Frost* and the making of Day And Age

(Image credit: Press)

"I know Frost* have always had a slightly chequered past of staggering from one disaster to the other,” Jem Godfrey says, “but we’ve kind of committed to take it a lot more seriously now. We are determined to really give it a crack now, a really good shot.”

It feels a little odd for a band more than 15 years into their career, having had lashings of acclaim, to now feel the time is right to give things a real bash, but with their new album, Day And Age, the trio find themselves on the front foot with fresh, palpable optimism.

And why not? The album – their fourth – is a ripsnorting prog rock cracker fit for many end-of-the-year lists, and one with a luxurious sheen that would pad out venues nicely.

“I think Frost* are in the best shape we’ve ever been,” proclaims keyboard player and vocalist Godfrey down the virtual line from Tunbridge Wells, and Prog finds it hard to disbelieve him. “I think the reaction to the album has been the best we’ve ever experienced. The interest we’ve been getting from people is the most. There’s a real momentum that starts to feel like it is building up. I hope it’s because we tried to do something different.”


(Image credit: InsideOut Music)

That something different isn’t death metal or disco, but it’s a more refined take on modern prog. There are no solos, and there’s little flamboyant fretboard wizardry. Instead there’s an enveloping atmosphere that plays to the beating heart of the song, and a tapestry of textures.

“I think it’s worth mentioning that no one ever complains about Peter Gabriel albums not having solos on them,” guitarist and vocalist John Mitchell adds with laughter. “He doesn’t get that grief.”

Mitchell, speaking from what appears to be a field in Guildford after being caught in traffic, says the band – who are completed by Level 42 guitarist Nathan King on bass – were aware of the strength of the material while they were concocting it.

“In the interview process, one of the things people ask you is: ‘Why are there no solos on it?’” he says. “But I think the point was we wanted it more to rely on the emotional context and use the atmosphere and the mood, rather than virtuosity.

“It’s a bit of a strange thing if you’re singing some heartfelt lyric or something impassioned that means something to you, and you go off and play a 32-note solo for 16 bars. It kind of detracts from the message you’re saying. While, yes, we have done that in the past, we just felt it was time that we did something, I suppose, that was a bit more mature. I’m very proud of the result. Everybody seems to get it, which is a very big vindication for us both, because we took a bit of a chance with it, in the fact that we’re not having solos and it’s going to be concise songs.”

Some of Day And Age was written by Godfrey and Mitchell in a rented cottage in Cornwall back in 2019, and the music was free-flowing. The pair followed it up with another session early least year while holed up in an old coastguard tower at a windy Dungeness, in the southern reaches of England.

“In many ways it was a more exciting time, because it was a more sort of stark place to be writing music, and it definitely informed the music we wrote,” Mitchell reflects. “It was right next to a nuclear power station on one side, about 300 metres away, and there was a lighthouse on the other side. It was just really bleak. We were about 20 metres from the sea as well.

“Come evening [the nuclear power station] would create crackles on the audio that we were recording. We were thinking, ‘Goodness me, what goes into these nuclear power stations that makes audio recording so difficult?’ In some ways it was satisfyingly bleak. English people crave disappointment, so that was kind of good in that respect.”

Desolate the surroundings may have been, but Frost* still managed to package the eight tracks in an elevating way; brushstrokes of pop sheen and some lucid 80s touches certainly balance out the crunchier moments, such as the Porcupine Tree-esque deviances in the stonking title track.

One key selling point is that its fingers gently feel across the prog spectrum, with the flit between dark and light shades a vital cog in the machine. The lyrics, meanwhile, paint a picture of unease; ‘In the window of this world, I am singular of vision in my purpose, as the hours pass so slowly and seem worthless’, opens Terrestrial over some stuttering synths.

“It has been the most extraordinary few years in the world if you’re an ape-based descendant,” Godfrey says as he opens up about the lyrical themes. “There was everything that has been happening in America, and obviously the whole Covid thing. There were times last year, where I’d chat to John or chat to friends about that, and it did feel like we were in some sort of science fiction B-movie. We were just looking at the world thinking, ‘What is going on?’”

“We’re being patronised largely by the powers that be,” Mitchell chimes in. “People aren’t stupid, and the fact that the people who are the governing bodies in our societal structure… they have this thing that if you repeat something twice, then it becomes the truth and people can’t see past it.”

Behind the kit, meanwhile, is a six-armed threesome of guest sticksmen: King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto, Josh Groban drummer Kaz Rodriguez, and Darby Todd, who plays with Martin Barre. Being able to tap into the expertise of three razor-sharp drummers with differing styles – Todd, for instance is described as being like Animal from the Muppets – has given Day And Age a stately backbone that isn’t afraid to take the limelight, with the music allowing the rhythm section to find extra space to breathe.

“A lot of people have commented on the fact that on this album, the drums are the superstar,” Mitchell says. “They are a sort of a lead role in it.”


(Image credit: Tom Barnes)

Those familiar with Frost* will know all about the line-up changes, the hiatuses, the revered 2006 debut album Milliontown, and the two follow-up records. For the uninitiated, though, the band’s roots stem back to two years prior when Godfrey was getting itchy feet writing pop songs for pop act Atomic Kitten and X Factor’s Shayne Ward, despite enjoying chart success.

“I had a really good run at it – we sold five or six million records,” Godfrey says. “No.1 for seven weeks combined. I won an Ivor Novello. It was an amazing experience. I have had a lot of flak – justifiably so, it’s not a noble thing to write songs really – from the prog community. Of all the things I could have done before starting Frost*, writing Atomic Kitten pop songs probably was the worst thing I could have done. But by in large people were respectful.”

At Frost*’s core has always been Godfrey and Mitchell, with the latter – a man of many talents – notably having Arena, It Bites, Kino and Lonely Robot in his CV. Milliontown put Frost* smack bang on the map, while the two follow-ups gave them the space to tweak and refine their sound. Plenty of high-profile support slots ensued, including Spock’s Beard and Dream Theater, although two dates with the latter in England left a rather sour aftertaste.

“It was awful,” Godfrey rails. “It was a very bad experience. [Although] I should stress that the band [Dream Theater] were very, very friendly. It was the machine around them that was awful.”

Godfrey, Mitchell and King were left at a crossroads in 2019, though, when long-serving drummer Craig Blundell called time on Frost*. At that point he was lording the throne with Steven Wilson’s live band, and scheduling became too difficult.

“It was good for Craig, but at the same time he became so globally busy with everything,” Mitchell recalls. “He became the man of the hour. To get him to commit to anything was increasingly difficult, and you always got the sense that he wanted to be somewhere else, and he admits that now and we’ve spoken to him about it. It was a difficult thing because he was, and still is, a really good friend, but it was a difficult time and we didn’t really know what we were going to do about it.”

“We’re sort of opportunists, I think, and we thought: how can we turn this sort of perceived negative into a positive?” Godfrey adds. “We thought rather than
just getting another drummer, it was very freeing in songwriting terms to think we could have whoever we want.”

Today Frost* feel leaner and, with more time on their hands, album number five is already being eyed up. The songwriting process that delivered the goods for Day And Age is likely to be replicated, further cementing the partnership between Godfrey and Mitchell.

They’re ready to, in their own words, “take it to the next level”, and it appears the live production is set to be ramped up too whenever Frost* take to the stage again. With Day And Age Godfrey, Mitchell and King have chalked up another milestone in the curious tale of Frost* – a band that keep defying the odds.

“To start with it was just a sort of an amusing side-project of mine, when I was doing lots of pop at the time,” Godfrey explains when asked if the band have exceeded all expectations since forming in the 2000s.

“It was a reaction against doing such simplistic pop music. I didn’t expect it to have the reaction that it did. I think we’ve been in the shadow of Milliontown, and it’s kind of nice to be finally coming away from the shadow of that album. I always described it as a slightly shit pub band that can play, but I think it’s different now. Without wishing to take ourselves seriously – God forbid we ever do that – but I think it’s matured nicely now. For the first time it feels like a proper band, with me and John writing most of the stuff together. It’s a real partnership now, a team of three. Bizarrely it feels like being in an actual band.” 

This article originally appeared in issue 121 of Prog Magazine.

Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.