Spare surfboard? Go Frankenreiter
A PROFESSIONAL surfing career, four major alternative surf-rock albums and arguably the most chilled out group of fans in Australia: Donavon Frankenreiter has led a charmed life.
From tentative first steps into the musical spotlight on surf tours in the ’90s to surfing and playing his way around the world, Frankenreiter took time out during this month’s Australian tour to reflect on how he has kept things simple.
"When I tour, I have to bring my electric and acoustic guitars, but rarely bring my own surfboard," he explains.
"I can always find a friend or cool strangers to lend me a surfboard – I’ll surf on anything."
The surf rocker’s easygoing and optimistic nature lies at the foundation of his songs.
Quite possibly, it’s also the reason he has lasted as a musician after humble beginnings in a ’90s Southern rock band.
"One of my earlier bands (Sunchild) was signed to the (Vans) Warped Tour in 1996 and it was a crazy time," Frankenreiter recalls.
Sunchild was often pelted with debris when it played alongside US punk/hardcore groups on that surf tour.
"We were the band that all the other bands came to watch because it was so funny watching the crowd react to us," he says.
"On top of that, we had the worst camper in the tour, one that leaked every time it rained."
All that considered, it’s hard to believe the ease with which the singer/songwriter/guitarist now controls a sell-out crowd.
"I’ve never really been a nervous guy," he says.
"I think instead, I get more excited about having a lot more songs out and a lot more to choose from when we play."
The repertoire on Frankenreiter’s fifth and current Australian tour expanded following the release of his fourth album Glow late last year, the first track of which Frankenreiter pieced together in just 30 minutes.
Describing surfing and music as his lifelines, it’s clear the two are closely interrelated in Frankenreiter’s life. After catching breaks as a professional surfer in his teens, Frankenreiter finally got a break in the music industry in 2002, signing with long-time friend Jack Johnson’s label.
"Surfing led me to meet Jack when we were teenagers, but soon after we both started playing guitar," he says.
"We’re both busy, but being busy never gets in the way of my relationships with friends and family."
His support slots for Johnson on Australian tours soon developed a mighty fan base Down Under for Frankenreiter and prompted the release of his debut album here in 2004, well before its American release.
"I think the laidback nature here is why Australia and Byron resonate with me."