Frank Iero and Bec
Frank Iero is a busy man.
So far this year, he’s been involved in a serious bus crash in Australia, toured with Taking Back Sunday, made an appearance at Slam Dunk festival, played with the all stellar line up of Thrice, Rise Against and the Deftones, and now he’s released a brand new EP, Keep The Coffins Coming, and has embarked on a month-long tour of the UK and Europe in what he describes as “the first headlining tour for Parachutes.”
After the accident down under that left him and a couple of his bandmates banged up in hospital, Frank Iero and the Patience were thrown off kilter for a while and plans were put on hold. So, despite the release of Parachutes in late 2016, this is actually the first time Frank has had the chance to tour it properly, as a headliner rather than a support act. It’s now ended up being a ‘double tour’ for both Parachutes and Keep The Coffins Coming.
“I like to multitask as much as possible,” laughs Frank. “Feels like it’s been almost a year in the making though, y’know?”
We’re sat in a darkened corridor backstage at the Academy in our makeshift ‘office’ with a couple of mismatched chairs we’ve managed to squander from the Student’s Union. It’s half an hour before the doors open, and as we chat, we’re also listening to the sounds of Frank’s excellent line up of support bands soundchecking a few rooms down – the Paceshifters, The Homeless Gospel Choir, and Dave Hause & The Mermaid.
Despite his own soundcheck going on fifteen minutes longer than expected, Frank seems relaxed and happy. His laid-back manner and cheeky sense of humour make him easy to interview, and the passion when he talks about his music and inspirations shines through. The fact that Frank has been to the UK no less than three times in the space of twelve months is no coincidence.
“I really do fucking love it here. I really do,” he says enthusiastically. “I feel like as a young person, I didn’t truly understand all the history of it. I got held up on the hardships of travel, and didn’t get to enjoy it as much…” And he has similar words to say about the touring lifestyle in general. “I’m incredibly thankful for all those opportunities to get to see all this. I mean, it’s unreal. That education is unlike anything else you can possibly get. You start to have this real worldly view. You realise that being a big fish in a little pond is worth nothing. There’s so much more out there. So many people out there, so many cultures out there, so many things to experience and to do and to see.”
Frank talks like an excited, wide-eyed boy, still in awe of the world around him, despite having been in a touring band since he was a teenager and now approaching 36 years old. Perhaps it is this consistently fresh outlook that always seems to keep him on the road. He still enjoys it, and very rarely takes time off.
“There’s something to be said about creating and getting to play, y’know? I’ve done that for so long, I don’t know what my life is like without it,” he readily admits, but he also insists that next year he is definitely having some time to himself and his family.
“I’m telling you, this is it,” he insists with a playful giggle after I express doubt over his ability to avoid the addictive lure of the road. “At the end of this year, I’m gonna take some time. I swear to God. I keep saying that, I do, but I actually made the phone call two days ago. I had stuff ready for next year, and I fucking canceled it.”
Then, adopting a more serious tone and speaking in a reflective murmur I can barely hear above the noise in the next room, he admits, “I think this year’s just been a little too much for me, and I think it’s put a lot of things in perspective. I think I need 2018 to be mine.”
It really is fair enough, considering everything Frank went through at the beginning of the year, and how busy he’s been since that, bouncing back doubly hard in a way that a lot of people couldn’t. Plus, he has a wife and three kids at home who are bound to miss him when he’s away, and finding the work/life balance is always tough.
“It’s like a tightrope, and I think that you spend a lot of time trying to make everyone happy and end up not succeeding so much. And then everyone’s miserable and so are you! I think you owe it to yourself to kinda take a step back and get your head straight and kind of figure out who you are without this, y’know?”
Then, never quite able to stay serious for too long, he adds with a little twinkle, “Plus, if you’re on the road, you’re probably not in certain cities, probably in Brazil, that people are going to be very upset about!”
It’s no secret that Frank’s fanbase is widespread and worldwide, and when he doesn’t tour those cities and countries, he gets frequently pestered about it on Twitter. His online relationship with his fans has been well documented in the rock press, and he definitely gives as good as he gets. Although recently, a lot of the Twitter hype in his fanbase has been surrounding the recent release of his brand new record, Keep The Coffins Coming, which has so far has been met with warm reception and favourable reviews.
Despite it being a ‘new’ release, the four tracks on the EP are not new songs and were in fact recorded before Parachutes. Frank has been sitting on this one for a long time, and he goes on to explain why it seemed like the right time to release these very special tracks.
“When I recorded this, it was really something I did just for me. I’d just finished touring on Stomachaches, and I had a conversation with Paul, my manager, and he said, ‘Alright, well what’s next? What do you wanna do?’ And I said, ‘I don’t really know. I have some songs, but I don’t know what the next thing is just yet.’ And he’s like, ‘What are things that you’ve always wanted to do that you’ve never gotten to do?’ So, we made a list – a bucket list – of people I wanted to work with, things I wanted to accomplish. And he was like, ‘Alright, let’s start checking them off,’ and one of those was to work with Steve Albini.”
Albini is something of a legend in the music industry, having produced records for Nirvana, the Pixies, and Jawbreaker to name a few, and Frank readily admits “he’s someone that made me want to create and make records” and that he’s wanted to work with him “since I was like, 11!”
Frank’s childhood dream finally came true when his manager placed a phone call, and before he knew it, he was in the studio. For Frank, it was a fulfilling and exciting experience, but also an eye-opening one on a personal level that ultimately led to him choosing Ross Robinson as the producer for Parachutes.
“Steve’ll tell you, ‘I’m not a producer. I’m an engineer, and I want to facilitate your vision.’ He’s very hands-off, and I think that’s because of experiences he’s had in his formative years of becoming an engineer and learning the recording process. He saw one of his favourite bands get kind of railroaded by a producer, and he said, ‘I’m never going to do that again. I just want to showcase bands’…and he’s booked constantly because of that, and also because he is such a genius and such a talented engineer and guy…he knows his shit. So, when we got in there, I didn’t know how much time we were going to have or what we were going to do. His process was very confidence-building in that he said to me, ‘The reason you’re here is because you know what you’re doing. I’m not gonna come in here and tell you how to play your songs.’ And that was amazing, but I still felt like I was…on my own in that realm, y’know? Which is cool…but I had done that with Stomachaches. I did it all by myself. I didn’t have anybody else to bounce ideas of off; it was very DIY. And yes, for this, Steve would be behind the board and micing things and getting the sounds that I wanted. But there wasn’t someone there who would really get to the core of what these songs were about and push me farther. It was all on me. And I knew that I needed to – these songs demanded that. And that’s why the record was done by Ross.”
As for the track choice on Keep The Coffins Coming, at least one of them will be familiar to casual Patience fans – “I’m A Mess” – which is featured in its final form on Parachutes and is given a different lease on life with this earlier and slightly rawer version.
And those who have been following Frank’s solo career from the beginning may also have an awareness of the other tracks on the album. “BFF,” for example, was originally released back in 2014.
“That was a song my daughter wrote that I did in my basement before even Stomachaches,” explains Frank. “And when I knew I was working with Steve, I handpicked that song because I knew I wanted to do a full band version of it…I thought that…just the tendencies of that song and the way I heard it in my head…what it could be…it was a perfect Steve Albini song.”
Then there’s “You Are My Sunshine,” a cover of an old classic, of course, and one which Frank used to whip out and play live on stage occasionally.
“No Fun Club” is an interesting one. It’s probably the noisiest and punkiest of the four tracks. It has gone on a musical journey of its own, reforming and taking shape into something else entirely, although the music is still roughly based on a joke song Frank released some years ago…
“It’s not the first thing I released but like…around the first couple of EPs and 7 inches I did on my own under my solo ‘career,’ I put up a song on Soundcloud called “Xmas Sux.” It was just kinda this thing that I threw together in an hour in my basement, and it was just an experiment to see if I could do these types of things. As soon as I put it up I was like, ‘I kinda really like this song, but it’s a joke.’ I didn’t really put too much thought into it, but I liked that I could take that and make it something important. It’s this idea that songs don’t die until you say they’re done with them. I can have that idea and mold it and grow it and evolve it years later, and form it into something that has some gravity – and actually has some meaning behind it and a purpose.”
Evolution is a key theme on this EP, and even for Frank in general, who is constantly changing the name of his band.
“It’s not just to confuse people,” he laughs. “It’s to keep me interested. Every record, the band name is gonna change. The original idea when I was formulating what Parachutes was gonna be, I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll do two records, a double record. One will be Patience and one will be Patients,’ but it didn’t make sense to split those songs up when it came to fruition. It just felt like a full record. So this time around, after the whole experience in Australia and stuff like that, it was just my own clever little way of being able to change the band name up again.”
I tell him I think it’s a cool idea to which he replies, without missing a beat, “I think it’s cool too,” before cracking up in a fit of giggles. But Frank’s not the kind of guy to use throwaway, unimportant titles for anything – either for his band names or his records. Wordplay and meaning are clearly important to him, so it goes without saying that Keep The Coffins Coming wasn’t just chosen simply to keep up his dark emo credentials. There’s a much deeper and more interesting message behind that choice of words.
“With Stomachaches, I could trace every song back to a feeling of illness. With Parachutes, every song was a story about feeling safe or an instance that allows you to kind of enjoy life or experience that fall. This…this is more like…these ideas, these songs, these creations that we have. We relinquish control of them, and we send them out into the world…almost like sending the bodies home from war…and if you can continue that process of creating and inspiring, creating and inspiring, and never letting these ideas fizzle out…just keep them coming and coming and coming. Then hopefully, even beyond our own mortal souls, these things will carry on.”
Inspiring words, indeed, Frank, and we certainly hope you’re right!
Keep The Coffins Coming is out now on Hassle Records, iTunes and all your usual music providers. You can still catch Frank Iero on tour if you’re in the UK until 21st October. You probably should try and do that – he’s pretty damn good. Check out frank-iero.com for dates.