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Cold Fronts: Back to Basics.

May 29, 2012

Text by Caroline Newton. Images by Rick Kauffman.

Craig Almquist is 20 minutes late. When he finally arrives, he frantically jumps out of his car and offers to buy drinks or snacks as an apology for his tardiness.

He’s the vocalist for Cold Fronts, an old-school rock band that makes infectious, danceable songs. He’s a recent college grad but his future, he says, is in making music, not sitting at an office desk.

“I feel a little crazy,” he admits. “I feel like to make it in the music industry is like playing the lottery. But I have every intention of making Cold Fronts a career.”

All the members – Almquist, guitarist Shaky Jake, Jake’s brother Dylan Hammill on bass and drummer Alex Smith – grew up in South Central Pennsylvania. Shaky Jake and Almquist were rivals in high school.

“I went to a battle of the bands show, watched Craig win and thought I could certainly do better,” Shaky Jake says. “I started a band with my brother and we beat Craig the following year.”

The pair tried collaborating on projects and tried to be friends but it didn’t work out. They even dated the same girls for a while, which made things worse.

“We were actually kind of like enemies at one point,” Almquist says.

Almquist and Shaky Jake both found themselves living in New York at the same time, their lives drifting together by their common love for music. The two met up and began writing songs, realizing they now work well together. They picked up Smith and Hammill in 2011 and have been recording and performing ever since.

“We always call it ‘four-car garage rock’,” Almquist says with a laugh, describing their sound. “Or ‘riff rock’ because of the guitar riffs in it.”

Cold Fronts doesn’t use loops and they don’t stand in front of Macbooks while performing.

“It’s so easy to take a laptop on stage and play to a track,” says Shaky Jake. “I support electronic artists who create new sounds and push the boundaries of music but I can’t agree with a rock band using electronics to supply a bigger sound or fill in drum loops. It’s all possible with live musicians if you take the time to work out all the parts.”

Cold Fronts have an early 2000s Strokes-like sound, which is rooted in 70s New York punk.

“I’d love to see more bands get back to the basics of what made rock and roll so appealing to begin with,” Shaky Jake continues. “It was more about attitude and less about popularity. Fuck ’em.”

Rowdy kids from all over Philly have come to see Cold Fronts play at various venues and in their own garage, The Rathaus in West Philly. Last year, if you asked Almquist what are his favorite kinds of shows to play, he would’ve said basement shows. But after chipping a tooth, getting shocked and having gear stolen, basements have lost their appeal.

Plus, Cold Fronts spent the winter touring with mewithoutYou in larger, cleaner venues. For the first time, the one-year old band experienced life on the road, performing and selling CD’s to people they’ve never met.

“We checked into a hotel (in Kalamazoo, Michigan),” Almquist  recalls. “The guy pretty much just said ‘I don’t care what you guys do. You guys can get drunk. You guys can get stoned. Just please don’t cook meth.’ It was the first time I’d been accused of potentially cooking meth! And he’s like, ‘Seriously, this place will burn down.’”

They played at SXSW and recorded in The Stroke’s old studio. Then they came home to Philly.

“I love Philadelphia, but sometimes I hate Philadelphia,” Almquist says. “I feel like if I lived somewhere in New York, I would just love it and I would have no inspiration.”

2 Comments
  1. May 29, 2012 7:57 pm

    These guys RAWK, Their drummer once poured a PRB down my throat.

  2. June 4, 2012 1:56 pm

    It’s very much like N.W.A. both guys are from South Central, both rivals are cool dudes-Craig is Dr.Dre and Shaky Jake is Eazy E (RIP)…This band really does rock and I agree that Macbooks should not be used by rock bands unless they are skyping the show so hot chicks can see you play live. Then it is ok.

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