Melodically stunning compositions. Odd time signatures and tempos. Speed guitar riffs. Powerfully rhythmic drumming. Eerie, heart-pounding bass lines. Synthesizer-based soundscapes. These are all at the heart of a group that has become one of today’s great progressive rock bands.
Midwest-based vonFrickle was born early in 1999 when drummer John Ganser envisioned an all-instrumental band that featured unusual sounds, improvisations and multi-time changes. With guitarist Lee Fehr and bassist/keyboardist Tim Pierson on board, this musically diverse, talented trio spent the first year developing the sound of the band — improvising, composing, and eventually recording their first album, Sounds From Inside the Mind of...
The completion of this self-recorded and released album in 2000 paved the way for vonFrickle to hit the road and play their first gigs with truly phenomenal audience response. The sound was powerful, intense, fast, dynamic and emotional. In addition, desiring a bold visual statement for their live shows, the band performed in all white uniforms from head to toe, providing anonymity to each musician to perform with the utmost freedom, and giving the audience the opportunity to focus on the music rather than who is playing. It also provided a “space alien” look that complimented the “outer space” sounds of their compositions and improvisations.
In 2001 vonFrickle was back in the studio recording Feeding the Organic Computer, this time working with the band's resident graphic designer and recording engineer, R. Fish Carpenter at The Fishtank in Bloomington, Illinois. The album includes song-writing and ambient arrangements by the entire band, and also features future/former bassist Dan Meyer who joined the band for a short stint in 2001 playing a varied selection of horns, strings and synths. After this release and several shows as a four-piece, the group returned to the original three-piece line-up, continuing to develop their style.
The band’s 2002 releases, like all subsequent studio albums, were recorded and produced at Fehr’s updated F.E.A.R. Studios in rural Eureka, Illinois. Their first all-improvisational album, BEYOND WEIRD SERIES, VOL. I: Frank Works in a Factory, features orchestral percussion (no drum kit), guitar synth (no guitar), theremin and Moog synthesizers. It is a musical expedition that is both challenging and rewarding.
The mesmerizing Vibrate Transmit Receive, released later in 2002, saw the trio experimenting with another batch of original compositions with a large focus on the layering of sounds. A recording beyond definition, the album leaves nothing sacred and touches on everything.
2003 brought the biggest changes for vonFrickle, resulting in the longest running line-up to date. The release of Mission 4.9 was a major jump in composition and sound. With the addition of lead guitarist Ken Thornton — who had played live with the band on a number of occasions and joined permanently in mid-2002 — Fehr’s advanced experimental song-writing, Ganser’s finessed, yet powerful drumming and keen arrangements, and the band had more focus and a lead voice that they had been searching for. His composition talents, along with his guitar technique, fluidity and speed, made Thornton an immediate asset to the band.
In late 2003 Pierson decided to move on, and, after temporarily filling the spot with bassist Mark Genrich, the boys called upon previous member and multi-instrumentalist Meyer to take up bass guitar duties permanently, his primary instrument. The addition was very satisfying, bringing in yet another talented writer as well as new sounds via the bass synthesizer. With the definitive line-up in place and a combined catalogue of vast musical influences, vonFrickle evolved into the band they are today.
In late 2004, the band signed with grassroots label o.i.e. Records, LTD. (originality is everything) who re-released Mission 4.9 nationally in stores and, along with Organic Computer, worldwide via multiple digital outlets.
The next year and a half saw vonFrickle recording and releasing two more albums. 2005’s self-released BEYOND WEIRD SERIES, VOL. II: Frank’s Great Escape is a sequel, but unlike the first Beyond Weird recording, it features an all-electronic, all-improvised group of “songs” with no edits. It was also recorded live and not programmed like traditional electronic music. Moog synthesizers are featured extensively throughout, along with other synths, guitar synthesizers and electronic drum pad.
Arrhythmia (o.i.e), released in 2006, was another major leap in songwriting and sound quality. It is described as one of the truly great progressive rock albums, revealing influences from KING CRIMSON, early
PINK FLOYD, THE RESIDENTS, PRIMUS, JEFF BECK, late ‘70’s–early ‘80’s RUSH and FRANK ZAPPA. To date, the band’s most available release worldwide proves that as a purely instrumental rock band, vonFrickle is free to try anything musically, and they do.
While continuing to tour throughout 2006 and 2007, the live shows became more bizarre with visual projections complementing the unique music. Mostly playing around Illinois, the band has also added places like
Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Detroit and upstate New York to the list. The band performed at the 2006 Prog in the Park in Rochester, NY with Steve Howe of YES and Percy Jones’ band TUNNELS.
2008 found vonFrickle releasing a live album, The 40 Fingers of Doctor V (o.i.e). Recorded at the Castle Theatre in Bloomington, Illinois, it has a different intensity than found on the studio albums and showcases the powerful sound and exceptional musicianship of vonFrickle in the live setting, proving that they are certainly not just a studio band. In August the band traveled to North Carolina to perform at ProgDay, an outdoor, two-day progressive music festival outside of Chapel Hill, where they were enthusiastically received.
The latest record, released in the Fall of 2010, is the self-titled and self-released vonFrickle – an aggressive, guitar-oriented beast in typical Frickle fashion. This is also the last effort featuring Dan Meyer on bass who decided to leave the band in mid-2010, as well as the first showing of Nathan Parks, who plays piano on the final track and did the original artwork for the cover. Nathan has officially joined the band and is currently rehearsing regularly, adding yet another creative element to take vonFrickle to a different level in their ever-changing development.
2011 sees the band writing new material (and resurrecting some old), rehearsing, recording, and gearing up for some Spring and Summer shows in support of vonFrickle, including a Friday night slot at NEARFest 2011, the "grandaddy of all prog rock festivals" in Bethlehem, PA on June 24th. The band is excited to play in front of what is probably the largest concentrated group of progressive rock fans in the country, if not the world, and they'll be sharing the stage with talent from across the globe.