Andy Frasco & The U.N. aren’t just a soulful rockin’ party band; they are the band that brings the party.
“I love entertaining,” Frasco says over the phone before his October show at the Brooklyn Arts Center was moved to Sunday, November 3. “That’s what keeps me alive, I think. It’s like all this horrible stuff I do to my liver, and my body sleeping in vans, is all worth it because, at the end of the day, I get to fucking entertain everybody. And I get to make people smile.”
Frasco has no fear when it comes to being in the crowd—or on the crowd, for that matter. When he first came to ILM in January 2019 to open for Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, he hopped off the stage as hundreds of people danced to “Hava Nagila,” circling Frasco’s bobbing afro. When he came back for Big Something’s Big What weekend at GLA in May 2019, Frasco crowd-surfed his way from the stage to the top of the amphitheater—crushing at least one beer along the way (see clips from both shows at encorepub’s YouTube channel).
“That was such a great time in Wilmington because sometimes no one cares about the opening band,” Frasco observes. “I mean, you guys love music and I love surprising people.”
In less than a year, Andy Frasco & The U.N. are making a third pass in ILM this Sunday. Only this go-round, they’re headlining at Brooklyn Arts Center with openers Wild Adriatic and Vintage Pistol.
While The U.N. has evolving and revolving members—such as drummers Andee Avila and John Fairchild, bassists Brandon Miller and Supa Man (Philosophy of Soul), or Jeremiah Weir on organ and keys—Frasco’s high-energy vocals and stunts are accompanied by Ernie Chang’s on sax and Shawn Eckels on guitar. Everyone goes full-throttle.
“The best is when I see people come to our shows not realizing I’m a psychopath,” Frasco quips. “At first they fold their hands up and are like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ By the second song, they’re tapping their toes, and by the third song, they’re laughing at my stupid jokes. I mean, it’s a process, but I’m just trying to wake people up. People are scared to live the life they want to live. They feel like they have to have all these standards from past generations telling them how they should live. I’m just trying to be that other side of the picture that says, ‘You know, there’s different ways to see life.’”
Be forewarned, Frasco’s songwriting, while hilariously relatable and poignant, is unapologetically crass in albums like “Happy Bastards” (2016). He’s not afraid to talk about sex and drugs and everything in between. Their latest LP, “Change of Pace” (February 22) reflects as much. It’s full of fun and the same funky dancing music (“Waiting Game”). Lyrically, it’s more pointedly and emotionally deep (“Let Your Mind Be Free”).
“Songwriting is like an open vessel,” Frasco says. “I don’t know where they come from . . . all of a sudden you’re open and someone is speaking to you. It could be your inner soul. But when I just stop over-thinking the meaning of something and let it be, just like with anything else in life, then we’re going to get our point across a little better.”
Frasco mainly sticks to the latest album when playing shorter, opening sets. But Wilmington’s going to hear their whole catalog dating back to 2010’s “Love, You’re Just Too Expensive” this weekend. Frasco and company like to play with crowds’ emotions, too, whether tricking audiences into singing the chorus of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, or committing to a full thrash-metal intro to a fake song. No matter what, they do everything with gusto.
“We have new bits we do and we’re making a new record now,” Frasco adds. “So we kind of test out teasers rather than announce they’re new songs, just in case they suck.”
The forthcoming album is partially produced by Kenny Carkeet (AWolNation) to bring in a lot of pop-rock influences. Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools—a powerful mentor to Frasco—is adding other elements to the mix.
“[Schools was] the one who got me off of drugs,” Frasco details of kicking cocaine. “He got me to start focusing on the music and not just the party shtick. Ever since I’ve been with Dave, it’s been a different philosophy of how to wake up and how to make this a career.”
Frasco wants to break into other markets and hopes the next album focuses on more meaningful lyrics. He’s particularly interested in discussing mental health, anxiety and suicide—things many people in the music industry are all too familiar with. It’s something he often digs into with fellow musicians on “Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast,” too.
“It’s just important to talk about this right now,” he details. “People are committing suicide because they’re afraid to talk to people. This is my chance to try to be that filter to people who are feeling like they’re alone.”
Frasco jokes he’s the unofficial “jam scene therapist,” with guests like Dave Schools, Karl Denson and Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon. Topics run the gamut from relationships to touring to shooting the shit about life. In upcoming episodes, he will chat with musicians, like Mike Cooley from Drive-by-Truckers, Ryan Stasik from Umphrey’s McGee, and multi-instrumentalist Karina Rykman (bassist with Marco Benevento), as well as comedians like Sarah Silverman. Mostly, though, the podcast is just as much for Frasco’s own preservation.
“For me, it’s not just about the music,” he says. “It’s about the message I’m trying to bring to my community, and sometimes people misconstrue it with me fucking pounding beers or smoking weed. I want people to understand that it’s okay to live life and have fun and live fearlessly. But you also gotta take care of your mind.”