Sacramento’s Life in 24 Frames On Lineup Changes, Stylistic Expansions and the Way Ahead
The latest album from Life in 24 Frames, Bitter End, is a step through a mirror-still lake into a world of powerful beauty and contemplation, intimate yet expansive and bittersweet, like an overcast sky interrupted by bursts of blinding sunlight. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the interior world spun by the six-piece indie rock group that there is little to no hint of the restless energy behind the scenes.
Life in 24 Frames is, in its day-to-day life, a group in constant flux, making widespread connections in the music world, fine-tuning its sound with every release, forging an independent path through social media, self-promoting and word-of-mouth, and regularly adding exciting new talent to its fold, all while staying true to its Sacramento roots.
The engine powering Life in 24 Frames is frontman Kris Adams, the creative force who founded the group in 2008 and now balances his energy between family, songwriting and networking. Daunting? Maybe, but one quickly gets the sense that each part of his life (and that of the band) is connected to the same passion. Says Adams, “Having [my son] has completely changed everything for me. Changed my writing, changed the way I look at things, it’s even changed my goals for what I want out of music. The idea that once I’m long gone—that my son will be able to go back and listen to the stuff that we’re making now, is very surreal. It’s changed my outlook on everything.”
Adams brings this intensely personal energy into his work, weaving a story arc into the nine tracks of Bitter End, crafting enigmatic scenes as if they were from a film about his life. And the cinematic comparison is right on the mark—as it turns out, Adams has a background in filmmaking, having studied at New York Film Academy at one point. He now approaches the songwriting process as a screenwriter, creating a very visual sort of music, and working with a cast of inventive and forward-thinking musicians to help him achieve his vision.
There’s been the inevitable ups and downs along the way; Life in 24 Frames had an auspicious start by landing an opening gig for the popular indie mainstays Band of Horses at UC Davis; they built up their material afterwards, but shortly after recording their debut album, Time Trails (2011), a series of swift and unexpected changes dwindled the group from a three-piece band to a sparse vocalist/drummer lineup. In the interim, they have recouped admirably, rising from the ashes, increasing their lineup by twofold, recording more methodical work and performing at more high-profile concerts, notably with Cage the Elephant and at last year’s LAUNCH Fest.
Today, three other members of the group besides Kris join us to lend some more insight into the band’s persona, their recent doings and their hopes for the future: bassist Jason Brown, whose last collaboration with Kris (a childhood friend) was a pop-punk outfit 15 years prior; Richie Smith, a guitarist with a penchant for Johnny Greenwood-esque atmospherics, who also contributes regularly to four (!) separate bands in the Sacramento area; and Joe Strouth, an Iowa native who entered the Sacramento music scene via South Dakota back in 2008. Missing is keyboardist Andrew Barnhart and the group’s latest addition, vocalist Lindsey Pavao, who plans to work with the group and as a solo artist in the area two years after becoming a semifinalist on Season 2 of NBC’s The Voice.
We’re lucky to catch up with them a few months after the release of Bitter End, while they’re gearing up for a series of promising summer gigs (check them out at the Concert in the Park series alongside Dance Gavin Dance on June 6, 2014 or catch them at the Assembly with Geographer on June 13, 2014).
I recently discovered that Submerge interviewed you once before, five years ago, in 2009. What’s changed since we talked to you last?
Kris Adams: Oh, man. Everything. It’s funny that you mention that write-up, because I went back and re-read it a couple weeks ago, and the concept that we were going for then is very similar to the one we’re going for now. We had this idea that we were going to do four EPs, each about three or four songs, and we were going to release them about three months apart, and at the end of the cycle we were going to compile them all into a full length album. That was the basic idea the last time that Submerge talked to us, but since then we’ve put out two full-length records instead, and now we’re kind of back to the original idea of doing a handful of three- or four-song EPs.
Any changes in the Sacramento scene you’ve noticed over the recent years?
KA: Huge changes. I think the music scene is definitely on an uphill climb. I have to give a lot of props to Eric Rushing for bringing the music scene back. I mean obviously the changes aren’t being brought about single-handedly, but damn, he’s doing a pretty good job. He’s responsible for Ace of Spades, in part for Assembly, and for a lot of the great bars in town.
Joe Strouth: I actually just read an article on the top 50 clubs in the U.S., and Ace of Spades is actually 16th or 17th on the list! The fact that Sacramento has a club in the top 20 is pretty legit. Especially for younger people, it gives them that purpose of, “That’s where I want to go—I want to play there someday.”
Richie Smith: Venues like that and Assembly really provide that unifying force for the music community.
KA: We have more opportunity here now, definitely.
I know you’ve been asked before about your name; that it’s a reference to filmmaking, 24 frames shot per second. Can the name be read literally as “Life in a Second”?
KA: What I was kind of going for when I came up with the name was the concept of life imitating art, art imitating life, that kind of thing. Because Life in 24 Frames basically sums up that saying without actually saying it, you know what I mean? So like film is shot 24 frames per second, and life is like a movie.
Who would direct a Life in 24 Frames feature film?
KA: Me! [laughs]… Oh, maybe David Lynch.
RS: I would have said Wes Anderson.
KA: Or Wes Anderson, depending on what type of movie you wanted to see.
I know the group hasn’t had the chance to shoot a music video yet, and in another interview you’ve said you might want to do that on one of your long trips back from a gig in L.A. Is there a possibility of that?
KA: We’ve talked recently about doing music videos, yeah. I always get the question, “God, you’re a film major, why don’t you have any music videos?” or, “You need to be documenting the recording process.” And, it’s just really tough, being directly involved with the music and what’s going on, and also trying to capture an outsider’s perspective.
It seems that a lot of the songs on the new album can be interpreted as personal, but a few others seem to be directly evoking a certain place or scenario, especially “Battleship Island.” Am I onto something here?
KA: Oh yeah. “Battleship Island” I wrote… I was looking through a blog or something online that was a list of eerie deserted cities around the world, and number one was Hashima Island, which is an island off the coast of Japan. I started looking at photos, reading more about it, the people who lived there—it was inspiring, so I felt the need to write about it. I kind of wrapped it around to bring my own personal tie to it, though.
Also, I wanted to ask about your newest member, Lindsey—were you all aware of her former television presence before she joined the group? Who contacted who?
RS: I texted her and asked her if she wanted to sing and play keys in the band, and she was like, “Of Course!” This was about two months ago.
JS: We all worked together at a Radiohead tribute show last year, so we’ve been acquaintances.
Has she brought any new attention/ curious fans with her to the band?
KA: To be honest with you, I don’t know if a lot of people know she’s in the band yet! We haven’t played with her yet. It’s not the kind of thing where we’re trying to piggyback off of any of the success she’s had. She’s genuinely an awesome person and an incredible musician, so that comes first. It’s been a pretty low-key thing, so it’s been nice.
RS: She’s really enthusiastic about the project and just really happy to be a contributor at this point. She’s multitalented, she can play the guitar and the keys and she’s got a great voice—she’s great to have in the group.
So Kris—it’s already been mentioned in a few write-ups that you’re an avid gamer; among the list of interesting gigs you’ve got under your belt is a live performance at IGN entertainment headquarters. How did that come about?
KA: Basically, in short, we are fans of each other’s work. I love IGN and all things video games, and they’ve become fans of our music over the years. Everything just snowballed from that. They have a huge reach—they span the globe now, all parts of the world—and over time, we’ve been able to gain some reputation as the band that’s always played at IGN, on their podcasts and so forth, and so we’ve picked up a lot of video game fans as well.
You mentioned that you plan to start working on some new EPs soon. Can we expect more stylistic changes?
KA: I had a few grandiose ideas after coming out of Bitter End, thematically, at least, that I had written out. As far as what’s going to be on the next couple EPs…that’s the most exciting thing, I think—I have no clue! I don’t think any of us do. We have a good idea of the style of songs we want on there. I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of each EP having a bit of a different vibe to it. Just off the top of my head, I would love to do an EP of chamber-pop. A very ethereal, watery, kind of sound.
You can check out Life in 24 Frames’ latest (and greatest) album Bitter End by entering the promotional code CTRL+Z on their website (Lifein24frames.com). For the adventurous fan, music collector, vinyl junkie (or anyone with impeccable taste), you can pre-order a sleek, semi-transparent-smoke-patterned and totally re-mastered record from the band’s website. Once again, Life in 24 Frames have two upcoming Sacramento performances: Concerts in the Park on June 6, 2014 and at Assembly on June 13, 2014.