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Wallpaper.’s Eric Frederic is an unstoppable viral music producer. But can the incessant songwriting, video blogging, and booty tweeting make him a star?

Wednesday, Sep 23 2009

Page 3 of 5

Wallpaper. has a label — Los Angeles–based indie Eenie Meenie — but Frederic is primarily focused on online networking to build support. The Bay Area doesn't house a mega music industry, but our social media sites help musicians. When Frederic posts a new remix, as he's done for Massachusetts buzz band Passion Pit and local indie act Music for Animals, his hope is that it'll gain traction by echoing out to established music sites through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. This past spring, he recorded a remix of "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," a hilarious single by Brooklyn rappers Das Racist. The song spoofs two friends trying to find one another in a giant maze of fast-food places. Frederic spread the word of his remix through Web blasts and e-mails to two dozen individual tastemakers. "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" spiraled out into hype paydirt a few months after its release. and Pitchfork raved about Wallpaper.'s remix, and the song became the most requested single of the summer on Live 105's indie-focused shows.

Frederic continued to strike while he was getting attention, cleverly remixing Jay-Z's "99 Problems" into the rapper's anti–Auto-Tune screed "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)", creating a mashup where the megastar performer employs the voice-alteration software he claims to detest. The remix ended up on the front page of Digg for a couple of days, earning Frederic no cash but plenty of cred.

Jonathan Coulton, a Brooklyn songwriter and Internet success story, notes that loyalty from enthusiasts is crucial as the music industry models are being reshaped. "You get support in a number of different ways from fans," he says, "only one of which is money." An active base willing to spread the word about your new material to its friends is a powerful public-relations force to have.

At the PopSmear studio, Frederic glances at his favorite VH-1 reality show, Real Chance of Love, which is playing with the sound off. He says he would love to have Wallpaper.'s music licensed for television placement. To that end, he's fired up about news that the "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" video has been entered into the Freshmen, an online contest where viewers vote weekly for new videos to be played on mtvU, the network's college channel.

Days after Frederic pulls an all-nighter in the studio, he'll be pulling all-nighters to vote Wallpaper. on to mtvU. He isn't sure whether people watch videos on MTV anymore. What matters to him is getting on the radar of the suits at the networks, increasing his own real chances at Love.

Wallpaper.'s headquarters are listed as West Oakland — a nod to the East Bay's extensive rap history. But in reality, he lives with four housemates, two of whom are also musicians, in a two-story apartment in San Francisco's Panhandle. At midday on a Monday, none of his housemates seem to have changed out of sweatpants.

It's clear from the aging coffee-colored splatters on the wall and carpet that Frederic does not inhabit the same lush bachelor lifestyle as the one he imagines for Ricky Reed.

Frederic revels in his gold-chained alter ego. He dreamed up the frontman in January 2008, three years after launching Wallpaper., as a way to lose inhibition in the studio and onstage. Oddly, he's always taken the role extremely seriously. In Ricky's early days, he'd spend half an hour before shows alone, getting into character. Still, Frederic gets to leave behind the soft-spoken guy who graduated with a music composition degree from UC Berkeley and take on the pompous rock star none of his other music outlets — or his own modesty — have allowed him to become. Frederic never fully becomes the asshole he talks Ricky up to be, though. He's far too nutty and music-nerdy to come off as mean, even in a world of make-believe.

Frederic is starting the week by using the camera embedded in his MacBook Pro to film the video for "The Doodoo Face?" It's a clip that opens with Ricky on the toilet explaining the Doodoo Face CD title. It's a tricky album name that his most loyal supporters seem hard-pressed to comprehend. Frederic's girlfriend, Megan Canto, and his mother warned him that it'd be a challenging sell. Even bandmate Singh was skeptical. He says he Googled "doodoo face" and discovered an Urban Dictionary entry about "someone who rubs poo on their face and kisses someone." "I was like, 'Oh man,'" Singh admits with a laugh, "but it was too late."

Along with the infectious electro-funk beats, a huge part of Wallpaper.'s draw is in the jesting, which occasionally gets self-effacing. The lyrics make fun of our dependence on electronic gadgetry and social media sites, yet Wallpaper. leaves no shortage of Twitter footprints on this planet. But Frederic's best skits are curveballs of total absurdity. A prime example is "Wallpaper. video blog #4," where Ricky is "floating" in space with cheap special effects, using Auto-Tune to ramble on about how "Jupiter is a gaseous planet." It's stupidly hilarious and addictive; perfect for the viral media generation.

Frederic realized long ago that humor has a strong disarming quality. While music snobs can set boundaries based on genres they think they like, comedy cuts to people's core reactions. "No one's ever like, 'This would be funny but I don't really like dry humor,'" he says.

But the more offensive-sounding punchlines risk turning people off. One prominent indie buzz-band publicist, Daniel Gill of Force Field PR, refused to work on the new Wallpaper. CD when approached. "Basically, I couldn't envision pitching a record around with a title like Doodoo Face and having anyone take it seriously," he says. Spin magazine concurred, including the CD in a recent roundup of the "15 Worst Album Titles of 2009."

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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