Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

By Deb Draisin

Barriers, Frank Iero’s third solo go-round, dropped at the end of May, preceded by the first single, “Young And Doomed,” along with a video. Iero’s latest line-up includes his brother-in-law, Science’s Evan Nestor, on second guitar; Murder by Death’s Matt Armstrong on bass; Thursday’s Tucker Rule on drums; and The Scarlet Ending’s multi-instrumentalist, Kayleigh Goldsworthy.

Barriers was mixed, as was Frank’s EP“Keep the Coffins Coming,” by the eclectic Steve Albini. This album is quite the departure from its predecessors - as well it should be, considering that some of its members survived a serious bus accident in between the two recordings. Iero has stated that he considers each project to be its very own thing, hence the different band names every album. New listeners and old fans alike will not be expecting some of the surprises that “Barriers” has up its sleeve.

Iero had this to say about the album: “This is who I am, I create in order to survive. And every chance I get I’m going to evolve and change. The ambition is to be for these songs to be perceived without any kind of past notion of what the project is supposed to sound like, to break down any and all boundaries and barriers that we’ve set up or that other people have set up for us. Barriers’ is a record that I still can’t believe I made and I’m so incredibly proud of it. I can’t wait for other people to be shocked and appalled and inspired by it. Hopefully it scares the shit out of them.”

Frank and I sat down for a chat at a Jersey bowling alley (where I had bowled somewhat worse than a two year old with sciatica would) to discuss all things musical, a few things mystical, and a lot of things simply human.

Q: Okay, first and foremost, how are you feeling? I know that you just battled a nasty sinus infection.

Frank: Getting better, getting better. I just did two acoustic sessions over the last two days - the first one was rough, I was like “Oh no, I’m still sick.” And then, yesterday, I felt a little bit better. I’ll be done with my antibiotics in maybe two or three more days.

Q: Joy! I’m glad you’re drinking a beer, that’s a good decision on your part.

Frank: (laughing) I heard that that’s a myth.

Q: Well, I think it’s half a myth. Like, you don’t want to pound a bottle.

Frank: Exactly. I heard that you’re not supposed to take it with a drink.

Q: Yeah, like don’t take shots…

Frank: And then swallow a pill.

Q: Didn’t you have something years ago that took you off tour, too – something really similar?

Frank: Years and years ago, yeah, when I was in My Chem, I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I flew the week after. I was told that it was going to be okay, and it wasn’t okay (laughs).

Q: It was far from okay?

Frank: It ended up that my sinus cavities exploded in transit.

Q: What does that mean, what happens when they explode?

Frank: Well, your sinus cavities fill up with infection, then they seep, and you start to bleed out of your nose, and out of your mouth.

Q: Fun.

Frank: It’s fucking horrible.

Q: The other passengers were very happy to be sitting next to you.

Frank: Yeah! Well, I made it into Japan, went into the hospital, and then turned around and flew back to New York.

Q: How was the Japanese hospital – was it nice?

Frank: The people were very nice, but no one understood me, and I didn’t understand them. It looked like a fifties horror movie, because there were just these weird glass vials that they were filling.

Q: Well, it is Japan…

Frank: (laughs) In my arms, I had all these ivs, and I was like ‘I don’t know what this stuff is, this is crazy.”

Q: “I hope that this shit is good for me…”

Frank: Yeah, that was a rough one.

Q: It was. Okay, so why do you want people to be shocked, appalled and frightened by the content of “Barriers”, Frank?

Frank: (laughs) Well, I feel like, if you’re a fan of things that I’ve done, then you know to expect the unexpected. So, I think that this record in particular is not what anyone would expect. The other thing that I mean by that is that, what you’re going to hear on this record is me tackling things, and attempting things, that kind of scare the hell out of me.

Q: Oh, things that scare you.

Frank: Yeah, and I think that’s where the best stuff comes from, when you’re scared. Here’s the thing: as human beings, we tend to come up with excuses for why not to try. We have a fear of failure, a fear of looking silly, a fear of what other people might think, or expect from us, and really, all it is is just us setting up walls and barriers around ourselves under the guise of protection.

Q: Ah, I see what you did there, okay.

Frank: This record is about is tearing down those walls, and overcoming those hurdles, and scaring yourself, and attempting those things that you never thought you could succeed in.

Q: Such as?

Frank: Could be anything. I mean, for me, it was addressing this huge elephant in the room: this is the first record that I wrote since that crazy accident, you know? And, for a while, I didn’t think that I could. Like, everything that I wrote just felt small, and not important enough to encompass all of these emotions that I had about what happened in Australia. I knew that I had to address it, I couldn’t just skirt around that issue. It changed me in such an all-encompassing way, and that’s my life now – I’m not the same person I was before.

Q: I get it.

Frank: So, I had to speak about it, and it had to be the focal point of the record – to shy away from it, because it was scary, just didn’t work for me. Especially, too, because, with this record, what got me through, really, was having all of these musicians whom I had, for like twenty years, wanted to make a record with, all free at the same time, and willing to do a record with me. It was like, “Hey, now is the time, let’s do this.”

Q: It is a killer lineup you’ve got there.

Frank: It’s insane. If I had to hand pick a dream team lineup for a band, it would be them.

Q: I actually just survived a crazy car crash myself: I got nailed by a semi, my car was totaled.

Frank: Oh my God! Geez. But you’re okay?

Q: Yeah, I walked away unscathed.

Frank: Wow. Isn’t that insane?

Q: It’s insane. So, I know the feeling of like, not looking at things the same way anymore. I don’t, and you probably don’t, either.

Frank: No. You feel like you got a free pass.

Q: Yep, and your priorities shift, and your thoughts shift.

Frank: Yeah. It’s like this trident: one is “Oh my gosh, that could’ve been so much worse. I’m so happy to be okay.”

Q: That’s the first one.

Frank: Yep, that’s first. The second one is “Oh wow, I’ve seen Death up close and personal, I’ve looked it in the eye. Some people only get to meet it once. I’ve shook Death’s hand, and now I’m just waiting to meet it again.” And that’s a really strange feeling to have.

Q: Yeah, it is.

Frank: The third is not believing that you truly, actually made it through, and wondering if maybe this is just what the afterlife is, just a manifestation of another reality.

Q: Ooh, you’re getting existential on me now.

Frank: (laughs) Yeah, I do that.

Q: Did it ever occur to you that this could not be real in the first place?

Frank: Absolutely.

Q: I have had that thought before.

Frank: Yeah, and no one can tell you what reality is, or what to believe.

Q: I could be dreaming all of this, right? And so could you.

Frank: Exactly. So, you just kind of to come to the realization that, whatever I perceive my reality to be, is what I’ve dealt with, and I need to make it the best that I can. And also, at the end of that, that ends up being a little bit freeing, because, if you are making all of this up, then the sky’s the limit. Are you going to imagine yourself failing all the time? No, you’re going to imagine your success, and all of the things that you’ve ever wanted to attempt, you hold in your hands that outcome.

Q: That’s a good point. It’s kinda like creative visualization.

Frank: Exactly. A self-fulfilling prophecy, hopefully.

Q: Makes sense. So, can you break down your perception of a “future violent” is? Is it, like, the schoolyard bully, or what?

Frank: No, no, no, I don’t see the word “violence” as negative anymore, and I think that stems from the accident, because that was a very violent act, you know? But, in talking to my friend, Ross, whom I did our last record with, he’ll tell you that things don’t happen to you that happen for you. And, if you think about things in that way…you’ve had this near death experience. You’ve had this brutal, abrupt action happen to you – it was a very violent act, but it sparked something, it was a ripple. The idea of being a future violent is looking at life as like this pristine lake, and you can passively take it all in. You’d still enjoy it, living vicariously through the fish that are swimming underneath or experiencing the wind changing the current. These are all beautiful ways to experience life, just sitting back and letting it happen without you participating. Or, you can grab a rock off the shore and toss it in, and disrupt that plane violently, leaving an imprint, a footprint, and seeing that ripple carry on and affect everything around it. I don’t necessarily think of that as a bad thing. Maybe that plane of existence needs to be shattered a bit, and you need to leave your imprint.

Q: Violence for a purpose?

Frank: Yeah, with “violence” meaning actively participating, like shattering a glass ceiling, or simply going out and meeting people, and affecting their lives. So, the idea is that the band is the future activists, and the people listening to this record, the ones who are going to be imprinted, and, hopefully, they hear this, and they see the things that we’ve gone through and overcome, and they feel that inspiration to go out and do it themselves, and then, in that way, we’ll affect everything.

Q: And hopefully pass that onto someone else.

Frank: Hopefully.

Q: So, not only do you change band lineups every time, but you also seem to change labels every time – is that by design, or…?

Frank: (laughs) No, that wasn’t part of the design at all! It’s funny, like the first time around, way in the beginning, the first person I spoke to was Wayne over at Staple, and they were a division of Vagrant. After “Stomachaches” came out, Vagrant was bought by BMG, and Staple was dissolved. They brought whoever they wanted over to Vagrant, and it was like “Oh my gosh, we’re on a major label!” But that was a one-record deal, and Wayne was kinda my guy, so…coming from the industry, you know that, when you sign with labels, the turnover is pretty severe, and it happens a lot. Even somebody that’s been there for thirteen or fifteen years, like Wayne was, they might not be there after the ink dries on that contract.

Q: I saw that happen to a lot of my friends at Relativity when they got bought out by SONY.

Frank: It happens all the time, and it happened with My Chem. It’s par for the course. So, this time around, I wanted to find a label where I knew somebody who really believed in the project, and who wanted to work with me, and not just my past. I ended up talking to Francesca Caldera, who’s amazing – she actually was the second person that contacted me when “Stomachaches was finished, and it just so happened that she was maybe four or five days behind Wayne. But she’d been following my career, and she was over at Equivision, and recently had moved over to Unified. And, we spent a little bit of time over there, and met the rest of the team, and felt really nice about them. The strange thing is that it’s an Australian-based label!

Q: I noticed that, Australia’s following you.

Frank: I know! It’s really strange. So much stuff has happened in the very same type of way. I tend to fall into things, and I like that. It feels like the universe is kinda pushing me around, and I go with the flow – and it’s worked out for me in the past. I’m not trying to be mystical, or anything like that.

Q: You’re a little mystical since the accident, not gonna lie.

Frank: (laughs) I like to think that there are signs and nature does take its course.

Q: It’s like you were meant to work with her, and, in some way, it was happening.

Frank: In some way, right? You never know. And I’m so glad that it did, because this honestly is one of the best label experiences, and the record’s not even out yet – it’s crazy!

Q: They’re very pro-artist.

Frank: Yes, they are, they really are. It feels like a small label, even though it’s not, it’s a giant label.

Q: Like Epitaph.

Frank: Exactly, yeah. It feels just very family-oriented, and, like you said, artist-forward. I like that we’re all on the same page. I like that they believe in the project, and that they’ve followed us from the beginning – it just feels right.

Q: They get your vision. That’s helpful.

Frank: They get my vision, yeah. It’s a partnership, which I’ve been looking for.

Q: See, that’s what you want. You want to feel like you’re in a cohesive situation.

Frank: Exactly, and listen, I’m 37, gonna be 38 soon. I don’t wanna work for anybody else (laughs). I’m beyond that.

Q: Rub it in. That’s why I’m in school.

Frank: Yeah, there you go!

Q: I’m not there yet though. So, “Young And Doomed’ is a really heavy first release, honestly. I know that the song precedes the album, but can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind the song, and the video?

Frank: Yeah. Well, I always feel like, when we write a record like this, there are two songs which make up the road map of where you’re going next, and two songs which sum up where you’ve been. When writing the songs for “Barriers”, “Young And Doomed” was the first one that came out, and I thought “Oh wow, this is really lending itself to some of the topics that I talked about on ‘Parachutes’.” I really do feel like this song is a great bridging of the gap between the two records, and I knew early on that I wanted it to be the first song that people heard. The song deals a lot with predetermination, and…

Q: And self-harm.

Frank: Yeah, and self-harm, but not specifically in the literal sense. It could mean that, but it manifests itself differently for everybody.

Q: You mean like cutting yourself emotionally?

Frank: Yeah. We’re very much our own worst enemy.

Q: Absolutely, of course we are.

Frank: We know how to hurt ourselves the best, and those scars aren’t always visible. So, no matter how you’re brought up, addiction and depression and anxiety – these emotions are inherited, you know? You could go to the best schools, you could have all the Dr. Spock books, but some things are just in your DNA, in your veins. Am I going against what my parents, or other people around me, wanted from me, or am I just doing the thing that I was always going to do, no matter what?

Q: Are you? Because your family are musicians, but you still feel like you went the wrong way for them?

Frank: Oh, I’m not saying with the music thing - although it depends on when you asked me, by the way. Here’s the thing: people only think you’re crazy if things don’t work out. If they work out, you’re a genius. If they don’t work out, then coulda woulda shoulda.

Q: Then you’ve fucked up your life.

Frank: Yeah. So, that’s a fine line with following your muse. But as far as the album is concerned, it’s about doing things that may be bad for you, even though they make you feel good. Sometimes you feel good in that depressive state, like that’s a real thing.

Q: Depression is its own addiction. It’s weird, but it is.

Frank: Yeah, it is.

Q: So, Warped Tour just wrapped up (except not really). Any thoughts about the evolution of that tour?

Frank: I think they’re doing it right now. I think that it was something to behold back in the day. I did it, and I loved every second of it, but it was a fucking hard tour. I’m so glad that I did it, I wouldn’t change that for the world – but doing it in your twenties is a lot different than doing it in your thirties and forties, you know what I mean? And I think a lot of bands that they wanted to do it again were just like “I’m sorry, but I can’t shower out of a bag and wait in line for the bathroom anymore”, you know? It’s rough.

Q: I sure do. My twenty-six year old doesn’t want to do it anymore. He’s like “Do they have seats, Mom?” But festival culture took a turn. Do you feel like that? It went in a weird direction – more toxic.

Frank: Yeah, but I feel like it’s also location-based. Like with the European festivals, it’s always been the same way, and those are hard, of course, but they’re destination-based, they’re not touring. It’s hard to tour a festival, that’s a tough undertaking, and they did it for a really long time, and they did it well. But I think now doing location-based is the best all around. They’ll get one bill - a quality bill, and they’re going to get bands that have done it in the past, but couldn’t necessarily agree to do it all summer long. Three months of your life is…

Q: A bit much.

Frank: It is. I think they have the right idea, but what I wouldn’t do is mention a lot of bands in your press junket who maybe didn’t have any intention of doing it. I wouldn’t do that (laughs).

Q: Yeah, that probably isn’t going to work out for you, I wouldn’t, either. So, we are in an intense political climate right now – does “Barriers” delve into any of that at all, even kind of metaphorically speaking? You’re usually pretty direct with your politics.

Frank: Right, yeah. I deal more in things that are human nature-based. It’s crazy to me that being free to love people you want to love, or the pursuit of happiness, are political statements - but they are, somehow. That’s as far into politics that I go on this record. I think that those things should just be universally accepted. It’s puzzling to me that we’re in the year 2019 and we’re still discussing this. It’s ridiculous.

Q: I feel like we’re going backwards.

Frank: Yeah, it does feel like that sometimes. But I truly do believe that humans are inherently good.

Q: You do?

Frank: I do.

Q: That’s really optimistic.

Frank: But I feel like the bad element is, unfortunately, very loud – and I think that has a lot to do with the platforms that we’re supplying everyone: social media, and people basing their opinions and decisions upon “Oh, let’s get everyone (else’s) opinion on this.” You don’t need everyone’s opinion on everything. A lot of people who shouldn’t have the ability to call the shots on things are very loud, and finding ways to get even louder, and I think that’s very fucking dangerous.

Q: Well, when you have a president who tweets, how can you expect everybody else not to? Did you ever think that was going to happen?

Frank: No! My God, no. I think we spent a lot of time thinking “Oh well, it’s never going to get that bad, because we’re not stupid enough to put this person in charge.”

Q: My mother thought (his campaign) was a joke – she died thinking that. She didn’t think he was actually going to win.

Frank: I know. Well, think about this: when the accident happened, and I’m questioning whether I’m in real life or not…

Q: And then he gets elected.

Frank: And then he gets elected, and it was like “Oh my God.”

Q: Maybe I’m not!

Frank: Yeah. “I’ve definitely gone to hell”.

Q: I was in Africa (right after he won), and they were legit scared. They were like “This is not going to be good for us.”

Frank: No, it’s not good for anyone.

Q: Yeah, it’s bad. So, this album is a journey! Fourteen songs, with material to spare. What inspired that writing surge, for you?

Frank: You know, I think it was having this giant elephant in the room that I didn’t think I could tackle, and then chipping away at it, and finding out “Oh wow, the stars have aligned, so I have to get into this.” And, as I started to break down the wall, things didn’t seem as scary anymore, and so the floodgates started opening up, and I started to go after other things that I had never addressed before. And that was huge for me.

Q: Like what? Can you sort of explain it?

Frank: Different things that I’ve gone through in my childhood. The divorce of my parents. Certain elements that I had dealt with with my mother with substance abuse, and things of that nature.

Q: Oh, mom issues…

Frank: There was a lot of stuff that I started to trudge through, and I got to seventeen songs, and I didn’t want to stop. We did seventeen songs in fifteen days, which is crazy - and that was recorded and mixed – live to tape. So, it got intense. I truly think if I had more time, I probably would have gone even further.

Q: I feel like you always write fast like that. Like, when you’re ready to go, you go.

Frank: Yeah, it’s kinda weird. I don’t know: the floodgates definitely opened. When I get into that state of mind, it doesn’t stop. But I like that we took our time, and kinda took a step back and went “Okay, this works the record, this makes sense”. It was hard for me, because I usually think about a record in twelve songs. This was the first time I’ve done fourteen. It actually ended up being a double LP, so it’s a double record. It’s pretty cool to end a trilogy on that. It’s fucking awesome.

Q: Good strategy, Man! Really cool. In this digital day and age, playing albums in order is becoming a thing of the past. How important is tracking order, though?

Frank: Ah, it’s so important. If you were to read a book last page first, and then skip to the middle, the story would be all jumbled, and you really, truly wouldn’t understand what was happening. The same thing with a record. You can’t watch a movie that way, and you can’t listen to a record that way – that is, if you want the full scope of the project. If you’re just looking for excerpts and quotes, then that’s different, then that’s fine.

Q: I mean, imagine taking an album like “Operation: Mindcrime” and jumping around - you would not be able to follow along.

Frank: Yeah, but I what I like though is that, unlike a book that you can take certain chapters and be like “Hey, listen: this is a good excerpt that will get you into something” - you can do those types of things - but, if you are trying to tell a story – trying to put forth a full work, it’s important to take it in that way.

Q: So if your listeners do want to jump around, where would you direct them to go?

Frank: Well, here’s what I did with the record: I tracklisted it the way that I thought it needed to be heard. But, the fact that it comes as a double record, you can start with Side C, and it gives you kind of a different feel. So, if you were to start the record on Track 8, which is “Moto Pop”, and take it that way, that’s a different record. And I like that record as well, but that’s not how I intended it. But, I think if you listen to it the correct way first, start again. If you listen to the second record, change it up.

Q: What’s that song about, Frank?

Frank: “Moto Pop”? Yeah, that was a fun one. It’s about burning down to your hometown, and not looking back – earning your scars in the fire.

Q: Setting fire to your past?

Frank: Yeah.

Q: So, for this album, you’ve introduced harmonies, thrash guitar, funk leanings, piano – really new stuff for you. Were these directions that you expected to go in, or did they just kinda show up when you started working?

Frank: They were directions that I’d always wanted to experiment with, and live in for a little while. Music is a lot like a love affair: you know, sometimes you meet someone along the way, and you’re just like “Wow, that’d be really cool, but right now, in my life, this is just not going to work”. It’s the same thing with songs. You dabble, and you’re like “Oh man, this would be so wonderful, I would love to have something like this, but I guess now was just the right time, and I think I had the right people in the room, as well, to chase those dreams. Songs like “Medicine Square Garden”, which started as this idea, but I heard it – I heard the whole thing in my head. And I couldn’t vocalize it to explain how it was supposed to go, either you were going to get it, and it was going to be fantastic, and we’re going to take an amazing journey, or it’s just going to be lost in the ether.

Q: What message were you trying to send with that one?

Frank: “Medicine Square Garden” is about: sometimes the relationships that are most detrimental to us - that are based in addiction and very, very dark times - are the most exciting and fruitful.

Q: Oh, for sure.

Frank: It’s about how would these two Titans of Darkness go up against each other? It’s almost like a “(Game of) Throne(s)” in real life type of thing. “Medicine Square Garden” is where these two face off in this very tumultuous relationship.

Q: Like when you’re seeing someone that your parents don’t approve of?

Frank: (laughs) Yeah…it’s just hate fucking, bottom line.

Q: For a long-time, happily married person…

Frank: Yes!

Q: You write a lot about heartbreak. So, is it just: Jamia didn’t like something that you did, and you’re heartbroken, and you had to write something?

Frank: (laughs) No, no!

Q: Where does this come from, this heartbreak all the time?

Frank: We all have our pasts, you know? But, I feel like: you can’t have the sweet without the sour. I don’t think our relationship would be as fantastic as it is, and as happily married as we are, without the other side.

Q: If you didn’t express how she was upsetting you?

Frank: (laughs) Yeah, I wanna cure it.

Q: Look, I get it: when my husband used to upset me, I used to write emo poems about it, too.

Frank: (laughs) Yeah, there’s no song about, like, microwave cheese, and stuff like that. There’s nothing about that.

Q: The things that we choose to fight about are usually the littlest.

Frank: Mundane, yeah.

Q: Mundane things that you just wanna kill each other over. That’s marriage. So, you mentioned, in your interview with Rob Herrera, that your bandmates contributed some original material. Which songs, can you share?

Frank: Absolutely. Two songs started with Evan. One is “Ode To Destruction”, which was a progression that Evan had been working on, and also “The Host” was a progression that he brought to the band. Both turned out fantastic. “The Host” was one where I was like “This is a great song, I just don’t know how it fits in our world.” I thought it was going to work, but I didn’t know until we were in the studio, and it came out, and I was like “Oh my God, this one goes on the record.” And then, a song called “24K Lush” was a riff that Matt Armstrong had and brought to the band. He was like “Hey, I don’t know if this is working in the world, but it’s something that I wanna try”, and we jammed on it, and it just turned out to be a great song.

Q: That’s awesome! So, unfortunately, you’ve had to tweet recently that fans should refrain from stalking you at the hotel and such.

Frank: (laughs) I didn’t say “stalking”, but…

Q: No, I said “stalking”. Would you like to say something further here about boundaries, respect, and privacy, and how crucial those are for performers?

Frank: Well, sometimes you think it goes without saying, but, very often, if you don’t ask for what you need, then you don’t get it. And so, I broke down and said “Look, hotels are our private area, and I think they need to be treated as such. There’s a sense of privacy at a hotel that we require, and I need that to do all the things that we wanna do. That means playing great shows, and meeting people at the venue, and even at the airports, and stuff like that. Of course, not through security, but before that.” I think that that’s the best bet, at least for me for and my bands.

Q: Yeah, and also, you’re not at your cutest at the hotel.

Frank: (laughs) No. You just need to rest at some point, and that’s the thing. Sometimes, I push a little too much, and I work a little too often, and too hard, and then I get sick and have to go home early, and it sucks, and I hate it.

Q: That’s completely understandable. So, another note, you’ve introduced VIP packages for the first time, and you’re allowing small groups of fans onto your bus for listening parties. How’s that going?

Frank: It was going really great!

Q: (laughs) It was going really great?

Frank: Well, we did it for the tour, but we’re going to try to do it again.

Q: You know you caught some shit for that, right?

Frank: (laughs) From, like, fourteen people out of thousands, and four of those people were like “I’d only do it if it was My Chem anyway”, so whatever. Here’s the thing: I’ve been asked to do it for so long, and I always said no. Unless I had something really exclusive or important to give, I wasn’t gonna do something like that, I’m not gonna charge people to meet me, you know? And that’s not what I did. But, for years, people were asking if we could put something together like that, and I felt like we’re in this really crazy time where we’ve made a record, and it’s not released yet. And so I have this little secret, and it’s a thing that I get to whisper, or play for close family members and close friends, and, after a little while, press gets to hear it. But there’s never a chance where we get to play it for small groups of fans. So what we could do is have people come on the bus, hang out for a bit, we’ll talk and play them some songs, and we get to have a little listening party. And we keep it small and manageable, and I felt it was something cool and special. If you wanted to do it, you could do it, and if you didn’t want to do it, you could talk shit on the internet about it. And it worked really, really well. People were nice and respectful and loved hearing it. It was really cool. So, in the future, we’re going to try to do something again, because people really enjoyed it. But it’s gotta be something worth – yeah, the price – but also the time that goes into creating these things. So, would that be like an intimate performance kinda thing? Possibly.

Q: That would be very cool.

Frank: It’s gotta be something worth doing, you know? Yeah, that’s where I’m at with VIP.

Q: Okay. Have you noticed an evolution in your songwriting, vocal and performance style since “Stomachaches” – in particular with the two albums following?

Frank: I have. (laughs)

Q: I have too.

Frank: I think, when you listen to “Stomachaches”, you’re definitely hearing someone figuring it out.

Q: Well, you never meant to release that one anyway.

Frank: Yeah, that was just coming from my desk drawer, basically. So, I’m figuring it out as I go along there, and using those maybe shortcomings as strengths in kind of exploring those things. I’m just one guy with a computer making songs.

Q: It works for James DeWees.

Frank: (laughs) Yeah! And it (knocks wood) worked for me with the record. And then, when I started to do “Parachutes”, I had a couple more people in the room, but we didn’t have a full band either. For the longest time, I thought I was going to be playing bass on that record, but it just so happens that when we showed up, Steve Evvets, who’s an amazing producer, and also was engineering the record, it turns out, is a phenomenal bass player. So, he learned the songs real quick, and we ended up recording it that way, and (producer) Ross (Robinson) was fantastic. That was a really cool experience as someone maybe trying to figure out how to write with a full band. And then, this time around, it’s a full-fledged band in a room, recording live to tape.

Q: What’s it like working with legends like Ross and (Steve) Albini, is that insane?

Frank: It is. It’s definitely bucket list type stuff. I have, in my head, this list of people that I’ve always wanted to work with, and things that I’ve always wanted to do. And, slowly but surely, I’m getting to check those off, and that’s crazy, you know? It was just about right place, right time. Reaching out and being like “Hey, I really respect what you do, I’d love to make a record with you – if you’re free, let’s do it.” And they were like “Yes, absolutely, let’s do this.”

Q: Was it intimidating?

Frank: Yeah, but Ross said it best: “There’s a reason you’re in this room. If you were a hacker, or just some no-talent person, you wouldn’t be here. You’ve earned your stripes.”

Q: That’s a huge compliment, wow - that’s awesome.

Frank: Yeah, and so often, I’ve dealt with producers (or people who want to say that they’re producers, and all that) who just wanna tear you down so they can build you back up, and it’s just like “Why?” Why not build you up from where you are, and compliment your songwriting and playing ability?

Q: Is that a situation you’ve been in, where people just destroy you?

Frank: I’ve seen it firsthand, yeah. It’s horrible. To make you feel terrible about yourself so that they can be the hero and swoop in and build you up again? Fuck you, Man – I don’t need that shit. Nobody does.

Q: It sounds really toxic.

Frank: It really is. But that was like the big nineties producer thing to do. I don’t wanna say names, but whatever, fuck them. They don’t need to be in my project.

Q: Figure it out!

Frank: Yeah. But those guys, the bigshot producers coming in, and tearing you down, saying “Oh, this is my record”, replacing people on the spot. Fuck off.

Q: Oh no. What the hell? So, we’ve chatted before about our mutual love for jazz and blues – I recently got to lay eyes on Fats Domino’s house in the Ninth Ward Home, which was cool. Have you actually had a chance to explore New Orleans?

Frank: Yes. The urine makes your eyes burn, doesn’t it? (laughs.)

Q: Bourbon Street is everything the locals say it is. It’s like no place else.

Frank: I know. It is amazing. It’s like no other place, yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to spend lots of time outside of touring, to go down into the Corridor, find someone to play with and write with.

Q: That is not hard to do. You could show up at any bar at any bar and jam.

Frank: This is true. That’s something that I would enjoy doing. I haven’t done that though. But I have toured down there and gotten to walk around, and gotten into a lot of trouble down there. It was really fun.

Q: It’s not hard to find trouble in New Orleans either.

Frank: It’s definitely an amazing city.

Q: It is. On a scale of one to ten, how old has the request for an MCR reunion gotten? Eleven?

Frank: (laughs) I guess. How many years has it been? Six or seven?

Q: Like six, yeah. Nice reference (to that band) in “Young and Doomed” though. (Editor’s note: for reference, the line is “And I promise that I'm not okay. Oh, wait, that's the other guy.”)

Frank: Ah, thank you, it made me laugh. It still makes me laugh, every time. It was one of those things where I got to the part, and it hit me that I could put this in there, and it fit really well. I was like “Oh man, I’m gonna get so much shit.”

Q: “Can I do this?” Did you get shit?

Frank: I guess so, but, I mean, here’s the thing: you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. People are going to find stuff to get triggered by, so you might as well really fuck with them.

Q: You are so right.

Frank: If you’re gonna get shit anyway, you might as well have fun with it. I had posted a video the other day of me. I had gotten this new guitar, I traded my friend Frank over at Thunder Road - I sent a guitar to him, he sent a guitar to me. I was just playing a riff off the new record - I was really excited about this tone, whatever. And there was an American flag behind me, because I have this huge coffin flag in my basement where I practice.

Q: Sure, of course you do.

Frank: Obviously (laughs). And somebody of course was like “Ugh, I can’t believe there’s not a spider on that flag.” I guess to represent My Chem. You’re just, like, looking for shit. That doesn’t mean anything. It’s so silly.

Q: You know, people have to have something to do with their brain, and this is their drug of choice.

Frank: I guess so (laughs).

Q: That being said, you’ve been enjoying podcasting with some of your former Pencey Prep members, the very talented John “Hambone” McGuire” and Shaun Simon). What was it like to relive those earlier glory days with your listeners?

Frank: It’s really fun. We get together and do that over breakfast anyway, so we were like “We should really record this, and just put it out there.” Now it’s just an excuse to get together.

Q: I love Hambone’s brain. He had a crazy pirate punk band for a while (laughs), it was great.

Frank: Brine and Bastards, yeah. He’s unreal.

Q: He’s a genius.

Frank: He really is. Hambone’s the type of guy who will have those ideas, that you and your friend will have.

Q: But he does them.

Frank: Yeah, whereas everybody else will be like “Oh, that’d be really fun”, and then they don’t ever do it, he does it.

Q: He convinced Shaun (Dillon) to dress up like a pirate. I was like “I don’t know how you did this shit.”

Frank: Yeah, he’s a maniac, it’s crazy.

Q: In your Dan Patrick interview last month, you stated that you no longer believe in ghosts (neither do I, by the way), but that you really want to.

Frank: I want to, yeah.

Q: Have you ever had any close encounters?

Frank: I think so. Nothing that I can say definitively oh yeah, that’s that. Here’s the thing: I feel like, if it did exist, we would have some sort of definitive…

Q: Evidence?

Frank: After all these years? I really think so. I don’t think it’s that hard to prove something that’s true. I don’t know.

Q: Well, it could be something, it just may not be your dead grandmother.

Frank: Maybe. All I want is to believe that there’s something else. I would love there to be something else. I think that would be really comforting for some people, you know?

Q: Yeah, but why are they still not making scary enough horror movies?

FI (laughs)

Q: It’s terrible. “Oculus” was good, that one scared the fuck out of me.

Frank: “Oculus”, really? Okay, I’ll check that one out.

Q: I had to turn all the lights on afterward, and that never happens. You can give me the “Annabelle” series, and I’m like yawning.

Frank: Oh, those suck. Mikey really likes those though. I’m not into them.

Q: I like them, but they suck. They’re not scary. “The Nun”? Terrible.

Frank: Terrible. I thought “Hereditary” was good, it just made me feel really strange.

Q: Like, uncomfortable?

Frank: Yeah, for like a couple of days.

Q: There’s a comic book one coming out that looks decent.

Frank: Oh, the “Burn Bright” kid?

Q: That one might be alright, I don’t know.

Frank: I don’t know.

Q: Ghost movies usually suck though. They always revert to someone getting possessed, that’s where they lose me, I can’t do it.

Frank: Oh, I know.

Q: You always have fantastic drummers on-board – and this time, it’s the amazing Tucker Rule! So, as a child of a drummer yourself, how important is that backbone?

Frank: Huge, it’s probably the most important part of the band. I’d say maybe that frontman role is very, very hard – that might be the hardest, because of how easy it is to have your instrument be taken from you (your voice.) But as far as the hardest position in a band, it’s definitely the drummer. I really feel like drums and vocals are the most important parts of music, as far as rock music is concerned. Everything else is just kinda sandwiched in the middle.

Q: Not guitar?

Frank: It’s really not that important.

Q: But they literally had a genre called “Guitar Rock” though!

Frank: I know, but it’s not that important if the drums suck, and what’s being said sucks. If I don’t like a singer, or I feel like the drummer can’t play, it’s not good. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to have that personality and power behind it. Like The White Stripes – that drumming is fantastic, that makes the band.

Q: That’s a two person band.

Frank: Yeah, and it’s fantastic. I really feel like the vocal on top of great drumming, that’s the most important. Everything else can kinda be finagled.

Q: Really, you can have a shitty guitarist in a metal band and be okay?

Frank: You don’t need a guitar.

Q: Sure I do.

Frank: (laughs)

Q: I don’t think you can have a band like Boston without someone who shreds.

Frank: There are a lot of keyboards in that fucking band.

Q: There are not! Okay, so aside from this one, if you could design the perfect collaboration who would be in it?

Frank: Oh, man. I got real close, this is one.

Q: This is a good one.

Frank: This is the one. I don’t know. I mean, are there other musicians out there that I do want to work with, and collaborate with? Absolutely, but I can’t put it out there unless it happens, I’m sorry.

Q: You’re afraid to jinx it?

Frank: Oh definitely. I believe in jinx.

Q: Alright, what about dead people?

Frank: (laughs) Dead people?

Q: Freddie Mercury.

Frank: Oh, God yeah. I would say Joe Cocker. Otis Redding.

Q: Good choices.

Frank: Lou Reed.

Q: Joe Cocker and Lou Reed, that’d be a crazy band.

Frank: Amazing.

Q: Does your family enjoy your music – the parts that they don’t write?

Frank: (laughs) My kids really like “A New Day Is Coming”, that’s their favorite song.

Q: They do? Aw!

Frank: Yeah, they do. Miles has listened to that song probably close to two hundred times, it’s kinda crazy.

Q: That’s such a compliment!

Frank: Yeah, it’s amazing. They’ll listen to it, but I don’t come home at night and Jamia’s blasting, like “Stomachaches,” that never happens.

Q: I used to listen to my husband’s band’s tape. The singer’s girlfriend looked at me like I was crazy, and I was like “What? It’s good!” No, that doesn’t happen?

Frank: It doesn’t happen (laughs). I don’t know how I would feel about it.

Q: You think it would be weird?

Frank: It’d be cool, but it would also be kinda weird.

Q: Do your folks ever listen to it?

Frank: My dad does, but I don’t know if he’s popping it in when I’m not around.

Q: He might be.

Frank: Could be.

Q: Who else’s art is jazzing you right now, in whatever medium?

Frank: Culture Abuse just put out a new single called “Goo” that I think is phenomenal. David sent it to me a couple of months ago, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop. Nothing I think is fantastic. Youth Code. Drug Church I think is fantastic. That new Daughters record is fucking awesome.

Q: I just got into a band called Violent Soho, they’re fucking awesome.

Frank: Violent Soho are amazing, they’re from Australia.

Q: Also PUP. Transcience.

Frank: PUP’s fantastic. That new record’s great. Paceshifters. The new Homeless Gospel Choir is fucking fantastic – it’s not out yet, but it’s fucking great.

Q: Damie told me that the new Priest is awesome.

Frank: Oh, really? I’ll check it out.

Q: So what are you hoping that listeners will take away from “Barriers” as an album, and as a performance?

Frank: I hope that they take away that anything’s possible. The excuses of “Oh, I can’t do it because of this, that or the other thing” are frivolous. Fail. Fail horribly. And then get up and do it again, all of it. Because, honestly, death is the only hurdle that you can’t get over. That’s the only time that you can’t fucking attempt stuff, and you’re going to regret it if you don’t. Do everything that scares you.

Q: Good advice. I’m gonna close with that, I like that.

Frank: Thanks. Always a pleasure.

Q: Always a pleasure, thank you so much, Frank!


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