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Frankie & The Heartstrings PDF Print E-mail
Written by George Shaw   
11 02 2011
ImageI'm a big fan of Frankie & The Heartstrings. Not just their music, which is some wonderful and lovingly crafted new old fashioned pop, by the way, but their attitude towards making music. The Pop Sex LTD catalogue, for example, sees them documenting things that matter to them as they go along their journey. They are a band who understands what it means to be in a band, and what it's like to fall in love with music. Which is why, when I was offered the opportunity to catch up with front man Frankie Francis ahead of the release of their debut album Hunger, I jumped at the chance.

Hello Frankie, how are you?

Not too bad thanks. You?

Good thanks.  So it's been about a year since I first interviewed you, and a lot has happened in that year. How's it been for you?
It's been great, George. Excellent, you know. We've done things we thought we'd never achieve. We finished making a record, and that record is coming out, we've worked with Edwyn Collins, we've been on tour, played the festivals. We've done everything in short a space of time, and there's still so much to achieve. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could make it on record and I think our album proved that we can do that.

It's all moved really quickly, with one thing happening after another. Have you had time to sit back and think about it? Or do you just take it as it comes?

Yeah. I think you should only think about the next thing that you've got to do, you know. We've got a full day of promo ahead, today we're down London and we're on our way to Kings Cross now to see... you know our Artwork?
The guy that took it, Keith (Pattinson), has got an exhibition on at The Guardian art gallery. I just think of whatever we're doing next, if you start thinking too far ahead, or start worrying about the future, it's not good, I don't think it's healthy, you know. So we're always looking forward to our next gig. We have got some great things in the pipeline, it's very exciting to find out you're playing the European festivals and we're doing the UK tour, I love being on tour, it's the best bit about being in a band. It's exciting.


What's been the highlight of the year then? If you could pick one.
I guess working with Edwyn, and making a record. Every band starts off life with a bit of hype and that, but if they haven't got the record to back it up, it doesn't matter, does it? Working with Edwyn, our first time in a studio. That was amazing.

What was that like, working with Edwyn Collins?
It was a very natural environment. A lot has to be said for his co-producer Sebastian Lewsley, who is kind of Edwyn's hands almost now because of his stroke. It was an amazing environment; we were encouraged to be creative, we weren't told what to do and Edwyn would suggest things. We just wanted to get the best sounds out of the record that we could make. We'd heard a lot of horror stories about bands working in studios, being told how to play things. We hadn't been in the studio before, but if every time is like this time, then it's a hell of a pleasurable experience, you know.

The band sounds very Orange Juice influenced. I imagine he is a key figure to you all
Yeah, definitely. I know what you mean and he was held in such a high regard before we did work with him. I think I hold him in more high regard because of what he's overcame in his life. Once, I heard him doing an interview and one of the questions was "Edwyn, when you've been rehabilitated, what's the one thing you want to achieve? Would you like to make some toast, or a cup of tea?" and he said no, he'd said to the Doctor he wants to make an album. He can do that, you know. He's made a hit album but when it comes to making toast he's terrible.

I heard you got a tattoo of him. What is it of exactly?
Yeah. When he couldn't speak, when recovering in hospital, he would draw this image over and over again of this man, he calls it ‘The Guy', and it was only when he was able to talk he said that he was trying to draw himself every day. He's famous for drawing his birds and stuff like that, but I found this image a lot more thought provoking and it'll always give you inspiration to get off your arse and do something because you don't know how lucky you are. And of course it'll remind me of the time we recorded an album with Edwyn Collins.

Are you excited about the album release then?
Very excited. It's the best thing I've ever done. We're all very proud of it, you know. The reviews that have been trickling in have... Dave's got a fart emanating on his phone, so during this interview you might hear some farts. It's not my back passage, it's Dave's phone.

I'll believe you
Did you hear that?
No, I missed it
Aw, hold on. Dave, will you do one for the purpose of the interview please?

(Dave plays a very accurate fart noise from what I can only assume was his phone)

Yeah, I caught that one. That's on his phone?
Yeah, it's called Atomic Fart app and it's on the iPhone. It's quite good like
The wonders of modern technology, ey!
(laughs) Yeah!

ImageYou mentioned the album artwork earlier; it seems to have strong ties with your hometown Sunderland. How important is that to you and the band?
Sunderland? Sunderland is as much as an inspiration to us as a band as the music we listen to, as the books we read, and the papers we look at. It's very influential. We wouldn't be the band we are if it wasn't for this town. We're proud to be from Sunderland. We can take it for what it is; we know that if you want to see your favourite band in Sunderland, you've got to put them on yourself. We know if you want to put a club night on, you've got to put it on yourself. We know that if you want to go out and not get your head kicked in, there's only two pubs you can go to but we love it for that.

Cool. Doing things your own way seems quite key and important to you, like with the Pop Sex catalogue...
Yeah, that's an amazing privileged position to be in, because how many record labels do you know that sign you and say you can start your own label and do whatever you want on it. It wouldn't happen you know.

Did that come from an anti-establishment thing, or was it just the band wanting to do it your own way?
Yeah, it was kind of us wanting to do it our own way George. At the same time as doing it our own way, we were kind of referencing Factory records, with the way we were cataloguing everything. Also, creative freedom, showing that we're more than just a band; we're five very strong individual characters with massively different interests, in some ways. We can write fanzines and release them, or do a one off print and get it out there, or get someone else to do a fanzine and sign it and put it up there, you know. It's endless, and who knows, one day we might release other people's music through it, not just ours.

"Sunderland is as much as an inspiration to us as a band as the music we listen to, as the books we read, and the papers we look at. It's very influential. We wouldn't be the band we are if it wasn't for this town."

You were recently voted the 39th Most Stylish Man in GQ Magazine. What did you think of that?
Great feeling.
I'm sure. Was that not your greatest achievement so far?
It's very flattering. I never dress to get in there or anything like that, but if we draw attention to the band because of that, then that's a fucking great thing. You've got look and think outside the box, and if we're drawing people in from other places and we gain an audience from a fashion magazine, then that's a good thing. You've got to look at these things to help you out, because nobody buys records anymore.

Do you have any style tips? Not for me, once you said you liked my jacket, so obviously that makes me the 40th Most Stylish Man.
Yeah, yeah. But having said that though, I did get beat by Romeo Beckham, who is 11 years old, so I wouldn't take any style tips from me. Also, David Cameron beat me as well, and he's a cunt.
Did he really!? I've lost all faith in this poll suddenly.

What was the last album you bought?
Hmm. It was the new British Sea Power album.
Ah right, is it good?
Yep, it's well worth checking out.
Class. A ringing endorsement. That can go on the posters.
Haha yeah, 39th Best Dressed Man says: "It's alright, check it out."


Can you remember the best gig you've ever been to?
Ooh, that's a hard one that. We're very lucky, we get to see gigs on a lot of occasions. (Pause) Sorry George, I've just been told I have another one coming in five minutes. I saw HEALTH in London, and they are a really, really good live band. If you get a chance to see them I would.

Cool, I'll make a note of them. Finally then, if you were on Take Me Out, which song would come out to, and what would be your special talent?
Well.  Me and Michael were talking about this the other day, but then we always change it and say like you know if I was on X Factor, what would be your song for survival. Mine would be Three Lions 98 Version, because immediately everyone would be on your side, wouldn't they? But on Take Me Out, I dunno. Probably come out to Three Lions again and then I don't know about a special talent, I don't even know if I can sing, I just dance about like an idiot and people write about it. I'd probably come out to Shabba Ranks and just do a really shit impression of Cilla Black, or one of those bad drawings you do.
Yeah, just draw yourself quite badly.
Yeah, I could probably do that as well

Right, that's great thanks. I'll let you get on with the rest of your interviews now.
Okie dokie, thanks. Bye!

Frankie & The Heartstrings UK Tour kicks off tonight in Durham and continues throughout the rest of February. All the dates and ticket info can be found on their website here. Their debut album 'Hunger' is out on the 21st February on Wichita Recordings, and can be pre ordered from their website here

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