Froth are something of an anomaly. Although their new album, Duress, out today on Wichita, is their fourth officially released, they still feel like a new band. This could be because the band started as something of a joke, with none of the members truly having any kind of mastery of their instruments. However, there was a spark of something there in bandleader Joo-Joo Ashworth, around whom there has been a revolving cast of musicians, playing support while his own musical intuition grew into a genuine talent.

Now with Duress the band has stripped to a trio, with Cameron Allen and Jeremy Katz remaining alongside Ashworth, and Froth has turned into a band that borders on obsession. In listening to the new record, which was made with Courtney Garvin (of The Courtneys), you can tell how much time they've spent getting the right tone and personality in the colour of each track. It's a real sonic nerd's dream, but obsession also creeps through in the lyrics, which are not without their humour either - something which became even more apparent in speaking to the band.

When I spoke to Froth they were in their tour van in Portland, on their way to get their first coffee of the day.


Duress is your fourth album, and immediately upon pressing play the confidence in the sound and production is obvious - does it feel that way in the studio?

Joo-Joo: Oh yeah, definitely. When we did our first album, compared to now, it's the difference between four people that didn't know how to really even play their instruments to now having a very specific idea of how we want things to go. Definitely the confidence is there.

Did you have any big ambitions going into making this album, or was it more a case of just creating more songs?

Joo-Joo: Straight up just making more songs, like literally no intention.

Cool. I like that you're not pretentious about it. Tell me about Duress as a title, where does that come from?

Joo-Joo: It's named after an actor, Buddy Duress. He's just a cool actor, basically. It was initially my solo project, called Duress (named after the actor), but we borrowed a lot of the songs from the solo project, so we just ended up calling that the album name. We hadn't really given it too much thought, but it makes sense.

I would never have guessed that. I thought it was “Duress” like the word duress, like "I'm under duress."

Joo-Joo: I like the word too, but that wasn't the reason. We definitely think that people will think it's Duress like the word, like you did, which is also cool. That doesn't really relate to the album at all, the world itself.

Yeah, even in the songs there's not too much duress, so I guess that makes sense. But, if there is one person experiencing duress, it might be the guy in opening track 'Laurel', who's quite stressed out about the "yanny/laurel" argument, because he can only hear "laurel."

Joo-Joo: I can see that.

Was that argument between you guys?

Joo-Joo: The "laurel" thing was literally a big argument between everybody I know and myself. I stayed on "laurel" for a long time, and then "yanny" for about 30 seconds and then back to "laurel" again.

It's such a fucking weird thing.

Joo-Joo: Do you know about "brainstorm/green needle"?

No I don't know about that.

Joo-Joo: There's another one called "brainstorm/green needle," but it's weird because it's not like you can only hear one or the other, you pick what you wanna hear!

Cameron: You decide what you hear.

Joo-Joo: It's a little plastic toy that goes "BRAINSTORMMM" [laughs] but it also sounds like he's going "green needle!"

You guys should write a song about that one next.

Joo-Joo: [Laughs] It would be a heavy metal song.

You guys could definitely do that!

Joo-Joo: We play a lot of heavy metal in the practice space.

Cool. You should try recording it.

Cameron: I think we could write a pretty banging heavy metal song.

Joo-Joo: In the practice room we play metal an equal amount of time that we practice our songs.

You should at least bring it into the live show then!

Cameron: Yeah, that's true!

Joo-Joo: We'll bring kick pedals to the studio, I think that's going to be a big inspiration.

Let's continue on through the record. Next up is 'Catalog'; it's about when you came off a long tour and didn't want to do anything. Is that typical of you, are you hard to motivate?

Joo-Joo: All the time. Basically all my free time is figuring out how to make it worthwhile. I've got a lot of instruments at my house, so now I just aimlessly drone instruments all day and hate myself [laughs].

That's without any intention of even writing a song, just making noise?

Joo-Joo: Just making noise, basically. It was better when I just had a guitar because sometimes I would write songs. Now that I have these other instruments it's just me self destructing.

Interesting. I meant to ask earlier; when you're writing a song, how do you rate the importance of lyrics vs vocals vs guitar and other instrument sounds. What's the most important in the final product for you?

Joo-Joo: For me, I always think of lyrics as icing on the cake, because it's not often when I'm listening to music that I listen to lyrics first. I think the order of the song would go: the atmosphere of the song in general, then the tone and timbre of everything, and then the lyrics... but the initial energy of the song may be including the vocal melody, and that's important. But, the lyrics, you know what, I fell like we could get by going "buh buh buh" and our band would be the same.

[Laughs] Interesting. Does that mean that you're not very precious about your lyrics?

Joo-Joo: I'm not very precious about the lyrics - then again, if I've said something really embarassing, like on our first album, then I'll never forgive myself. There's some songs on the first album that none of us will ever forgive ourselves for.

'Dialogue' comes next, and lyrically it has an X-Files type theme.

Joo-Joo: A little bit. The last album had a song called 'Contact' that was named after an episode of X-Files. The lyrics of 'Dialogue' are two people talking about if there are aliens. I guess we talk about aliens a lot.

Are you guys believers?

Joo-Joo: I'm a soft believer.

Cameron: I totally believe.

Jeremy: Yeah, I'm a soft believer as well.

Cameron: I'm a hard believer.

Joo-Joo: We have two soft believers and one hard believer in the car right now.

Sounds like a fun car to be in! I like how 'Dialogue' and 'A2' are pretty much two halves of the same song.

Joo-Joo: We made it into two songs, because I was listening to it in the car with my dad, and he said "maybe not everybody wants to hear this long noisy outro." So I was like "OK, I'll make it two songs for you dad, so you don't have to hear the second one."

Aw, that's very kind of you.

Joo-Joo: And maybe it wouldn't be great to have an 11 minute song.

I think it would be cool. When you play it live do you play the full thing?

Joo-Joo: Yeah, that's how we originally came up with it. Just from playing the first half of the song live, and then the first time we played it as a band it just kind of moved into something else. Sometimes it just happens that way with outros.

Very cool. Now, I definitely want to talk about 'Department Head'. I think it might be my favourite song, just because it's so weird. There's a lot of words in this... it's almost like you're fetishising employment - "delaminating", "ergonomic", "underwrite" - you wouldn't come across these words in your life...

Joo-Joo: That also goes along with the boredom and coming home from tour not really knowing what to do. I have a friend, he's an electrical engineer, he makes good money, he fixes all my equipment, he's like a real functioning human being, and a lot of times when you have friends like that it's like "why am I in a band?" That song is definitely about... you put it perfectly "fetishising employment."

And the sound of the song, it seems kind of sinister.

Joo-Joo: Yeah, I could see that. The song part of it was inspired by a band called Automatic, a new LA band, they have some sinister songs, I think that's maybe where it comes from.

The singer of Automatic, Izzy Glaudini, is on the next track, '77', right?

Joo-Joo: Oh, there ya go! I didn't even realise that!

That's also got a paranoid kind of sound, is that also inspired by Automatic?

Joo-Joo: That was basically a collage song. It's hard for me to figure out how that song even ended up happening; that's probably the song I have the least memory of what we did. Basically, it was half an idea for a year, and then I'd just been adding stuff in the studio and at home for so long... I don't even remember, but I do really like the way it turned out.

Do you remember when Izzy came in to sing? Did you explain that you'd been inspired her band in a way?

Joo-Joo: Basically, Izzy's in Automatic with my girlfriend, so we're always listening to music together. We're all into the same shit, we kind of go off of each other's shit. So she was just super down to collaborate. She's like a real singer, she enjoys singing on somebody's track like I would enjoy writing a guitar part, which is a really cool dynamic, because that's not how I approach singing at all.

I'm kind of surprised that you didn't get more collaborators in.

Joo-Joo: I would've liked to. I was really into the Mount Kimbie album that came out a couple of years ago. It has all these guest vocals, and it's really cool because if you're not that into your own voice you can just get people to sing better than you, and the song will be even better!

Yeah, there's people who've made a whole career out of that. 'John Peel Slowly' is next up, and it's an instrumental, so is the title a nod to your influences?

Joo-Joo: Yeah, definitely. Also I have to admit that there's a band called Peel Dream Magazine, and I was like "that's so cool, they did a play on John Peel," but then I thought of a better one.

You're climbing to the top of the leader board on John Peel puns.

Joo-Joo: John Peel is just so cool, you can't beat him.

Yeah, RIP.

Joo-Joo: Yeah, for real.

Let's go on to 'Xvaños' - does that mean something?

Joo-Joo: Uhhh, I'll let Jeremy tell you the story. This is his song name.

Jeremy: Yeah, so I was eating with my wife, and I saw a sign that said "xvaños" - but what it really is is 15 years, for a Quinceañera, like "XV años." But I asked my wife and she started laughing, and I felt completely stupid. So we just decided to name that song that.

That's good! I like it.

Joo-Joo: We don't hold many things sacred in this band. We're just like "Xvaños?! - yes, song name! John Peel Slowly!? - cool, song name!" That's how we function.

Well it works, so keep going! In listening to 'Xvaños' I do have to admit that I immediately knew it was aping the drum line from Yo La Tengo's 'Autumn Sweater', but it works great, so why not?

Joo-Joo: Well, yeah. Initially I sampled it and everything, but... I mean I don't care, I honestly don't care. I like the song, it's fun to play.

Lyrically as well, it seems more nostalgic and romantic, were they inspired by Yo La Tengo as well?

Joo-Joo: Actually, the lyrics in the first verse are about when Cameron was thinking about quitting the band, and it was my plea for him not to quit. Then the second verse of the song is about some dude we kicked out of the band.

[Laughs] Oh, wow.

Joo-Joo: I didn't want him to find out, so I made it romantic sounding.

It worked on Cameron though, I guess.

Joo-Joo: It did work on Cameron! He's still in the band! He likes our band now!

Cameron: I'm here! And I like it!

So it is kind of romantic in a way.

Joo-Joo: Yeah! We're a romantic band sometimes.

Cool. I'm curious about 'Slow Chamber', which you started as a collaboration with a graphic artist - how does that work?

Joo-Joo: It was honestly the only project I've ever done that was anything like that. A friend of mine ended up going to design school, and for his thesis project he designed an album cover and named songs, and he wanted me to write all the songs and perform them live. That was a really interesting thing, because I was just forcing the songs to come out, I wasn't inspired by anything specifically, I was just like "alright, here's how I know how to make songs." 'Slow Chamber' was one of them and people were like "this is one of your best songs!" Then I thought maybe I should be less sentimental about my songs.

You weren't offended that this song that you just kind of tossed off was said to be one of your best songs?

Joo-Joo: I would like to not have to wait for inspiration to have to make songs. I want to just be like "here's a Cocteau Twins-y riff, I'll make a song!"

Who's the person you reference in the lyrics, Cole Devine?

Joo-Joo: He's a former member of the band. He's in a band with Jeremy's wife called Gold Cage, and he's been friends with us forever. I've kind of always wanted to use his name as song lyrics, and we had been playing that song for a while and I had just been throwing it in there live. So I wanted to put it on paper.

Cool. That's funny because I spoke to your sister SASAMI earlier this year, and she does the same thing in her song.

Joo-Joo: No way, which one?

She has one where she mentions Sheridan Riley.

Joo-Joo: Ooooh, Sheridan Riley, that's right! I remember the song now, but I never put the two together. But Sheridan Riley was playing on the song.

Still, it's quite a random thing that you both did.

Joo-Joo: No, my idea is better.

Sure, OK. The album ends up with 'Syndrome', which is about Alice in Wonderland Syndrome - is that something that you experience?

Joo-Joo: Yeah. Me and Cameron. It was actually pretty strange; years ago we were sitting at his house with his roommate, and maybe another guy, and they were talking about sleep paralysis. I was like "I've never had sleep paralysis, but I have got this one thing that's so hard to describe, I'll just try," and basically my description was so vague, it was like "there's this ball that's at the same time massive and small, and super super dense, but it's somehow kind of close in front of you when you're trying sleep..." And then Cameron was like "holy shit dude! I know exactly what you're talking about!" He did a bunch of research, finding all these things on reddit from people who had the same thing... I haven't got it for a long time, but you still get it sometimes?

Cameron: I still get it sometimes. It's so hard to describe, but it's like when you're about to fall asleep, if you're super still I can hold on to it. Now I kind of enjoy it - it used to scare me. It's this weird thing that only me and Joo-Joo get.

Joo-Joo: It's so hard to describe, but it's super cool. The main cool feeling about it is the loss of size. Everything feels like there's no specific size to anything. Size and distance.

Wow, interesting. I'd like to induce it, I want to know what it feels like.

Joo-Joo: If you find a way, let me know.

Do you think listening to the song 'Syndrome' while trying it will help?

Joo-Joo: Maybe, I could see that. It's kind of a goofy song.

I'm interested that sonically on 'Syndrome' you took inspiration from J Dilla and My Bloody Valentine, it's an interesting combination.

Joo-Joo: I feel like both of them have songs that sound like each other. There's one specifically on Donuts, where it's like some kind of bongo beat only, there's not really anything besides weird bongo percussion sounds, and it sounds exactly like My Bloody Valentine minus the guitars for some reason. I kind of hold those two close together in a weird way. Just the way that they thought about things seems pretty similar to me. They both have a natural ability to come up with new techniques to make cool sounds.

You're coming to tour Europe later this year.

Joo-Joo: Yeah we're there in August and September.

Will you be playing most of Duress?

Joo-Joo: I think we'll be playing almost exclusively the new stuff. Maybe a few old songs, but we get really sick of playing our old songs.

And finally, what records have you been into lately?

Joo-Joo: I really like this album by Skee Mask that came out last year, Compro. Cameron and I have been really into that ASAP Rocky album Testing. And then Jeremy turned us onto this UK band Younghusband. I've been really into Tierra Whack... I could go on.


Froth's new album Duress is out now on Wichita. They're be in the UK later in the year playing these dates:

8th September - Komedia, Brighton
9th September - YES, Manchester
10th September - Nice 'n Sleazy, Glasgow
11th September - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
12th September - Studio 9294, London