By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
He's been at his parents' house in Pinole all morning, having driven up from back-to-back Wallpaper. shows in Southern California the night before. He's sitting alone in his old bedroom, laptop glowing in the dark as he snacks on tortilla chips. "I'm being a real weirdo right now," he says with a laugh.
The glitch in the contest is fixed by late morning. Ricky sounds the call for action across Twitter: "you can VOTE as MANY times til ya FINGER BLEEDS. Voting ends FRIDAY morning lets GO."
Frederic is planning the next couple of days with the precision of an army commander waging war. He's organizing voting blocs among relatives, roommates, Eenie Meenie's street team, the big guns at Digg, superfans, a buddy who is Twitter pals with Miley Cyrus' bestie, and lots of friends' little brothers and sisters on summer break. MtvU allows voting as often as possible — the contest seems to be more about bombarding the music site with hits than anything else — so Frederic is unimpressed with anyone volunteering fewer than 100 clicks on Wallpaper.'s ballot.
The race is tight all week, with the heat of the battle between Wallpaper. and Portland, Ore.'s Sandpeople. Despite having a video titled "Hate Aside," the hip-hop act resorts to calling out Frederic's use of Auto-Tune trickery. It's a criticism he is used to hearing. He even admits it's probably time to phase out the computerized vocals. "It's getting annoying," he says of the trend. Then again, Auto-Tune helps him hit the long funk notes, allowing him to feel like a "crazy virtuosic dude."
The Freshmen contest ends at 11 a.m. on Friday. Wallpaper. has a concert in Las Vegas that night, and Frederic needs to drive for nine hours to get there. He refuses to start his engine, though, until the fate of this contest is sealed, even though the only prize is playing his video on mtvU for an unspecified amount of time. It's a perfect example of the way he refuses to lose any shot — no matter how minor — at publicity that could lead to something real. He'll lead the Wallpaper. troops into their final march to overcome Sandpeople starting at dusk.
"This is total fucking military stuff," Frederic says. "We're going to bring the heat last-minute."
The Frederics are early risers that last morning of the contest. Eric's dad, Dana, fires up the computer at 5 a.m. He launches five tabs at once, just as his son has taught him. As one screen refreshes, he clicks on the next, and on down the line. By 6:45, Peg, Eric, and Canto open their five screens. They spend the next four hours and 15 minutes clicking and refreshing.
At 11 a.m., mtvU posts the headline "Wallpaper Wins the Freshman." Within minutes, news of the victory is on Wallpaper.'s Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter feeds. Frederic has directed Eenie Meenie to post a free MP3 of "Doodoo Face" as a reward for fan loyalty. He jumps in the car with a bagel sandwich from his mom, heading toward I-5 for Vegas.
Once on the road, Frederic is relieved. He hates contests.
But the game is never really over.
During the next couple of weeks, mtvU will fade in importance. There's no word from the MTV suits. But Frederic's carpal-tunnel pain wasn't for naught: After the video went live on mtvU, the YouTube views for "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" skyrocketed to more than 14,000, with 38 comments. His MySpace friend requests jumped significantly, more evangelists spreading the Wallpaper. gospel.
Frederic is also called to Los Angeles for unrelated nibbles from the record industry he once cursed. For this round, the focus is on songwriting for other artists, an exciting networking and revenue stream possibility. Sri Lankan–British MC M.I.A.'s fiancé, Ben Bronfman, who runs Green Owl Records, asks Frederic to pen tracks for up-and-coming rapper Theophilus London. That same week, Frederic alsos brainstorm songwriting ideas for rappers Flo Rida and Pitbull — and drinks cognac for the first time — with Kane Beatz, a producer who has worked with Lil Wayne. An old BMI connection from his Locale A.M. days is matchmaking Frederic with producers who could use his songwriting skills. Wallpaper.'s frontman also further procrastinates on his promise to do nothing but relax and eat kimchi for a couple of days.
Frederic feels like he's at the tip of an iceberg, but he's unsure what that iceberg looks like. If Wallpaper. had a major label or big management company, the future would be more predictable. "Since the music industry changes every day, I don't even know what it means to 'blow up,'" he says. He still refuses to wait around for a nod from a record executive to move ahead with his ideas, though. It's harder this way. But he says the successes are more personally gratifying.
Nothing's for certain, but there's always hope a new minor victory will eventually lead to a major one for San Francisco's biggest indie hustler. Frederic is now prepping for Wallpaper.'s big Doodoo Face release show at Rickshaw Stop on Saturday, Sept. 26. He also hopes to catch a break soon, at least financially speaking. "I'm looking at my 30s on the horizon and thinking, 'Dang,'" he says with a laugh. "I can't live like shit forever."
For now, he's content to dance along the schizophrenic border between Ricky Reed's club life glitz and Eric Frederic's credit card debt. The more doodoo-faced Wallpaper. fans he can rally to storm the Web along the way, the better.