One of Atlanta’s most prolific indie and rock musicians of recent years, Philip Frobos has filled music venues with the minimalist post-punk sound of his band Omni, which he started in 2015 with Frankie Broyles of Deerhunter. With time to kill on the road, frontman and bass player Frobos decided to put his restless talent to use and authored a semi-autobiographical novel, his first, called “Vague Enough to Satisfy.” The book shares its name with Frobos’s first solo record which serves as a soundtrack to the book. Frobos joined “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes to talk about bringing his life experience as a touring musician to this new medium.
On discovering the impulse to write:
“I was always intrigued with creative writing,” said Frobos. “I realized that in my twenties, I spent a lot of time drinking and socializing, and not doing the reading that I should have been doing. And all of a sudden, we had this band, and I found myself in Europe with no cell phone service for long, long hours in this van with nothing to do. And luckily, I also don’t get carsick when I read.”
“I just started catching up on classics and non-classics and whatever; anything that people would throw at me. Some of the big ones were Hemingway, and Joan Didion, DeLillo, Sartre, Camus. It’s funny, because as somebody who may have been behind on their great worldly reads, it’s almost like hearing the Beatles for the first time… It was just blowing my mind,” recalled Frobos. “I think somewhere along the way, when we were just driving, it dawned on me that I could try an exercise where I just give it a shot, and try and do our version of what I’m reading… That was, I guess, the first moment that I was like, ‘I think I might have a book in me.’”
Selected themes from a story that begins in a hole:
“The hole is a little more than four feet deep, so I could stand in it and my head would pop out, because I’m about five-foot-four. Yeah, the guys had a day off, and their driver-slash-best friend had the idea of just digging a hole in his garden that could be a tunnel, possibly to another garden or just to anywhere,” said Frobos. “They just spent their evening sweating it out and digging this hole together…. That is something that is autobiographical and did happen.”
“There’s a lot of dramatic stuff that definitely did not happen in real life. But as far as the character goes, I’m just writing from my own voice… Everyone says, ‘Write what you know,’” said Frobos.
“The main character, Robert, is at the end of a tour in Leipzig, Germany, and has a little down time with his new German friends and his bandmates, and then his fiancée will be meeting him for a little vacation in Berlin. Then, some hijinks and some drama ensue as they move their life back to Atlanta, Georgia.”
On jealousy, “social flirting,” and relationship ethics for musicians:
“Jealousy… is a huge obstacle that we all face, or most of us face, whether or not we acknowledge it. When I first wrote the book, I held back a lot,” said Frobos. “I went back and did an overhaul, and in that overhaul, I went to places in the last five or ten years, where maybe [were] some of the more dark places and thoughts that I’ve had with relationships current and previous and documented them.”
“I am recently married, and… trying to figure out what it meant to still be a musician, and still be a bartender, and still be talking to people who may or may not be interesting in romantic ways, and what’s okay, and what’s not,” said Frobos, “especially since those careers are careers that flirtation is kind of built into it.”
“There’s a part in the book where Robert is likening having a night alone on his own in a major city to what it’s like to get a great night’s sleep,” said Frobos. “I might be that kind of person… Genuinely lending your ear to another person you think is interesting, you get a lot from it.”
Phillip Frobos will be performing songs from his new solo album and reading from his book of the same name, “Vague Enough to Satisfy” on Sunday night, Oct. 17 in the Brigantine Hall of Argosy in East Atlanta.