Last summer, New York rocksteady quartet The Frightnrs were seemingly on top of the world. Diplo’s Mad Decent record label had just released the band’s Ticklah-produced EP and the same team was in the process of recording a debut full-length for Daptone Records - the storied home of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, the Budos Band, and Antibalas.
The definitive bridge between ska and reggae, Jamaican rocksteady was popular for only a couple of years in the late ‘60s. But singer/songwriter Dan Klein, keyboardist Chuck Patel, guitarist Preet Patel, and drummer Rich Terrana were more than happy to pick up the reins.
Armed with vintage analog equipment and a determination to forgo modern sounds for the purest distillation, the Frightnrs recorded most of “Nothing More To Say” (out Sept. 2 on Daptone) in just a week.
And then the unthinkable happened.
Shortly after recording the album, Klein was diagnosed with ALS. But the terminal illness would not stop them. The band and their leader worked on their Daptone debut in the months that followed, but unfathomably, tragedy struck again in May when Chuck and Preet Patel’s father was struck and killed while making a phone call on the side of the road.
Klein passed in June.
It’s hard to imagine both of those losses, in such a short amount of time, for a band that is just reaching the apex of a promising career. But the upcoming release of “Nothing More To Say” will stand as a testament to their time together.
DiscoverSD recently spoke with drummer Terrana about the album and what’s next for The Frightnrs.
Q: This record is finally at the finish line. How is everyone feeling?
A: It’s bittersweet. But it does feel good to have the album actually come out. We got the vinyl a week ago, and to just hold the thing, to see it right there, was crazy. It gave some closure to it all.
Q: You did both the EP and the LP with Ticklah (Victor Axelrod). How long have you known him?
A: We work with him regularly. He’s been in our corner since the beginning. He was down to take us in even though we were f---ups, if you will. We really didn’t know the ropes yet. We were new to the whole thing. But he saw something in us and encouraged it. We have a special relationship with him.
Q: So you were both down with leaving modern sounds out?
A: It’s something that we deliberately made a point to avoid. And that was easy because our whole thing is staying true to the music we love. And for this record, there was a concerted effort to take it even one step beyond that and go into the studio with authentic equipment and literally try to write, record and arrange a rocksteady album. It was next-level specific.
Q: I’m blown away by what I’ve read about Dan’s spirit. I mean, going to see Sharon Jones in Prospect Park the night before he passed?
A: When Dan was sick, he was all about going out. He really wanted to make his time meaningful. We figured he would just cut himself off and just be a miserable dying guy. But he was getting tattooed regularly. He was having people over regularly. Pretty crazy.
Q: Possible at this point to know what’s next?
A: We’re not sure. We’re still talking that over. But I can’t imagine that we’re not going to do anything. Even before all this tragedy, when we were making the demos for the album, that push made us realize that we could really make something of this. Even back then, the flame was lit. We were ready to take off. And we’re still there. Especially since we know that Dan and the Patels’ father wished for us to go on. And with all of that extra incentive, we want to continue making music together and continue in any way that we can. I know I do.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.