|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2011)|
Sasha Frere-Jones (born Alexander Roger Wallace Jones in 1967) is an American writer, music critic, and musician. He has written for Pretty Decorating, ego trip, Hit It And Quit It, Mean, Slant, The New York Post, The Wire, The Village Voice, Slate, Spin, and The New York Times. He has been on the staff of The New Yorker since 2004.
He was born Alexander Roger Wallace Jones on January 31, 1967, in Manhattan, the elder child of Elizabeth Frere and Robin C. Jones. His younger brother, Tobias Frere-Jones, is co-founder of the typeface design company Hoefler & Frere-Jones, and is on the faculty of the Yale School of Art. Tobias and Alexander both legally changed their surnames from Jones to Frere-Jones in 1981.
He is a grandson of Alexander Stuart Frere, the former chairman of the board of William Heinemann Ltd, the British publishing house, and a great-grandson of the novelist Edgar Wallace, who wrote many popular pulp novels, though he is best known for writing the story for the film King Kong. (Merian C. Cooper wrote the screenplay.)
In 1983, Frere-Jones played Capulet in a St. Ann's production of "Romeo and Juliet" directed by Nancy Fales Garrett. Mia Sara played Juliet. In 1984, Frere-Jones's "We Three Kings" was one of ten plays chosen for the Young Playwrights Festival. The original reading starred John Pankow and Željko Ivanek. The final production at the Public Theater starred Adam Klugman, Jack Klugman's son. His follow-up play, "Jump Down Turn Around," was performed at St. Ann's and starred Frere-Jones and actor Josh Hamilton.
Frere-Jones attended the Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn from 1972 to 1984. He won an award from the Young Playwrights Festival in 1983 for his play “We Three Kings.” After graduating from St. Ann’s in 1984, Frere-Jones attended Brown University for three years but did not graduate. He subsequently attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, concentrating on Dramatic Writing, then transferred to Columbia University in 1991. He graduated from the Columbia School of General Studies with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1993.
In 1994, he married lawyer Deborah Holmes, with whom he has two sons. They divorced in 2006.
Frere-Jones plays bass, guitar, and various electronics. He founded the band Dolores during his time at Brown. The band made two full-length tapes: one in 1987 and one in 1990. After moving to New York in 1988, the band played for two years before breaking up. (Their only recordings during this period were two contributions to a compilation on Fang Records called “Live At The Knitting Factory.") In 1990, Frere-Jones co-founded the instrumental, two-bass rhythm band Ui with Clem Waldmann. They played their first live show in 1991, and spent the following eight years touring across the United States and Europe, opening for bands like Stereolab and Tortoise.
The New Yorker
Frere-Jones debuted as The New Yorker’s pop critic on March 8, 2004 with “Let’s Go Swimming," an essay on Arthur Russell. He followed in the footsteps of the magazine's past critics Ellen Willis, Mark Moses, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and Nick Hornby. He has covered lesser-known acts like Arcade Fire, Joanna Newsom, Grizzly Bear, Manu Chao, and Bon Iver, as well as established successes like Neil Diamond, Mariah Carey, Wu-Tang Clan, Lil Wayne, and Prince. Three essays originally published in the magazine have appeared in Da Capo's Best Music Writing anthologies. On October 22, 2007, The New Yorker published “A Paler Shade of White," an essay in which Frere-Jones examined the changing role of race in pop, specifically indie rock and hip-hop of the last two decades. The piece proved to be controversial, eliciting responses from Playboy, The Village Voice, Slate, and Simon Reynolds, among dozens of other news outlets and blogs. The New Yorker received more mail about “A Paler Shade of White” than it did for any other essay since “Escaping Picasso,” Adam Gopnik’s December 16, 1996 essay about Pablo Picasso. Frere-Jones also appears in the 2009 documentary Strange Powers, by Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara, about Stephin Merritt and his band, the Magnetic Fields, in which he further discusses his ideas of race in pop music.
On March 9, 2009, The New Yorker published his first profile, of British pop singer Lily Allen.
At the end of 2009, he helped bring mainstream attention to then-unsigned indie rock band Sleigh Bells when he wrote that, "After shows at Le Poisson Rouge and Public Assembly, I knew they were my favorite band in New York."