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February 28, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Rob and Martin Frye are two musicians who like to travel light. Instead of packing instruments for their first True/False Film Fest performance, they will ride them.
When they were younger, Rob Frye says he and his twin brother, Martin, used to pretend their bikes were fighter jets as they battled through the galaxy. Now, they’ve made their bikes their musical instruments by removing the wheels, clipping on contact microphones to project vibrations and striking mallets, brushes and sometimes just the stroke of a hand against a wheel.
While in music school at DePaul University in Chicago, Rob began to experiment making music with a common form of transportation as an instrument. He was fascinated to learn that this innovative music had been done before by Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show in the 1960s.
Inspired by the Fluxus Art Movement of the early ’60s, Rob, who lives in Chicago, captured the free-flowing music movement in the title of his band, Flux Bikes. He could think of none other to join him in his music endeavor than his twin brother, who now lives in California.
“He’s just always been there,” Rob says of his brother. “We don’t get to live together, so it’s great that we can plan things like this.”
When True/False Musicmaster Amanda Rainey met Rob after one of her own band’s shows in Chicago last summer and learned about the blend of sounds that is Flux Bikes, she knew she wanted to bring his music to the fest.
“This year we really tried to incorporate different things to the festival so that it’s not all bands playing the ukulele and singing country songs,” she says. “This is the perfect example of something weird that we can bring to Columbia.”
A few days before their performance at 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 at Café Berlin, Rob and Martin will start their journey to True/False but have a back-up plan in case of snowy weather.
The musical pair plan to bike on the Katy Trail from their hometown of St. Louis to Columbia. After True/False, they’ll voyage to Austin for South by Southwest with two friends who share a love of cycling and music.
The brothers say what they often enjoy most about performing at music festivals is the trip it takes to get there. Martin says he agrees with poet Ernest Hemingway when it comes to biking.
“He says something like, ‘When you go in a car, you miss the contours of the land, but when you go on a bike, you feel the rise and fall and see every river bend,’” Martin says. “The landscape and environment are different in every place. You see people in a working relationship with the land and understand why they are the way they are.”