By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
Frederic revels in his gold-chained alter ego. He dreamed up the frontman in January 2008, three years after launching Wallpaper., as a way to lose inhibition in the studio and onstage. Oddly, he's always taken the role extremely seriously. In Ricky's early days, he'd spend half an hour before shows alone, getting into character. Still, Frederic gets to leave behind the soft-spoken guy who graduated with a music composition degree from UC Berkeley and take on the pompous rock star none of his other music outlets — or his own modesty — have allowed him to become. Frederic never fully becomes the asshole he talks Ricky up to be, though. He's far too nutty and music-nerdy to come off as mean, even in a world of make-believe.
Frederic is starting the week by using the camera embedded in his MacBook Pro to film the video for "The Doodoo Face?" It's a clip that opens with Ricky on the toilet explaining the Doodoo Face CD title. It's a tricky album name that his most loyal supporters seem hard-pressed to comprehend. Frederic's girlfriend, Megan Canto, and his mother warned him that it'd be a challenging sell. Even bandmate Singh was skeptical. He says he Googled "doodoo face" and discovered an Urban Dictionary entry about "someone who rubs poo on their face and kisses someone." "I was like, 'Oh man,'" Singh admits with a laugh, "but it was too late."
Along with the infectious electro-funk beats, a huge part of Wallpaper.'s draw is in the jesting, which occasionally gets self-effacing. The lyrics make fun of our dependence on electronic gadgetry and social media sites, yet Wallpaper. leaves no shortage of Twitter footprints on this planet. But Frederic's best skits are curveballs of total absurdity. A prime example is "Wallpaper. video blog #4," where Ricky is "floating" in space with cheap special effects, using Auto-Tune to ramble on about how "Jupiter is a gaseous planet." It's stupidly hilarious and addictive; perfect for the viral media generation.
Frederic realized long ago that humor has a strong disarming quality. While music snobs can set boundaries based on genres they think they like, comedy cuts to people's core reactions. "No one's ever like, 'This would be funny but I don't really like dry humor,'" he says.
But the more offensive-sounding punchlines risk turning people off. One prominent indie buzz-band publicist, Daniel Gill of Force Field PR, refused to work on the new Wallpaper. CD when approached. "Basically, I couldn't envision pitching a record around with a title like Doodoo Face and having anyone take it seriously," he says. Spin magazine concurred, including the CD in a recent roundup of the "15 Worst Album Titles of 2009."
If the criticism gets to Frederic, he doesn't show it. He counters that he loves the attention. "It just shows my album title is making its intended splash," he says.
Even San Francisco club owners and promoters admit initial reluctance in hiring Wallpaper., fearing too much of a Weird Al novelty factor. "Every show, there's people who just don't get it," says Rickshaw Stop's Waldo Williams. "Like, 'Is this stupid or is this so right on I really can't tell?'"
But they say Frederic's skilled musicianship, which pays homage to Prince, P-Funk, and contemporary R&B, and his charismatic stage presence, win over people in the end. "Eric works at a high conceptual level," Williams adds. "He builds the whole package at once."
The comedy, the songwriting, and the flashy performances blend into a mixture that encourages good times. To that end, Wallpaper. was an easy fit with both contemporary club titans Dan Deacon and Girl Talk as well as old-school commercial R&B act Boyz II Men, all of whom he's opened for in the last year.
More than anything, Frederic is a huge funk nerd, and for the video shoot, he explains from his porcelain throne that "doodoo face" isn't about taking a dump. "The Doodoo Face is not literally about dropping deuces, dummy," he chides from behind black sunglasses, white cutouts of the album title glued to the lenses. "When something's hella funky ... it makes you do a doodoo face, like something stinks."
He washes his hands of such bad "box-wine BBQ funk" as "Funkytown," "Play That Funky Music," and "Low Rider," and struts into his bedroom. Suited up in a shiny Price Is Right jacket and two fedoras, he reveals his winning picks: D'Angelo and P-Funk. The best part of the video? Watching Frederic make the stink face, pop his collar, and dance like a Las Vegas wedding singer.
Not every Wallpaper. video is this tongue-in-cheek — or this lowbrow. "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" is the group's glossy apex, thanks to director Zada's slick production work.
On a Monday morning in late August, that clip has yet to appear on mtvU's Freshmen, due to technical difficulties with the Web site. It's 9 a.m. on the first of a five-day contest among half a dozen up-and-comers in pop, punk, hip-hop, and funk.
Frederic is freaking out. He's resorting to typing some of his missives to supporters in ALL CAPS.