It’s not hard to see the appeal of Frank Turner. As a singer-songwriter, Frank is as prolific as he is humble, piecing together aspects of folk and punk to create music that is diverse, honest and relatable. His latest album, ‘England Keep My Bones’, was a critical and commercial success, rewarding his talents with legions of affectionate fans and a recent 12,000-capacity show at London’s Wembley Stadium. Frank spoke with Kill Your Stereo about his latest album, backstage tattoos and his upcoming tour of Australia.
Hi Frank, how are you?
Yeah not too bad, I’m in Oslo, Canada, it’s late in the evening but I’m doing some mixes.
So your most recent album, England Keep My Bones, was a huge success worldwide. Tell us about the recording process.
Uh the recording process for this record was um it kinda felt like uh, without wanting to get too kinda trite all about it, it felt like I’d perfected the way I’d been working on the previous records I did, um, you know, uh, the record before, Poetry of the Deed, was the first time I took my backing band into the studio with me and um Poetry of the Deed, it was cool but it felt like there were some slight teething problems in the approach. When we came to doing England Keep My Bones, like everyone knew exactly what they had to do, you know, I felt like a lot more confident in my songwriting, it was kind of an easy process, you know. I think the other thing about it, was doing a 4th album’s great because there’s a lot of clichés about what having a 1st record’s like, there’s loads more clichés about what your second record’s like and by the time you get to your 4th album you’re kind of in an expectation free territory, you know, if you’ve made it to making a 4th record then you’ve probably got some value to what you’re doing. I really felt liberated, like I could just about do what I wanted to do and it didn’t matter how other people felt about it.
Each of your albums is musically very diverse, did you do anything differently when you were writing this one?
Um not really, the only thing I can say is that I felt quite uh, again, liberated just because when I started doing solo records I just got out of being a hardcore band for a while, and you know, we weren’t massive but we had some fans in the UK and that kind of thing, it was kind of a, I think, whether consciously or subconsciously I was trying to kind of distance myself from that, you know and whatever I was doing I think I was guided by a desire to be different from what I’d done before, which was kinda fine, it made sense at the time but now again, to write an album for however many, 6 years later, or whatever, I really felt like, you know, I mean if you look at a song like One Foot Before the Other, I wouldn’t have put that on previous other records because it was too heavy, but this time around it was like, well, fuck yeah I wrote the song I like it, you know, I can put it on the record, who cares. So yeah, it was kind of nice to just be able to do whatever, just to, you know, if I wanted to sing with backing or if I wanted to acapella or if I wanted to sing like heavy rock songs, it was just like, you know, its, there’s no kind of delineation, it’s just your name on the front cover.
Were you happy with the reception?
Yeah, definitely, I mean, the reception was great, you know, we got good reviews, which is cool, although I have to say that reviews are not the be all and end all. The main thing for me is that you know, as soon as the record was out, I was touring and in all different parts of the world I had people who were kinda shouting out for the new songs, you know, and singing along with the new songs and that’s kind of my main sort of gauge of how the material’s going across and it’s fantastic to me, you know. I think a lot of bands reach a point whereby they go and put out a new record and then everyone sort of taps their fingers through the new songs and they’re waiting for the old ones. You know and uh, I think it was really fantastic to know that people were actually as excited if not more excited about the new stuff than the old stuff.
Your Australian tour kicks off in a few weeks. Are you excited?
Uh yeah, absolutely, I am absolutely fucking nuts for Australia, it’s the best, plus this is the first time I’m bringing my band with me so um yeah, its gonna be really cool. I’m also going to a bunch of places I’ve never been before, so we’re going to like Cairns and Darwin, Alice Springs and Townsville, all of which are new ones for me, so yes, very excited.
How does Australia’s live music scene compare to England’s?
Um you know, I should hedge my answer to this by saying that to be honest I really don’t spend very much time in England any more so my knowledge of what any kind of scenes are like over there right now is pretty kind of, second hand. I don’t know, I think one of the main things about Australia is that because its further away or whatever just um geographically, there’s kind of, there’s an underlying kind of like positive atmosphere because people are just kind of grateful that you came down, which is really nice because one of the things about like playing shows in London or whatever is that it’s very easy to turn up and find this atmosphere where everyone just has their arms folded and they’re all a bit like “well I could have gone to 17 other shows tonight”, you know, “impress me” kind of thing. And it’s just, Australia is nice because people don’t have that kind of bullshit, or really a lot less people have that bullshit attitude, you know what I mean? People who enjoy their music and they just want to come out and have a good time. And from the point of view of bands that’s great.
So you just played to a sold out Wembley Stadium, to 12,000 people. How was that?
It was fantastic. I mean, it was something that I’ve worked on for a long time and the whole business was too ridiculously surreal on one level, in that I never, when I started making music of any kind, expected to reach as high a level as playing Wembley. Um and it was, yeah it was nuts, that’s the word I was looking for, it was very surreal to be honest, like I kind of woke up the next day and wasn’t entirely sure that it had actually happened, and that I just didn’t dream it. Yeah, it was a good time and everything went off exactly as we wanted it to.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Any new material on its way?
Absolutely, yeah. In fact, as soon as I’m back from Australia, I will be in the studio working on a new record, which I’m going to be working on on and off over the summer and hopefully going to get it out kinda February next year. Which is exciting and cool, it’s reasonably quick after the last record, I mean I’m not one to sit on my heels, wasting my time. There’s only so much time in the day, you may as well get on with it. So yeah, we’ll probably play some new material in Australia as well.
Can we expect any more music of a hardcore nature?
Um, I have been working on a kind of hardcore side project, one of the members in fact was in Million Dead so there’s some continuity there. And you know what, we’ve written a bunch of songs and they’re sounding very exciting and we’re hoping to get some music out before the end of the year. The only problem with it really is just that it’s not my main priority, do you know what I mean? Like, other things take precedence over it in terms of my time and that kind of thing. And that means it’s very difficult for me to say exactly when we’re actually going to be able to do anything concrete, like put out albums or whatever. But it’s happening, we’ve written songs already and it’s really fun actually, it’s really exciting, it’s very kind of over the top tongue in cheek, heavy and ridiculous. So uh yeah, it’s creatively liberating as well.
What would you say is your favourite lyric that you’ve written?
Ah, to pick just one would seem cruel and callous to all of the others. Plus, I need to be honest with you, when I answer that question it’s always a little boringly, it’ll be something that I’ve just worked on, something new that other people may not know. But um, I wrote a song about a time machine lately that is very, very kind of wordy and very kind of comic, with a complex kind of rhythm and imagery and that kind of thing, and it took a really long time to get it right. But I really think that I nailed it exactly as I wanted to. So I’m going to take that one, even though you don’t know it.
Describe your backing band in 3 words.
(Laughs) Only 3 words for all four of them? Um, uh, I mean this is gonna sound so cheesy so I’m going to say “lovely talented guys”.
Do you have any new tattoos planned?
Uh yeah, I mean I actually got a tattoo during the show over at Wembley, between the main set and the encore, I got the date inked on my arm, which was a lot of fun. Yeah I mean I’m very much into tattoos and I actually spend more time trying to talk myself out of getting fresh tattoos because I don’t want to end up completely covering myself very quickly. So uh um uh yeah, I’m on tour in Canada right now and my buddies are trying to convince me to get a Canadian flag tattoo. Not sure that that’s going to happen. But we’ll see.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I’m very much looking forward to coming to Australia and I’ll see you and everybody else when I get there. Take it easy, I’ll see you down there.