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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 4 of 5

If the criticism gets to Frederic, he doesn't show it. He counters that he loves the attention. "It just shows my album title is making its intended splash," he says.

Even San Francisco club owners and promoters admit initial reluctance in hiring Wallpaper., fearing too much of a Weird Al novelty factor. "Every show, there's people who just don't get it," says Rickshaw Stop's Waldo Williams. "Like, 'Is this stupid or is this so right on I really can't tell?'"

But they say Frederic's skilled musicianship, which pays homage to Prince, P-Funk, and contemporary R&B, and his charismatic stage presence, win over people in the end. "Eric works at a high conceptual level," Williams adds. "He builds the whole package at once."

The comedy, the songwriting, and the flashy performances blend into a mixture that encourages good times. To that end, Wallpaper. was an easy fit with both contemporary club titans Dan Deacon and Girl Talk as well as old-school commercial R&B act Boyz II Men, all of whom he's opened for in the last year.

More than anything, Frederic is a huge funk nerd, and for the video shoot, he explains from his porcelain throne that "doodoo face" isn't about taking a dump. "The Doodoo Face is not literally about dropping deuces, dummy," he chides from behind black sunglasses, white cutouts of the album title glued to the lenses. "When something's hella funky ... it makes you do a doodoo face, like something stinks."

He washes his hands of such bad "box-wine BBQ funk" as "Funkytown," "Play That Funky Music," and "Low Rider," and struts into his bedroom. Suited up in a shiny Price Is Right jacket and two fedoras, he reveals his winning picks: D'Angelo and P-Funk. The best part of the video? Watching Frederic make the stink face, pop his collar, and dance like a Las Vegas wedding singer.

Not every Wallpaper. video is this tongue-in-cheek — or this lowbrow. "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" is the group's glossy apex, thanks to director Zada's slick production work.

On a Monday morning in late August, that clip has yet to appear on mtvU's Freshmen, due to technical difficulties with the Web site. It's 9 a.m. on the first of a five-day contest among half a dozen up-and-comers in pop, punk, hip-hop, and funk.

Frederic is freaking out. He's resorting to typing some of his missives to supporters in ALL CAPS.

He's been at his parents' house in Pinole all morning, having driven up from back-to-back Wallpaper. shows in Southern California the night before. He's sitting alone in his old bedroom, laptop glowing in the dark as he snacks on tortilla chips. "I'm being a real weirdo right now," he says with a laugh.

The glitch in the contest is fixed by late morning. Ricky sounds the call for action across Twitter: "you can VOTE as MANY times til ya FINGER BLEEDS. Voting ends FRIDAY morning lets GO."

Frederic is planning the next couple of days with the precision of an army commander waging war. He's organizing voting blocs among relatives, roommates, Eenie Meenie's street team, the big guns at Digg, superfans, a buddy who is Twitter pals with Miley Cyrus' bestie, and lots of friends' little brothers and sisters on summer break. MtvU allows voting as often as possible — the contest seems to be more about bombarding the music site with hits than anything else — so Frederic is unimpressed with anyone volunteering fewer than 100 clicks on Wallpaper.'s ballot.

The race is tight all week, with the heat of the battle between Wallpaper. and Portland, Ore.'s Sandpeople. Despite having a video titled "Hate Aside," the hip-hop act resorts to calling out Frederic's use of Auto-Tune trickery. It's a criticism he is used to hearing. He even admits it's probably time to phase out the computerized vocals. "It's getting annoying," he says of the trend. Then again, Auto-Tune helps him hit the long funk notes, allowing him to feel like a "crazy virtuosic dude."

The Freshmen contest ends at 11 a.m. on Friday. Wallpaper. has a concert in Las Vegas that night, and Frederic needs to drive for nine hours to get there. He refuses to start his engine, though, until the fate of this contest is sealed, even though the only prize is playing his video on mtvU for an unspecified amount of time. It's a perfect example of the way he refuses to lose any shot — no matter how minor — at publicity that could lead to something real. He'll lead the Wallpaper. troops into their final march to overcome Sandpeople starting at dusk.

"This is total fucking military stuff," Frederic says. "We're going to bring the heat last-minute."

The Frederics are early risers that last morning of the contest. Eric's dad, Dana, fires up the computer at 5 a.m. He launches five tabs at once, just as his son has taught him. As one screen refreshes, he clicks on the next, and on down the line. By 6:45, Peg, Eric, and Canto open their five screens. They spend the next four hours and 15 minutes clicking and refreshing.

At 11 a.m., mtvU posts the headline "Wallpaper Wins the Freshman." Within minutes, news of the victory is on Wallpaper.'s Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter feeds. Frederic has directed Eenie Meenie to post a free MP3 of "Doodoo Face" as a reward for fan loyalty. He jumps in the car with a bagel sandwich from his mom, heading toward I-5 for Vegas.

Once on the road, Frederic is relieved. He hates contests.

But the game is never really over.

During the next couple of weeks, mtvU will fade in importance. There's no word from the MTV suits. But Frederic's carpal-tunnel pain wasn't for naught: After the video went live on mtvU, the YouTube views for "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" skyrocketed to more than 14,000, with 38 comments. His MySpace friend requests jumped significantly, more evangelists spreading the Wallpaper. gospel.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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