Artist Spotlight: Frenia

A night of improvisational music occurred at the Jazz Gallery in Riverwest on Sunday evening, making for an intimate experience of lush noise and mind-bending auditory stimulation. Performances came from Eli Smith, Collector, Matt Blair Trio, PaVda, and Frenia.

Frenia is an experimental improv-noise trio consisting of Pedro Gutierrez, Ryan Winslow Jann, Connor Jann, and Paul Rabe (the last of which was not present). They have been playing music together since 2016 – Winslow Jann explains where the name came from.

“It’s an allusion to the Greek word “phren” … it means “mind.” It exists in a lot of words nowadays, but one of our inspirations was the word “schizophrenia” which means “broken mind.” Leave away the break, and then we got the unity.”

Their performances and tracks on Bandcamp are all entirely improvised; they never attempt to recreate anything.

“The recordings we have on Bandcamp were in themselves spontaneous,” Winslow Jann explained. “We were thinking about putting out an EP, but it wasn’t like we sat down and planned to make a record. It was just us deciding to put out some recordings we’ve done at random.”

They explain how they decide on what objects/instruments to use for their sets.

“We decide what to bring depending on the context of the show,” Gutierrez said. “It depends on who’s playing and how much time we have – today was a little more minimal since there were more bands. In the moment, though, it’s just whatever calls your name. It’s not you that chooses the instrument; it’s the instrument that chooses you.”

“In the moment, your senses are tuning into other stuff,” Jann added. “I’ll hear Ryan singing something and I see red, and then I’ll pick up the red object and make music with it. Then we’ll make it sound blue, and I’ll grab the blue thing. It’s a constant mixing of paint.”

At one point during their set, Jann grabbed the microphone and began somewhat of a monologue with obfuscated vocals.

“I was just saying words that came to mind. Our friend Lonnie provided us a little sheet with some words – like a poem – and so I’d grab a little of the poetry and throw some improv that popped into my head on top of it.”

“We play out with the Divine Comedy and occasionally we’ll just rip it open and pick a random passage and start reading,” Winslow Jann said. “You kinda gotta mold it into the sound that’s happening.”

They talk about what they are focusing on as a group currently.

“We’ve been inviting a lot of people to play just to kind of see where it takes us,” Gutierrez said. “It’s like a quantum-physical thing where someone gets added to the group and we do things we wouldn’t do normally, so we’ve been expanding in that realm.”

“Music is an expression of cultural community,” Jann added. “We’re trying to bring all of these other aspects of community and individuals that we see to then produce this new culture of music.”

“We’re sharing and exchanging pure gifts and pure freedom with living art,” Winslow Jann commented.

“Fun fact…we’ve never set up a show…we just get asked to play (laughs),” Gutierrez said.

The band runs their own DIY space, Frenia House, on the East Side. They emphasize experimental, noise, and improvisational music. Their next show is with artists from Brooklyn and the Twin Cities on February 22nd.

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