One time hardcore singer Frank Turner has recently been causing a splash in English waters with his crossbreed of acoustic folk/punk. Impact caught up with him at Nottingham’s own Rescue Rooms on his current extensive European tour to find out how things are going.
How is the tour going so far?
Yeah it’s been really good, this is the biggest headline tour I’ve ever done, and two thirds of the shows have been sold out before we’ve got there. It’s always kind of a risk going up to the next level and it seems to really have paid off. I must admit when we booked the shows I was thinking ‘Oh God, we’re never going to sell enough tickets’ but yeah it’s been crazy.
I understand you just got back from America?
Yeah, I actually had a grand total of about half a day off between getting back and starting the tour. So I had zero time off. The first few days of the tour I was still on American time and everything so it was weird. But it was kind of nice cause a lot of stuff has been going crazy for me in this country but that was all happening while I was in America so it hadn’t really registered, so I arrived and then we went to Leeds and everything went totally nuts the minute we arrived. It was just like ‘what the fuck? What’s going on?’ it’s still 9 o’clock in the morning in my brain and everyone was going nuts! It was cool but it was strange.
How did the American tour go?
Yeah good, I’m still kind of starting out over there, doing support tours and stuff but it’s cool. I got to tour with some awesome bands like Fake Problems from Florida who I’ve toured with twice now – really, really cool band – and Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music, I did a string of dates with him, and that was a fucking dream come true for me. Those shows were great, they were packed out and everything. He’s doing acoustic stuff now so what we do works together really well, so yeah, it was cool.
At Reading you said something about being one of the few artists who gets to play folk shows and rock shows – do you find that you have a really diverse fan base, and is that important to you?
I think so, I mean that might be a bit delusional on my part. One of the things I’m happy about and proud about is the fact that there is a really wide demographic at my shows. It’s not just the Kerrang! kids or the NME kids and it’s not just folkies and it’s not just people of one age group, it’s a nice mix of people. That makes me feel really good because I think my music is everyman music and when such people come that makes me feel like I’m doing something right.
You used to play in Million Dead; did you find it a hard transition going from being in a band to being a solo artist, or is it a similar lifestyle?
Musically it wasn’t so hard cause I felt like a had a lot of ideas stored up. I’d played hardcore for a long, long time so it was really liberating writing in a different style. In terms of career and stuff it wasn’t particularly easy. We went from doing the last Million Dead tour (we did 300 people a night and sold out shows and stuff) to playing to five people in another country and no-one giving a fuck. That was pretty demoralizing for a time but I stuck with it in the hope that it would improve and I’m feeling quite vindicated recently!
It seems like your lyrics reference quite a bit of poetry (such as Eliot) is this important to you in your influences and what other influences do you have?
Yeah, I’m not very knowledgeable about poetry, but I know what I like – Eliot, Larkin, Betjeman, people like that. Betjeman I’ve actually really been getting into lately. He’s deceptive because his poems have that sing-song rhythm to them and everybody thinks they’re silly, but if you kind of tear them apart then they’re awesome. I spend a lot of time on my lyrics so any kind of artistry with words is something I’m interested in. I’m not a poet myself. I’m terrified at the idea of writing poetry because with music you’ve got a structure – you’ve got to fill this many lines with this rhythm to fit with the music, whereas with poetry you’ve got a blank sheet of paper and a pen and that gives me the fear! So yeah, I read a lot of poetry but I don’t write any.
You’ve been involved with the Breast Cancer Campaign with things such as your new single and the Lexapalooza festival – how did that festival go?
Well basically Lexapalooza was set up as a thing between friends a few years ago, by my friend Lexie, and she ran it for two years just as an all day show with loads of bands playing. She died last September, so this year the group of friends involved in it decided that the most fitting tribute we could think of would be to carry on running the festival so we decided to do it and this year we did it in Nambucca in London, which is a place that is quite dear to my heart anyway. It was great, we got more than 200 people in and we raised about £2,000 for the Breast Cancer Campaign, and loads of bands played, and everyone got really, really wrecked, and these were the kind of things that we were hoping for. Onwards and upwards. My friend Evan is the main guy running Lexapalooza, and he’s going to be putting shows on through the year, not just festivals, but doing some charity work and promoting it around, so they’ve got some shows in Brighton coming up, they’ve got a month of shows in London. But every year we’re going to do the festival in London in September sort of time – there’s chat about where the next one’s going to be, but hopefully it should be big.
And your single got to Number 65?
Number 65, yeah, which was cool – we were the highest download entry, and we were the highest independent release in the chart as well, which was cool. We had this plan about trying to break the top 40 which didn’t happen. I guess the thing is that we were working with a download single for a song that’s already out on the album, so for most fans, unless you’re specifically involved in the campaign there’s not really any reason to pick it up because you’ve got it already. But with all that in mind I think we did good, I was pleased with how it went, and we raised a pile of cash for the Breast Cancer Campaign.
Do you know how much you’ve raised?
I don’t, they’re still trying to figure it out, but I think it should be around £1,000 which is a respectable amount of money for a week’s work.
Do you have any future plans?
Well yes, and they’ve actually been thrown into confusion by what’s happened in the last month. Originally we were just going to do the single and then get into the studio as soon as possible. But now with the way that everything’s gone, and with the success of this single my label has decided that they want to do another single and tour early next year, probably a physical release this time – get some new songs out to make it worth peoples’ while. Then hopefully work on the next record in the summer and get album number three out in September next year. Creatively the songs are all happening in my head. We’ll play a new song tonight, so there’s stuff around but it’s just taken a little bit longer to get the new songs out there than I would have liked.