Bloomington, Indiana, is perhaps best known for college basketball and being the setting of the 1979 cycling movie Breaking Away. It's not known as a hotbed for garage rock, but that's somehow where Frankie & the Witch Fingers got their start.
Dylan Sizemore and Josh Menashe were both students at Indiana University Bloomington when they stumbled upon their creative partnership.
"Dylan was in this band called Dead Beach," Menashe tells New Times. "He was writing too many songs that were overflowing. One day, he showed up unannounced at my house and asked if I wanted to jam."
The pair found the collaboration process effortless and named themselves after Dylan's black cat, Frankie, and tacked on Witch Fingers at the end because they just thought it sounded cool.
"The scene in Indiana was cool, but it was small," Menashe says. "In Los Angeles, every genre has dozens of bands. In Bloomington, there's only one or two bands of every genre. It's kind of cool in that you play with bands you'd normally never play with."
At first, Sizemore thought of working as a solo act, attempting to handle both the vocals and instrumentation onstage. "Dylan thought at first it might be a one-man band with him playing guitar and kicking the drums on songs," Menashe notes. "He actually did that once at a party."
In the end, Sizemore reconsidered, and Menashe added his guitars and knowledge of other instrumentation to the mix. The pair's primary influence at the time was the Canadian garage-rock duo the King Khan & BBQ Show.
For many years the band was more of a side project for the duo. Sizemore moved back to his native Southern California in 2014, and Menashe followed in 2015. It wasn't until 2018 that Frankie & the Witch Fingers became their main focus.
"I was touring with a singer-songwriter playing guitar and sax. It was fun and challenging, but I kept looking forward to the Frankie & the Witch Fingers shows," Menashe explains. "The songs live were so visceral and energetic."
Currently a quartet, the band has been working on some new material that will start dripping out in October, beginning with the single "Electricide."
"That song started as a riff Dylan had," Menashe says of the upcoming track. "I jammed on guitar with him, and we came up with a light structure. Then we brought it to the others, and we recorded it live in two takes which gave it a nice energy. It's a rocker and a short one."
The rest of the new album has the band stretching outside its comfort zone.
"When we started out, we were very, very garage-y," Menashe notes. "With this new one, we tried to incorporate everything from Krautrock to African rhythms, but there's still blues. Blues, I think, is the root of of rock 'n' roll."
In describing the new album, Menashe says, "It's very rhythmically diverse, not as head bangy as our other songs. There are a lot of interesting grooves that can be attributed completely to our new drummer; it has been fun to play with him. Every one of the songs is collaborative. It's never a case where someone brings in a finished song. It's always a little bit of clay, and we mold it together."
Miami has the opportunity to hear many of these unreleased songs when the band's tour hits Gramps on Sunday, October 23. "Get ready to dance a lot, freak out, get some frustrations out, and party," he warns.
Though it'll only be the second time they play Miami, the band doesn't plan to party too hard before they hit the stage.
"We stay subdued," Menashe says. "We stretch, do some breathing exercises, then let it all go when we play."
Frankie & the Witch Fingers.With Kairos Creature Club. 7 p.m. Sunday, October 23, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; gramps.com. Tickets cost $15 via eventbrite.com.
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