Surfin' Safari

Donavon Frankenreiter tours the world, a-surfin' and a-singin'

Donavon Frankenreiter leads the sort of life that normally exists solely in daydreams. For the past 15 years, he has surfed beaches around the world, for the past decade as a professional. And for a dozen of those years, he was also touring with Sunchild, a band he had been in since high school. A life of constant beaches, boards, and stages -- a constant pursuit of the endless summer. But now, at age 30, Frankenreiter wants more.

"In Sunchild, I played rhythm guitar. I never sang," Frankenreiter relates by phone as he stands before the Pacific Ocean, in the midst of teaching a surfing camp for kids. One can hear the waves crashing in the background. "I was in that band for 12 years. I played with those guys all through high school and after high school, and I never sang in my life... Then about two years ago, I got married, and I played a lot of music around the house with my wife. She really had the idea of, 'You should go out by yourself and play. '"

And so, at the beginning of this year, the Donavon Frankenreiter Band was born. The new band, made up of singer/guitarist Frankenreiter, drummer Dean Butterworth, percussionist Dave Leach, and bassist Matt Grundy, has just started touring the country. Butterworth and Leach in particular can draw on years of touring experience.

As for Frankenreiter, no matter how far his new career takes him, he'll always have the waves. And, doubtless, his fan base will always draw heavily from the beachy crowd. One can hear it in the Donavon Frankenreiter Band's self-titled EP -- the mellow pace, the vaguely psychedelic lyrics, and the somewhat repetitive structure sounds, as if it were made for the hippie crowd, many of whom count themselves as surfing types. That may explain why the band has nailed opening slots for two big names in the jam-band scene, String Cheese Incident and the Dave Matthews Band. But the East Coast Tour, which begins in Fort Lauderdale, is a departure for Frankenreiter and Butterworth.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity to tour the East Coast because I have to be over there anyway with Billabong" for a Billabong Tour Bus promotion, Frankenreiter relates. "I thought as long as I'm going to be over there, I might as well bring Dean and we'll play some acoustic sets, meet the people, sell some discs, and kinda get the vibe going over there."

Of course, it goes without saying that Frankenreiter and Butterworth, who also considers himself a surfer, though perhaps not in Frankenreiter's league, will hit some waves while doing their East Coast run, even if the Atlantic is notorious for its lame-o waves when compared to the Pacific. But Frankenreiter seems unperturbed by this. He takes on a sort of Zen, Bodhi-in-Point Break outlook.

"An ideal wave to me is just being out anywhere with your friends, a couple of buddies, or even surfing by yourself, and the waves are six- to ten-foot base and great barrels," he says.

Totally, dude.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney