Pin It

Just Tweet It 

Wallpaper.’s Eric Frederic is an unstoppable viral music producer. But can the incessant songwriting, video blogging, and booty tweeting make him a star?

Wednesday, Sep 23 2009
Comments

Under the parking lot misters at the Greens Hotel in Sacramento, models with stilettos longer than their shorts are practicing their swagger across the stage. It's a sweltering July afternoon, and this gated motel is an oasis of beautiful fashionistas. Retailers spill out from ground-floor motel rooms. They're all here for Launch, a music and fashion show with an Astroturf VIP bar.

The ladies are hot and all, but San Francisco's Wallpaper. is the event's biggest attraction. In the past year, the dance-pop duo has become a big player on the California club circuit by poking fun at scenester artificiality. Mastermind Eric Frederic performs onstage, on record, and on camera as his alter ego, Ricky Reed, a star-screwing douchebag who dresses like Michael Jackson on food stamps and dances up a storm.

Draped in layers of sequined jackets, Ricky exaggerates stereotypes you'd normally despise. He brags in Wallpaper.'s songs and video blogs about getting wasted and his calculating hookups. Sample lyric from "Celebrity," a deliriously upbeat number with an incessant thump and funky saxophone snippet: "Everybody is a nobody trying to be somebody/I'm not just anybody/I slept with a celebrity." But this fake frontman is so flagrantly clueless that his act is more goofy parody than condescension toward weekend warriors. Frederic wants to bring some social critique to the dancefloor. The name Wallpaper. is a rebuttal against pop music as simple window dressing; the period at the end emphasizes that there's a statement being made here. Think of the group as a cheeky sentence about keeping superficiality in check.

Inside all that shiny fabric is a needy character who desperately has to be liked. And inside that wannabe rock star is a songwriter, producer, and amateur comedian who likewise craves respect — from the music establishment that has thwarted him for a decade.


At Greens, Frederic is a different sort of outsider. Lounging among the intricately tattooed and carefully coiffed, he's a self-identified fashion misfit, proudly displaying a farmer's tan and the untrimmed facial hair of a 27-year-old living an alarm-free lifestyle. Wallpaper. drummer Arjun Singh, who flew into Sacramento from the San Diego pop culture convention Comic-Con in a yellow Star Wars shirt, is his wingman in geekdom. "Me and Arjun are big nerds at stuff like this," Frederic says. "We have serious girlfriends and we just sit around and drink Diet Coke."

Frederic pulls Singh into a motel room to excitedly unveil a video on his MacBook. It's the final cut for "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted," one of many instant anthems off Wallpaper.'s full-length debut CD, Doodoo Face, which came out Sept. 22. Shot at San Francisco club Harlot, the video evokes giddy, boozy spins and reckless highs. Ricky is wearing shades and stumbling through partygoers — including founder Kevin Rose and CEO Jay Adelson of aggregate-media site Digg, who are big Wallpaper. supporters. There's a robotic lilt to Ricky's vocals from his use of the trendy Auto-Tune software made popular by rappers T-Pain and Lil Wayne, and the music is a bubbly techno-funk blend raging with thunderous strikes of deep bass. The song follows a Wallpaper. formula that has worked for the group's previous three EPs: It's deceptively simple, incredibly fun, and flip in attitude. (Prime lyric example: "I've gotta say I'm looking good/I'd hit on myself if I could.")

Commercial director Jason Zada shot "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" after falling in love with Wallpaper.'s music and tracking Frederic down via Twitter. The clip will eventually land on MTV's gay cable channel, Logo, and give Wallpaper. a chance at further MTV exposure, but for now Frederic is ecstatic just to have this new tool in his viral media arsenal.

Frederic is on a quest to have something he's created earn lasting attention. To that end, he has produced a deluge of singles, remixes, and videos to post on the Internet. These pieces channel people toward the larger Wallpaper. packages of CDs and performances. He is a one-man pop culture conversation that refuses to shut up— which is a good thing for his music and career. The duo caught the attention of Adelson, who calls the group "ridiculously catchy" and hired Wallpaper. to perform at Digg events in Seattle and New York.

Wallpaper.'s hyperactive aesthetic is a perfect match for today's social media sites, which trade on instant humor gratification. Two of the group's videos have become hits in the last two months alone. The goofy "BootyTweet (Is the New Booty Call)" and "Pool Party," featuring Ricky running around San Francisco in flip- flops, have earned more than 11,000 and 4,000 YouTube views respectively. These low-budget morsels give Wallpaper. an international presence while also building local ranks at San Francisco's tastemaking dance clubs Popscene and Blow Up — where Wallpaper. evangelists pack the house and follow Ricky's commands. "Eric will say, 'Put your hands in the air,' and the whole place will put their hands in the air," Blow Up's Jeffrey Paradise says. "He has the crowd in the palm of his hand more than any other act I've seen."

But a strong Web presence and fervent regional fandom don't add enough dollar signs to Frederic's income. He gives occasional music lessons, and mostly lives off credit cards and his mom's Trader Joe's care packages.

His debt increases every time he's struck with inspiration for enriching the Wallpaper. experience. Every video or remix he records (and is not paid for) is time spent that could be used to earn money elsewhere; every studio visit subtracts cash from his bank account.

Luckily, live shows still bring in paychecks. At Launch, Frederic arrives on the catwalk loaded with props: sunglasses, whiskey, a white fedora, and sparkling jackets in iridescent green, white, and black. Dark threads hang off his tattered sleeves; he's a shabby Justin Timberlake with twice the spirit.

The drunken fashionistas press close to the stage to cheer on this fantastic spectacle the minute Wallpaper.'s electronic jams fill the air. Behind Frederic, Singh adds to the propulsive attitude. He smacks at his drum kit underneath jumbo video screens showing random YouTube lip-synching clips, scenes from Saved by the Bell, and Ricky Reed's pager number. All of the other instrumentation, recorded by Frederic, is hidden in mixers behind the curtain so Ricky is free to shimmy and clap.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed