Hunter, New York. June 18, 2017. It was the third and final day of the Mountain Jam music festival. My friends and I were camped out in front of the big stage waiting for Steve Miller Band to come on. We were all getting pretty tired of waiting when a man with a microphone walked up onto the side stage to demand our attention. The announcer told us that there was some type of delay, but that they were going to bring up another band to fill the time. And that, my friends, is how I discovered the lovely Andy Frasco and his band, the UN.
The group started when Frasco grew tired of working on the business side of the music industry. Unlike a lot of people who try their hand at becoming a performer before resorting to bureaucratic work, Frasco did the complete opposite. He started working at the independent California-based Drive-Thru Records in high school before eventually moving on to the powerhouse Capitol Records where he booked music venues in and around Los Angeles. It was at this point, at the ripe old age of 18 in 2007, when he decided that he wanted to be the one entertaining people. He taught himself piano, formed a band, and the next thing he knew, he was on the road touring as a real-life musician.
Flashforward 13 years. It’s April 2020. COVID-19 is literally the only thing anyone talks about, and the world seems to have stopped. Just about everything is closed down, and music is no exception. While I personally feel that music could be considered an essential service, there’s no safe way to put on live shows for the time being. As a result, Andy Frasco, along with just about every other musician in the world, has had to find other ways to entertain fans, make money, and like the rest of us, keep himself from going absolutely fucking insane.
Being the head of a college radio station during a time when our broadcast ceases to exist, I figured now would be a better time than ever to reach out to my favorite artist of the last three years and get his take on things. Andy was more than happy to hop on the now-famous Zoom Conferencing app for a chat, in which we discussed everything from quarantine to Eric Andre’s nudes to the band’s new album, Keep On Keepin’ On. Between listening to the UN’s new LP and talking to the frontman personally, I saw a lot of similarities. Andy seemed to be genuine in his message throughout the album and never could that message be more meaningful to the masses than right now during this global pandemic.
Before we get to the new album, I want to talk about the group’s work ethic. It’s no secret that we live in a world of streaming. As a result, the way artists make money has changed drastically. Bands no longer go on tour to support their new album. They go on tour to put food on their tables. “It’s that age of blue-collar musicians again,” Andy told me. “We gotta go out there and do the dirty work [ourselves].” With streaming platforms paying fractions of a cent per play, it’s hard to make a living solely on putting out an album unless you’re Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift. The strategy, according to Andy, that most musicians in 2020 have to take is to “build your fans grassrootly until you get that smash hit that takes you over the edge.”
Still looking for that “smash hit,” Andy and the UN have been grinding for over a decade. “We still do 250 shows a year. 45 states [and] 10 countries,” he told me. For a band that’s been together that long, being on tour for a majority of the year like that requires a certain level of determination and sacrifice that would scare away most other groups. The 32-year-old frontman, however, seems unphased by the back-breaking schedule he and his band take on year after year. When I asked him how he deals with such a grueling touring schedule, Andy cited the words of legendary Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. “I love what you’re doing,” the five-time Grammy winner told Andy back-stage at a show. “Keep doing it. You’re young. Don’t let anyone tell you not to do it.” In such a cutthroat industry, it’s easy for artists to quit or get down on themselves. Whenever Andy doubts himself, though, he just remembers that he has one of rock and roll’s biggest superstars as a fan.
As we continued to speak, I couldn’t help but think of another star-caliber celebrity. Andy was donning the jersey of the late great Kobe Bryant, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash just over two months ago. It’s a jersey he frequently wears both on-stage and on Instagram. Andy, an LA native, has always looked up to the Laker and his drive to be the best. “He was the first one in the gym, last one in the gym,” Andy told me when asked how Kobe affected his work-ethic in such a dog-eat-dog industry. “If competitiveness makes you better and not makes you bitter, then I’m totally for it.”
Being the ambitious, fun-loving guy he is, I figured this long period of isolation would have slowed Andy down. While he admits it has been depressing at times, he has kept himself extremely busy, writing music, making Cameos, and creating lip-syncing parodies of songs with his other musical friends. Their COVID-19-themed version of the Beatles’ “Let it Be” can be found here. On a more regular basis, Andy has created a talk show every Thursday on FaceBook Live called the World-Saving ShitShow. Describing it, he said, “I do a live-stream, play some music, do some dick jokes, sing some songs, make some videos. It’s kinda like SNL for my scene.” The show is an offshoot of his World Saving Podcast, and is intended to entertain his fans while they’re stuck at home concertless.
Aside from all his side-hustles, Andy and his band have a lot to be excited for with Keep On Keepin’ On dropping on April 24 (yes, less than 24 hours from now). The album comes just over a year after their last LP, Change of Pace, and continues in the direction of maturity and self-reflection. “I gotta do more than just party music,” he told me. “I started writing lyrics and focusing on how to tell a story through songwriting. Change of Pace helped and now this new record Keep On Keepin’ On is even more developed.” I’ve had the pleasure of listening to the entire record, which was produced by Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools and former AWOLNATION member Kenny Carkeet. I must say, I agree with Andy. While I love all his old party tunes like “Smoking Dope n Rock n Roll” and “Blame It on the Pussy,” Keep On Keepin’ On contains overarching themes of soul-searching and finding out who you really are that align perfectly with the narrative that isolation forces on us.
Make sure to support your favorite musicians during these crazy times because, like I said earlier, many of them make a majority of their income from live performances, which are shut down for the foreseeable future. They are all doing live streams and videos for free, but many of them post their Venmos and PayPals for fans to send them virtual tips. Another great site that Andy’s a fan of is Cameo, which allows you to pay your favorite celebrities in exchange for a personalized pump-up video. Do these things, buy their merch, and please, please, please for the love of John Lennon, stream! You can listen to Andy Frasco & the UN’s new album Keep On Keepin’ On on all streaming platforms tomorrow, April 24. Pay special attention to my personal favorite “Good Man” as well as Andy’s favorite “Animals.”