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The rise and fall of the accidental front man

Bullfrog clears things up on new EP

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Who: Bullfrog with Kia Kadiri & Mat the Alien

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Monday, June 28

Tickets: $12

Bullfrog’s Mark Robertson makes a rather reluctant frontman – just the type you might expect from a lo-fi basement-funk slacker-jazz collective.

But if there’s any doubt regarding his status, check out the name of the band’s brand new independent EP : Robertson, A Deeper Shade of Green, Music By Bullfrog . It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

This album is more "melancholic, more of a singer-songwriter album," describes Robertson. "It’s the third EP of Bullfrog, but in the same sense it’s the first Robertson EP."

The whole thing seems more than a little bizarre. Most bands try to minimize frontman syndrome in the name of group harmony and would likely break up rather than allow a member to attach such blatant ownership to an album title.

But Montreal-based Bullfrog is different. Not every group roster contains an eclectic, scratch-happy turntablist with meteoric international popularity as a solo DJ artist.

Promoting Robertson, then, has been a deliberate move at demoting Bullfrog’s accidental front man Eric San, a.k.a. DJ Kid Koala.

San’s loopy creativity will always be an essential element of the band he started back in 1994 with Robertson and bass player/drummer Peter Santiago. But Kid Koala’s nebular DJ profile, gained through Ninjatune releases Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Some of My Best Friends Are DJs has also been a mixed blessing, says Robertson, helping Bullfrog’s profile grow while at the same time overshadowing its work.

Koala’s fame has trickled down, allowing Bullfrog to encounter artists like Money Mark, Radiohead and even surf-folkie Jack Johnson, and sell albums all over the world while remaining independent.

"The problem," says Robertson, "is some people come to see Bullfrog looking for a Kid Koala show."

In a sense, previous recordings have encouraged that synergy – snappy, quirky projects that dip their toes into all sorts of jazz, funk and hip-hop pools.

The new album will attempt to lengthen their fans’ attention spans.

"We wanted to make a recording where you put it on and you kept the mood," says Robertson. "As much as I love hip-hop, and all kinds of music, we wanted to have something that you play from top to bottom and have it keep the same colour.

"We all have this common love – me Peter Santiago and Eric San – of pop music," he adds. "Eric influences me a lot. He’s the first person I play my songs to and he’s been the most encouraging artist that I work with. Eric listens to a lot of records. He has this producer’s ear... I’m pretty much the songwriter. It sounds corny, but we complete each other that way. And it’s been 10 years. After all those years we know where each other’s talents lie."

While their hyperactive sound might be growing up and taking its Ritalin, fans of Bullfrog can rest assured they haven’t completely matured. The humour is still there, as are the production quirks and quarks expected when creative minds get together to record in their basement.

"We kept some mistakes that had charm," confirms Robertson. "Bullfrog’s not out to make perfect music; we want to make music that has a human touch, you know?"

Bullfrog is taking a sojourn from their cross-country Tour de Jazz Festivals to play Garfinkel’s this Monday night. Vancouver hip-hop spitfire Kia Kadiri and extra-terrestrial turntable master Mat the Alien will set the night in motion. Tickets are $12 available in advance from The Circle and The Electric Daisy Internet Cafe.

For more information go to www.mountainpromotions.net.

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