“People that love drama more than calm
scare the shit out of me.” – Frankie
Rose via Twitter @MissFrankieRose, August 3, 2011
BY RON HART
In this age
of crowd sourcing and aggregation moonlighting as news gathering and the
anyone-can-do-it aesthetic to music criticism in the wake of the blog, it has
been quite easy for the TMZ element of
trashy gossip mongering to infiltrate the integrity of the craft of rock
journalism. Frankie Rose knows the seedy irrelevance of this tabloid-esque end
of the hipster media complex all too well, unfortunately, as the dime-a-word
denizens of the Internet age seem more interested in the hype surrounding her
splits from the three bands with whom she served time as a member – Vivian
Girls, Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls – than her aptitudes as a formidable
musician and songwriter in her own right.
this drummer for hire-turned-established solo artist has risen above the idle
chatter of the Tweeters, tweakers and twits gumming up the information flow for
the rest of us with the release of her brilliant second album, Interstellar (Slumberland). Recorded
last year with Fischerspooner’s Le Chev in a private studio called The
Thermometer Factory in the Park Slope section of her new homeland Brooklyn,
this California ex-pat eschews the C86 inspired girl group reverb of her 2009
debut Frankie Rose and the Outs for a
bigger, bolder sound that reflects upon her love for old school 120 Minutes-era alt-pop. Whereas her
previous LP was awash in a hazy melange of fuzz and feedback, the 10-song Interstellar finds Rose and Le Chev
embracing the artfully synthesized cleanliness of such ‘80s classics as The
Cure’s Pornography, New Order’s Substance and Spleen and Ideal by Dead Can Dance and interjecting it into the
singer’s unique brand of underground pop. Needless to say, if John Hughes was
alive and well in 2012, songs like “Gospel/Grace” and “Night Swim” might have
inspired him to develop a sequel to Pretty
recently had the opportunity to electronically converse with Miss Frankie Rose
in the days leading up to the release of Interstellar.
And where some publications aim to mine the dirt of her past transgressions,
what is revealed in this insightful-if-not-random conversation with indie
rock’s It girl is a smart, funny and witty young lady who is fully cognizant of
her past and ready to take on the brightness of her future as she waxes about
4AD favorites, spa days and the making of is sure to be considered one of the
best albums of 2012.
BLURT: Interstellar is said to be inspired by the sound of early 4AD LPs.
Were there any particular albums from that era of the label that directly
influenced this new record? Which ones and why?
ROSE: There are too many 4AD bands that I grew up with and loved, I feel I
could give a long list, none of which have influenced me one more than the
other. I think this record comes from so many places I’m hesitant to pin point
one in particular. Here are a few that come to mind: Dead can Dance, Cocteau
Twins, The Breeders as well as The Amps, Stereolab, Bauhaus, Tones on Tail,
Clan of Xymox, Pale Saints, Lush…
No Ultra Vivid Scene?
UVS? I like
What prompted the change in direction
sonically for you, moving away from the lo-fi aesthetic?
felt my last record was “lo-fi”. It was, however, very different
production from Interstellar. I
self-produced my first record, had a lot less time in the studio and wanted
everything to be moody and washed in reverb. I buried the vocals and the drums
were low in the mix. From my first album to the second I learned soooo much. I now realize how more
things happening in the mix does not necessarily mean a bigger sounding record.
And also that sometimes space, being simple or even silence can make things
For Interstellar, I knew I wanted a huge sounding record that was almost cinematic in scale. I
wanted big highs and lows, big drums and vocals up front. I also knew that I
wanted more synths than guitars.
The new album is billed just as Frankie
Rose. Are The Outs still a presence in your music in any case?
record was recorded in a very similar fashion as Interstellar. “The Outs” were a really supportive live
band and we had a really great time on the road. However, I wanted to go on and
do something different and I knew that I wanted to continue writing music on my
own, so it was necessary for me to switch it up.
What does the term
“Interstellar” mean to you?
introspective, it’s romantic and I think the name reflects what the songs are
about and how the album feels.
Do any of the songs on this album stem
from personal experience a la Adele’s 21,
or are they more random in nature?
A couple of
the songs reflect on personal experience, but for the most part I am not a very
sentimental songwriter. I find it hard to write lyrics that I think are good
when the heart gets involved.
What are your thoughts on how much
Brooklyn has changed since you arrived to town? Are there any places that you
miss? Do you have any new favorite places? What was your first memory of
Brooklyn during your first month living here?
Brooklyn. I am always sad to leave when I go away and am elated when I get
home. It has changed even in the five years I have lived here. My neighborhood
on the south side of Williamsburg becomes more gentrified everyday, which has
its good sides and bad sides. My first memory of being in Brooklyn was living
in a non-air conditioned apt and finally understanding what a real summer was
Would you ever consider returning to the
West Coast? What are your thoughts on the music scene out there?
return to the West Coast at some point. I am a Californian. And I can’t lie – the
East Coast winters make me blue. I’m not sure what the music scene is like out
there, although most of my friends in bands live there so I suppose it would be
like a homecoming…
Who are some current NYC groups you are
digging these days? Who should we be on the lookout for and why? I hear that
group DIVE you are playing with this month in New York is pretty cool… what
are they like?
Asylum is pretty great, I am very excited to tour with DIVE, I have not heard
much, but I like what I have heard.
I just read that your apartment in
Williamsburg was once a performance space where Kurt Vile and TV On The Radio
used to play. Were you aware of that when you took the place?
It was! MY
first band on my first tour ever played here also. This house was one of the
first DIY venues in Williamsburg. My house has been passed down to friends
though the years so I am happily one of the lucky people that is able to live
in this very special place.
Having cut your teeth in three bands
prior to branching out as a solo artist, what would you say was the most
valuable thing you took away from those experiences that helped you come to
grips with your destiny as your own act?
I feel like
I’ve seen it all! Having been on so many tours, I have had the best of
times and the worst of times. I learned the way to do things and the way not to
do things. It has not been graceful, but I feel like I finally know what I’m
Do you still get behind the drum kit
these days? Who are some of your favorite drummers and how have they shaped
your own rhythm method?
It has been
awhile, I’m really out of practice. I think the first drummer I ever
looked to was Palmolive from The Raincoats. Mo Tucker as well. I like drummers that
didn’t use cymbals. I don’t care for cymbals too much.
As someone who seems to have such a buzz
in the music blog world, what do you think is the biggest misconception about
you that people are unwittingly reading out there?
have seen Interstellar referred to a
few times as “shoegaze”, which I think is inaccurate. I don’t
want people to try and fit this record into a box.
What inspired the cover art for Interstellar?
something streamlined and REALLY simple. I didn’t want the artwork to take on a
life of its own and imply anything. I wanted people to look at the record and
not know what kind of music it was.
How do you like being on Slumberland
Records? Do you have an album from their back catalog that you swear by?
I am at
home on Slumberland records. There are a few I would swear by, but Black
Tambourine’s Complete Recordings is
pretty hard to top.
What prompted the concept of your video
Oh wow! I
asked Hannah Lew, my good friend and ex-bandmate, to make it. I didn’t want to
be in the video, because I usually do not enjoy being on camera, but Hannah
swore she could do a portrait of me that would do me justice. I was
hesitant but I think she did a great job.
If there was an artist or band who could
lure you back behind the drum kit and join their ranks, who would it be and
because he is Prince… But then what would Sheila E. do?
I really enjoyed getting lost in your
Twitter feed. It is quite refreshing to hear someone who is so beloved by the
Pitchfork crowd talk about such everyday things as going to the DMV, Theraflu
and treating yourself to a spa day. What is it about the indie rock world that
makes people so averse to mentioning things in their life that might be
construed as mainstream or commercial, in your opinion?
I guess I
just don’t pay attention; perhaps other people have managers telling them not
to say this or that. But I just have me – well, me and my imaginary manager
My wife wants to know if you have a
favorite spa that you frequent.
is pretty good if it’s not summer and all the little kids are in school. My
favorite was when my friend had a Groupon to “spa” which turned out
to be a Russian banyan in Brighton Beach. That place was nuts. It was hard to relax
with the 12 big screen TVs screening various football matches. Also we were the
only English speakers aside from Stanley, a former Israeli army officer that
insisted that he beat us with these hot bushes in the sauna. That might sound
really crazy, but it’s totally normal. It was a good time. I would go back.
Did you ever put something up on Twitter
that you immediately regretted?
the time. And then I erase it.
What do you think about Bleecker Bob’s
being ousted from their longtime retail space to make room for a Starbucks?
I enjoy Starbucks because I don’t love espresso and it’s the only place to get
a drip coffee. In the States, however, I think we all could do with a few less
Starbucks. They should replace it with McDonalds. What we need is more
Do you have a favorite ‘80s movie?
I have a
few… That’s a tough one. Brazil, I
think. It’s a beautiful and classic scary sci-fi movie.
I read somewhere that you find influence
in Arvo Part. What do you find most intriguing
about his compositions?
There is a
reason his music is all over movie soundtracks. It simple, it’s moving, it has
a lot of space. Everyone mimics his style; even metal bands rip him off.
Photo Credit: Lauren Bilanko
Frankie Rose’s spring tour kicks off in
early April. Tour dates at her official website.