Together they’ve garnered an enormous tempered and timely record that reveals an artist and band in permanent progress. The band’s first, self-titled release was a party record, the sound of young bucks on the hunt. ‘Get Up’ and ‘The Player’ were aimed smack bang at the heaving throng in the Far North Coast, the epicentre for grooving grommets and geishas. Yet even on tracks like the much-covered ‘Thongs’, a bouncing, full-blooded tribute to the surfer’s footwear of choice, OKell sang like he meant something else, something important.
On the 'Friends For Life' Album Marshall establishes his intent beyond doubt, with a potent collection of songs that defines an artist and band in a blazing trajectory – but still firmly anchored to their roots. The title track ‘Friends for Life’ is the breakthrough, a life-affirming festival romp bound to be a massive hit on the circuit. The anthemic chorus, "We came here with an open mind, we leave here, friends for life", will be on every summer pilgrim’s lips come November.
Revealing the bands rock edge the chunky descent of ‘We've All Got Something To Say’ owes as much too heavy rock as the Chilli Peppers’ staunch funk attacks – this is the kind of onslaught that fans of the band are itching for. In the big drums and gospel chorus of ‘Crocodile Tears’ there’s a measured lament laden with cracked emotions - one of the album’s truly soaring moments. ‘Bleeding Hearts’ is an epic ballad with deft touches of mandolin and bittersweet harmonies that underscore a radio-friendly regret for lost innocence. Back to business as ‘I Don’t Mind’ features OKell’s trademark blizzard of slide guitar reinforcing the urgent refrain. Then the funk-on of ‘White Collar Thieves’ co-opts hip-hop cadences as a call to arms against the depredations of gun-happy goons with monied credentials – there’s no roots music festivals in Iraq, kids. Meanwhile ‘Tall Poppies’ is another formidable radio ballad with a tactile melody that winds itself around the tongue. It evokes the classic beauty of superbly handled slide guitar against a declaration of artistic and emotional sovereignty. OKell's vocals are extraordinary – powerful and commanding, chiming with restless, taut guitar and over-the-neck slide virtuosity which the band meets, blow for blow.
The band has toured hard, playing 200 shows in 2009 alone, Three East Coast Blues and Roots Festivals, a whole swag of Australian music festivals including: Peats Ridge, Woodford, The Quiksilver Pro, Festival of The Sun, Narooma, Queenscliff, Apollo Bay and The Gympie Muster, as well as their own Australian tours has left their mark on the band. “This album draws vastly on different experiences and emotions to our first album” he admits, “it touches on heart-break, loss… being broken down, and bouncing back up. Losing yourself and rocking out in your own special way”.
Steeped in quieter, contemplative moments, it also buckets and roars like the progressive roots and rock music of say, Ash Grunwald , The Fumes, The Hussy Hicks, Benjalu, The Villain, Chase The Sun, Kim Churchill, Xavier Rudd And JBT. “It goes from straight thumping rock to deep organic ballads. There are up rhythmic festival songs, songs about heartbreak and injustice and songs about friendship. In the studio we used Marshall Stacks and Fender Twins on 10, as well as mandolins and 1930’s Gibson acoustics ... it’s totally honest music.” Marshall reveals.
Released in May 2010 with a nationwide tour, the album was eagerly awaited by a nation hooked on independent, home-grown Aussie music; the fans have taken to it as have Some of Australia’s top radio stations including: Triple J, National ABC, ZZZ & a stack of independent stations. The ‘Friends For Life’ Album also took out several categories at the North Coast Entertainment Awards (NCEIA) in August 2010 winning Best Male Vocal, Best Pop Song, Best Protest Song and Best Blues Song,
“We’re back on the road" grins OKell. "We’ve spent almost four months making the record and we’re playing the new tracks at a stack of festivals around the country in 2010 including: Woodford, Caloundra, Bridgetown, Great Southern Blues Festival, Village Festival, Sydney Blues Festival to name a few. Their performances are igniting fervent reactions up and down the country. Marshall displays the ability, like all great performers, to go inside his music, and inhabit it like a shaman. Marshall and the Fro are set to ride into the big leagues and the release of 'Friends For Life' is the tipping point. Once that wave rolls they’re in for a helluva ride.
Web: www.marshallandthefro.com.au or www.myspace.com/marshallmusic
Marshall & the Fro "Get Up" Film Clip
Marshall & the Fro Film Clip