If you love the psychedelic sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s, you should check out The Cuckoos. These Austin rockers―Kenneth Frost (vocals, keys), Dave North (guitar), Eric Ross (bass), and Cole Koenning (drums)―sound like they could be a modern reincarnation of The Doors. In April, they released a self-titled EP featuring haunting songs with names like “New Sunrise” and “Mind Breakthrough.” They also just wrapped up a U.K. tour and played SXSW. Due to their intriguing retro vibe and knack for melodies, they’re sure to gain a dedicated following.
We caught up with Frost to talk about The Cuckoos and their recent activity. Read on to learn about their touring adventures, their EP, their “New Sunrise” music video, and the songs they’d like to cover.
TYF: You just wrapped up your tour in the U.K. What was that like?
Kenneth Frost: It was fun. It was an interesting experience. People over there like to eat breakfast a lot. They’re, like, obsessed with it. So that was a little different. But it was cool. I think it was a good experience for learning what touring is like. It was our first tour, and we were getting used to waking up in different cities every day and getting two or three hours of sleep a night after playing shows. I think it was a good way to get in the groove, and I think we got a lot tighter with our material and stuff, and it was fun.
TYF: Did anything particularly funny or interesting happen while you guys were over there?
Frost: Oh, it was all sorts of crazy stuff. (Laughs) I think we all drank a little more than we usually do, ‘cause the drinking age is only 18, so the rest of the guys could drink, too. It was fun. We got to see a lot of cool record shops and lots of neat architecture and tried a bunch of different foods and stuff.
TYF: Nice. Did you buy any records?
Frost: Yeah, I actually bought Mac DeMarco’s new record. I got a limited edition U.K. pressing. It’s on red vinyl.
TYF: You recently performed at SXSW, as well. What are some of your favorite memories from that experience?
Frost: My personal favorite… We played a house show. It was pretty fun. They had Tito’s Vodka there for everybody, and I did the splits for the first time in the middle of a set, so that was kind of fun.
TYF: Out of all the shows you’ve performed so far, do you have a favorite?
Frost: I don’t know. Me and the guys, we have a lot of fun each time we play. We’re always trying to play new things and just kind of jam out. I’d say they just get better and better.
TYF: Now let’s talk about your new self-titled EP. It’s very reminiscent of the psychedelic music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. How did you first get invested in that genre?
Frost: Well, I’d say that the first group that I really, really got into was the early Beatles, their “I Want To Hold Your Hand” era stuff. From there on, I just kind of went through the years, I guess, and got into The Doors and Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix and those kinds of groups. A lot of these songs I wrote [for the EP], I was listening to that kind of music when I wrote them. And I feel like you can kind of hear… Like, I started listening to James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic [when I was working on the EP]. I started listening to lots of Prince and Madonna. More ‘80s stuff. And little hints of that started seeping in there, too. I think me and the guys, we listen to a lot of music, and our influences definitely show in our music, and we’re proud of it, because we just want to make music that makes people feel good as music has made us feel. I think definitely the ‘60s and ‘70s music has been a big influence for us.
TYF: In February, you guys released a video for one of the songs from the EP, “New Sunrise.” How did you come up with the concept for this video?
Frost: It was really kind of a last-minute thing that I just threw together. I got iMovie. I spent 15 bucks getting that software. And I just took a bunch of footage from different shows that we had filmed. Before I dropped out of college, my goal was to be in the RTF Program—Radio, Television, and Film—at UT because that’s what my older brother did. So for my graduation present, he bought me this pretty groovy camera. I don’t really use it now—I just have friends use it and film our shows and stuff. So we’ve gotten a lot of different footage over the past couple of years, for sure. So I just kind of did a little mashup and got some stock footage of some sunrises and stuff and put it in there. (Laughs) But I think it turned out pretty cool.
TYF: Imagine that you could make a video for another one of your songs with unlimited resources. Nothing’s off-limits. Which song would you pick, and what would the video look like?
Frost: Hmm, I don’t know. Let me think… It’d probably be cool to do a video for “Mind Breakthrough,” but I mean, I don’t know. I really like when… you bring in another artist and their passion is making videos, and you get someone else’s vision [of the song] too, their interpretation of the song. I would really like to work with a director and come up with an idea for a music video. There’s a couple of Ariel Pink’s music videos that are really, really cool. I’d like to make something that has, like, a little mini movie in a music video.
TYF: Speaking of “Mind Breakthrough,” there’s an interesting lyric in that song about“[learning] the unimportance of modernity.” What does that line mean to you?
Frost: Oh, it just means… I feel like our influences are really prominent in music, and people try to run away from [those influences]. I think a lot of times, people making new music try so hard to run away from old things and things that happened in the past. It’s noticeable, and it takes away from music sometimes. So it’s just kind of like, “Hey, don’t worry about that.” (Laughs)
TYF: In the past, you’ve performed a cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” What’s another song that you think might be fun to cover in the future?
Frost: Oh, man. Me and the guys always have loads of songs we want to cover. I know our bass player Eric really wants to cover Kylie Minogue. What is it? What’s the one that… (starts singing) “La la la, la la la la la…”
TYF: “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”?
Frost: “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.” That’s what it is, yeah. But I don’t know. We listen to so much weird music. I’d like to do “Into the Groove” by Madonna. That’d be fun. (Laughs) I know Dave, our guitar player, really likes The Pixies. He’d probably want to do a Pixies song.
TYF: Those would be cool.
Frost: I think with cover songs, we like to pick stuff that doesn’t seem like something we would cover. (Laughs) Pick something really, really random.
TYF: You’re from Austin, and Austin’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird.” With that said, do you have any weird facts about the band you’d like to share?
Frost: I don’t know. I think we’re all just, like, really weird in general. You’d have to meet us. (Laughs) But we’re definitely Austinites. We definitely are some weird dudes. I think it’s in a good way, though.
TYF: Imagine that you could be transported into any book or movie. Which one would you choose?
Frost: Ooh, I don’t know. My favorite movie is The Shining, but I don’t know if I’d want to be in that. (Laughs) Who knows?
TYF: Yeah, The Shining wouldn’t be too much fun.
Frost: I just love the vibe of that movie. It’s just so eerie.
TYF: Finally, do you have any advice for other young songwriters and musicians who are eager to share their work with the world?
Frost: I would say, “Don’t forget that music is just… Sometimes you’ve gotta not take it too seriously and make music that’s fun. It’s about dancing and having a good time. And also, you’ve just gotta really work hard and keep at it and don’t let anybody bring you down.”
TYF: Awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers before we go?
Frost: Stay tuned for more Cuckoos tunes! We’ve got loads of weird, groovy stuff we’re ready to put out.