Max Frost Releases 'Intoxication' and Breaks Down The Business
Max Frost is a force to be reckoned with. As a blues-y vocalist paired with funky/psychedelic instrumentals, his music has made a large impression all over the globe. Following the release of debut Low High Low (iTunes), we glorified the release of Intoxication, a 6-track EP project featuring the well-known Paranoia. His time spent in the last few years has been poured into this compilation and it has certainly been worth it. We recently caught up with Max following an intimate performance at Atlantic Records to get his insights on this celebratory release, the story behind his creative process, and some industry thoughts that are relevant in today's world.
Your set was awesome. And one of our favorite songs from your Intoxication EP was $Dreams which was super funky. Is funk apart of your musical vibe?
For sure. I try to keep [funk] a part of my music… If I were to really just not pay attention and just make something for fun, it would definitely be something that is super funky. But I find that that is a genre that is pretty well explored, so I’m always trying to make sure that it’s an instrumental part of my music, but not sing like a funk singer.
What would you say is your genre focus?
A lot, I would say it’s a little bit of everything. I grew up in Austin, which is such a genre melting pot. And when I first started getting into music, Napster was just coming out. I wouldn’t say there’s really been any walls for me … Genres for me don’t necessarily describe music types but more of the market that music is or was sold in. So nowadays, especially in the last 10-15 years, it’s really hard to use those terms accurately. I think what people mean when they say "genre" now is they’re basically asking what’s your style. When people ask me what genre I am, I reply that it’s psychedelic, kung Fu or something. I don't know.
Yeah, and there’s so many creative, obscure "genres" now too, like "electro-funk synth-pop fusion" *laughs*
Exactly! I don’t even know what that is. I mean people will say stuff like “Yeah, he’s indie.” And I always say, “Well, I’m not an indie artist.” I can honestly tell you what I think people mean when they throw that indie word around; they mean there’s a lot of reverb on the track. You can take any song, like a Katy Perry song for example, and just sing the lyrics slower, throw some reverb on there and someone would call it “indie-pop".
Very true, you speak wise words. You said that you would call your music kind of psychedelic and your EP cover definitely matches that. What’s the story behind the cover art?
Greg Burke (VP Creative Director at Atlantic Records) is a super badass and he’s been here for a long time and has been apart of making a lot of amazing album covers - really an incredible creative eye. So we started having conversations about what I wanted to do and one of our references was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill which was one of the best albums ever. And one thing that I really liked about that cover was that it was her face but in a cool way. As a new artist, it's important for me to get my face out there, but I wasn’t trying to just have me looking into a camera with some pose… You have to make it art. I wanted it to represent some of the psychedelic nature of what I do and be gritty and look like it’s been on a pyramid wall for centuries.
What was happening in your life at the time of you creating this EP?
I was in a whirlwind of what was going on around me. I was a 19-year-old kid making music in the basement and then I signed with Atlantic when I was 20, right before I turned 21. The music industry suddenly became this huge part of my life and I had to figure out how to work with so many new people and just get used to this whole new world that comes with it – the good and the bad.
There’s the opportunity, but then there’s the massive pressure. It kind of had me shell-shocked for a while. The beauty of being [at Atlantic] is that I was allowed to just spend all of my time working on music and living in that as my world… Which is another thing that I tried to convey in my cover and title of the Intoxication EP. It just reflects how I’ve fully immersed myself into what I am and love to do.
How has music helped you to discover new things about yourself?
In a weird way, music has kept me from discovering things about myself. It’s always been a nervous crutch. It’s a thing I’m doing in my head all the time; it’s always been what I lean on. I think it’s more of where music has brought me that has forced me to learn about myself. You don’t know who you are when you’re just working by yourself all the time.. But when the stuff that you’ve been working on the whole time pulls you into a world with a whole new group of people you can figure out more about yourself.
So, is there anything you enjoy to do outside of music?
Hmm, I don’t know. I’m really into films and I’ve been making a bunch of music videos for Intoxication, so I spend a lot of time doing that. I don’t really like the production side of things all that much; I like to think it up. Even though I play a huge part in the production stuff now.. but I kind of hate that. So, I can’t say that making movies is a hobby because I can’t stand to be on a movie set. I like to play frisbee and I work out a lot too.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
I have no idea; I’d be a really miserable person probably. Not really... I shouldn’t say that.. I hope I would have found something else that I would be really passionate about. There are other things that I find really exciting and I could imagine getting really into -- like designing planes -- but that doesn’t really feel like an accomplishment to me. There isn’t any magic to it, for me.
There is something magic to making films, but the process of it sucks so bad. The weird thing is, is that there are a lot of parallels in the music and film industries. But there are differences that I think will never change, one of them being that you cannot make a film by yourself. Even if I was the most genius director, you can’t even prove that because you need like, 10 million dollars and a huge team behind you. In music, you can make some pretty good stuff with little to nothing.
How do you feel about formal education in regards to a music career?
I’m going to say that I haven’t seen that be super successful for making it in the business. Only because regardless of what you do with music educationally, you’re going to be an entrepreneur and the problem with that is that you have no time to waste. I’m not going to say that there is anything not valuable about going to school for music. When I was in high school I thought about it, but pretty quickly I saw the people that were older than me coming back from Berkeley, NYU and North Texas and some of the other better schools and they just came back jaded… I don’t know. I think it's good that there are music business programs, but I think from what I’ve found, unless you want to play in a symphony or something you really shouldn’t spend that money. You know? Take that hundred grand that you have for school and put it into a record or take ten grand at a time and make ten records!