Aug. 7 2013 08:59 AM

Baby-faced surf-punk pranksters are riding a wave of fortune

music
From Left: Adam Lomnitzer, Mikey Carnevale and Richard Dotson
Photo by Lora Mathis

The Frights are getting lucky. The three fresh-faced San Diego teens have encountered a series of unexpectedly fortunate events during the last eight months: They've opened for some of their musical heroes, haven't had to book any of their own shows and, most impressively, inked a deal with Postmark Records after playing just one show.

A year ago, the three were in high school, playing in what they refer to as "competing bands"—bassist Richard Dotson in The Cricks and singer / guitarist Mikey Carnevale and drummer Adam Lomnitzer in Monomood. The summer after graduation, Carnevale and Lomnitzer started the surf-punk project Black Hootie. But after Carnevale's and Dotson's bandmates—including Lomnitzer—went away to college, they were left without creative outlets. The two had grown closer after Dotson attended the one and only Black Hootie show and, shortly after, formed the surfrock band The Otters.

In October, Lomnitzer drove down from California State University, Channel Islands, in Camarillo, to watch The Otters perform, and after reminiscing with Carnevale about Black Hootie, they resurrected the project and booked a show in December 2012 at SOMA, adding Dotson on bass. The gig was just for fun, but on their way out after the show, they got a signing offer from Postmark, a San Diego label. The band accepted, changed their name to The Frights and, three months later, released their first EP, Dead Beach.

To hear them explain it, this lucky streak comes from not worrying too much about the future.

"Good things happen the less we care," Dotson says. "We don't care, but we try hard. Our biggest concern is having a good time."

"If you have a good time, the audience is going to have a good time," Lomnitzer agrees.

In May 2013, The Frights—who play The Casbah on Aug. 27 with Amerikan Bear and Shake Before Us—released their second EP, Fur Sure, a sexually charged mess of reverb, thrashing guitars and driving drum beats, via Postmark. In comparison with Dead Beach, Fur Sure's tracks flow together, with long instrumental passages, such as the catchy intro to "Wow, Ok, Cool" and eerie opener "Welcome to Kitty City," tying the album together.

While some Black Hootie songs were brought into the new project, like the reverb-heavy "Beach Porn"—which was included on Dead Beach—the majority of The Frights' songs sound a lot dirtier and more visceral. The raw nature of the band's sound is reflected in their creative process, as well; three of Fur Sure's five songs were written and recorded in the span of three hours on one April afternoon.

Carnevale explains that The Frights' songwriting typically emerges from loose jam sessions. The trio simply plays until something good stands out, and whatever doesn't is discarded.

"We focus on an easy structure and keep it simple, fun and catchy," he says.

"If Richard is doing his cute little smile, you know it's good," Lomnitzer adds with a laugh.

Carnevale also says he makes up lyrics on the spot: "My best ideas come from winging it."

Carefree as the band's attitude might be, The Frights haven't taken their opportunities for granted. In March, for only their fourth gig, the band opened for Bad Religion at SOMA. And in June, they played a show with Carnevale's personal heroes, Los Angeles garage punks FIDLAR, at The Che Café. The trio says those shows were two of the best experiences of their lives.

"We were so stoked for the Bad Religion show," Lomnitzer says. "But, still, we didn't practice."

Not putting in the time to rehearse hasn't proven to be much of a problem for the band, however. In fact, Carnevale believes that their fiery, unpredictable live shows are what people love the most about their music. "Our live shows are better than our albums," he says.

"The music we play is fun," Lomnitzer adds. "Our other bands weren't."

Though their shows aren't soaked in alcohol—each member of the band is younger than 21—they're full of energy, sweat and shaking bodies, an intense experience that Dotson calls "a total onslaught for 30 minutes."

"Our live shows are a way to watch us have fun screwing around with each other," he says.

At the moment, The Frights are toying with the idea of recording their next album live, in hopes that it will capture that energy.

With no specific endgame in mind, save for simply having a good time, The Frights don't sweat the kind of pressure that comes with being the Next Big Thing. And it's exactly that laissez-faire, fuck-all, reckless teenage attitude that appears to be propelling them to bigger and better things.

As Lomnitzer puts it, "Each show brings a new opportunity."

Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.

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