This past week we had the chance to speak with solo artist Frankie Rose. Many of you will recognize Frankie for the work that she has done with her previous incarnation Frankie Rose & The Outs, or possibly from her drumming previously with the groups' Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Vivian Girls. On Thursday, April 5th, Philadelphia's North Star Bar will play host to the first date of her April/May tour along with openers DIVE (also joining Frankie on tour), and locals East Hundred.
Frankie recently released a brand new full-length, titled Interstellar, on Slumberland Records. It's hard to pick a favorite song on the new album as we have many, from the spacey opening of s/t track "Interstellar," to drum-machine splashes on "Know Me", and the lightness of "Gospel/Grace"; should we mention that these are only the first three songs? This is an album that you will want to sit through from beginning to end with headphones on to experience it as a full-piece for the first time. Give it a second turn to pick out all of the ethereal and distinct textures from the vocals to the instrumentation that it has to offer throughout. It is truly a wonderful album.
Our interview with Frankie was candid, and as easy-going and thoughtful as she was in her remarks regarding her new album, especially in recounting the great project of getting it made (no simple task), you can just tell that the time that went into this was and is especially close to her heart. We really hope that you'll come out to show your support when she plays on April 5th for her fabulous new album. Read on to hear Frankie in her own words....
Girl About Town: What is the story behind the songs that you chose for Interstellar? Were they written in any order (cohesively) or did everything just fall into place for the songs that you wrote?
Frankie: Well, I work in the studio a lot. Meaning, I definitely had a context. I knew what I wanted to do with this album. I never knew exactly how it was going to come out, because I do most of my work in the studio. With that in mind, most of the songs were sort of half-written sketches when I went into the studio, and what I ended up with was “Interstellar”.
I think....that I wanted it to be cohesive. It is a bit of a ‘concept’ album, and just by using put-together sounds throughout the album, I think that [that] definitely was a big part of keeping it cohesive. You know, I just gave myself some guidelines--which I usually do, and for this one, I wanted a really BIG sounding, almost soundtrack-like....cinematic album.
Your new sound definitely is cinematic. I think that comes out in a lot of your noted influences as well (from early 4AD, to artistic icons, and beyond). If you had to decide: what type of film would your music be the soundtrack for?
Honestly, it’s a little bit of a ‘western in outerspace,’ I would think....That’s exactly how...well, let's just say that I’ve gotten some great comparisons.
You said that you begin with sketches for each song idea. Does it take a long time for you to go from a song’s original sketch to the completed version?
It takes ages. I’m not one of these people that’s, like, a song machine. I really, painstakingly, and I don’t mean....even demos.... I’ll write songs and then, throw them away almost immediately....if I don’t think they could (have the potential to) end up on the album. By ‘no means’ am I a song machine, though. The song process from beginning to end is really painstaking for me. I mean, I really over think just about everything. [Laughter] Except for my original demos. Those are really rough and in fact, I think it takes a lot of faith (I think) to work with me.
I definitely sent out my demos to a bunch of producers who I thought were (at first) interested and then were like, ‘What the Hell is this?’, you know.... They’re so bare-bones that it’s, like; you really have to have the faith that I have ‘some’ kind of a vision, and that I know what I want to do when I get into the studio.
Which studio did you use for this album? Was it a studio that was connected to Le Chev or Talk Normal, or was it a place that you regularly work out of?
Well, the first record was recorded with Jeremy Scott in a really small studio and I actually started working with him on the second one, but realized mid-stream that I was getting a very similar kind of sound. I’m sure that makes sense: when you’re recording in a similar way with the same person....I realized that I did not want that. It became very clear to me that it was what I did not want. I mean, I came in with the intention of getting something very different, and I was getting sort of the same result and, so, mid-stream I actually rolled the die, and decided to start working with my friend (who is Le Chev). Totally, not just on ‘faith’....I mean, I know he is incredibly talented, but I know he has, um, definitely has a ‘fancy’ studio, has an amazing ear (I know that) and has totally different taste in music than me. It was a really bold, um, ‘roll-of-the-die,’ honestly.
I didn’t know what was going to happen. I know I threw away a lot of the first stuff that I had recorded, and, put a lot of faith in him and I actually, it turned out, ended up with a record that was much larger than I even intended it to be. I’m happy about that.
It’s definitely an album that feels like it could be listened to on quadraphonic speakers: it’s very textural.
Yeah, I think that’s because Le Chev does a lot of dance music, and I came in with a lot of live-tracking, and when we started working together, I kept a lot of that live-tracking (for sure). I think that’s what, I mean....it doesn’t make it an electronic record, and it doesn’t make it, like, a ‘garage-y guitar’ record either. It’s just somewhere in the middle. It’s exactly where I wanted it, too. I really think that is because it is exactly half, of both of those things.
No, I mean, it worked out great! But, I don’t have a regular place that I record. What I’ve come to realize is that, ‘it’s the ear, not the gear.’ That’s some dumb thing that I made up, but it’s true!
(Laughter) That’s got to be your go-to quote from now on!
Woah, I’ve never said that before to anyone! It sounds really corny, but that’s my thing, it’s true.... You know, you can have an amazing studio, but not have an ear at all, or you can have a computer only and have an amazing ear....and know what sounds good; and make a huge album.
Who is playing with you on the album (in the studio), or did you do most of it on your own?
I recorded it in a really similar way as the first album, where for me it’s about getting the right ‘take’ and if I personally can’t do it, and Le Chev can’t do it--then I’ll bring in whoever can do it. I think on the credits there’s like twelve people, and with the tracks that ended up on the album, I’m sometimes not sure. Like, I’ll have ten people who have done the same take, and you know, I’ll pick which one did it best for the sound that I really did want.
Do you plan to continue recording your albums in this way, or did this just happen for this LP in particular?
Oh yeah. You know, I’m no ‘musician’ if that makes any sense....I’m no guitarist, I’m not really a (dru...)...I mean, I’m just....I gotta say, that I’m pretty mediocre at (just) playing instruments. I don’t think that’s my strong point. I think I’m much more interested in production. My strong point is knowing what I like, knowing what I want to hear, and knowing what I think sounds good. As far as, like, playing everything on an album and being, like, ‘This is my creation, and I played everything...and...’....that doesn’t interest me at all. In fact: I’d rather not even sing on it.
Well, I hope you know that you do in fact, have a beautiful voice; we definitely live in the day and age where you can have a unique sound to offer along with clean production: you don’t have to be a huge pop icon to be able to create and offer that big sound. If you could produce any artist (if you weren’t working on your own songs) who would that be?
I come across bands all the time, but that’s a rare one for me to be able to answer. I mean, I come across bands who I think, that maybe, I know someone who would be good to produce their album....I feel like I would be a great A&R person! I’m trying to think....right now...I don’t have a good answer for that, actually!
Just promise to let us know if you come up with an answer, okay?! Who are you playing with on this tour?
Well, I have a...it’s been mixed up a lot. I’ve had quite a few members move away, and they have their own bands.... For a while, I had the drummer of Fergus & Geronimo, and then he moved to Texas, and another girl moved to Texas, and....but, now, I have a pretty solid crew. A woman named Kimberly [Morrison], she was in The Dutchess And The Duke: she’s amazing--she’s playing bass; Bob Jones [of Fergus & Geronimo] on guitar--he’s been with me for a while; a guy named Alex [Iezzi] on drums who used to be in the band Dream Diary, he used to play drums for them....
Cool! That’s great, love Dream Diary!
Yeah! So that’s the old drummer from that, and so now he’s playing for me....and....I think that’s the line-up for now....and me!
Are there any songs from the album that can’t be performed on tour, or that you wanted to, but couldn’t replicate for this tour or playing live?
Well, this has been....this album is PRETTY hard, to play live. It’s a real....I hope people are forgiving because it’s a real....just, honestly? It’s going to be a real learning process getting this right live, because it’s so huge and it’s so delicate that I feel like it would be very difficult to capture what the record sort of captured live.... There’s a few that are impossible to do, like "The Fall"; I mean, I would need a cello player. I could definitely reinterpret it, and do it in a totally different way.... I kind of don’t want to do that... I’m not doing "Apples For The Sun".... We’re going to try to do "Pair Of Wings," there’s definitely going to have to be a little reinterpretation going on for sure. Throughout the album, honestly.... It’s going to be a lot of sound for four people to create live. We definitely have some double-duty action going on where Bob’s playing guitar, and....he’s like, ‘I’d need like, four of the dudes in Battles! Times eight!’ or something! We plan to do our best with the album, in the best way we can....
(Laughter) Have you ever wanted to record in a remote location having lived in a couple of different places yourself over the years?
It does sound tempting, but for me a really important part of writing demos and writing songs is....I feel like I would do a great job of going to Joshua Tree or something and writing by myself, and making demos, but as far as working in a studio? I have to feel safe and really creatively free. I need to work with people that I know, and that I’m comfortable with. I could see how it would inform my songwriting in the rawest sense...like if I was recording in the desert or on a mountaintop or something, but in the studio it has a lot to do with who I’m working with and how ‘creatively safe’ I feel. This is what I’ve discovered, anyway. I mean, I might not be so bold if I was working with a scary producer, or something, that didn’t make me feel very comfortable and wasn’t someone, that maybe, trusted my input. That would probably shut me down, actually.
What are some of your favorite things to do in the city when you aren’t working?
It’s been winter, so haven’t been doing to much really. I like just hanging with friends: going to and planning dinner parties....I don’t really go to shows that much, really, so....
Are there any books or films that you are into right now?
I’m like a 13-year old boy...so! (Laughter) Yeah, I just finished all of The Hunger Games books, so, and now I’m on Book Two of Game Of Thrones, so....
Did you worry that the movie (The Hunger Games) wouldn’t live up to the book?
I did! I didn’t put too much stock into it, and then I was pleasantly surprised....I thought it was awesome! I mean, I loved the casting except for the boy leads. It was confusing for me a little bit: I thought everything was great except for the casting of the two male leads. They just seemed so clean cut, but maybe that’s what young ladies of the younger generation think is really handsome! Well, I mean, who they got to play Gale, I mean, I was disappointed: he seemed like a ‘prep’ student or something.....I mean I loved the casting of, like, Rue, and Cinna.....I’m becoming a real dork right now, but I thought they were just perfect!
Let’s talk about the video for the track “Night Swim”. It’s so beautiful, with the blue lighting, and the water, but it’s also a little bit.....terrifying, maybe? Or, creepy? Was that intentional and who came up with the storyline idea for that?
Actually, this amazing woman named Laurel [Parmet] approached me and asked me to do the video. It was totally her idea. I think she totally nailed my aesthetic, honestly....creepy, dark, 'bad'. She’s a young director; she’s only twenty-one and her father’s a cinematographer. I really just let her do her thing, and, I think she did a great job. It is creepy, and I think a lot of music videos are silly, and they’re really hard for me to watch, and I almost get second-hand embarrassment watching them. Also, that isn’t me in the video, I should note....I personally am not a fan of me being in my own videos, but um, someday! Supposedly I’m going to be in the next one, so...but, she just casted it great and I think that she just nailed it.
I really thought that it stood out in the way that the tension kind of builds with the lighting, the white teeth, you hear the music below the water only....very clever storytelling.
I’m so glad to hear that. I was wondering if it would keep people’s attention, because it is very dark, and a lot of people critique things that are very dark but I like it. I think that the Sirens that are underwater, they’re almost terrifying.
What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?
Oh, Philly? I actually used to hang out there a lot, in West Philadelphia. We played there not too long ago, also....I have a lot of friends that live there, so. My favorite thing was probably hanging out on porches, something we don’t have so much of here [in NYC].
Frankie Rose 2012 Tour Dates:
04/05 – Philadelphia, PA @ Northstar Bar *
04/06 – Arlington, VA @ Artisphere
04/07 – Baltimire, MD @ Golden West *
04/08 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter *
04/09 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 *
04/10 – Atlanta, GA @ 529 *
04/13 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada *
04/14 – Austin, TX @ Red 7
04/16 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room *
04/18 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar *
04/19 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite *
04/20 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Crepe Place *
04/21 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick and Mortar Music Hall *
04/23 – Portland, OR @ East End *
04/24 – Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore *
04/25 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza *
04/26 – Missoula, MT @ The Badlander *
04/28 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium *
04/29 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry *
04/30 – Chicago, IL @ Township *
05/01 – Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick *
05/02 – Toronto, ON @ The Shop under Parts and Labor *
05/03 – Albany, NY @ Valentine’s *
* = w/ DIVE