Bluesbreakers: Andy Frasco & The UN

OUR FIRST TWO attempts to call Andy Frasco go to voicemail. Then a text pings back: “Rough night – I’m good to go now.” This time, the twentysomething bandleader picks up, having peeled himself off the floor of last night’s digs and poured an industrial-strength coffee. “Hey, buddy, sorry,” he mumbles, after much coughing and hacking. “I was out drinking until six…”

Well, fair enough. It’s hard to stay mad at Andy Frasco: a man whose easy charm, disarming charisma and sheer gift of the gab evoke Ferris Bueller with an afro. Raised in a suburb of Los Angeles, he quickly infiltrated the city’s music industry. “I learned how to hustle at 13,” he says. “I faked my name and age to work at a record label. I was taking phone calls at school, at lunchtimes and recess.”

By 16, Frasco had convinced his parents to let him travel across the States with one of his bands. “I fell in love with the road,” he says. “I went to college, but after the first semester, I thought, screw it, I’m gonna quit, buy a van, get a band, learn on the road, because I could be a frontman or a hype man. So I just bullshitted – fake it till you make it. I finally learned how to play the piano and how to sing.”

Assembled in 2007 – and described by Frasco as a “bunch of gypsies, drunks and crazies” – The UN established a reputation as a dynamite live draw. Strange to think of it now, but in a matter of hours, this frazzled stop-out will hit the stage with a whirling dervish energy that makes David Lee Roth look positively sluggish. “It’s basically chaos,” he says. “Y’know, I’m crowdsurfing, bringing girls up on stage to have my saxophone player dry hump them. I’m just trying to throw a party, get people out of their phones for two hours. Have a little shock value and some good tunes, every night.”

They’ve made studio albums before, but none have caught that onstage mojo quite like Happy Bastards, released this year on Ruf. “We wanted to capture what our live show is,” says Frasco. “The chaos and the fun. But I wanted to write sick songs too. I wanted to mess around with all these different styles: reggae, punk rock, flamenco and boogie-woogie. I like to call the music ‘party blues’, because we’re trying to celebrate life.”

You’d have to be a miserable bastard not to be swept up by Frasco’s manifesto. “People are scared to get out of their comfort zone, and live a little bit to understand what they really want,” he says. “That’s my goal with this whole thing. Y’know, I gave away my family life, I gave away my twenties, I gave away the frat-boy beer bongs and whatever – to live in a van, and try to inspire as many people as I can on this mission. I want to teach people to have the balls to follow their dreams.”

Happy Bastards is out now on Ruf Records.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.