Former My Chemical Romance axeman Frank Iero took some time out to talk to Dom Smith at Soundsphere about his work with frnkiero andthe cellabration.
S] So to start off, how does it feel to be in Leeds? Obviously it’s quite a small venue tonight, and you’ll be used to different styles of venues and their sizes, but how does it feel to be playing the smaller shows? Because this is going to be SWEATY.
F] “Yeah man! No, I like it like that. Y’know, I remember growing up and going to shows – those are my favourite shows that I’ve ever been to. Like, when I think back, what was the most amazing show you ever saw? I think back to the shows I saw in places like VFWs and stuff, where there was no stage, you were just surrounded. So, when doing this project, especially on a record like this, I wanted it to sound like you were listening in on it, as opposed to listening to it. I feel this is the kind of tour that you need to have for a record like that. Anything else can feel weird.”
S] So it’s kind of starting from the beginning for you?
F] “Yeah, well that’s the thing – it’s a brand new project. So, no matter what you’ve done in the past with other bands or anything like that, you have to build it otherwise it’s fake, you don’t deserve it.”
S] What’s the dynamic like with this band? The record’s been fantastic, so what’s it been like working with these guys?
F] “We fucking hate each other! *laughter* No it’s great man, because Evan’s my brother, and I’ve been wanting to start a band with Evan [Nestor] since I heard his first band, you know. I knew it was going to be perfect. I thought like, when he gets older, we should start a band because that would be really fun. I didn’t tell him that, or anything. *laughter* I knocked him out and when he woke up he was on tour! But yeah, Rob [Hughes] and I met a long time ago, and we started Leathermouth together. We did a little bit of touring on that, and I really wish we could have done more as they were so much fun to play with and be around. Then Matty O [Olsson], he’s the newest addition, we met about a year ago and just kind of hit it off and we knew from the very start, well at least I did, that he’d be perfect for the band.”
S] Obviously for yourself and the other band members, how different is this in terms of your previous projects? You have Leathermouth and MCR but this is very much your baby, what were the inspirations behind this in comparison to the other stuff you’ve done?
F] “Well, I think you’re right, every time you start a new band with different people and at different times in your life, it is going to be different. But for a record like this, this was never going to be my main thing, this was actually just for me. I played it for a friend of mine, and he was like, you have to play this for other people! And all of a sudden, there was an interest to put the record out, they really got it. It seemed like the right thing to do. Then it was suddenly, ‘oh shit, I have to go on tour!’ You know, well it was perfect, I could get together all the people I always wanted to play with, and here we are now. We’re still kind of figuring it out which is great – it’s the first time that I’ve ever written and recorded songs, and then figured out how to play them live. That’s why it’s been so fun, because we’re not just redoing a record, we’re using it as a framework and inventing it as we go along. I’m lucky enough to have the players that can do that.”
S] Regarding a couple of the songs, ‘All I Want Is Nothing’, and ‘Stage 4 Fear of Trying’, these are two very different songs. With those two songs, which are a lot of people’s favourites, can you talk about the inspirations and ideas behind those, and how they fit into the record?
F] “I feel like when sitting down to make this record, I didn’t think of it as a record. I just want to channel what’s going in my head through me. So when a song like ‘All I Want Is Nothing’ came about, it felt like a track 1, which is weird. So, as I was doing that, I feel like it’s very much a folk record to me, as I’m telling stories that I’ve either experienced along the way, or I’ve seen people go through first hand. The musicality that I’m drawing upon are things that I got into as a young person – My dad was very much into Blues, and played a lot of Blues records for me and you can see that in songs like ‘Stitches’, there are some lines in that like ‘I am the seventh son’ that I wear on my sleeve – like old school Robert Johnson. So there’s those things, and there’s also like, punk rock or early pop-punk that I dabbled in as a young kid. And I felt that if I was going to do this as a soul artist right, this is the perfect first step to wear my early influences on my sleeve. As far as ‘Stage 4…’ goes, that was a melody that had been kicking around in my head for a long time, it was just a song that I couldn’t stop playing, I couldn’t lose it. One day I picked up my guitar, just wanting to write a song, and that song came about. A friend of mine had a podcast and wanted to know if I had a song I could play, and I didn’t have any songs! But the next day, Stage 4 came about, and I ended up playing it on that podcast. So that’s how that one came about.”
S] A lot of the record does seem pretty personal – are you inspired by places, or any people in particular, family and friends, anything like that that you draw upon on a regular basis?
F] “No. I feel like it’s very much living in the moment, that’s very helpful. I try to stay tune in with different surroundings, you never know when you’re going to be inspired by something, anything. I was walking through Manchester the other day, and I noticed that there’s something about that town that almost feels like home to me. There was a smell there that hit me, and it weirdly took me back to my grandmother’s house as a young kid. I draw upon that type of thing a lot.”
S] It seems like you’ve never really stopped and relied on the success of your previous bands. What is your attitude to the success you’ve gained, and how have you changed and developed as a person through the music that you’ve made?
F] “Well, it depends how you define success. I feel like certain creative bands can be more successful than others, in the sense of, did you get your point across the correct way, and can you go back a year later, listen back and it still moves you the way it did when you first made it. I think a lot of things in my career, the good outweigh the bad, which to me is a success. Leathermouth is the same, like if I could go back I would have changed a couple of things here and there, but records aren’t ever just done, you just get to the point where you’re fed up enough to just get it finished, you know? But I’ve always been a fan of just making music and starting bands. I love that process – naming the band, and figuring out what the hell it’s going to be. It’s that sense of wonder, where you’re inventing something that’s never been done before. I like to compare that to having kids, before they go to school they have this innate weirdness, it’s such a beautiful thing and if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss it.”
S] What’re you doing next? We know you’re coming back to festivals, but what’re your plans for your future? Any more records on the horizon?
F] I feel like when we’re getting ready for the headlining run in the US, and while rehearsing and stuff, we started some great songs, so we’ll see what that turns into. I think it’d be really fun starting a new record. But as far as the year is concerned, we’re doing the UK, Europe, one show in Russia and then we’re done for three weeks, then we’re actually going out with Against Me in the States and Canada. Once that’s done we’re coming back for Reading and Leeds, it’s still up in the air if we’re going to be doing any touring around that, but it does make sense to do so. Then we’ll probably do a little bit more touring through September, then maybe head back into the recording studio. Nobody wants to tour in the winter, you see.”
S] We cover a lot of the smaller cities, and wanted to ask, what would be your advice to any younger bands starting out in a small city trying to get that level of success?
F] “Well, I think when starting out with a new project, you have to set a goal for yourself. If you’re aiming to be the biggest band in the world and make tonnes of money, then you should fucking put your guitar down and stop. If you want to write songs that somehow, someway reaches out to somebody, that’s a good place to start, you’re on the right track. If you’re full of shit, people smell it straight away. If you don’t believe in it nobody else will, you have to know that you have to put in the work and expect to get nothing out of it, and if you do that you might be pleasantly surprised. It’s a heart-breaking, gut wrenching, terrible fucking thing to do, but it’s also the greatest.”
S: Last question that I’m sure a lot of musicians can relate to, what’s kept you passionate throughout your life?
F] “As a younger person, I thought that I was able to keep my creative side and my real life side separate. But as I’ve got older I’ve realised that, no matter how separate they are, they’re so intertwined and interconnected, it’s scary. I’ve realised that in order to be the person, the husband, the father, and overall the man I want to be, I need to see things creatively, and working out that balance and fighting that good vs bad is what keeps me going, keeps me passionate. I’ve been very lucky to have some wonderful people around me who have understood the creative monster I am, and maybe love me for the person I’m trying to be.”