Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Goodbye Charlemagne. Together we discussed their failures, their influences, releasing 4 albums this year, their upcoming “The Sensational Debut”, and so much more!

1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?

I’m doing well, thank you for asking. 

2. You are a self-described failed comedian and failing musician. Who has determined this?

Well, Mustard, that was mostly determined by myself and my rather lackluster “career” in stand up comedy. I spent basically the entire decade of my 20s working on comedy here in New York City and had some good momentum for a while and even got to write for some cool people and perform on some cool shows, but never really found any material success before the pandemic hit. So during lock-down I kind of accepted that comedy was over, and during that time it was truly over for everyone. That’s when I went back to music, which was my main creative obsession before comedy took over. It’s been a lot of fun and incredibly fulfilling and since I haven’t failed yet I consider myself merely failing.

3. Who are some of your favorite comedians? How have they influenced you musically? If you could collaborate with any comedian on a song, who would it be and why?

My favorite comedian of all time is Maria Bamford, I even wrote a song about her called “My Mount Rushmore of Comedy is Maria Bamford and Her Dogs“, which was also kind of about how many of my other comedy heroes have kind of turned out to not be the greatest people (Bill Cosby, for example). Right now I really love John Mulaney and Nate Bargatze, both of whom have new hours of comedy that are out or about to come out. More than any other comedian though I think I have to give credit to Weird Al Yankovic. My favorite songs of his are the ones that just parody a genre rather than a specific song. He just dials into the specific tropes of a Brian Wilson song, like on Pancreas, or a ska song, like on That’s Your Horoscope for Today. I like to write songs in different genres and have a very Weird Al style approach  where I try to get the gist of a genre. On my upcoming album I wrote 10 songs in the style of 60s garage rock and boiled the genre down to certain sounds like heavy reverb, trebly guitar solos, and lyrics about cars or girls or high school or whatever. I would love to collaborate with Kyle Kinane though and do like an 80s metal album with him screaming like Lemmy.

4. What’s the deal with?

Mustard, I’m so glad you asked. This is the question of all questions. If I knew the answer I would still be a failing comedian instead of a failed comedian.

5. What is Goodbye Charlemagne’s creative process?

So this year I set the goal for myself to write and record 4 albums in 4 unique genres, which is a heavy endeavor. As a result I had to think about an actual process, not just write a song when it came to me or record when I felt like it. I started by deciding on a genre. Like I said, my upcoming album is all 60s garage rock, the next one that I’m working on now is going to be 70s disco. I usually like to start with the lyrics first, even if the melodies change (which they usually do because I forget the melody I had in mind initially or while I’m recording I realize I put too many syllables into a line). I apply my comedy background to my songwriting and think of each song almost like a sketch (I used to write sketch comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade up until the pandemic shut the theatre down). At UCB they teach you about “game” where you have one unusual thing in the sketch and each “beat” of the sketch has jokes that revolve around that one basic premise. It’s not the only way to write a sketch but it’s a helpful framework to keep your scripts tight. I do the same thing in songs where each verse is like the beat of a sketch exploring the one central idea that is usually reiterated in the chorus. I also like to think about my musical projects as full albums so while I’m writing I’ll try to think of a track order or cool ways to connect the songs so that it feels like one coherent listening experience. Once I have the individual songs done I spend several days messing with levels and listening to the full album start to finish on headphones, in my car, on my phone, etc to find out what sounds good or bad depending on how I’m listening.

6. Who (or what) influences Goodbye Charlemagne?

I really love artists whose sound changes drastically from album to album. Sparks and Frank Zappa come to mind for sure. I also really love song writers who can write very unserious lyrics, like Warren Zevon or Randy Newman. When I’m working on a song in a specific genre I’ll dig deeper into that genre to try and better understand it, so for this garage rock album I got really into The Fugs and The Sonics. Now I’m starting this disco project and can already tell that Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” album is going to be a huge influence on the final project.

7. Would you say humans are still living within a post-pandemic summer? Why are humans afraid to accept the reality around them?

You know I wonder how long it took things to “go back to normal” after the 1918 spanish flu. I have a song called Post Pandemic Summer that I wrote after the vaccines rolled out and noticed that everyone was very quick to just pretend lockdowns and death didn’t just happen. I think we’re still in that denial phase and we, meaning the people currently alive who went through it, probably will always be in denial because of the absolute traumatic experience it was. It’ll be interesting to see how future generations talk about the pandemic, or if it’ll just sort of vanish into history like the spanish flu.

8. What makes a human kid cool or lame? How does Goodbye Charlemagne define cool and lame?

My song “Cool Kids/Lame Kids” is about this very thing, Mustard! I’m in my mid-30s so a lot of my friends have kids and I’ve noticed that the people who REALLY want you to have kids have the absolute lamest kids. Like they’re little terrors who throw rocks at your car or get real close just to sneeze in your mouth. Real lame. Parents with cool kids who are like reading a few years ahead of their grade level or have a dope Lego collection must know that they won the lottery and are trying to keep that secret to themselves!

9. F Ska Fitzgerald is tasked to host an event with other authors. Who does F Ska Fitzgerald invite to the party?

Fyodor DostoevSKA and William SKAulkner for sure

10. Goodbye Charlemagne tasked themselves to write and release four albums this year. What inspired this challenge? Could you share with us your progress?

I don’t know what made me think this was a good idea but it definitely comes from how I used to write new comedy material. Sometimes you just have to write through the writers block because you need to have three new sketches ready by Monday night, or you need a new 5 minutes because everyone in town has already heard all your jokes. When I first started doing comedy I was writing 30 minutes of (mostly bad) jokes every week to test out at the one open mic that I could get to in my small New Hampshire scene.  I think after releasing “I’ll Leave You With This” back in December, which is a concept album about the decade I spent pursuing comedy, I just really felt the need to keep writing and recording and had gotten into the same mode I was in when doing comedy where I just wanted to constantly be writing new stuff. I started writing the garage album after the holidays and ended up writing 8 new songs and re-recording two older songs that I thought fit the genre within just a few weeks, so that album, “The Sensational Debut”, will be out the first week of March. I knew that the 70s disco album would be the most challenging from a production standpoint because there’s just so much going on in those records that are mixed for like a Studio 54 party, I knew I was going to need as much time as possible to figure out the sound. I have lyrics to maybe 6 or 7 songs right now and hoping to have the project finished and released by the end of June. As for albums 3 and 4, which will be 80s synthwave and 90s alt rock respectively, I have nothing written or even planned yet. But that’s a Fall and Winter problem.

11. Could you share with us more about your upcoming album “The Sensational Debut?”

Yes, this is the garage rock album that I wrote and recorded in January. I tried to think about how garage rock was made in the 60s, in a literal garage or a studio with very few mics, and went for a very unified sound from track to track almost like it was one real band playing in a room. It’s not a real band, it’s just me using the magic of modern day recording technology, but I dialed in reverb sounds, recorded vocals and harmonica from various locations in my bedroom to give it more space, and mixed things down in mono in a way that definitely sounds the way those classic garage albums sounded. The album is available for pre-order on Bandcamp, where you can currently hear a couple of the songs, and will be on all the streaming platforms the first week of March 2023. There’s a song on there about monkeys that I’m really proud of.

12. Humans sometimes say “I’m just joking” when confronted. What is the context of this quote in your latest song?

I’m Just Joking” is the opening track on “The Sensational Debut”. It was just a phrase that popped into my head when I was playing a little riff on my guitar and it turned into a chorus. The rest of the song is about how I’m just goofing around making silly little sounds and I hope you all like them because I know they’re silly and want you to think they’re silly too. My previous album, “I’ll Leave You With This”, was about my decade in comedy but the lyrics were so much more serious than I typically like to write, mostly because I experienced a lot of really serious stuff within the comedy scene such as heroes becoming villains, friends becoming right wing grifters, and sadly far too many cases of assault. After writing songs that helped me sort of process all of those thoughts and feelings I wanted to do something that was just plain fun and “I’m Just Joking” was the exact tonic I needed.

13. Where can readers listen to your music?

I’m on Bandcamp and Spotify as Goodbye Charlemagne. I’m probably “Goodbye Charlemagne” everywhere for the most part, except for Apple Music/iTunes because for whatever reason they wouldn’t let me change my name on my artist profile despite multiple requests to do so, so if you’re an Apple Music user you can find my music under my real name, Kevin Froleiks. Also I’m on Twitter and Instagram as “@KevinFroleiks” because Goodbye Charlemange has too many letters in it and I don’t understand how branding works..which is probably why I don’t do things in one consistent genre.


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