Pool of Frogs invent “Bandisode” to promote new shows

By HermineBloom

It’s blatantly obvious that when Chicago-based band Pool of Frogs engage in constant playful banter, they’re actually revealing the fundamental reason behind what makes a successful group dynamic. In other words, these guys are genuinely quite fond of one another, which lends itself to an honest commitment to their music and translates into an infectious energy that concertgoers feed off of in a live setting.

Will Duncan (drummer), Chad Fess (guitarist and lead singer), Brenton Engel (bassist) and Blake Sloane (guitarist, keyboardist and singer) comprise Pool of Frogs. Their sound is not easily defined in a modern-day music culture where “one known band meets another” is typically used when describing any new group. Pool of Frogs is a hybrid of classic rock, ’80s punk and grunge. Throw in a pinch of Ween’s humor and a splash of Nirvana’s overall sensibility and the band comes to life.

When they’re not playing live shows in Chicago and surrounding suburbs, they’re spending days on end shooting and starring in wacky promotional videos or “Bandisodes.”

The Chronicle sat down with Pool of Frogs to talk about how they met, what they really sound like and landing a gig based on a Bandisode alone.

The Chronicle: How do you guys know each other?

Brenton Engel: We met in 2004. Will and I were both audio students at Columbia. Will was actually the only friend I ever made at Columbia College.

Will Duncan: Brent was the only friend I ever made.

Blake Sloane: Me and Will were in a band, and Brent and Chad were in two different bands and we did a show together downstate in Illinois—an outdoor festival. And we liked each other’s bands so we started playing together and the two separate bands melded into one super group, if you will.

WD: Blake and I have been friends since we were little kids and we moved to Chicago together. We had a band called The Great Perhaps. Same deal with Brent and Chad—they knew each other for several years before.

BE: Me and Chad had a band called Brent and Chad.

The Chronicle: If you were to sum up your band’s sound as a cross between one band and another, what bands would they be and why?

BE: Probably like Dolly Parton and White Zombie.

WD: With MC Hammer.

Chad Fess: I was thinking more of Sun Ra and Thelonious Monk.

WD: There’s an undeniable grunge element to our music. It’s simple rock songs that are just high energy. There’s definitely some Nirvana influence in there.

BE: Yes, we all love Nirvana. We all grew up listening to Nirvana and a lot of classic rock. We all love Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones and all that old stuff that everybody else on the planet loves too.

WD: There’s a slight element of the three-chord punk—like the early ’80s.

BE: There’s a lot of influence from more abstract bands like Sonic Youth.

BS: I think she’s still waiting for us to name two bands.

BE: Let’s name 18 bands.

WD: Jesus Jones and The A Team.

BE: Faith No More and Ween, or John Lennon’s head on Danzig’s torso.

The Chronicle: I watched a Bandisode on your website. What I took from it is that you guys are really good friends and that you don’t take it so seriously.

BE: I think that whole kind of idea of the early Beatles when they were all dressed up in the little suits and they were all joking around having a good time. I think we’re all kind of into that.

WD: Except we don’t have suits. But we are very much friends, we do very much hang out together all the time. That fun that we have together is genuine and it’s apparent when we’re playing together. Sometimes it feels like we’re performing for each other more than anyone else.

WD: A lot of the Bandisodes have kind of a sitcom-meets-music video sort of thing. We use the videos to promote the show by circulating them online, and it’s been a great way to be creative and have fun promoting our shows and marketing our bands. It’s something that seems to be a unique idea in Chicago because we’ve got[ten] some pretty cool feedback. Seriously the only reason we got booked to play at the Metro was because the booking agent from Metro saw one of our Bandisodes and thought it was such a clever and original idea.

BE: We do want to stress the fact that we feel like the whole video promotion thing is kind of an idea in the Chicago scene that we forefronted. We’re kind of pioneers in that respect.

Pool of Frogs is playing Sept. 25 at Logan Square Auditorium with Secret Machines and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead. They expect to release their 2nd album in Spring 2010. To find out more information, visit PoolofFrogs.com.