Donavon Frankenreiter’s music combines the chilled vibes of a surfer, the mindfulness of a yogi, and voice of a road-tested rocker. After living the pro-surfer’s life in his home state of California, The singer-songwriter’s fifteen year musical career got a kickstart from his old time surfing buddy Jack Johnson and exploded from there. These days, Donavon continues to tour and share the sounds that made him famous.
CONVICTS caught up with Donavon at his recent show at The Surf Lodge. Aside from being one of Donavon’s favorite venues, the proximity to real surfing had he and his band aglow with stoke. We got Donavon’s word on cattle brands, the tunes on his tour bus, and how fortunate he feels in the ever changing music business.
How’s it going? To start can you tell us – are those brands on your stuff there?
Yeah I burned this thing, I was in Aspen and they were branding hats and I borrowed all their branders and just fucking burned ’em in.
So catch us up, what’s been going on?
We don’t really do much, we just wait every year until The Surf Lodge gig and then we come out of retirement for the one show that matters.
Right on. What else have you guys got lined up?
Well we are on the East Coast tour right now where we’re doing thirty-three shows in a row. We start in this area and end in the Florida Keys, but this is one of the highlights of the tour. It’s really fun because it’s an amazing place and we get to play outside during the sunset hour and it’s just such a great vibe. It’s one of the best Sunday afternoon jams of the whole tour. It’s really nice, great food, great drinks, great vibes.
Have you guys been cruising and playing together for a while?
Fifteen years, yeah. We’ve been doing this almost fifteen years, it’s about fourteen and three quarters. Something like that. It’s been a while.
Do you guys connect throughout the year?
Yeah we tour constantly. Like eight months out of the year, maybe seven months.
What other projects do you guys have going these days?
Well, we put out a record. It’s been like a year and a half so we have been out touring and promoting that. And I’m in the process of writing new songs. We are going to make another record in the studio by the end of the year and then come back around next year and do it again.
What are you guys stoked about in terms or writing? Love, family, politics?
Mostly just a bunch of love and family. I stay away from the politics, there is enough of that shit going around. We have so much fun playing that I don’t really ever bring too many depressing or political songs into the mix. Maybe one of these days I’ll get old and grumpy. But no way, I’ll just get happier. Fuck that.
You’ve been towing two careers, the surfing and the music thing, and both can be super humbling and super empowering. Can you speak into that a little bit?
The one thing about the two things that keeps me addicted to them is that they are forever changing. Every gig is different, every venue, every sound system, and every night you play you have different feelings and emotions, so you play differently. It’s the same thing with surfing you know? You can go out and it could be small waves that you’re just gonna longboard and have fun, or it could be crazy sort of bigger stuff where you feel like you’re gonna die. For me, I just love it so much that it’s insane to be able to do it for a living. The best part of the day is when we are playing. Then if we are going to the beach, the best part of that moment is when we are in the water surfing. They both really enhance each other: you can surf all day and then you can go to the venue and play music all night, so they go hand in hand together. It’s great.
So you basically found the perfect balance?
Somehow. I don’t know, I just did it. It’s living the dream, doing both.
What’s the best part about hitting the road?
Seeing people living in different parts of the world, going to different countries, living and being a part of their cultures. And then bringing the music that you’ve recorded and going out and being able to play. We feel really fortunate because the state of the music industry is kind of a difficult one. Not many people are actually buying music, they are all just streaming music, so to be able to overcome that and make a living by going on the road and touring is one of the greatest things ever. We feel lucky to be on the road six or seven months of the year playing music and being able to go to different spots around the world. We love going to Japan and Europe and going to South America and Australia and New Zealand. It’s just really special for us because some bands get stuck doing this little circle around the United States. That would still be beautiful, but it’s great to get away from that and travel around the world.
Do you pick your tour spots according to the surf?
Kind of. If we get lucky enough and there’s waves, or if we see somebody with boards well then we’ll get down to the beach. We also love playing gigs up in the mountains and ski towns and inland areas where there is no beach. It’s just fun to take the music wherever. That’s one thing that’s been really great – the surfing will take us to crazy spots with amazing waves, and then the music will take us to spots that we would have never gone to because there are no waves.
Back to the whole love thing, what would you tell people who are having trouble with staying positive?
I can’t speak for anybody with what might be going on in their life personally but I’ve always had this motto of just really enjoying the moment. Lately I have been doing this thing, where if it’s not life or death then don’t worry about it. For me I can’t worry about everything and there are so many things where you could really kind of freak out and worry about a lot of stuff. It’s fun to just be the best person that you can, treat people with respect and the way that you’d like to be treated. We just have fun traveling around the world, seeing people and playing. Playing music makes me happy so, it’s just one of those things. Don’t worry be happy haha.
How do you guys choose the road tunes?
We usually just put on headphones and listen to whatever we want to. This morning there was some smooth jazz going. You know, waking up, clean the bus up a little, play some smooth jazz, light some incense.
Do you think turning on your music brings good vibes to the people hearing it?
I dunno – we don’t really listen to our own stuff. When we make a new record we listen to it quite a bit. Music makes me feel good, I could listen to blues music and feel great. I could put on Metallica, or Tom Petty or anything. I love all types of music and one way or another they all inspire me.
Right on. Thanks for the chat Donavon.