RUSHONROCK’s Adam Keys has kept a very close eye on Frank Turner’s career to date, following his from small venues through to his first arena tour. Before Sunday’s show in Leeds First Direct Arena, Adam caught up with Frank once again.
RUSHONROCK: The new EP came out on Thursday, tell us a bit about it…
Frank Turner: I’m pleased it’s out. In particular, I’m pleased to get the song Bar Staff out into the world. It’s one of my favourite songs I’ve written in a while. It was actually written and recorded at the same time as Be More Kind, but it didn’t make the album because it didn’t thematically fit. But, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get it out there.
RUSHONROCK: It’s definitely got a bit of a nod to the E-Street band…
FT: Definitely! The only issue we have is that I don’t have a horn section in my live band, and I’m not sure I can really justify having the expense for just one song. But, it was really fun playing with that Muscle Shoals style arrangement, and there’s definitely a nod to the E-Street, and I’d also say Lucero’s record 1372 Overton Park and Loudon Wainwrights’ song Tip That Waitress, were big inspirations for the song.
RUSHONROCK: Could we see Frank Turner evolve even further to include a horn section?
FT: I think we might do some shows here and there, but we’re sort of on the edge of capacity space, so throwing another three people in may be a challenge to do on any kind of long-term international format. But, for special one-off shows, it could be really fun.
RUSHONROCK: This tour sees you play bigger stages than ever before. How do you think the songs will transfer to arena sized venues?
FT: There are definitely cosmetic differences, and I feel like I need to paint in broader strokes in order to communicate with people who are farther away, and to try and engage that many people at the same time. It’s harder to play a good show in this space than it is in the Barfly, where you’ve got 100 people all within sweating and spitting difference of you. But, we’ve played around with some production, and we’ve got some bells and whistles!
A few years ago, it occurred to me that musicianship, song writing and performing are three different disciplines, and you can concentrate on each one in isolation. I think one of the reasons that Springsteen is so revered is that he is brilliant at all three. There are plenty of people who are good at two, but not three. For example, Kurt Cobain was a great songwriter and a great performer, but not the best musician. Eddie van Halen was a great musician and a great performer, but not the best songwriter; in my opinion. I’m not commenting on myself, but over the years I’ve really started to concentrate on the entertainment side of what I do.
RUSHONROCK: How does the size of the venue affect the set list?
FT: I spend way too much time thinking about set lists, and if I could take back the time I’ve spent thinking about set lists and do something more useful, that would probably set me in better stead. I try to play something from every record, because I’ve been to see bands were I don’t know every album, and you want to keep everyone happy.
I also think there’s a delicate balance between leading a crowd and following a crowd. If all you want to do is follow your crowd, you can play your greatest hits every night, and you’ll have a great night, but it means there’s a great chunk of stuff that never gets played, and it’s slightly slavish in a way. I think it’s cool to present a song that people may not be completely familiar with and present it as a piece of art.
RUSHONROCK: Tell us about Lost Evenings in Boston:
FT: Everything is sold out, except for the solo night; which I was slightly annoyed at (laughter), which was just like ‘eh, what the fuck?!’. The plan for Lost Evenings was always to move it around. We did it in the same venue two years in a row as none of us had any experiences of putting on a festival, and we thought it was a good idea to learn from our mistakes from the first year. We will do Boston this year, and next year somewhere different, but it will be annual thing.
RUSHONROCK: How has Be More Kind, and Make America Great Again, been received in the States?
FT: Really good – we’ve been playing our biggest ever shows and the response has been great. On the one hand, you’ve got people who say ‘I wish you’d write more political songs’ and others that say ‘just shut up and sing’. Then you get people who say ‘you’re just writing songs like that to sell records’, which I’m like ‘are you out of your mind?’.
We’ve had some interesting conversations about Make America Great Again, but mainly it’s gone well. Even people who are a different side of the political spectrum to me have appreciated it. I have had some constructive criticism after the shows, which is exactly what the whole record is about – we need to keep lines of communication open with people we disagree with. We need to get out of the idea that there’s anything intelligent, respectful or adult about refusing to talk to people you disagree with – it’s horse shit!
RUSHONROCK: The number one rule of being a Frank Turner fan is ‘don’t be a dick’. If you had a microphone for society, and everyone spreading hate was at a Frank Turner show, what would you say to them?
FT: Everyone calm the fuck down, use your indoor voice, listen to other people, try to take on board what people are saying and stop shouting talking points at each other. It’s a waste of everyone’s time! I don’t really want to get into a conversation about Brexit, but for either side to dismiss the other, when the vote was so close, is quite obviously a bad idea. There are obvious real concerns on both sides, and we need to take them on board and address them.
The one thing I will say, is that it has revealed the complete and utter amateurishness of our entire political class. It’s quite staggering to see just how shit our politicians are at their jobs. You can say what you want about Attlee vs Churchill, but they were two intellectually considered people having a weighty discussion about values and ideas, and I don’t think you can say that about our politics right now.
The mechanism by which we elevate people to positions of leadership in our society is broken on some fundamental level. It cannot be that Jeremy Corbyn and Teresa May represent the best of our society. I mean, it’s just not true!
RUSHONROCK: Could you see yourself releasing an album on the political landscape in this country?
FT: In short, no. Be More Kind is an attempt to write a non-partisan political record. It’s a record about liberalism, which is essentially cheering for the referee in a football match. It’s a celebration about rules of engagement, not about what we disagree on. It’s about the method in which we disagree with each other.
I find it easier to take a view on American politics than British politics because I have the advantage of being at arm’s length from it. Its clearer to me what I think about American politics than what I think about British politics, but also, I’m not temperamentally cut out to be a politician. Even just making this record on the level I have, I was nervous about what it would do to my blood pressure and sleeping pattern.
RUSHONROCK: How does being happy, settled and looking forward to marriage affect your approach to signwriting?
FT: I think it improves it. One of my concerns about being the touring machine was that it was making me too one dimensional. I think anyone who does one thing all the time is quite boring. We still tour hard enough, but I do have extracurricular activities in my life now, and I think that gives me more to write about, in a funny way.
Predictably, when I announced to the world that I was engaged, there were some tedious dickheads going on that I wouldn’t write any more good songs. I mean, I cannot find the words to express how a shitty a thing that is to say. I haven’t unwritten any of the old songs. If all you want to listen to is songs about heartbreak, I’ve written enough of those! Even if I wasn’t settled down, I probably wouldn’t be writing those songs anymore because I’ve done it. I don’t wish to repeat myself and I want to move on in terms of my subject matter.
RUSHONROCK: Plans for a new album?
FT: I’m actually making a new record straight after this tour, which is about some very different, but I’m not saying any more than that!