Rick Froberg, singer for influential San Diego indie-rock band Drive Like Jehu, dies at 55

A man playing electric guitar onstage on a red jacket
Rick Froberg of Drive Like Jehu performing in 2015.
(Daniel Boczarski/Redferns)
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Rick Froberg, the singer, guitarist and visual artist best known for taking the knotty, overdriven sound of math rock into the mainstream (or close to it) with his influential San Diego band Drive Like Jehu, died Friday in San Diego. He was 55.

His death was confirmed Saturday by his longtime bandmate John Reis, who wrote on Instagram that he “passed away suddenly last night from natural causes.”

“His art made life better,” Reis wrote. “The only thing he loved more than art and rock and 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.”


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Signed to the major label Interscope Records in the early 1990s as part of a package deal that included Reis’ more commercially appealing Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu specialized in a brand of loud and structurally ambitious indie rock that served as a key inspiration for acts like Modest Mouse and At the Drive-In.

Yet the band was just one of several Froberg played with in a career that stretched over three decades: Before Drive Like Jehu, he and Reis played in Pitchfork, whose 1990 LP “Eucalyptus” is widely regarded as a post-hardcore classic; after Drive Like Jehu broke up in 1995, he and Reis formed Hot Snakes, and Froberg later founded Obits. Each band was built around his belief that blistering noise and catchy hooks could easily coexist; as a vocalist, Froberg honed a kind of desperate yelp that carried equal parts emotion and disgust.

Drive Like Jehu’s self-titled debut came out in 1991; “Yank Crime,” its sophomore LP and first for Interscope, followed in 1994, several years after the runaway success of Nirvana’s smash “Nevermind” set off a feeding frenzy for rough-edged bands with strong local followings. The band’s drummer, Mark Trombino, went on to produce hit records by Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182; Trombino also opened Donut Friend, the hipster-fave L.A. doughnut shop with treats named after post-punk bands such as Fugazi and Hüsker Dü.

In addition to music, Froberg was an illustrator who designed striking album covers for his bands as well as for Rocket from the Crypt, Sparta and others.

Drive Like Jehu reunited in 2014 for a performance at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in San Diego’s Balboa Park and later played festivals including Coachella. Hot Snakes released four studio albums between 2000 and 2018; Obits’ most recent album, “Die at the Zoo,” came out in 2021.