by Shauna Erlbaum
Boston-Providence’s burgeoning stoner prog music scene is, for my money, the most exciting music scene in eons, and part of the buzz and identity comes courtesy of the music videos of Frentatta Terrapa, who is like the Roger Dean to this scene’s trippier/ sloppier prog rock bands. In a very short time, her distinctive music videos have given uniformity to a wide variety of experimental bands, with her, dare I say, iconic work. Amazingly, in this interview, Ms. Terrapa reveals it’s mostly all accidental.
Noise: Let’s start at the beginning, ha ha. Your name is very exotic, where are you from?
Frentatta: I was born in Iran, but grew up in France. When I was 14, my family moved to Virginia and when I went to school at MassArt, I accidentally befriended a lot of weirdo musicians in Boston and so I stayed up here. I’m 24 now and am just goofing around, much to my parents chagrin. I’m not sure what I want to do with my life. Same old cliche, I know.
Noise: Your music videos are instantly recognizable and really great, I think. Is this what you want to do for a living?
Frentatta: I can’t believe people enjoy my videos – I have no idea what I’m doing! I’m trained as a painter and know absolutely nothing about making music videos.
Noise: Well, that’s part of what makes them so singular, I’d argue.
Frentatta: Yeah, that’s what everyone says! [laughs] Like I’m an alien who has no idea what a ‘normal’ music video looks like. For me it’s just a lot of fun and experimentation.
Noise: Ricky Backer [bassist for several stoner prog bands] once told me you were the Hendrix of the Ken Burns effect.
Frentatta: Yeah, he’s said that to me too, but that’s also a complete accident: the unusual way I work, combined with the unusual bands I like to make videos for, forced me to use photos in music videos, which I gather is a taboo. I was just trying to make something I’d enjoy watching.
Noise: But you do take that effect further than anyone I’ve ever seen.
Frentatta: Because I have to! Not because I want to! [laughs] I’d LOVE to make a living doing music videos, but one of the trademarks of the stoner prog scene is no one cares about money or having a career. They don’t want it to ever become a job, as it does for everyone from Nirvana to The Butthole Surfers. I’d rue the day a Coldplay offers me $30,000 and I accept… so I can make my parents proud. I don’t welcome that kind of pressure from big corporations.
Noise: You claim your style is entirely accidental, but that can’t be absolutely true; you clearly have an eye for great images and color and syncing with the music.
Frentatta: Well, yeah, you’re right… but wrong at the same time. Thanks for the compliment though. All of my so-called trademarks are the result of necessity and limitations. Like, I’m super-lazy and don’t even want to film a band and then go thru all that footage and edit it. I have no patience! My favorite method is to ask a band to shoot whatever footage they want, but keep it super-short and email me tiny clips. It’s really a lot of fun to be creative with so few options. I think modern society has too many choices. I don’t need 35 flavors of potato chips!
Noise: Can you tell me a little more about how you work? I think it’s fascinating how you make your videos. For instance, how did you develop your trademark of lots and lots of text in your videos?
Frentatta: I work like it’s a game, so I have to solve problems. So, if a band sends me three clips that are twenty seconds of them dancing around, I have to solve how to turn that into a 4 minute video that doesn’t bore me. It’s really quite fun, even though I don’t think I always succeed. Bomb Petty [“world’s WORST Tom Petty impersonator”] sent me almost nothing to work with! I think that shows in the video, but my friends say only I notice things like that. I think they’re just being polite!
Noise: I LOVE that video!
Frentatta: Yeah, people like it, but NOT for my video! They love that Bomb Petty is such a funny idiot.
As for my love of using text, that just came about because I quickly learned that I love the effect of stationary words while the images behind them are moving. It’s like being on drugs!
Noise: Where does the text come from?
Frentatta: My general M.O. is to ask each artist to not only send me a few short clips, but to send me some text, however random, to include. Some send me funny things while others, like The Schizophrenic Hum, send me more poetic or enigmatic text. I also found it funny – I don’t know why – to print the bands’ names repeatedly during the video. Plus, another “rule” of the stoner prog scene is to have great band names, so I almost can’t get enough of names like “October November Dismember” or “Kissinger Escape Plan” or “Fucking Heads” or “Soviet-Nam.” I love their names. It also seems kind of ironically showbizzy to keep plastering their names, like they’re superstars. It makes me laugh.
Noise: Who influenced your style?
Frentatta: No one did! That should be clear from watching them. I don’t even watch music videos! I have no ambition of making videos like Spike Jones. Too much work! That’s why I love doing videos for experimental bands: I can’t make a mistake [laughs], and have total freedom.
Noise: The video for Ersatz Gruppen’s “U.S.S.A.!” looks like a lot of work.
Frentatta: Oh yeah, that one was hell. A zillion cuts to fit to the beat. I hope to never do that again!
Noise: Do you help with the masks and other visuals?
Frentatta: Rarely. That one was all their content and I just got to chop it up and put it to the music however I wanted. I did add some still photos, too. I’m mostly happy with it, but they’re not stoner prog, so I didn’t have as much freedom as I’d like. With psychedelic musics I can be mysterious and dreamy and make any fucked up video I want. Some acts, like Schizo Hum, don’t send me ANY footage. They ask me to create the entire video from scratch and trust me to come up with something that fits whatever piece of music they send me. I enjoy that method too. That’s where I’m free do come up with abstract visuals to fit their schizophrenic sounds, like where I filmed my glass of blueberries-in-lemonade-with-vodka and slowed it down. They do send me some of the text however. I really like the video I did for their YES Remix Album, but I fully expect YouTube to remove it for the nudity. That’s one where I got to have a lot of fun with still photos. I’m still figuring out what can and can’t be done. Plus, I only use shitty iMovie because I like the limitations. It forces me to be more creative. Or strange. I really love working with the stoner prog bands because they are allergic to making normal videos too, and love masks and costumes and other fun, colorful stuff. I don’t really like boring ordinary music.
Noise: I think your video for HELL YES’ twisted cover of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is my favorite. Some of the images are astonishing. How’d that one come about?
Frentatta: Yeah, that might be my favorite so far – I’m still learning on the job so I like to think i’m getting better at this with each video. But that video is great mostly due to their insane footage, not mine. Most of the bands I make videos for contact me, via word of mouth from their friends, or Zach and Emily [of Cupcake Kamikaze] will send me something. I’ll make a video for anything, just because it’s a fun challenge. I make no promises that it’ll be a great work of art. You can clearly tell I don’t spend more than a few hours on any video! [laughs]
Noise: Most of your videos I’ve found on Youtube are on Cupcake Kamikaze’s page. Can you tell us who that is? They’re not a band, right?
Frentatta: Even Zach and Emily don’t know what they are, but they’re not musicians. They say their goal is to become a publicity/ management team for weird bands, but they’re really casual about it because they have day jobs and all that. I think they also want to start their own record label of sorts. Bombastic Labs is some of our friends creating their own label too, which promises to only feature bizarre bands. But none of them are good capitalists, so we’ll believe it when we see it. Plus it’s expensive living in Boston and most of the people are students or have jobs. Cupcake Kamikaze jokes that I’m their house director, which is flattering.
Noise: What’s with the variations on your name? Terrata Frentappa and others.
Frentatta: Everyone gets the spelling of my name wrong, which doesn’t bother me, but I decided to have fun with it.
Noise: What got you initially started on music videos?
Frentatta: I love painting, but that’s too isolated a medium. Maybe too lifeless as well. One night I was really stoned with my roommates at the time, who had a band called Humongous Brunette, and they asked me to make something and I did. And it wasn’t very good. But it was fun.
Noise: Before we wrap this up, any final words for Noise readers?
Frentatta: Watch my videos on FULL screen please! I can’t stand the white of YouTube.