INTERVIEW: Frankie & The Heartstrings | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sitting in Pop Recs early on a Monday morning, it suddenly dawns on me that Frankie & The Heartstrings’ record shop-come-venue won’t be around from 1st July. Drummer Dave Harper and guitarist Michael McKnight tell me they’ve been hard at work looking for a place to relocate to but neither of them seems happy talking about the Pop Recs situation. There’s a distinctly depressed atmosphere in the air as we briefly discussed the numerous achievements of the shop over two years.

Perhaps it’s a good job that their recent single Think Yourself Lucky is a burst of sheer joy, giving us something infinitely more jolly to talk about. The single is ridiculously infectious, tinged with jangly guitars and deceptively simple lyrics. It also happens to contain a bit of brass, which was conspicuously absent from their last album, The Days Run Away. “Our first album had a bit of brass on it and we really like it,” Michael explained. “We wanted to go back to that in a way. There wasn’t any on the second album and we’d missed it.”

Despite it being a belter of a pop tune, much of the talk surrounding Think Yourself Lucky has focused on its accompanying video, directed by ex-Soccer AM producer Robbie Knox. “We would have liked to have recreated the Rio video from Duran Duran but it wasn’t quite in the budget,” Michael laughs. Instead, what they produced was what Dave calls a “postmodern statement” on Racey’s 1979 video for Some Girls, complete with blue polyester suits, synchronised dance moves, a special appearance from Dave’s plumber and a flamboyant performance from Frankie Francis himself.

Away from the light-hearted homages, Decency is a tightly structured indie pop gem that might well be the band’s best work to date. Opener Peterborough Dogs is characterised by a lone melancholic guitar line that’s soon replaced by a bevy of cheerful major chords, a couple of cheeky saxophone solos and a whole lot of sing-along moments. The band spread their musical wings with the surprisingly tender yet somewhat grungy Hate Me Like You Used To, which provides a central point for the album. “Paddy, our press guy, said it was the best song he’d ever heard, and he’d done Nirvana’s press,” Dave says of the song. “Well, I might have dressed that up a bit…”

Hardcore Heartstrings fans might notice that it’s not until eighth track Balconette that the group bring out their trademark “whoa-oh-oh” refrains. I wondered why one of the most recognisable aspects of their vocal delivery took so long to emerge on the record. “We just didn’t. We’ve got this roulette wheel and we just spin it and it’s where it landed this time,” Dave jokes. “I know what you mean though. We honestly tried to get away from a lot of the things that people expect from us.”

frankie and the heartstrings

Decency sounds like the work of a band at ease with who they are and what they want to sound like

The LP hides a big surprise behind the scenes, as it was produced by MJ from psychedelic noise-rock band Hookworms. Even Dave was taken aback by MJ’s enthusiasm for the band’s output: “He liked the songs, which I was dead surprised at because he’s from a kind of right-on band.” Working with a sole producer, and one who was relatively hands-off during the process, gave the band the chance to develop the sound they truly wanted, something they admit didn’t quite happen with The Days Run Away. “With the second one there was a lot of production that went into it,” Michael reflects. “We worked with Bernard Butler on that and it was great fun but it maybe didn’t work the way we were hoping.”

“Everyone held their hands up and said there were mistakes made and we’re still friends,” Dave adds. “If there’s anything wrong with this one then we don’t have anyone else to blame. I’m much more comfortable with that.”

It’s perhaps no surprise that, as a result, Decency sounds like the work of a band at ease with who they are and what they want to sound like. “We’re big boys, we’re not kids anymore,” says Dave. “We’re not fucking Oasis, we’re not gonna say this is the best album in the world. It’s probably pushing for second, I reckon.” Despite the jokes, there is a serious underlying tone running through Decency, one that cuts through the apparently sugary pop veneer. “People make that kind of mistake about us, they say ‘aw is this song about candy floss or candy rock’. The songs I’ve written are all about things that have happened, and are rarely about the time that I went to see something at the cinema and it was a bit rubbish. Doesn’t make for good songs that. We all strive to do the decent thing. We all come from backgrounds where we were taught what right and wrong was,” Dave continues. “You behave how you’ve been brought up, and that’s to say please and thank you, treat people right and do as you’re done by. We’re good at spotting the shits in life and writing about them or ousting them in some way. Having the last laugh. We should have called it Having The Last Laugh!”

Michael suddenly pipes up about the Pop Recs situation: “We’re not fucking shutting down; we’re just going somewhere better! Stick that in!” Talk about having the last laugh…

Frankie & The Heartstrings release Decency on Friday 10th July and play at The Cluny, Newcastle on the same day.

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