Old Street, July 2012
Frankie Rose’s musical efforts to date are entirely a labour of love. Dreamt up with long-term friend Hannah Lew, they decided to blitz their unemployed depression by starting a band. Quite the teeanage dream. “It was really friendship-motivated. Back then there was just a ready-made audience, and kids would do generator shows down at the subways - it was just like a very DIY punk scene. So it really catered to punk bands and sucking, which we did a lot of”, she laughs. ”So there you go, we sucked for a long time and then eventually we stopped sucking and you really start learning things.” Lew went on to work as a filmaker and visual artist, directing videos for Frankie on songs such as Gospel Grace, as well as becoming a member of rock band Grass Widow.
Meanwhile, Rose kept herself busy gaining experience and recognition in a variety of bands. A former member of Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls and Crystal Stilts, she’s certainly lived up to her goals and more. Why the decision to go solo? “I was mostly a drummer in the other bands. Vivian Girls’ first record - that was about half my songs. That was one of my first attempts at songwriting but I was still the drummer. It just got to the point where I was really tired of being a drummer - I had to do my own thing”. A brave decision to make, as well as bold, but not one that comes without those aching feelings of apprehension. How did it feel to step out as a solo artist in her own right? “My first show as a front woman I almost went in the bathroom and threw up cos I was so nervous and I was like 'I can't do this'. It was truly terrifying. So yeah, I've come a long way since then”.
So she has. The current stop along her journey is XOYO, Old Street where she’s playing on the London branch of her European tour, which the singer describes as “one of the best European tours I've ever done” – even if she is pretty tired. She’s clearly been working flat out, but when we meet she’s genuinely chilled, chatty and willing to laugh at herself. She’s clearly at home in London, telling us “the people here are amazing, they're really fashionable, fun and cool. I feel like my taste in music is more in line with Londoners than anywhere in the United States honestly. I just think that Londoners share my aesthetic”.
All this even though she never really has to time to ground herself here for long enough. There are always records to be made and gigs to be done. Speaking of which, we’re interested in how the singer is feeling at this moment in time. “I do get nervous for London shows. I feel like it's like a big New York show, it's like the same idea.” But by now, the Brooklynite has her solo act polished. She may not feel like her home state California has had much influence on her sound but does concede that the New York winters might have played their own small part, and this seeps through into her show to an extent.
The dark and smokey XOYO basement sets the scene for her ethereal melodies, the crowd huddled around her stage making for an intimate experience. But as much as the girl can lull us with her otherworldliness, she and her band can also make one hell of a noise. One moment you’re sort of floating on a conjured melodic cushion and the next the room is erupting into an orgy of punk rock chaos: lead singer, keyboardist, guitarists jumping recklessly and the drummer a blur of limbs. A few of her songs seem to take on a very post-punk persona, packed with reverb and angsty guitar riffs, which makes the inclusion of a cover of The Cure’s A Forest all the more welcome.
All to soon, it’s come to an end. Frankie Rose and crew skipped town to Brighton that night for the next gig, scared they’d get caught up in the Olympic traffic. So what’s up next after ‘touring the shit out of’ her current album? “I'm gonna sit on the couch and listen to music. Decide what I like, what I want to do, what inspires me and not do the same thing twice.”
Interstellar is out now on Slumberland.
For more music and information, visit http://www.missfrankierose.com/
Interview by Angie Moneke (@angiejudeLDN) & Rachel Thom (@thomrachel)