14 June 2007

FRANK JORDAN + PARK THE VAN




L-R: Devin Hurley, Mike Visser, Matt Ontjes | Photo by Marc Kallweit

Years before Park the Van Records existed I was introduced to a band called Frank Jordan. The three members of Frank Jordan (note: a band, not a man) remain as some of the greatest friends I will ever have, and truth be told, our history set the foundation for the label that I would start years down the line.

It started when I was living in Huntington Beach, CA in the late 90’s. A band that my company was working with was about to tour Europe with the Skatalites, and they were inbetween bass players at the time. Frank Jordan’s singer/principle songwriter (Mike Visser) signed up to play bass for the tour. I think his then-girlfriend was living in Germany. Before they left for tour, Mike handed me a copy of Decoy, a recently recorded Frank Jordan album, and this really changed everything for me.

Instantly I became a Frank Jordan fan. They were from Sacramento, about a half hour from Vacaville, CA where I was born and raised. I found myself booking Southern California shows for Frank Jordan as much as possible. They were explosive! As a three piece band they were the most entertaining and ballistic live band I could relate to. Most of the time they would end their set with a 5 to 10 minute long instrumental that would warp acid country music and late 70’s British Prog-Rock. It wasn’t what I was necessarily interested in, but it was undeniable. It always impressed.

My love for this band grew from a fan to a friend to an unofficial fourth member. I started booking small road trips throughout California and Arizona. Before I knew it, I was a self appointed booking agent, tour manager, and manager. The first tour was 8 weeks, followed by non-stop tours of 4-6 weeks for the next 3 years. We hit nearly every state in continental US. Without legal documentation we were all family. I could toil endlessly on this blog about everything we experienced—it was fucking crazy. It was these years that have really defined who I think I have become.

Frank Jordan never really gained the attention that I had always hoped. Looking back on it, part of me feels like it could be attributed to songs they wrote, multi-layered and dynamic songs, but not necessarily indie rock hits, and mostly because they were decorated with deeply personal and sometimes cryptic lyrics. Their skill was never in question, and their live show was always the most suitable way to be introduced to their style.

By 2004, their fan base was rapidly multiplying; the non-stop touring allowed Frank Jordan underground notoriety. We had licensed records to foreign territories, begun planning some international touring, performed with bands such as Grandaddy, Jimmy Eat World, Hella, the Paperchase, Mike Watt, Jason Lowenstein… and it was time to record the bands defining album. With help of Eddie Ashworth, whom Co-Produced/Engineered the bands last album Milk the Thrills, the band would record in Athens, OH. An album to be engineered by students at Ohio University under the guidance of Mr. Ashworth. Once again, Co-Produced by Eddie and Frank Jordan.

While the band did actually record this album, it was never finished. It was an incredibly difficult time for the three members of Frank Jordan. Personal debts had caught up with the band, all the hard work had yet to pay off. It wasn’t as easy to be optimistic anymore.
In the midst of this production, singer Mike Visser & Matt Ontjes inadvertently drove their 2001 Ford Econoline off a mountain road and into the brush. The van rolled several times and the band barely escaped alive. Pressure, emotions, and debt all stacked up. The band dissolved as they left the studio with an album unmixed. Frank Jordan died.

Reflecting back on the past… it was during one of Frank Jordan’s many cross country expeditions that we met the band that would one day become Dr. Dog, called Raccoon. We met the band (Andrew Jones, Rory Connell, Scott McMicken, and Toby Leaman) in Nebraska and immediately became friends. They were perhaps the greatest dudes we had met on tour. Their existence at the time paralleled Frank Jordan’s. It was easy to understand what made them as excited to be doing what we all doing. So we kept in touch. Eventually Raccoon quit performing, and Scott and Toby pulled Dr. Dog out of obscurity.

The first time Frank Jordan performed with Dr. Dog was the beginning of my idea to start a new label. Right after Dr. Dog’s set, Mike Visser phoned me to tell me he had just seen the greatest live band in the world. I was label managing Devil in the Woods records when this happened. I was living in New Orleans. I got in touch with Andrew Jones and requested a Dr. Dog cd. The moment I heard it I knew that this was time for a fresh start for everyone, and within several months, a new label was born.

The reason I’ve decided to tell you all of this is because I don’t want people to forget about Frank Jordan. I guess the appropriate thing to say would be, “I want you to know about Frank Jordan”. Most recently I’ve been in touch with Eddie Ashworth who is producing a record for a future Park the Van release from the Peekers. With the members of Frank Jordan advising, Eddie has mixed the entire “lost” Frank Jordan album, now titled OHIO. The album sounds better in 2007 than it did in 2004. By and large I think it’s much different compared to the Park the Van records I am used to. I hope you’ll love it as much as I am.



On July 14th Frank Jordan will play their first show in three years. Chances are, this is the last Frank Jordan show ever. To help make this night as special as it could be, both Dr. Dog and the Teeth will be performing with the band. The show takes place in Frank Jordan’s hometown of Sacramento, CA at Marilyn’s on K. We’re making 300 copies of this last Frank Jordan album too, which I can’t say enough about. It’s such a great rock record. Check out the song “Guessless”, which contains one of my favorite FJ lyrics of all time… “you love to say that I is the only word I know/but you’re only happy when I’m catering my U”.

Thanks for reading.
Chris from PTV

"Guessless" from Ohio: FJ_Guessless.mp3
For more information visit: http://www.myspace.com/frankjordan

4 comments:

sarawithnoh said...

What a very sad ending for my all time favorite band. Jeez, Chris, you almost made me cry. I will certainly never forget Frank Jordan...not only because of their great music, but because they are some of the most genuinely nice people I've met. If plane tickets weren't so damn much, I'd be in Sacto for sure. I will miss you guys and I can't wait to hear OHIO.

Love,
Sara in Chicago

Chris said...

I've already told you this, but I am truly, truly bummed that I can't make it out.

Feels like just yesterday when there was seemingly always another FJ show coming around in Austin.

Stephen said...

Agreed. All of the FJ albums are in constant rotation around here. I only got to see them one time, at One Eyed Jack's in New Orleans, but I always tell everyone it was the best rock show I have ever seen.

The new album will be amazing, especially since I wasn't expecting to hear anything from these guys again, but I wish it wasn't the end.

Jay said...

I have seen a lot of live shows over the years. Not one band has ever compared to the energy and awe-inspiring performance of Frank Jordan (Dr. Dog comes close). I lived in Sacramento for four years and they are how I describe the Sacramento sound to my friends about my experiences out there.

I regret not spending the money to come out and see the last show, but hopefully I can help spread the word over the airwaves.

Cheers,
Jay L.
Former RANT writer, current WUTK Music Direcor & FJ uber fan.