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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.
The performance includes Ricky's awkward comedic banter between songs, which sometimes falls flat. In Sacramento, that means clichéd jokes about keeping your guy friends away from a party crowded with lovely ladies. As witnessed in a few Wallpaper. video blogs, some of these punchlines could use a good editor. But minor flops are secondary to the group's dazzle factor. Frederic is a skilled producer whose songs play off hyphy, P-Funk, R&B, and Afrobeat with panache. Within his catchy choruses, the spoofs on narcissism and celebrity culture are much funnier than his spoken bits.
Electro-funk closer "Evrytm We Do It" becomes the event's great elevator. As Ricky repeats the banal lines "Every time we do it, I wanna do it again," the blossoming beats and Space Invaders sound effects lift fans straight onto the catwalk. The fourth wall between Ricky and the models — and the dudes who love them both — is trampled. Partiers clamber onstage.
Driving back from Sacramento at 3 a.m., Frederic is careful to keep the enthusiasm he generates in check. He spent his late adolescence in progressive rock bands, being promised record deals that never materialized as his older peers — Papa Roach, Hoobastank, Alien Ant Farm — made it big.
He is now an intrepid hustler using every social media site, club night, and business connection he can to his advantage. He's determined to make it in a new music world, which means he also refuses to sit still, even if he's occasionally racing toward dead ends.
"I don't believe in luck," he says. "Everything I've gotten, I've gotten from hard work. I'm always going to be the underdog."
At San Rafael's PopSmear Studios, Frederic is multitasking long past midnight. In the control room where he once apprenticed for owner Scott Llamas, he switches among a remix for local indie-poppers Morning Benders, a cover he's recording of a Michael Jackson demo, and a mix of a friend's rock record.
Frederic is an unusually versatile songwriter and producer, seamlessly fusing disparate musical styles. His remixes are complete, distinct singles, in large part because he records all the instrumentation live instead of simply sampling tracks, re-creating the songs from scratch around the original's vision. Live 105's Aaron Axelsen calls Frederic San Francisco's Danger Mouse, referencing the megaproducer behind Gnarls Barkley and the last Beck album. But Frederic's gift for weaving genres together earns him more respect than it does bank. Many of the remixes he creates are done on his own dime to connect his name to larger acts he believes in. Only the rock record he's mixing this evening will generate the gas money he needs to drive to the next Wallpaper. show in two days. The week before, Frederic sheepishly borrowed cash from another musician to buy two tacos when the taqueria didn't take credit cards.
Frederic's various musical iterations are on full display along the control room walls at PopSmear. There's a framed photo of Locale A.M., his high school progressive rock band, with a quote noting the group received offers from "Elektra/Atlantic, Arista/BMG, and Hollywood/Disney."
It's unsurprising that the labels took notice of him at an early age. He grew up understanding the world through the recording industry. Peg Frederic says her son refused to fall asleep without music playing when he was a year old. By age four, he was earning Slurpees on the way to daycare by answering her challenging classic-rock quizzes or by clapping on the correct beat to a '70s funk song.
In his junior year of high school, Frederic spent a sick day cold-calling all the major labels he found listed in an A&R directory. Locale A.M. had recorded an album called Groove Heroes. He got through to Hollywood Records, and, shockingly, received a callback from the president of the label, who sent a representative to see the band perform. Nothing came of that connection at the time, but Peg was impressed. Her son's combination of naiveté and tenacity actually got him noticed.
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