For 25 years Crunchy Frog has been crunching out unique music from their home country of Denmark. The label started as a way for Jesper “Yebo” Reginal and Ulrik “Nalna” Petersen of THAU, a Danish alt-rock band, to keep their songs rights and discover new sounds. After a few years, they collected a bouquet of talented artists like Junior Senior, Superheroes, The Raveonettes, and The New Madness to show the world. With a name taken from a Monty Python skit about dead crunchy frogs in chocolate, you are sure to find a quirky and creative repertoire coming from this label.
The Orchard: How did you guys start, what’s the origin story of Crunchy Frog?
Crunchy Frog: We both played in a band called THAU, we did a couple of demos and thought that we were ready to make our debut CD. We sent out the recordings to the top British indie labels of the time and to the only Danish label we thought was worthy of releasing our stuff, Cloudland. They really liked it but the thing was that they were in the process of dismantling it. Luckily two of the guys in the label also ran a distribution company and gave us a proposition. If we made our own label they would distribute our stuff. The only caveat was that we would have to take it seriously, meaning we would have to run a real record label with other artists. After giving us a push they handed us a list of journalists and told us they’ll help us through the beginning. We said, “alright we are crafty young men with no money, let’s do it.” All we needed is a name.
The Crunchy Frog name came from a Monty Python sketch with the same name. The basis of it was there was a company that sold crunchy chocolate frogs, you would assume that they are actual chocolate frogs with nougat or something crunchy in the middle but no, they are actually dead frogs covered in chocolate. And that’s how the label got its name. We rolled out 500 CDs at first and sold them pretty fast, got some traction, and got on the radio. Made another 500 CDs and then we started releasing music from another band that we were in called Death Tothe (later Tothe International). Then after a while, we started signing other bands and become a real label.
Do you have any funny stories from back in the day?
We were and still are a DIY type of label, when we first started we couldn’t afford postage so we went on bikes to the journalist’s houses and introduced ourselves and to try to sell our music. We went through so many newspapers and newsrooms looking for someone dedicated and enthusiastic enough to help us. We spent a lot of nights putting up posters and doing everything ourselves. It is hard to keep the facade that you are a real record label when you are also the guy in the band and you’re delivering your own music.
What was the general response of being both in the label and the band?
Not a lot of people back then were releasing their own music so we got some nice press. It was a very personal story compared to what major labels were doing. Even today, we are only a seven-person company so everyone has to be very hands on. Nalna and I are very involved in the actual production of the music like producing and mixing the records, I do a lot of the album artwork. So that combined with the artistic freedom that you get for being indie gives us the ability to sign bands that we like. We mainly sign bands that we are already listening to or think are really awesome.
How has Crunchy Frog adapted from then to now?
Well, we still rode our bikes here [jokes the Denmark-based label while sitting in The Orchard’s New York office]. Not a lot has changed, of course, we are more people and more professional and we have learned from a lot of our mistakes throughout the 25 years. But we still have the same approach to signing bands that we really believe in.
Has the type of music you sign evolved over time?
Yes, mostly noise rock for the first four or five records. Then we heard of Superheroes which were some very very young kids from Jutland which is the countryside of Denmark. So we went to their house to sign the label deal with the lead singers parents, most of the kids were 15 years old. Genre-wise they were new for us, they are indie-pop and more commercial than what we’re doing. In our little circle of music journalists and music industry friends they all knew the Crunchy Frog sound so we had to ask ourselves “can we really release something so pop?” but we also thought that we would be bummed out if they signed to someone else.
There’s a lot of really great music out there that we could be releasing but a lot of them don’t have that “je ne sais quoi” about them. That’s what we felt with Superheros and so they became the first “pop” band we signed cause most of our pop bands are very quirky. But that led on to signing Junior Senior, which was a huge breakthrough for us and eventually The Raveonettes. So we have an indie rock core with retro stuff along with what we call pop.
Out of all the music you have released recently what really shines out? How do you balance creative freedom?
I think D/Troit, not very recent one, but they are making some real world class stuff. They are really great live and their syncs are showing that. They are very successful at home (Denmark) and recently just broke into Germany. So for bands like this that are already great and are working extremely hard, we tend to encourage them to continue what they’re doing. But still, with a lot of bands, we listen to demos and tapes and tell them exactly what we feel. We tell them if they need to be grittier or edgier, to not try and please everyone but make something that is true to themselves. We try to distill the sound that they come to us with into a more concentrated and refined version of it. That’s not always great for radio but it has been proven to do very well in sync. That’s always how we’ve always done it. We are very fortunate that we have a successful label because it lets us do this.
How would you say Crunchy Frog is different than other labels?
I think a lot of indie labels work like us but not all of them are run by touring artists. We, as owners are both artists, which I think gives us some flavor. I think the most important aspect that we have is that we work collaboratively with our artists, we give them our thoughts but usually let the band do what they want creatively.
You have a big anniversary coming up. How will you be celebrating?
For our 25th anniversary we asked each of our artists to create a song to celebrate this. We have 16 bands that we have that are active and for our anniversary each of them will be releasing singles to celebrate. The first one will be released by Beta Satan “I am Jackrabbit” coming out named April 19th. They did that sound in their own style, exactly the way that they wanted it to be. The releases will be like a relay race, all songs will start where the other ended. If one song ends on an A chord then the proceeding song will start on and A chord. Each song will be their own thing, but once they are made into the compilation it will be one cohesive experience. Come to think of it, that’s kind of a nice metaphor for the whole label.