From front to back, there’s consistent fluidity and mellowness on Donavon Frankenreiter’s latest album Revisited. The collection features reworkings of material the songwriter recorded years ago on his debut album Dig. This time, he went for a different feel, using traditional Hawaiian instruments.
It’s a quick detour between the folk-pop of 2008’s Pass It Around and the full-band alt-rock of the forthcoming Glow.
“Glow is definitely a full-band thing,” says the songwriter of his upcoming release due in September. “Revisited was something a little different to put out between albums. I’ve been living in Hawaii for three years, so I thought it’d be neat to reinterpret my first record Hawaiian style. I wanted to introduce something new into my music, and I wanted to be able to go to a luau and be able to jam with a bunch of guys on these instruments.”
A California native, Frankenreiter got into surfing at a young age. By the time he was 13, he’d landed a Billabong sponsorship. Encouraged by fellow songwriting surfer Jack Johnson, Frankenreiter delved into recording in the early 2000s. He released his debut on Johnson’s Brushfire label in 2004. He signed a deal with Lost Highway for the release of 2006’s Move by Yourself. Pass It Around followed in 2008.
“What I do is the kind of thing you gotta stay true to what you believe in, who you are, and what you do,” says Frankenreiter.
This week, Frankenreiter and his band embarked on a summer tour of the East Coast. There aren’t too many inland gigs on the summer tour — and that was part of the main plan.
“I just wanted to be on the road in the summertime, so we decided to go from Miami all the way up to Maine,” he says. “There’s a lot of surfin’, a lot of waves, and a lot of people who are ready to get their groove on and hang out at the beaches.”
Multi-instrumentalist Kirk Smart contributed greatly to the tracks on Revisited, handling ukulele, acoustic guitar, and lap steel. Frankenreiter considers him the secret ingredient that pulled everything together.
“I didn’t have to learn any new instruments, thanks to Kirk,” says Frankenreiter. “I’m actually bringing him along on the road this time around, so we’ll be able to do about six tunes from Revisited with the other guys in the band.”
The touring lineup includes Eric Brigman on trumpet and keys, Craig Barnette on drums and percussion, Pete Winders on electric guitar, and Matt Grundy on bass. They’re prepared to handle all of the classics as well as the new Hawaiian-themed set.
“On stage, we still play the old songs like they are on the albums without going too far away from where I was originally grounded,” Frankenreiter says. “We embellish a bit, but it’s pretty even-keel. It’ll be great for the summertime … easy-breezy.”
Mixing musical elements has been habitual for Frankenreiter. He’s confident his fans will be as open-minded about his latest Hawaiian stylings as they’ve been all along.
“I wanted it to sound soft, like a bunch of guys sitting around strumming through old tunes,” he says of Revisited. “When you hear these tunes, with the lap steel and slide guitars, I hope you’re instantly reminded of Hawaii. I want people to hear them and go, ‘Man, I feel like I’m on vacation.’ I think the sound is instantly identifiable. It’s a great thing.”