Frodus Conglomerate International
The A.V. Club talks with FCI's top men
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Eleven years ago, local spazz-core pioneers Frodus released Conglomerate International, a blistering post-hardcore album with its crosshairs aimed at corporate America. The greedy nature of capitalism, the album warned, was not sustainable—and, if left unchecked, would eventually lead to self-destruction. America didn’t listen, Frodus disbanded the following year (posthumously releasing its swan song, And We Washed Our Weapons In The Sea, in 2001), and—less than a decade later—the economy collapsed. Now armed with a new, special edition re-issue of its prophetic 1998 album, the recently reunited band has emerged as Frodus Conglomerate International—a multifaceted corporation dedicated to waging an aural war against corporate greed (or, at least, a rock band that fancies itself as such). Prior to tonight’s performance at The Black Cat, The A.V. Club spoke with top executives Shelby Cinca and Jason Hamacher about getting bailed out by the government, the company’s stock profile, and the many things you can do with a decorative patch.
The A.V. Club: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Could you please tell me your positions within Frodus Conglomerate International?
Shelby Cinca: Media arbitration. And acquisitions.
Jason Hamacher: I’m more on the management side. If there is a consumer, banker, or investor who has an issue with something we’ve done as a conglomerate—or say, something that Citibank has done—they will be routed to my assistant. My assistant will take the call, and I will deem whether or not … uh, how to address their issues.
AVC: How is the stock of Frodus Conglomerate International faring in this economic depression?
SC: Well, fortunately we were bailed out by Ben Bernanke and TARP. So our stocks are okay. They’re volatile, but, you know, they’re functioning.
JH: You also have to approach the portfolio. There are a lot of minor stocks in technology companies and emerging markets that some people might not know to invest in. And those are actually really strong. Nanotechnologies. The microprocessor—people love to process small things.
SC: Sweden, in particular, likes small things—smaller portions when it comes to ice cream and food items. So it’s going great over there.
AVC: When Conglomerate International was first released in 1998, it was received as an album about unchecked capitalism and corporate greed. Was it actually a warning of the massive financial collapse to come?
SC: It was a reflection on the 1990s, when people were buying a lot of SUVs, and people were excited about franchise opportunities and corporate entities such as Starbucks. The homogenization of culture.
JH: It was about the process that lead to the collapse. We saw where things were going.
AVC: Why do you think people didn’t heed this warning?
JH: That record was released at a time when you had, like, an Angel Hair and Heroin crowd, and then the emerging Jimmy Eat World and Promise Ring—and, on a more commercial side, Green Day—crowd. So, it’s like, “Where does the Conglomerate’s message fit in?” Apparently it was in a basement to seven people.
AVC: Perhaps the masses were not ready to get economic advice from the post-hardcore music community?
SC: Probably not. They would have been if our strategy to label ourselves and create a sub-genre of “spazz-core”—as we attempted in early Lovitt Records ads in the ’90s—had functioned. But it never picked up. People like three-letter words like “emo” and…uh, “cat” and “dog.” Since spazz-core was more than three letters, I think it was too long for the attention span.
AVC: Given the undeniable accuracy of your economic warnings, what do your foresee for the economy in the future?
JH: That is a fantastic question, and we’re very happy you asked it. We’ve actually been contracted to release a new piece of inspirational merchandise back into the economy. So we will have a 7-inch record that was just recorded and mixed in the hopes of stimulating the economy.
AVC: On your website, you tell consumers that purchasing a copy of the Conglomerate International LP re-issue is an investment in the future. What kind of returns do you think people can expect with this investment?
SC: It’s a good investment because, essentially, it’s a cultural artifact that could be sold to alien civilizations in the future—especially considering that it’s vinyl and there is form to play it, such as the record player on the Voyager spacecrafts. Compact discs? They’ll be seen as strange mirrors. But an analog record, and this particular one, is a good investment.
JH: And it comes with a patch. So if you’re an extreme sports enthusiast and you’re wearing sunglasses all the time and you realize your parachute is ripped, you can use the patch to either a) fix your parachute, b) fix your parachute pants, or c) fix something else.
AVC: What other value can potential investors find in the Conglomerate International re-issue?
SC: It comes with a Diners Club International/Frodus Corporate card, which allows you to download exclusive items. And it comes with the lyrics in the form of a contract, which you can sign and send in to us to become part of the Frodus conglomerate.
AVC: The re-issue is a limited edition of 600 copies. Will there be a second printing in the future?
JH: At the end of 600, it gets bumped up to Universal Records, and then they will complimentarily erase the tapes for us.
SC: And they will complimentarily destroy all copies. And take our publishing rights.
JH: Yeah, after we sell all 600 LPs, we lose the rights to everything we’ve ever done, compliments of the record industry.
SC: I’d like it to stay a limited item. Because more than 600 makes the value of each individual record go down.
AVC: In that case, you might have some pissed-off stockholders.
JH: Well, the original pressing of the record, there was 1,000—maybe 1,500?—of just the vinyl. Then we’ve got the 600 re-release copies. And at the end, we’re going to leave it up to the supply and demand charts. Basically, we will assess what the public needs at that time. And then we’ll have to discuss that with headquarters.
SC: And with Mr. Bernanke. He’s a golf buddy. He was golfing with us one day and he said, “You know, you guys need to be doing things again, because I don’t really know what I’m doing. I don’t know what’s going on.” And there’s a bunch of these corporate types and banking types putting some pressure on him. He felt a little stressed, so he slipped us a couple of fivers and that was it.
JH: Basically, I was in the sand pit with my boy and I was like, “You know what? You could use a decorative patch for your pants. I noticed your trousers are ripped.” And he was like “That is a fantastic idea. Why don’t we print some patches, put them in a limited edition LP, stimulate the economy, and see what happens?”