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Rick Froberg, Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes Vocalist, Dies At 55

Musician was a hugely influential figure in underground rock and also a talented visual artist
Rick Froberg performing with Hot Snakes on Dec. 9, 2011 at All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, U.K. (photo: Gary Wolstenholme / Redferns)

Vocalist/guitarist Rick Froberg, whose intense singing and sarcastic worldview was an integral element in the beloved underground rock bands Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, died Friday (June 30) at the age of 55, according to an Instagram post from his longtime collaborator and bandmate John Reis.

“Rick passed away suddenly last night from natural causes,” Reis wrote of Froberg, whose art and illustrations adorned many of the albums on which he participated. “His art made life better. The only thing he loved more than art and rock’n’roll was his friends. He will forever be remembered for his creativity, vision, and his ability to bring beauty into this world. I love you, Rick. I will miss you for the rest of my life.”

Froberg had struggled with undisclosed health problems for several years and even wrote a song about his frustration with the American healthcare system, “I Need a Doctor,” on Hot Snakes’ 2018 album Jericho Sirens.

“It’s with raw shock and a shattered heart that I share news here of Rick’s sudden death, due to an undiagnosed heart condition. As his long-time friend and current sweetie, I’m relieved to tell you that he went quickly and did not suffer a lingering end — a thing that would suit him not. Fast, savage, and without bullshit; such as he fancied in life,” Froberg’s girlfriend Britt wrote on Instagram.

“Right now, everything about this loss feels impossible but Rick’s family and I are powerfully backed by the strength of his long-forged and far-reaching community,” she continued. “Sure as shit, we’ll bear the unbearable together and advance his art and spirit, not as memory, but as a living force forever shaping lives and futures.”

Froberg and Reis first played together in 1986 in the San Diego post-hardcore band Pitchfork, which morphed into the more musically complex Drive Like Jehu in 1990. That group was active for five years and even released one of its two albums, 1994’s Yank Crime, on major-label Interscope at the height of the alternative rock boom, but disbanded in 1995. After many of its peers had done so to great fanfare in the 2010s, Drive Like Jehu finally agreed to reunite in 2014 and played more than 30 shows around the world over the next two years.

Following that band’s original split, Froberg moved from the west coast to New York to pursue work in graphic arts. In 1999, he and Reis started another new project, the hard-charging Hot Snakes, which released three cult favorite albums over the next five years before going on hiatus. The group re-formed in 2011 and, per a June 14 Instagram post from Froberg, was “very near done” with the follow-up to Jericho Sirens.

“People are really divided about stupid stuff and won’t speak to each other, and it’s dumb,” Froberg said in an unpublished October 2017 interview when asked about his outlook on the Donald Trump era of American politics and how it had influenced the then-unreleased Jericho Sirens. “But I’m frustrated like everyone else. I don’t have children for a reason. I never felt like the world was going to be a better place for my children. It’s a bummer, but you get some of it off your chest with music, and music like this especially, and you have fun doing it. I don’t want to get roped into any causes. I don’t belong to any political party. But the individual person, the person who just has common sense and tries to fix problems, is at this point a marginalized person, and that’s frustrating”

Froberg also played in the band Obits with former Edsel guitarist Sohrab Habibion and recently launched a series of silkscreened prints through his website.