The members of FROYO describe themselves as “the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie that never happened.” Michael Chow, Allyson Montenegro, Sonia Singh, and Tom Brett are friends from school making synth-pop out of their bedrooms in Sydney, Australia. The band uses the movie Drive as a mission statement for writing songs that could be featured in a neon neo-noir film or played at your next party. Today, we’re happy to premiere the video for their single, “Darling.” It is a chromatic ode to ’80s movies that will make you want to incorporate choreographed dancing into your everyday life:
Earlier this month, I chatted with band members Michael, Allyson, and Sonia about their favorite soundtracks, karaoke songs, and their love of Ryan Gosling.
MADELINE KEYES-LEVINE: I’m obsessed with this video. Do you want to talk about how it all came together?
MICHAEL CHOW: Well, initially the idea was I really wanted to dance in a music video. I’m not a dancer. I don’t think any of us are. Allyson’s a great dancer.
ALLYSON MONTENEGRO: Not really.
MICHAEL: Do you want to dance right now?
MICHAEL: She doesn’t. But I was like, “We’ve got to do the whole Michael Jackson thing. We’ve got to dance in this and do a routine that maybe people will want to copy one day.” We didn’t really have an idea, and Allyson suggested like a Breakfast Club situation where we’re in detention. We were like, “Oh yeah. That’s cool,” and we kind of ran with that and threw in the dancing because dancing is fun to watch.
What are some of your favorite movie soundtracks?
MICHAEL: Drive was a big one—that was the real kick-starter. Allyson and I were doing musical stuff for a while but then Drive came around and I was like, “Oh have you seen this movie? The soundtrack is so good, we have to do stuff like it and get a life size cutout of Ryan Gosling.” That made us want to embrace our ’80s-ness as well, because it has that aesthetic in the soundtrack. What are some other soundtracks besides Drive? We can’t talk about Drive all the time.
ALLYSON: I know, but it’s the only movie.
MICHAEL: I really love The NeverEnding Story theme song. That was a big deal for me as a child.
SONIA SINGH: The Breakfast Club.
MICHAEL: The Breakfast Club is really just the one song that everyone gravitates to.
They played that [song] at my graduation.
SONIA: That’s awesome.
ALLYSON: Eddie the Eagle!
MICHAEL: Have you seen Eddie the Eagle?
MICHAEL: The story is a bit cliché, but Taron Egerton plays the character with such height and even though he’s playing a bit of a nerdy guy, he’s still got so much charisma. Anyways, he sells that movie so well, but the soundtrack! I didn’t expect it. The composer, [Matthew Margeson], really went for that Chariots of Fire kind of ’80s synthesized soundtrack. It’s a fun movie, but that soundtrack was really good. Eddie the Eagle. I would love to make a soundtrack like that one day.
Do you write songs with visuals in mind?
ALLYSON: That’s my process.
MICHAEL: Ah, same!
MICHAEL: Yeah, I guess we all do that.
ALLYSON: I’ll probably have a YouTube video or a movie [playing]. If it sounds nice while the movie is playing, then it’s like, “Yeah, I’m getting somewhere.” But if it sounds like shit then I’m like, “Nah.”
MICHAEL: I always have to have something visual, even if it’s just like a still shot from a movie. Wes Anderson films are great because every single shot you can freeze-frame it and it always looks good. Just cool visual things give good musical ideas. I remember…no wait actually, I won’t say that because it’s another Ryan Gosling story…
No. Talk as much as you want about Ryan!
MICHAEL: I remember watching the movie, it’s a good movie but it’s also a bit bad because there’s no real point of it, it’s called Only God Forgives and it stars Ryan Gosling. It doesn’t have much of a narrative but the visuals are so striking and comic book-y. It’s just composed really well and there was a moment when Ryan’s reaching out into the darkness and you don’t see anything and all the sudden a big sword comes out of nowhere and goes “Schwang!” And then it was just a dream but that moment gave me an idea for a song, and I ended up writing a song after that. It wasn’t a FROYO song, but it was like that moment when you’re reaching in darkness and there might be a sword coming out of nowhere. That’s kind of like a cool scene—write a song about that.
Something I love is watching a period piece but [made in another “period” period]—like a movie about the ’70s made in the ’90s and you see both of those influences. Your music is like that because it’s so ’80s but it still feels modern. Do you try to intentionally update the sound or is it just a byproduct of existing in today?
MICHAEL: It’s inevitable. Say you wanna dress up like Ryan Gosling to a party—you’re still going to look like you. I don’t know, I’m just trying to tie Ryan back in, I can’t escape it. Yourself is always going to shine through in any form of art you do, despite your inspiration or what you’re trying to be and that’s a good thing. We were born in the ’90s, we grew up in the ’90s. You’re [Sonia] a Hannah Montana fan, I don’t know what you [Allyson] were.
ALLYSON: Green Day. I went to a Green Day concert.
I also went to a Green Day concert and was a Hannah Montana fan. This is relatable ’90s content.
SONIA: You can be in our band now.
MICHAEL: Yeah, who you are always shows. Unless you’re really trying hard and that’s not a good thing.
“Darling” is a super fun song, but it’s about a couple fighting, which feels like this act of nostalgia because it’s romanticizing things that aren’t necessarily simple or good. What makes you want to write a fun song about a not fun thing?
ALLYSON: I feel like the not fun things, the serious stuff, is just more effective.
MICHAEL: It’s like a therapeutic thing in a way. Like when you write, “Dear diary…siiiighh.” That’s so depressing, but when you take something that makes you sad but try to make yourself feel better, that’s where writing a happy song out of a sad situation or a frustrating or an anxious situation it makes you happy again.
ALLYSON: Deep down we’re all sad and happy.
MICHAEL: I guess that’s why people go to music or any sort of art, film, poems, all that stuff. The best ones are escapism and they help you get out of whatever you’re in. Say it’s a relationship where you’re arguing a lot—you’re writing a song about how you value a person instead. Just writing something that sounds positive even though the message is still serious.
ALLYSON: I like it because it’s like, “Oh my god this is so fun,” but then you’re like, “Wait a minute…” Then you listen to the lyrics and you’re like “holy crap.”
MICHAEL: That’s what happened because the first week we put it out some professional wedding guy wrote to us and was like, “I’m thinking of putting this in the soundtrack of this wedding video I’m shooting, can you send me the lyrics,” and I was like “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” and he wrote back, “OK, I don’t think the couple is going to like that, never mind.” That was fun.
ALLYSON: I kind of like that. I like that people take it as a happy song. I like that people can just take it and make it their own. I like that your lyrics are pretty open and people can just read them whatever way that they want to.
Let’s talk about Australia because I went there once and it took forever! Does it feel limiting to be so far geographically, or does it make the music scene stronger because you’re stuck a bit?
MICHAEL: It really does make you realize that there are pockets of scenes in particular places, and when you are locked off and this particular scene doesn’t have a lot of traction, but then you go somewhere else and it’s like, “Oh we might have a life somewhere else.” What we’re doing is very niche-y as well—not a lot of people are doing retro-sounding electronic music over here. To spin that around, I remember playing in another band, Phebe Starr—shoutout to you—and we were playing in New York and London and the mere fact that we were from Australia gave us so much extra awesome points to people because they were like, “What, you’re from all the where-there.” People love that. I’m sure there’s a lot of cool guys playing in Brooklyn and stuff, but just the fact that we were the outsiders, it was like, “You guys are cool.” That’s a bonus of being locked all the way over here: When we do end up going overseas, we can use that to our advantage, like, “We come in peace.”
In some ways geography is important but it’s not everything. I live near Los Angeles but I’m still a hermit.
MICHAEL: You’re not plugged into the matrix even though you’re there.
Do you have any general words of wisdom or shoutouts for our readers?
MICHAEL: The theme is graduation. We’ve graduated from things. Maybe we can say some things.
SONIA: Follow your dreams!
MICHAEL: Maybe the culture is different in America, but I tell the same thing to all my younger cousins: Don’t put too much emphasis on final marks and all that stuff because there are outlets where, despite what you got in science or because you didn’t do advanced mathematics, you can still get to places you want to go. Despite what you do in a classroom. Just make what you do outside the classroom the more important thing. ♦