Eric Balfour talks Fredalba
Courtesy of Fredalba.com
By Larissa Barlow
When you're the star of a highly anticipated horror film, it should be the only thing on your mind.
But Eric Balfour, who plays Kemper in the upcoming remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," couldn't be more excited about his L.A. based band, Fredalba.
The soulful rhythmic sounds produced by this six member band, which Balfour fronts as lead singer, combine everything from hip hop to electronica to funk on their album "Uptown Music for Downtown Kids." The mélange of musical genres is as unique as the origin of the band's name.
"There was this girl that we met in Paris, and her name was Fredalba. And yes, we believe she was a prostitute. We don't know for sure, but all we do know is that she stole a bunch of money from us," Balfour says with a laugh by telephone from Los Angeles. With only French Francs and unable to pay for a cab back to the hotel, they handed the woman $100 in exchange for 100 Francs.
Not paying any attention, no one realized that with the exchange rate, they'd only received $20 in return.
"We still didn't have enough money for the cab."
Their encounter with a slick Frenchwoman wasn't the only influence on the band's name though.
"Me and Tiffin, the guitar player, go snowboarding in Big Bear and there's a street up there called Fredalba Road and it was just sort of a funny coincidence. We just put the two together and said, 'that's the name.'"
When the name came together everything else seemed to follow.
The striking sounds are a diversified mixture of everything right with music today.
"Our sound is an amalgamation of the city we grew up in. Los Angeles is our home and it has influences in every type of music. It's just L.A. This is our barrio."
Fredalba said The Red Hot Chili Peppers was as a major influence on him.
"For us, they're the classic L.A band. We grew up in the same town as they did."
With Balfour on vocals, Tiffin Roley on guitars, Charmian Callon on flute and keyboards, Paul Trutner on bass, Mario Da Damio on drums and Miles Guarneri on turntables, Fredalba completes a soul jarring sound of positive music fed by the diversity of Los Angeles.
Balfour and Roley had been writing songs together for a long time before the Fredalba roster came together.
Meeting through mutual friends, their love of diverse sounds brought them together. The most unconventional aspect of the band in Callon on the flute, an instrument not often heard outside classical works. Balfour said the addition of a flutist to his love of hip hop music and that specific sound he wanted the band to have.
But hearing Balfour's sound in connection with his acting isn't a top priority.
While Fredalba tunes have been featured on "The Dead Zone," Balfour says, "There's a part of me that likes to keep it a little separate. I'm starting to produce a film on my own now and that would be more of an arena I'd be interested in putting one of my own songs, because it's mine, my project. I'd be a little more personal."
The multi talented artist does makes distinctions between his two passions because, "music is my first love and sort of always will be. Acting is amazing and I like it a lot, but it doesn't have the same, for me, artistic gratification."
"I'm always focused on music, but you know, acting pays the bills."
Balfour isn't worried about any clichés that surround the actor musician.
He said he began as a musician and fell into acting, but uses both as a creative outlet for _expression as most artists do. "I just think artists strive to create in whatever medium that inspires them. There was a time when there wasn't a distinction. Entertainers were entertainers."
And entertaining is what the band intends to do. While Balfour says the band loves to play live, he is pumped to get in the studio and record a follow up to "Uptown Music for Downtown Kids."
The ever busy Balfour will have to squeeze in some time between promoting his film and working on a new TV series for The WB but remains ever committed to making music.
The band is still in talks over a tour that would take them outside the L.A area, but until then, fans of music that takes hip hop to new heights with funk, soul and rhythm infused sounds can check out fredalbamusic.com
The 12 intense tracks are a testament to the passion Balfour puts into his songwriting and vocals. With skilled musicians backing up his powerful flowing voice and an entire city to inspire them, Fredalba comes off as a treasured jewel in the crowded L.A music scene.
Copyright © 2003, The South End Newspaper, all rights reserved.
Eric Balfour - Vocals
Miles Guarneri - Turntables
Charmian Callon - Flute, Keyboards
Tiffin "Rooster" Roley - Guitar
Paul Trutner - Bass
Mario de Damio - Drums
Sounds normally associated with Los Angeles: The whirl of helicopters, the shrill of police sirens, the blaring of car horns. But that's all hype and Hollywood. There is another sound that fills the streets of this sprawling urban Mecca and it's an amalgamation of hip-shaking Latin rhythms, bass-heavy hip-hop beats, streetwise rock riffs, and funky soul grooves. Even a gorgeous redirection of wind can be heard weaving its way through the organized chaos, calming its paroxysmal energy. Collectively, that sound is called Fredalba.
"Los Angeles is such a big part of what our music is, not unlike the Chili Peppers or Ozomatli," says singer-Fredalba visionary Eric Balfour. "There are so many influences here, from punk to Latin to rock to electro, that shapes who we are as musicians. This city shapes our style in every way. I wanted our sound to be L.A."
Uptown Music for Downtown Kids, Fredalba's Pillar Records debut, could not be the product of any other landscape. Fredalba has pulled off the unique feat of sounding like something as abstract as a city with convincing clarity. The sextet's seamless merging of sounds and cultures into one coherent and focused style is the product of a longstanding vision held dear to Balfour's heart from a very young age. "I grew up in an environment where the artist was held at the highest pinnacle," remembers Balfour. "To create art and create music - that was one of the most respected things you could do. That shaped a lot of how I view the world and had a lot to do with me wanting to become a singer."
Fredalba grew out of that vision. Assembled over time through friends of friends, the band converged through a common love of music, culture, and energy. That recipe has birthed Uptown Music, a sonic companion to Possibility Through Positivity - the band's credo. "This band is about raw energy," says Balfour. "And bringing it to you when you see us live so it inspires you and it motivates you to get up, move, and do something."
Rough and tumble rock tracks ("Storm"), urban hymns ("Uptown Music"), and soaring anthems ("Shine") insure that Uptown Music flows freely through Fredalba's world of hip-hop, rock, and Latin rhythms, but it's the flute crisscrossing this beautiful union that truly sets the band apart. "Eric was interested in what it would sound like," says flautist Charmian Callon. "We had no idea if it would sound good, but it sounded really great. I think it opens a lot of people's eyes and ears to a new vibe. Of course, anybody in the jazz and classical world is familiar with the flute, but the majority of the population is not. A lot of times when they see it in a rock band, they are skeptical. But they are always pleasantly surprised."
As will all those that enter Fredalba's world: An eclectic mix of sonic art and culture corralled into a funky, energetic burst of uplifting might. Just like...chicken? "For me, chicken is chicken," says Balfour. "It just depends on what you put on it. Ours is definitely a sweet, tangy barbeque sauce that's a little bit spicy and has a really good after taste."