Rock

Aaron Frazer: It Was 'Surreal' Working With Black Keys' Dan Auerbach for Solo Debut

Aaron Frazer
Alysse Gafkjen

Aaron Frazer

Dan Auerbach says working with Frazer’s falsetto voice opened up “a whole new world. It's so unique and so singular.”

On Friday (Jan. 8), drummer and singer Aaron Frazer has released his first solo album, Introducing…, after two records with soul group Durand Jones & The Indications and a handful of singles under the moniker The Flying Stars of Brooklyn. Frazer hadn’t planned on releasing a full-length solo LP until he received a call from Dan Auerbach, the Black Keys frontman and founder of Easy Eye Sound label, who offered to produce a solo project for Frazer.

Frazer was frying up some plantains in his Brooklyn home one night in 2019 when his manager patched through a call from Auerbach, who had seen a rendition of Indication’s hit “Is It Any Wonder?,” a track that vibrantly showcases Frazer’s falsetto voice. “On one hand, because I'm a fan that felt very surreal,” says Frazer of Auerbach’s call. “But on the other hand, we had had so many weird parallels in our musical journeys.”

For instance, when he was younger Auerbach drove down to Mississippi from his hometown of Akron, Ohio to see T Model Ford perform; Frazer went on to play with the group years later. Auerbach’s father also went to see Frazer play in another group and, after their initial call, the two bonded quickly over out-of-print soul 45 records and gospel music.

“We were really speaking the same language,” Auerbach tells Billboard. Until the two met up in Nashville to write songs in late 2019, Frazer says the majority of their contact was through sharing music links.

“There's so many people out there who love music, who I'm sure have had conversations like this, where it's just like song, song, song, song,” says Frazer. “The beautiful thing about music is that so many of these songs are in conversation with other songs. It's all part of this weird, wordless dialogue.”

The resulting album is a 12-track romp into the psyche of two music lovers influenced by soul, gospel, hip-hop and rock, topped off with Frazer’s mesmerizing falsetto. On standout tracks “Have Mercy” (Auerbach’s favorite) and “Leanin’ On Your Everlasting Love,” it’s hard not to be entranced by the high range that first caught Auerbach’s attention.

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“I've never worked with a falsetto record just top to bottom,” says Auerbach. “It opens you up to a whole new world. It's so unique and so singular, especially now in this day and age. I think it can really transfix people -- really cut through all the mess. That frequency is so rare.”

“I think it's how I feel most myself vocally, which is kind of funny, cause it's false. I mean, false is literally in there,” says Frazer of the range he discovered while recording the first Indications record. “I remember listening back to it, and for the first time not having that nails-on-the-chalkboard, cognitive dissonance of hearing your own voice. It feels like an authentic expression of myself and my voice, so I knew I wanted to put that front and center.”

Frazer says that he’s been hard at work putting together new music for the next Durand Jones & The Indications record, which he believes they’ll be recording this winter, but he enjoyed having the flexibility to work on his solo material in between. He’s aware that most of today’s music listeners aren’t consuming full albums at a time and experiencing more music through singles and playlists, which means they’re hearing a different tambour every three to four minutes. So Frazer took on the challenge of creating that variance within Introducing… by transitioning to his chest voice to bring it down low, adding hip-hop sensibilities to his phrasing while also mixing in the traditional sounds he’s known for.

“Having the space to do a solo record felt like an opportunity rather than a feeling of pressure for like, 'Oh, people know me for the slow jams,'” says Frazer. “It's like when you get a free play on pinball and are just kinda like, ‘f--- it. Just let her rip.’”