Rick Froberg, the singer, guitarist, and visual artist best known for fronting the influential post-hardcore bands Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, died Friday night (June 30). His friend and longtime collaborator John Reis confirmed the news on Instagram. Froberg was 55.
“Rick passed away suddenly last night from natural causes,” Reis wrote. “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.”
Born in Los Angeles, Froberg lived for many years in Encinitas, California, where he played in several bands in the San Diego area. He formed the band Pitchfork with Reis (who would later found Rocket From the Crypt) as a teenager; after Pitchfork disbanded in 1990, the two formed Drive Like Jehu with Mike Kennedy on bass and Mark Trombino on drums, taking their name from a Biblical passage that describes a particularly aggressive chariot driver. They released their self-titled debut in 1991, the same year as Rocket From the Crypt’s Paint as a Fragrance.
Drive Like Jehu were active for four years—dissolving shortly after the release of their major-label debut, Yank Crime, in 1994—but had an outsized influence on hardcore’s evolution into emo. Yank Crime, in particular, would go on to become a classic within post-hardcore and rock circles. In 2014, Drive Like Jehu reunited for a free, one-off concert. The band would also go on to play a proper reunion tour in 2015 and 2016, comprised mainly of festival sets.
While Reis would continue to perform with Rocket From the Crypt, he formed the band Hot Snakes with Froberg in 1999. They released three albums during their original run—Automatic Midnight, Suicide Invoice, and Audit in Progress—until breaking up in 2005. Hot Snakes reunited to go on tour in 2011, and would stay together afterward, releasing the new album Jericho Sirens in 2018. Their song “This Mystic Decade” was featured on the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack.
As an illustrator, Froberg created album art, promotional artwork, and merchandise designs for each of his bands, along with Rocket From the Crypt and Reis’ Swami Records. After moving to Brooklyn, New York, in the early aughts, he founded the band Obits in 2006 with former Edsel guitarist Sorab Habibion. Their most recent album, Die at the Zoo, was released in 2021. Froberg has also played with the Last of the Juanitas and Thingy. On June 14, a little mor than two weeks before his death , he posted on Instagram that Hot Snakes were working on a new record and that it was “very near done.”
Numerous musicians have paid tribute to Froberg after hearing of his death, including Pinback’s Rob Crow, Ted Leo, Metz, Thursday, Botch’s Brian Cook, Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias, and Meat Wave. “I cannot, at all, handle this Rick Froberg news,” tweeted Maggie Vail of Bangs and Hurry Up, “front person of my favorite band(s), gem of a human, a million memories and all of them brilliant. I vividly remember seeing Hot Snakes for the first time. Bangs were opening their first SF show. I hadn’t heard them yet but we loaded in during their soundcheck, my jaw dropped, and if I’m honest, I’ve never picked it up.”