Fresh off a fall tour with pop-powerhouses Twenty Øne Pilots, Max Frost has been taking the music world by storm with the release of his debut album, Gold Rush (2018), out now via Atlantic Records. Executive produced by Michael Fitzpatrick (of Fitz and the Tantrums), JR Rotem, and M-Phazes, Gold Rush sees Frost testing the limits of genres, and relaying his current experiences with the musical stylings he grew up with. With its nods to R&B, hip-hop, and a little bit of jazz, Gold Rush is a delightful mix of ten genre-blending songs that stay stuck in your head long after you’ve turned them off.
And on a lovely Friday afternoon— the eve of his North American headlining tour— we sat down with Frost to ask him about both his recent and upcoming tours, the ‘Gold Rush’ writing process, and his recent video for “Money Problems”.
Substream: Hello Max! How has your week been? I know your ‘Gold Rush’ headlining tour starts today in Santa Cruz, so thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today amidst what I can imagine is a pretty hectic schedule.
Max: No problem! It’s been a great week. Just rehearsing for tour, getting back from Germany, getting the “Money Problems” video out— it’s just been a crazy week.
I can imagine. I know you just recently came off a European tour quite literally last week, so are you excited to hit the road again?
Max: I am! It was cool to kind of warm things up, play markets that I’ve played before, see fans that I’ve seen before, and just continue to watch things grow.
I saw on Twitter that you said it was a bit stressful putting this show/tour together: why was that? Was it just logistics, or was it setlist related?
Max: It was a lot of things. I tend to [put] a lot of stuff onto my plate— not just with the show that I do, but generally with my career I’ve [ended up] wearing a lot of hats, and I’ve been in a state of transition constantly in my career, so it’s been, like, every time I get it figured out, everything changes. But that’s the nature of the game, and this is a tough business. But it’s a blast and you usually kind of find a way to knock it out and get it done.
So, speaking of tour, what was it like opening for TOP and touring alongside them? was it unlike anything you’ve done before since their fans are so crazy? what was the energy like for you and did you find yourself feeding off that energy?
Max: It was amazing. For the sake of my nerves, I was lucky that i had already done three arena shows with Panic! at the Disco before. Otherwise, I’m not sure I would’ve held it together. Those guys are just so amazing and their show is so incredible, and their fans are incredible— it was seriously kind of the biggest, most amazing gift I’ve gotten in my whole time of playing live shows or making music, and every day felt like I was dreaming. Up until the last day, I basically just tried to savor every moment and just try to take a picture of it in my mind, because I knew I was going to miss it when it was over. And I still do.
Did you feel any pressure at all to be touring with them?
Max: For sure. When I got the tour, almost part of me was like ‘Really?’ They want me to do that? Now that they’re such a mainstream, famous band, it’s cool to be able to rub shoulders with guys that do it at that big a level. “But still in their own way,” he added.
Do you have any favorite memories from that tour, or any other tours?
Max: It was so cool of them to have me on stage during some of the cover songs. I guess my favorite part of the night, every night, was going on stage with them. Whenever Tyler would start “Hey Jude”, I would sit at the front of Josh’s drum kit and sometimes he’d come down and sit next to me, and we would kind of have this weird silent moment, because when you’re on a stage that big and you take your in-ears out, it’s almost quiet on the stage and you know everyone’s listening. It was kind of this cool, still moment before the storm that would happen most nights. That was kind of hard to forget, especially in Madison Square Garden. It was really, really special.
So, walk me through your debut album: Gold Rush. There seems to be a big R&B/hip-hop but jazz theme across most of the songs. what are some of your influences here?
Max: There’s a whole lot! I really started as a blues player, you know, being form Austin, Texas, there’s a very blues-rock scene there that’s really soaked into my bones. But, I’ve always been obsessed with [bands] like Outkast, and I grew up listening to Eminem and whatever hip-hop i could get my hands on. Growing up in the generation that listened to music through Napster, I very rarely thought of music through /genre/, and [that blurriness on genres has] really come across in the stuff that I make.
Would you say that the theme of Gold Rush had anything to do with your move from Austin to LA?
Max: Definitely. The name is partly inspired by that move, and it was sort of like I was leaving my hometown to go west in search of something different creatively, which I guess kind of modeled the Gold Rush theme, and the more that I dug into that concept, the more songs started connecting to it as well. “New Confessional”, the first song on the album, is kind of telling the story of that moment for me.
In the same thread: How much of your lyrical content is about you and your struggles? Do you feel that you create a character when you write songs, or are they your personal experiences?
Max: I feel like the best stuff that I get is usually pretty direct from me, and I think that in all [the songs] there’s a little bit of truth and a little bit of a lie no matter what you do. I’ve made songs that are from the place of a character and I still do, but I do think that the stuff that comes from an honest place is usually what works the best.
Every single blurb of information about you says that you’re a multi-instrumentalist so I must ask what do you play, and do you play most of your instruments on your albums/EPs?
Max: It depends on the songs, because a lot of these songs were finished while I was on tour, so I didn’t have time to go to a studio and play. Most of the guitar paying I’m doing, a lot of the piano playing, a lot of the bass playing was actually done by a cousin by one of the producers, Mick Schultz. Some songs I was a little more involved with on production [over] others, because a lot of times I would just demo the song, and the stuff would get replayed, and then if it worked out we kept it. But it’s part of the transition with what I’m doing creatively: the more I’ve brought people in as collaborators, the less necessary it has been for me to be so hands-on with playing instruments for production. The multi-instrumental thing really comes into play for me on my live shows, with this one-man-show that I do. It’s like a loop-show-meets-rock-show.
You recently released a music video to go with Money Problems. Why did you choose this song out of all to go with a video for?
Max: It was [one of the] songs that has responded a lot with people, and I played this song and tried it out with the TØP crowd quite a bit, and it really responded, so it just kind of felt like the next song that I really want to focus on sharing with the world.
What was it like filming it?
Max: It was a lot of fun! It was really of cold out there, funny because we’d originally planned on it being a very hot day, and it was like the coldest day of shooting that I’ve ever been on, but everyone was super tough and made it through, and the dancers were amazing. It was my first time doing a video working with any choreography or dances but it really brought out a different confidence in me as a performer that I was really happy with, so I’m happy with how the video turned out.
Max Frost is currently on tour supporting his debut album, Gold Rush. His tour kicks off March 1st in Santa Cruz, and is set to continue through the end of April, ending at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville, Florida. See here for a list of remaining dates, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated if more dates are added. Tickets are currently available here.