Behind the Beat: Happy Frondus

The founding members of Stillbridge, Robbie Douglas and Laura Mustard—yes, the latter is a stage name, although it is her mother’s maiden name—connected at a theme party a few years back, during which partygoers assumed other personas and busied themselves by founding a fictional town. They donned costumes, explored the surrounding area, and even went hunting—although no animals were harmed in the course of their fun, just some words printed on paper.

“No one was policing who you were, no one was policing the character you’d chosen,” says Robbie. “You got to put aside who you are for a moment.”

“You had to kind of be able get into it, have that kind of playful, adventurous spirit,” says Laura. “And we clicked in that way.”

So they started a band—Robbie on guitar, Laura on keys. For a while, they played regularly, each bringing ideas—lyrics, melodies, musical leanings of any sort—to the table, feeling them out together. Over time, other musicians decided to join the fun: Dan “Essay” Gebo on drums, Craig Harris on congas, and Bill Spear on the harmonica.

Now Stillbridge is fully formed and ready to hit the (non-fictional) town, armed with a brand of music that’s partly rock ’n’ roll but mostly just what comes naturally. The band is set to play a series of upcoming shows, including the Shutesbury Athletic Club Feb. 15 and Luthier’s Co-Op Feb. 18, both part of what they’ve deemed the “Winter Frondus.”

“‘Frondus’ is a word for Friday, like the prolonged Friday. That time when the work is done and you get to be free, you get to be loose,” says Robbie. “The Winter Frondus is a time of dancing, romancing and rejuvenation in the winter season.”

The term used to just be a joke between them, a bit of fun. But now Stillbridge wants to share the Frondus spirit with the world, and have a great time doing it.

“Playing, working with other musicians, jamming… is gratifying on a lot of different levels. You’re singing these lyrics that mean a lot to you, and you’re getting to do it with [people] that get you,” says Laura. “If there’s a crowd there and they’re getting excited from it, taking something from the lyrics, dancing, that’s a whole ’nother high, because they’re having as much fun as you are. It’s cool to have that reciprocity.”

“I don’t want to out-hip anyone. I don’t really care about that. [I want people] to look at us and know, ‘These guys are some of the weirdest misfits I’m ever going to meet, and they’re having a great time, so I can too,’” says Robbie. “I’ve always wanted to take [fun] further, take jokes further. That’s why I stayed back in first grade. They said, ‘The joke’s over, and he’s still laughing. We’re trying to move along, and he’s still laughing.’ I’ve still got that problem.”•


Author: Ben Lambert

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