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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 25th July 2013 at 12:00 pm
The last 2 months have been quite exciting for Sunderland’s Frankie and the Heartstrings. Though it sounds almost like a fairy tale for the skint bands I have come to know in all my time as a music writer, in early June the band opened their own record shop Pop Recs Ltd in their hometown. While I was still in England in mid-May, singer Frankie Francis said to NME about the venture, “It’s really brilliant. I love records, and to be able to become part of that community of people who sell records in the UK is exciting and in some way a bit of an honour. The British record shop has a huge legacy and one that we can contribute to in a small way…The level of backing from Sunderland council thus far has been incredibly inspiring. We as a group are proud of who we are and where we are from, and moments like these only affirm that sense of community and belief that the area as a creative hub are supported by the people around us”.
I remember at the time thinking, I love this band. But how the hell are they going to pull this off? Have they bitten off more than they can chew? Is this all going to end in tears? However, there were early signs that they would stay true to their DIY nature. Drummer Dave Harper asked around our group of friends on where he could get parts to make a counter, which I believe became literally the counter where people pay for their records. Guitarist Michael McKnight Tweeted photos at us of their own coffee blend (seriously, what?) and a taxidermied squirrel that sits proudly on a mantle somewhere in the shop. Yes, I am still talking about guys in a rock band here. Need proof? Probably what will be the shop’s most enduring legacy will be the band’s self-curated series of entirely free, in-store performances showcasing local talent and bands from further afield.
All this business (literally) about a real-life, functioning record shop might make you think they’ve hung up their songwriting to be in music retail instead. Not so fast though. The band’s second album ‘The Days Run Away’ was released in May, and at the end of the August they’ll be releasing their next single, ‘That Girl, That Scene’, which appears on the album. If you were a fan of their herky-jerky, frenetic style offered up in ‘Tender’ and the Domino pizza advert-commandeered track ‘Hunger’, both tracks from their debut album, you’re in luck. ‘That Girl, That Scene’ is a brilliant yet short guitar pop number that manages to pack a lot of punch in less than 2 and half minutes.
From the start, the guitars and drums are driving so hard, you can sort of imagine the strength of it all together packing enough energy to set a jumbo jet aloft. The guitar solo sounds like something out of the surf-y ’60s: simple, yet note perfect. And lyrically, I find it hilarious, beginning with, “I’m not the kind of guy that likes to take it slow / I’m not the kind of guy you’d like your mum to know / ‘cos I’ve been down too, down too many roads”. Our protagonist is being honest: I’m not the boy next door, I’m not the kind of boy you want to take home to mum. I’ve seen too much. I’ve been around the block. But I also find the words refreshingly honest. The song is about how every person has two sides when they’re in love. At first, you’re the angel: you’ll do anything for the apple of your eye when you’ve found the person you fancy. You’ll drop everything to make the relationship work. But let’s face it: there’s another part of you that will, at times, revert to the way you were before you met that person: in this case, the impression is that as lads, you’ll eventually go back to your late night going out and boozing ways. Richard Hawley‘s ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ (video here) comes to mind.
In that way, nights out to the indie disco could prove quite treacherous to the single fella: seeing “that girl” in “that scene” in the clubs you’re used to going to late at night could lead to a messy relationship. At the end, Francis admits “that girl, that scene / she’ll be the death of me”. Love is a battlefield, eh? Francis delivers the words in such a winsome way, kicking up the end of the lines with his trademark squeal. You can’t help but get excited over this. Or is it just me? Have a listen to the single below and let us know what you think.
‘That Girl, That Scene’, the forthcoming single from Frankie and the Heartstrings, will be released on the 26th of August via digital download. It will be backed by ‘Summer’, a brand new composition.
The latest single from the Frankie and the Heartstrings camp is a little ditty called ‘Nothing Our Way’, being released today. A car wash and a five-a-side, you say? Just watch the video below.
The band are on tour in the UK in June.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 10th April 2013 at 9:00 am
Frankie and the Heartstrings will be touring the UK in June. Tickets are on sale now. Their next single, ‘Nothing Our Way’, has already made the BBC 6music rounds and will be released officially on the 20th of May. You can listen to it at the bottom of this post.
I am also very pleased to announce that the Sunderland band will be appearing on the Saturday (18 May) at this year’s Great Escape. So if you want to find me there, that’s one sure shout…
Saturday 18th May 2013 – Brighton Great Escape Festival (venue TBA)
Wednesday 5th June 2013 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Thursday 6th June 2013 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Friday 7th June 2013 – Newcastle University
Saturday 8th June 2013 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Sunday 9th June 2013 – Hartlepool Studio
Tuesday 11th June 2013 – Bristol Louisiana
Wednesday 12th June 2013 – Leicester Scholars Bar
Part 1 of Martin’s review of Beacons 2012 can be read here.
What more can be written about Wild Beasts’ ability to headline? Their double-headed fantasia redefines the potential of a modern group of musicians. The risk of repetition is one worth bearing in order to quote a phrase written about their headline performance at Constellations in Leeds last November: “To see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.” To which I would add, the material is so familiar now that the crowd effortlessly sing along pretty much all the way through. Which seems natural, until you ponder the meaning of such lyrical masterpieces such as “I was thrilled as I was appalled / Courting him in fisticuffing waltz”; words worthy of Raffles the Gentleman Thug himself. The world of performing arts waits with baited breath the arrival of a fourth Wild Beasts album.
As these things are wont to do, Sunday dawns even later with the kind of melancholy that only pervades the final morning of a weekend-long shindig. What finer prescription for such malaise than a swift dose of Frankie and the Heartstrings? As my erudite companion opined, if these guys had been around 10 years ago, they’d have cleaned up, what with their jaunty melodies, whip-smart pop arrangements and a classic frontman in Frankie Francis. Their frequent appearances on the festival scene are considerable consolation.
There is no photograph of The Wave Pictures because they were so good I couldn’t drag my attention away from them to fiddle with a camera. Operating for an impressive 14 years, time has not dulled their appeal; quite the opposite: the trio are telepathic in their delivery. Whether it’s that, the clarity of the ideas contained within the casually-delivered lyrics, or perhaps the guitar which spans basic root chords and then veers off into advanced soloing in the blink of the eye, or most likely a superb blend of all three, something really clicks with these guys. Singer David Tattersall can’t help the smile creeping across his child’s face, as if he’s heard the secret of the world – and everything’s going to be OK. Like the day of meeting someone who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, no doubt there will be many more performances by The Wave Pictures – but nothing beats the first time.
From which planet is Willis Earl Beal? Certainly he has a considerably other-worldly manner which suggests someone not quite 100% Earthling. The intensity of his performance does nothing to dissuade this notion. Accompanied by a reel-to-reel tape machine, Beal prowls the stage, howling complex, inscrutable notions to primordial beats. He wraps up by removing his thick leather belt and whacking his chair by way of improvised percussion, before swaggering offstage. He didn’t actually say, “Take me to your leader”, but one has the impression that’s what he’s thinking. [I’m not sure what to make of him either, but he is a protege of Richard Russell’s, so on that alone, he comes well recommended, doesn’t he? – Ed.]
I have it on good authority that Patrick Wolf, on grand piano and violin-as-held-like-a-guitar delivered his arch-pop with aplomb, and that Toots and the Maytals wrapped things up with – what else! – a reggae conga. And that was that. The end.
This is Beacons’ first year as Beacons – those in the know will have attended a smaller but no less vibrant event on roughly the same site called Moorfest from which Beacons has grown; yet more will have been as bitterly disappointed as the organisers were when last year’s event was cancelled due to apocalyptic flooding. Thusly, Beacons 2012 represents the culmination of many years of hopes, dreams, and the odd scary moment – the product of such a recipe was an event which had no airs or graces at all in its delivery: it simply put on top-quality entertainment in a decent bit of the countryside, and invited the punters themselves to be its beating heart.
If you sat down and thought about it for a bit, you could tell this was an early, perhaps even naïve, event – the main arena had a vast central space with nothing in it (where was the eponymous beacon?), I found programmes for sale on the last day at the back of a tent, and stuff like signage was a bit hit and miss. But by ‘eck and by gum, what am I blathering about? It’s refreshing to experience a festival that puts all its effort into the essentials, even if that means the details are a bit rough around the edges. Details can be bought, but good taste in music cannot: for that reason, Beacons deserves to flourish. And with every ticket for 2012 sold out, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Not even the weather.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 28th October 2011 at 11:00 am
Frankie and the Heartstrings have been spreading their love everywhere, including most recently Australia and Asia, and they’re set to play a show at Liverpool Mojo on 13 November, then support the Vaccines on a tour of the UK in the rest of November into early December (full list of dates on their official Web site). No rest for the weary. They have, however, stopped long enough to write and record a new single, the cheekily titled ‘Everybody Looks Better (in the Right Light)’.
Produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler, it has the same herky-jerky-type energy that we’ve come to associate with Frankie and the Heartstrings based on their previous singles (‘Hunger’, ‘Tender’ [Video of the Moment here], ‘Ungrateful’ [Video of the Moment here]). It’s a mode we know and love when it comes to Frankie and co., and I find it faultless: there’s no hiding behind someone else’s production ideas. What you see is what you get. I understand that there are people who can’t stand this band and their sound, but if you require overproduction, fancy schmancy bells and whistles and more style over substance in your music, then this isn’t the sort of thing you would be keen on anyway. Enjoy your autotune and fake eyelashes. Far, far away from me, please.
The ‘Everybody Looks Better (in the Right Light)’ single from Frankie and the Heartstrings will be released on the 28th of November on the band’s own Pop Sex Ltd label. Its b-side will be ‘The Way That You Kiss’, produced by Ryan Jarman of the Cribs.
Each festival is defined by its terroir: the land on which it takes place that gives it its atmosphere and reason for being. Where would Glastonbury be without its mythical rumours of ley lines and King Arthur, for instance? At first glance, the city centre of Sunderland wouldn’t be considered prime real estate by festival goers. But Split Festival have found a very accommodating venue in Ashbrooke Sports Club, a cricket and rugby venue with a proud tradition of sport, and a rather fine clubhouse, which is given over for a weekend a year to all manner of musical, comedic and gourmet endeavours. Some of the rugby team even double up as security.
Inevitably a festival on a tiny scale, there’s one large tent, a ‘fringe’ tent, and a food tent, laden with all sorts of edible goodies. The clubhouse is off-limits for regular punters, being reserved for staff, performers and press – and the regular sporting participants and their families, who continue to absorb their rugby league and Premiership football in the bar, even as the racket emanates from the tent below, whilst many a music fan’s Adidas wreak their havoc on the previously hallowed cricket outfield.
Sunderland clearly deserves its own festival; even though there are big national and international names on the bill, the roll-call of local talent is rather impressive, with Saturday’s Vinyl Jacket, B>E>A>K, Beth Jeans Houghton and Little Comets holding up the North-East corner. Beth Orton played a superb, brave solo set in the fringe tent, proving that even shorn of instrumentation, her songs still hold the power to captivate. The Rifles somehow manage to sound like an indie Madness, which is no bad thing when you get your head round it.
The Mystery Jets’ epic, thoughtful set is well-received, Blaine Harrison managing to deliver plenty of excitement despite being sat down throughout the set. The Drums bring a touch of flouncy transatlantic glamour to the affair – sticking to their new material, the set is tense, sparsely arranged, aloof. Something of an acquired taste, and not the most likely choice to bring a crowd to an excited climax on the end of day one, but certainly a class act. (Further, I got a chance to chat with them; you can read my interview with them here.)
On Sunday (day two), Hyde and Beast continue their meteoric ascent with a note-perfect rendition of the best bits of recent album ‘Slow Down’ (review here). Unsurprisingly popular, with the sprinkling of Futureheads in the line-up, the crowd give a justified warm welcome to the downtempo, subtle psychedelia. The only festival I can remember that actually runs ahead of time, Ganglians are off almost as soon as they are supposed to have begun, looking nonplussed about the whole affair.
Dinosaur Pile-Up’s stripped-down, Ash-on-steroids set is slightly incongruous in the late summer sunshine, and there’s a feeling of killing time until the utterly wonderful Frankie and the Heartstrings take the stage.
Arguably the biggest band in Sunderland at present, a truly deserved accolade, practically every song sounds like a hit single, with plenty of that jerky, assertive rhythm that distinguishes a Sunderland band. Frankie himself is a classic frontman, throwing shapes with abandon, the crowd enthralled. An apparently unplanned power cut in the last song couldn’t have been better timed, Frankie whipping the audience into a frenzied chant of “Sunderland!” in the darkness, until persuaded to leave the stage minutes later by a bouncer who himself couldn’t help but hold his fist aloft, proud as punch. Every festival has its ecstatic moment which sums up all that is special about the weekend. This was Split’s.
After such a strong set, the Charlatans had a tough job, and they sort of got away with it by dint of being a professional, well-rehearsed unit, with a popular body of work behind them. Great for fans, but missing something of the connection of the previous act. And after all that, it’s a short hop home. Festivals in cities are something of a rarity, but there’s something to be said for good transport links, and being in bed in time for getting up for work on Monday morning. On this showing, Split 2012 should be an unmissable event.