Carnivores’ Philip Frobos meets the Rock*A*Teens’ Chris Lopez

The hero meets the worshipper

Carnivores’ bassist/vocalist Philip Frobos has held an obsession with Cabbagetown indie rock legends the Rock*A*Teens since he first heard the 1999 CD Golden Time (Merge) as a teenager. “He’s my Atlanta songwriting hero,” Frobos says. “The fact that I’ve kept that CD close by for so long says a lot about how much of an influence it’s been.” But it was more than the noisy guitars, heartbreak and melodies that hooked Frobos. It was the epic sense of character singer/guitarist Chris Lopez created amid irresistible hooks and aural haze. With the influence of Lopez’s songwriting (in Rock*A*Teens, and later in Tenement Halls) holding an undeniable sway over Carnivores’ cluttered haze, Frobos jumped at the chance to meet his idol and see if the man lives up to the myth.

Philip Frobos: Do you still play music? What’s up with Tenement Halls?

Chris Lopez: I have a son now and I’ve been spending a lot of time with him. But I did just start recording a song for a benefit compilation for a homeless shelter in New York. A guy that I know is putting it together. It’s just me but it’s a Tenement Halls song. That’s kind of the name for everything that I do now.

PF: Do you have an aversion to releasing music under your name?

CL: I do, and I’m not sure why. I prefer to have a moniker, but it’s something that can be used with or without a band. Also, I don’t have a cool name, like Elvis Perkins or anything like that.

PF: Do you still pay attention to the local music scene?

CL: I like to think that I’m staying in touch, but I don’t get out as much as I used to. I remember the first time I heard the Carnivores’ song “A Crime.” It was on WRAS 88.5 and I had to wait through four more songs before the DJ came on and said what it was - but I really had to wait.

PF: Why did the Rock*A*Teens always say they were from Cabbagetown, Ga., not Atlanta?

CL: That’s where we were from. There may have been a little myth-making going on, but we were kind of proud of being apart from anything that had to do with any sort of commercial rock music or the kind of people that were trying to make it in the rock business. It represented independence for us.

PR: Cabbagetown carries a noisy connotation. Was it a conscious decision to craft such a sound?

CL: With Benjamin Smoke it was. And the whole Lowlife magazine and Destroy All Music scenes were going on. There was some crossover between that noisiness and the indie rock. Everyone was listening to old records on stereos that had something wrong with them, and the music just kind of came out sounding like that.

PR: Which one of your albums best represents you? Golden Time?

CL: Gosh, I don’t know. I like Golden Time a lot, but mostly I just sort of cringe and hang my head in shame and think about everything that’s wrong with them. Each one was made in a state of slight panic. I was never prepared, the band was never prepared, we hadn’t rehearsed when we went into the studio.

PR: Are you surprised that people still get excited about your music?

CL: Yeah, it totally blows my mind. It’s a cool thing and I don’t know what to say about it, but it’s a real cool feeling. Me being into music and records and playing in bands, to think that I have made records that have affected people the same way that I’ve been affected by records is better than a pile of cash on the table.

PR: Will the Rock*A*Teens ever play another show?

CL: Logistically, it would be hard to pull off. I haven’t talked with most of those guys in a long time ... . If it would help someone to get our crappy old rock band back together, then yeah, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.