Frontier Index
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Frontier Index @ The Drake Hotel
Friday June 10th NXNE

Band: The Frontier Index
Hometown: Toronto, ON
Venue: The Drake
Date: June 10, 2005
Reporter: Brian Wong
Background/Composition Toronto quartet are signed to Rainbow Quartz (home of The High Dials) and they've recorded their debut, self-titled disc (officially out June 28) at Andy Magoffin's House of Miracles.


Grade: 84

Comment:Not just another alt-country band, The Frontier Index turn up the "alt" portion of the genre and heads toward good ol' rock 'n' roll.

Achievement of Rock 'n' Roll Expectations
80-100: Exceeds skill and knowledge expectations, i.e. rocked us so hard we peed our pants.
70-79: Achieves required skills and knowledge. Meets rock 'n' roll standard.
60-69: Demonstrates some skills. Approaches rock 'n' roll standard.
50-59: Demonstrates some required skills and knowledge in a limited way.
00-50: Has not demonstrated required skills or knowledge.


Learning Skills: E=Excellent, G=Good, S=Satisfactory, N=Sad Really

Oral And Visual Communication

It took a few songs for the Index to warm up, but when they finally got to the meaty rock songs, they hiked up the energy several notches. By the end, they were even dancing a bit.

Pronounciation: E
Eye Contact: G
Stage Presence: G
Stage Banter: S
Image: G
Appearance: G
Use Of Stage: G

Musical Analysis

Their more country-leaning material is filled with whoops, but when they aren't playing standard, tender-hearted ballads, they're pulling out some crash 'n' burn guitar pop and controlling their gorgeous harmonies. Elements of '60s rock 'n' roll and Brit-pop were also welcome additions to the music.

Level Of Participation: E
Problem Solving: G
Teamwork: E
Work Habits: E
Organization: E
Audience Participation: G
Sound: E
Composition: G
Songs: E

Other Skills And Areas Of Interest

They showed appreciation for their dancing audience with a shouted, "We love you!" mid-song. Should hire a tambourine player; more tambourine!

Charisma: G
Problem Solving: G Teamwork: G
Sexiness: S
Haircut: S
Indie Rock Footwear: S
Nods To Disposible Fashion: G
Cool Equipment: S
Level Of Inebriation: N
Actual Ability: E


- Chart


By this point, it was pretty goddamn late, the guests of honour at this particular party not taking the stage until 12:30. I'm impressed by how much better of a live band Frontier Index have gotten since the first time I saw them last August (opening for the Parkas, coincidentally). They've headed further in the country direction, playing up the natural twang in guitarist Corey Hernden and drummer Mick Jackson's voices but keeping one foot in the rock world (on the monitor whilst soloing, natch). The best touchstones I can think of are post-Olson Jayhawks with a dash of 'Mats swagger thrown in. That's about how I'd describe the album as well, after just one intial listen. The production is very clean and reminiscent of Wilco's A.M.. But back to the live show - the band was certainly feeding of the positive energy of the crowd, composed of family, friends, fans and general well-wishers to put on a terrifically tight show. Now with a proper album to support, I'm expecting Frontier Index to start making some waves in the greater public consciousness through the second half of the year. Hopefully big things are coming.

The album is out in Canada on Tuesday, the US in August and internationally come Fall. Check out their electronic press kit for some audio that I couldn't actually get working and pics - six of the eight of which are mine! Here are some more for them to pad their press kits.

chromewaves.net
- Chromewaves.net


On the Saturday night, vaguely depressed from the Dears show and tired from the previous evening’s club-hopping, I hopped in my car and headed off to try and see Magneta Lane – a group of hot girls who play catchy pop and are generating major buzz. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I couldn’t get in to see them. Figuring I had done all my investigation for the night, I headed back to the Drake to gather my thoughts. It was there, when I wasn’t busy thinking, that I saw the band that salvaged my night.

Frontier Index is one of the best country-influenced rock bands I’ve ever heard. With their mix of heartfelt twang and epic guitar bliss-kriegs, Frontier Index are what I’m hoping to hear every time I listen to alt-country. Frontier Index is cooler than the Jayhawks, more romantic than the Sadies, and more real than Ryan Adams. Deep in the throes of music fatigue, after having gorged on sound and vision, the beautiful and expansive music of Frontier Index helped remind me of why I give a damn about this whole thing anyway.

by David Marchese
- PopMatters (David Marchese)


"Carla had been telling me about Frontier Index since I missed them (but she hadn't) opening for Preston School Of Industry earlier this year. The stuff on their website sounded promising so I made a note to try and catch them the next time the opportunity presented itself. They trade in fairly standard 'cosmic American music' (read: alt.country) but with some particular attention paid to the 'cosmic' part of that. The unconventional spacey and textural lead guitar work was distinctive as well as their glorious three-part harmonies, which weren’t, used nearly enough. It looks like these guys are on an upward trajectory, if the remarkable attendance in place for their early set is any indication. … Good stuff, and worth watching."
Chromewaves Posted at 11:14 AM by Frank
- Chromewaves (Frank)


Frontier Index 's novel brand of countrified neo-garage has exactly the inspired quality PSI lack. Between singer/strummer Corey Hernden 's Buddy-Holly-meets-Willie-Nelson vocal stylings, Matt Francis 's sweeping bass lines, Mick Jackson 's Levon Helmesque dual turn singing and drumming and John Hunter 's atmospheric guitar leads, Frontier Index ply the weirdest of familiar sounds. It's a perfect cobbling together of today's influences, the bastard progeny of alt-new country, Lubbock roots rock and Disintegration-era Cure's guitar-induced galactic melancholy.
- NOW Magazine


Eye Magazine June 30, 2005
FRONTIER INDEX

Rainbow Quartz
Akin to a minor league baseball team, New York City's Rainbow Quartz imprint sports a roster of moderately talented but not outstanding prospects, however, new T.O. signees Frontier Index shine as RQ's star shortstop, a prodigy who seems destined for the big leagues. More country-leaning than their British Invasion-inspired label brethren, Frontier Index's penchant for C&W doesn't let that form's limitations confine their loftier ambitions. The twangy starting points serve as launching pads for skyscraping crescendos worthy of early Mercury Rev ("Silver Suns," "San Antone"), spiritualized striving ("Live For You"), classic-rock cribs (the Joe Cocker-nicking "If It Don't Work Out") and pure-pop pleasures ("Someday," "Collide"). In a mere 41 minutes, Frontier Index have shot from relative obscurity to number one successor to Royal City's local avant-country supremacy. RW
- EYE Magazine


While it's not unusual for Canadian bands to immerse themselves in California-inspired country-pop, few have interepreted it so well. The Toronto quartet keep their sound relatively sparse -- guitars, bass, drums, and harmonies -- but manage to conjure gorgeous melodies that rival the recent work of the Thrills, as well as echoing the grit of Kings of Leon without sounding derivative. Although the first few songs lean toward the power pop side of the band, things proceed in a more country-rock direction with brilliant mid-tempo ballads "San Antone", "I Ain't Hurtin'" and "Picture in Pocket." The interplay between front-men Corey Hernden and John Hunter is the real strength of the band, best displayed on "Silver Suns," where their guitars weave together like Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd at their best in Television. It would be interesting to see what they could do with a wider sonic palette, but Frontier Index is an excellent sample of their top-notch musicianship and songwriting. (Rainbow Quartz, www.rainbowquartz.com)
Jason Schneider
- Exclaim


Frontier Index
Steve Guimond
Rainbow Quartz's recent exploitation of Canadian talent continues with the debut drop by Stratford, Ontario's Frontier Index. Much like fellow labelmates and countrymen The High Dials and The Telepathic Butterflies, Frontier Index explore musical trends of a time gone by. While the former two focus on crystalline pop, the latter takes us to the bottom of an empty beer bottle on a Friday night in a shit-kicker bar, straddling the tricky line between country, pop and rock. For the most part, this works very well, due largely to the golden pipes of frontman Corey Hernden. Ottawa Express (Sept 1/2005)
- Ottawa Express


What is about Canadian bands and country music? The way bluegrass, honky-tonk, and other shit-kicking bands are sprouting up out of the Great White North, you'd think that Toronto was the new Nashville.
The Frontier Index is the latest northern export to put their spin on country and send it back down south, and they do a damn fine job of it, for the most part. On songs like "San Antone", they show their south-of-the-border sympathies, churning out riffs that brim with alt-country sass and shuffle, combining well-strummed, low-key acoustic guitars with appealing banjo action. Oh, and never fear: "San Antone"'s lyrical content doesn't throw any curve balls, either: "Red skies in the morning / with an empty bottle stare / memories, they keep me up all night... So take me down my little friend / your heart is aching / don't pretend that nothing matters, all is right." The song strikes a pleasing balance between bitter resignation and weary resolve, and benefits from The Index's wise decision to play it straight. There's nothing even remotely novel about the band's most country-flavored tunes, but the shock of the new is not what they're gunning for; they're making respectful, deeply felt songs that refuse to bow to the lowest common denominator that has defined Nashville-style country music for the last two decades. As for that quintessential country subject, heartache, The Frontier Index prove that they're up to the task. On "My Secret", vocalist Corey Hernden sings, "I did the best I could not to love you / I did the best I could not to care / it feels so wrong / now that you're gone." Similarly, in "On and On", he sings, "You wore out an old welcome / like a lonely memory floating on the breeze."
Unfortunately, TFI don't always stick to their strengths. On "Feel The Sun" and "Someday", the guitars slough off their country skins and kick into full-on rock mode, more Ryan Adams than Whiskeytown. Remember when Wilco announced their decade-plus flirtation with the subject of their own mass appeal and alienation? The way that "Misunderstood" declared that they weren't that AM band anymore, but that they weren't quite sure who they were? Some of The Frontier Index's music has that same sense -- that air of a band struggling to find its true identity. To rock or not to rock? is the fundamental question facing The Frontier Index, and in a sense, it's a struggle for the band's soul; their country-tinged tunes are more affecting, more heartfelt and more artful, but their rock-style tunes are probably more commercially viable and polished.
The Frontier Index is one of many bands torn between potential commercial appeal and sticking to what they do best. Ideally, as their music matures, they'll find that they're as capable of soulfulness in their harder-rocking moments as they are in their twangier moods. If that's indeed the case, perhaps their artistry will create its own version of success.
Splendid Magazine Sept 8th 2005
- Splendid Magazine


FRONTIER INDEX
Frontier Index
(Rainbow Quartz)
US release date: 6 September/05
UK release date: Avail. as import
by David Marchese

It's just about impossible for artists to escape their influences. That task is even more difficult when we're talking about rock and roll. Play country rock and you might as well call it a day. In fact, I propose that most of today's alt-country bands should be forced to include their primary influence in their band name. For example, those indebted to Neil Young could go with something like The Younglings, or perhaps the Pittsburgh Neilers. If you worship at Gram Parsons' feet, take the name the Gram Crackers and cut me a check later. At least that kind of advance warning would spare us from having to hear another tired album.
The real magic happens when influence is used as a jet pack rather than a straightjacket. Doing so is no easy feat, but with their self-titled debut, Frontier Index prove that country rock need not continue ploughing the same fields; there are alternatives and the same choices need not be made over and over again.
The album doesn't give us any sounds we haven't heard before, but by putting those sounds in a fresh context they're given a new vigour. The band's mix of influences, from '80s college rock to Hank Williams weepers, come together to place country rock in a new light. The result is a kind of fever-dream country music.
The standard tools are used as before -- twangy guitars, lonesome harmonies, simple rhythms -- but by refracting the music through the lens of post-punk guitar textures, the clichés avoid the sense of inevitability that afflicts too many other bands. "San Antone", the album's fourth track, is a perfect example of Frontier Index's ability to make new things out of old parts, as a song that begins as a generic "gotta get back there" lament is gradually transformed by wah-wah guitars and organ stabs into a whirling dust storm. It is followed by "My Secret", perhaps the most traditional song on the album, and demonstrates that Frontier Index took the time to learn the foundation of their music before building upon it.
The sense of familiar dislocation that the album engenders, the feeling that we've been here before but never under quite the same conditions, is something that sneaks up on you as the album progresses. It's not until the second half of the album, particularly on the back-to-back punch of "Live For You" and "Silver Suns", that the feat the band is pulling off really hits you. At around the 3:00 mark of the latter song, when a Morricone-on-Quaaludes stomp turns into a Cure-esque echo fest and then finally reveals itself as a glittering evocation of a starry night, it becomes abundantly clear that the band has pulled off the trick of making an album with a down-home heart and a far-out head.
As befitting a first album as this is, there are kinks that need working out. At times the lyrics have something of a textbook country feel, but the familiarity is comfortable and heartfelt. It's just that the band (Corey Hernden and John Hunter on vocals and guitar, Mick Jackson on vocals and drums, and Matt Francis on bass and guitar) is so strong musically that I'd like to see them challenge themselves to come up with words that match the inventive splendour of their music.
By demonstrating their willingness to expand upon as well as respect the boundaries of country music, Frontier Index have positioned themselves along with folks like the Silver Jews (who wrote the song from which the band takes its name) and Will Oldham as musicians intent on scrubbing off the stink of formaldehyde that pervades so much alt-country. Frontier Index has made a lovely creative album and for that reason alone I'm eager to follow whatever trail this strong young band blazes.
— 7 September 2005
- POPMATTERS


Discography

Frontier Index have just finished their debut CD. The eleven song offering, produced by Frontier Index was recorded by Andy Magoffin at House of Miracles in London, Ont. The self-titled CD will be released June 28th 2005 by Rainbow Quartz Intl. and distributed by MapleNationwide (Can)and Redeye (US). UK release in the fall.

Photos

Bio

2005 CASBY Award Nominee for the NXNE Best Independent Release & 2005 Toronto Independent Music Award Winner for Best Rock Group.

Frontier Index grew out of the most humble of circumstances. Two years ago four music fanatics from Stratford, Ontario (Corey Hernden, Mick Jackson, Matt Francis, and John Hunter) gathered in a small kitchen in downtown Toronto. Armed with acoustic guitars, three voices which were born to sing together, and aided by the occasional slug from a bottle the boys played late into the night for themselves and anyone who happened to drop by. In this way, slowly and gracefully, Frontier Index was born. Upon leaving the kitchen, early gigs were surprisingly well attended. Since then, it’s been a game of catch-up. From gigs with the infamous Dan Burke at The Silver Dollar, to becoming something of a mainstay at Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, the boys have become a sonic force to be reckoned within the Toronto music scene.
Before long, their reputation for great live shows brought the boys to the attention of Rainbow Quartz Records, who duly signed them in the fall of 2004. Working through the winter of 2004, Frontier Index recorded their debut album with indie guru Andy Magoffin at his illustrious House of Miracles in London, Ontario. The product of these long winter nights in the studio was a “live” feeling album that runs the gamut from bone rattling to tender hearted, complete with summer sweet harmonies, and all captured straight off the creaky wood floors of Mr. Magoffin’s humble abode; assisted by friends both old and new.
“Frontier Index” the band’s Debut self titled CD will be released by Rainbow Quartz Records on June 28th, 2005 in Canada and distributed by MapleNationwide. US release is August, and International release is slated for Fall ‘05.

Ya’ll been Warned!