As we close out the year of music that was with the triple j Hottest 100 of 2022, we’re reminded of countdowns past and the songs that shaped each year.
One such year is the Hottest 100 of 1991. Nirvana dominated the countdown taking out number one and number three slots with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Lithium’ respectively. Melancholy riddled the ladder with Nick Cave making four appearances across his The Bad Seeds and The Boys Next Door outfits, Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ popped up at 73, while New Order, Joy Division, The Smiths, and The Cure covered significant countdown ground.
Largely influenced by the aforementioned English doldrums of rock were Melbourne band Frente!, who released their debut extended play Whirled the same year with lead single ‘Labour of Love’ eligible for voting. It would take out 69th place, one behind The Cure’s now-classic ‘Pictures of You’.
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“I really remember it because we heard from triple j that we were gonna be on it that year and I was listening and listening, listening. It was a really exciting wait and then the person who introduced us was Robert Smith from The Cure – a complete idol of mine,” recalls guitarist Simon Austin.
“It was pretty amazing and memorable. My two favourite bands probably of all time are New Order and The Cure. New Order said a couple of things about the cover of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and I was like “Oh my God, the Gods of music have spoken and then Robert Smith introducing ‘Labour of Love’ was like “oh, is this even possible?” Yeah, I’m a fanboy, I love it.”
Frente! became a staple of the 90’s Australian sound, emerging from the underground scenes of Melbourne with the following year’s debut album Marvin The Album heralded as one of the decade’s finest collections of songs. Sat beside ‘Labour of Love’ was ARIA Award-winning ‘Ordinary Angels’ and the iconically misspelled ‘Accidently Kelly Street’. Though the influences of New Order and The Cure exist, bubblegum vocals from Angie Hart and quirky pop build set it apart from the era.
“We went away from what everybody else was doing. We sort of went into the living room and didn’t really listen to what was going on around us. So what came out, came out and that’s what it’s always been.
“I think we’ve always just wanted to do our own thing. Not because we look at other people’s music and say well we wouldn’t do that. It’s just that that’s what comes out. We’re just suckers for pop songs.”
The album – which peaked at No. 5 on the ARIA Albums Chart at the time – was remastered for the 30-year anniversary last year, seeing the official reformation of the lineup for the first time since 2014. It featured additional demos and hidden gems including 1991 demos of both standout single ‘Ordinary Angels’ and ‘Accidently Kelly Street’, along with Melbourne PBS Studio versions of ‘Cuscatalan’, ‘Dangerous’ and Fairground Attraction cover ‘Clare’, and a 2010 triple j Live At The Wireless version of ‘Labour of Love’.
The album re-release was partnered with an anniversary show at Brunswick Ballroom. Unfortunately due to a positive covid result within the band, the show has been rescheduled to 16 February 2023.
The live reformation has also seen the band support Icehouse at the National Museum of Australia, with an upcoming guest spot alongside Eskimo Joe and Motor Ace at the Icehouse Great Southern Land Concert Series heading to Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl on Saturday 11 February.
Continuing the live love, Frente! have just been announced for headline duties at Australia’s flagship regional arts event, The Castlemaine State Festival.
Running 24 March until 9 April, the festival (which aims to bring focus to Castlemaine, spotlighting the wealth of the region while bringing visitors from across Australia and overseas) will see Frente! joined by Vika and Linda Bull, The Southern River Band, Jaguar Jonze, Kurt Vile and The Violators, Kian, Ella Hooper, Jem Cassar-Daley, The Gesualdo Six, Electric Fields and Dallas Woods, Alter Boy, and more.
In addition to their headline set, frontwoman Angie Hart will also be getting up close and personal with audiences, appearing in the intimate salon series alongside Jem Cassar-Daley, Sophie Rowell, Rose Riebl and Katherine Philp.
These shows will be more advanced for Frente! from their early career work, with Simon implementing his 15 years of production skills for Art Centre Melbourne and Geelong Arts Centre into their show.
“I’m production and tour managing the band. I really enjoyed being sort of, you know, the uncle fella who was just there to make sure the show went on great and everybody had a great time,” Austin explains.
“We’re really focused on video and lighting at the moment. I spent a lot of years supporting all those departments and I got to see some amazing creators creating AV stuff, creating projection and lighting and audio. And so apart from making the music and singing and playing the music, making the rest of the show has been a real thrill.”
Speaking of music making, following the festival and their upcoming live shows, Frente! will be heading back into the studio to record their first body of work since 2005’s mini EP, Try To Think Less.
“We’ve got a backlog of unrecorded and sort of semi-finished songs that we’re starting to work on pretty avidly now. And so we’re planning on doing a bunch of live stuff and then probably having a tiny spill and starting to record and see how that goes.”
He continues, “Angie was living in Los Angeles and I was living in New York when we last recorded for Try To Think Less so we did it mostly long distances. That’s seventeen years ago so I have actually invested in a bunch of new studio gear and that’s my task for the next month – to set that up and start actually recording new Frente! material. We have skeletons for probably around 40 tracks. That’ll get whittled down to about 15 or so. But they’re very recognisably Frente! but they’re also fairly different too.”
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After thirty years of hard slogs on the road and in the studio, it’s chemistry that keeps reuniting the Frente! family.
Austin explains, “It’s just that; chemistry. I’m so lucky because Angie is honestly, she’s an unbelievable singer and writer and when we get together there’s just something that she and I do and have which is pretty – it’s hard to explain, it’s just a real feeling of it’s absolutely right that we should do it.
“Whenever we come together we always feel really happy in each other’s presence and ideas come out and she’s an unbelievable person to play music with. Like sometimes I hear a thing and I just pinch myself because she’s just amazing. And so, we have a really good thing going. And it’s not always a happy thing. We wear our hearts on own sleeves a little bit when we’re together.”
A welcomed return for Frente! Make sure to see their set at Castlemaine State Festival.
Tickets and full program can be found at www.castlemainfestival.com.au