Being a journalist, there is a rare act that everyone can agree on in this music community but one of those rare acts is this next artist I interviewed, Frank Turner. Fresh off a stand out performance at Newport Folk Festival, I was able to grab a few minutes with Frank on a not so “day off” from his current US tour where he was playing an intimate set at Newbury Comics. While it is a while before he returns to Boston November 30th being the last night of his fall tour, he has two full US tours before then in support of his new hit album “Tape Deck Heart”!
Being his first album that was released on a major label, Interscope, it is sure to bring sell out talk from the punk rock community but really he feels that you can’t judge him till the next one. He was first called a sell out though because he toured in a van that had seats so it won’t matter at all to him, ‘ I mean if that’s the bar? Then fucking whatever.’ For his new record, he told me about his more left-field songs as well as letting his true music tastes shine a little bit more on this album. Doing this, he also strayed away from past lyric topics and only plans on doing that again in the future. Always a pleasure to interview, read on for our exclusive with Frank!
You just came off of Newport Folk Festival, you played Maine last night. You have so much touring come up in the US with this new album. How was Newport and maybe that show last night?
It was great! I mean first of all, it was kind of an honor to be there for such a historic festival and all the rest of it. It was cool. I mean we played earlier in the day and we came out and listened to other bands playing. I had a moment to think to myself and be like god, we’re so much heavier then all these people. Even if we were to do kind of a more folky set which incidentally we didn’t do. We just did what we usually do. I don’t want to kind of like trick people into liking my music, do you know what I mean? But it was fun! There were a couple kind of old people in the crowd going ‘Jesus Christ’ but we had a really good show and made a lot of new friends. So it was good! Then Maine was great apart from the fact that it was the single hottest gig I think I’ve ever done ever.
Yeah, oh my god. I really nearly had to kind of stop the set at one point because I couldn’t breathe but I mean it was fun. Good crowd. First time I’ve headlined Portland, Maine. Sold out so that was great.
Despite all the touring, that was the first show you had done in Portland headlining?
Yeah, we’ve been to Maine as a support act before but that’s it. Never have headlined up there.
Then I wanted to ask you, obviously with the record being so new, how do you feel it’s been going over?
I think it’s been going well. I mean, it’s sold lots of copies so that’s good. I like that. That’s nice. That makes various people in my organization very happy which is good. I mean it’s not really how I judge success. For me, the main thing is when I’m playing shows and people are coming down. If there’s new people coming to the shows. People calling out for the new songs. Singing along with the new songs. It’s kind of like validation in that way. I mean that makes me pretty happy.
Perfect then I know you did this record with Interscope. You being on a major label, do you think that affected the process for you?
No, only because that signing came about after the record was already done. Yeah, it’s funny. For any band coming from the punk rock scene, if you move from the indie label to a major, there’s a certain constituency of people who call you a sell out. It’s like the weather. You just kind of deal with it. I think that part of it that amused me was it was kind of like wait for the next album to come out before you can say how being on a major has affected my album. We kind of did the record and then did the deal.
Yeah, we’ll see how it goes.
Yeah, exactly. Then you can call me a sell out. The first time I ever got called a sell out was when I first did a tour in a van that had seats in it rather then just lying on the ground with the equipment.
Are you kidding?
Not kidding and that person was not kidding as well. He was deadly serious. I thought it was kind of cool because we got that out of the way. I mean if that’s the bar? Then fucking whatever.
Then maybe how did the writing process change for this one? Do you think it changed considering how long you’ve been writing?
Yeah, I mean it changes. I try really hard to not over think. For me, writing is something that happens kind of naturally. When I kind of go I’m going to write this song this way and I’m going to write about this it doesn’t work. I just kind of let it come. I mean obviously, the Sleeping Souls and I are kind of a closer unit then before. A huge component of the sound is the band. I’m still kind of writing by myself but I’m writing for them. We arrange it together collectively. That didn’t just begin with this record considering we’ve been a unit for five years but every passing year, it becomes a closer deal. Then the other thing is that having said everything I just said about trying to not push the music into any one direction, I don’t want to repeat myself. I’ll have people that come up to me and say well this new record doesn’t sound like the last one. Yes, that’s the point but I didn’t want to write any songs about England this time around and some people were surprised by that. I’m just like I just did that. You know the next record will be different things again.
Then maybe for this question, it may not even apply to the new album. What song do you think like screams Frank Turner, something fans would expect and then maybe the most left-field, like something new you tried?
I think that ‘Broken Piano’ is pretty left-field on the new album. I’m really proud of that song. I think it’s my favorite song on the album but if I had to choose, simply because it is kind of outside of my comfort zone as a songwriter. But as a songwriter, it also nods to my taste of music which I never kind of publicly acknowledged before which is post rock and ambient and stuff like that. I really like that one but there’s lots of stuff on the record. I really like ‘The Fisher King Blues’. It just doesn’t really make any sense on any level. Just structurally and musically. Or indeed lyrically but it kind of is an interesting piece. What I like about it is when you listen to the beginning, for the first time, you’d never guess how it’s going to finish with the intro. I think it’s really cool and still every time I listen to it or play it through, part of me is kind of slightly like ‘How did we get here?’ We started with acoustic guitars and now we’re in this kind of giant hale storm of weirdness. Anyway!
That’s good, that’s great! Then you have been touring a lot this year already and now you’re about to go on tons of touring. I know you have so much touring before you even come back to Boston. I think it’s at the end of November.
It’s the last show of the tour.
Then maybe what are you most looking forward to during these next few months?
Well, I mean being on tour is a great way to be. I mean this tour and that American tour in the fall as you guys say is an exciting one just because we’re playing bigger places headlining then we’ve ever done. It’s kind of cool because you see things going in the right direction or however you want to put it. Particularly because I think for anyone who’s from England or just outside the US in general, there is something about touring America that is slightly mythical because of the history of rock and roll. Like ‘Almost Famous’ and all that sort of thing. The idea of being on a bus. There’s something slightly kind of unlikely about it in a cool way. I never tire of touring.
Then considering you have been touring for such a long time maybe advice for bands. You did some dates with Architects for example who took a break from touring the US for like two years. Advice to bands just going out and starting to tour here?
(Laughs) Well I think that the thing about touring America is that it’s a lot harder then the UK or Europe is. It’s just a lot harder and I know a lot of bands, this seems cliche, that kind of get broken by America and how big this place is. How much work you have to put into just getting a tiny bit of fraction. Personally, I kind of thrive off that because I want to work hard so it’s fine by me but yeah just kind of be prepared for it to be fucking crazy. I have a great story about this actually. Friends of mine were in a grind core band many, many years ago. They famously booked a tour of the east coast in the USA. Kind of doing, because they’re a grind core band, just spot shows and bar shows and stuff. Pete got miles and kilometers confused and partly because he couldn’t believe it was miles between venues. This was planned before Google Maps. This was like in like ’98 or somewhere around there so he booked this whole tour and it turned out that the drive times between shows were so insane that you would have to drive twenty three hours every single day. Just unload, play and drive. It actually broke the band up. They got to the end of the tour and the drummer was like ‘Fuck you I’m never playing with you ever again’ but yeah I love that idea of him refusing to believe that venues could possibly be that far. Like from Atlanta to Orlando. It can’t possibly be that far.
Then you have lots coming up in the next few months.
Yeah, I have lots of touring. Writing a lot. You see I’ve got this kind of idea of trying to do another record quickly. Whether or not that will actually happen. Whether or not that is actually a good idea. Whether or not the record label will be into that is a different question. I guess we’ll see but then I also have a side project which includes Matt and we have been working on an album and hopefully that will be out at some point. If I finish writing lyrics for it which I will!