The voice of Rick Froberg was the perfect blend of shrill and growl.
Some male punk singers have the guttural depth of many hardcore bands or the back of the throat resonance of a Joey Ramone.
Froberg didn’t intentionally attempt to seem harsh; it simply happened to sound that way, but his voice was still distinct. The voice that always, for some reason, sounded like it belonged to a scraggly old guy who drank too much whisky and smoked too many cigarettes.
According to John Reis, who worked with Froberg on songs for more than three decades, the musician passed away on Friday from natural causes. He was said to be 55.
The San Diego post-hardcore band Pitchfork from the late 1980s was their first joint project.
But Rick Froberg’s voice may have really developed a few years later, with the ’90s band Drive Like Jehu. There were screaming. The sporadic melodic choruses were also present. The discrepancy was shown in “Atom Jack,” from the band’s first self-titled album. Froberg shouted against imperialism while breaking the dissonance with “Aloha, aloha” during the nine-plus minute dissonant epic “Luau” on the band’s second album, Yank Crime. Put on your suit. Oh, luau. Oh, luau.”
However, Froberg’s vocal performance in Hot Snakes was her best. It was Froberg and Reis’ third significant project together.
The lengthy, winding guitar leads that Reis had used in Drive Like Jehu were no longer there; instead, the songs were shorter, faster, and more heavily inspired by garage rock. Although forceful, it was wiser punk. The odd skipped or additional beat was chosen for time signatures. Interplaying with quick, staccato rhythms and leads were the guitars.
The music had found a fit for Froberg’s voice, which were now rougher and higher in pitch.
On “If Credit’s What Matters I’ll Take Credit,” the first track on Hot Snakes’ first LP, Automatic Midnight from 2000, it was clear.
In the early 2000s, Hot Snakes continued their initial run with the publication of two additional studio albums: the upbeat Audit in Progress and the mellower Suicide Invoice.
In order to release their first album in around 14 years in 2018, the band reformed. Froberg’s voice was characterised by NPR as “high and serrated.” Reviewer Andrew Flanagan said at the time of Froberg’s lyrics: “Froberg’s lyrics aren’t comprehensible most of the time; they operate as a kind of expressionist splatter of spittle, a fragmentary philosophical rage, across the band’s relentless, bubbling-hot canvas.”
Froberg’s most well-known work, outside of his bands with Reis, was produced by Obits, a more bluesy variation on punkish garage rock. Even when the music shifted to a more sombre tone, his “vocals strain with bitterness,” according to NPR. Three studio albums were released by the group between 2009 and 2013.
In the majority of his ensembles, he also played guitar. But Froberg never appeared to have it as his main priority. In a recent interview, he said, “I have news for the world, I’m not a decent guitar player.
Froberg was also a well-known artist who produced works for several record covers and posters.
Reis remembered Froberg by saying, “His work improved life. He loved his buddies even more than he loved music and the arts. He will always be recognised for his imagination, foresight, and for his capacity to infuse the world with beauty.