Frankie Rose Interview: Hurricanes, Ray Bradbury and Being a Good Leader

(Lauren Bilanko)
(Lauren Bilanko)

by David Chiu

Originally published in Spinner, April 6, 2012

Frankie Rose’s single “Know Me,” from her new album Interstellar, was born out of some unusual circumstances. First, it was the last track to be recorded for the album, which similarly happened to Rose’s previous record with her band the Outs. Second, the New York City resident had a spot of bad weather to contend with.

“‘Know Me’ was recorded the night Hurricane Irene was supposed to hit us. We were scared the studio might actually flood, so we were really down to the wire, and I think we did the entire song in one day. I was waiting for this epic hurricane that never came. I was in a vocal booth making up lyrics. It was a total surprise and shocker that it ended up being the single and it’s my favorite song on the record.”

Those who are familiar with the former Crystal Stilts/Vivian Girls/Dum Dum Girls member will notice something different in her sound on Interstellar, a shift from the ’60s-styled girl-group pop of Frankie Rose and the Outs to a work that contains elements of New Wave and modern rock.

“There’s been a lot of reverb happening in music lately,” Rose explains. “Everything has just been kind of a wash. Although I understand why it’s satisfying to hear that and it’s a really pleasant sound for everyone, I definitely wanted something more lush and cleaner, bigger-sounding, almost cinematic.”

Rose describes Interstellar, which took her a year to write and record, as a concept album whose songs were influenced by a legendary writer. “A lot of the songs are inspired by old Ray Bradbury sci-Fi stories. Nobody knows because it’s not obvious. It’s definitely tracked in a certain order. It was planned in my mind that way.”

The material on Interstellar varies between rock numbers in “Night Swim” and “Daylight Sky,” and mood-influenced songs such as the title track and the cinematic “Moon in My Mind.” “That originally was written for and submitted to a movie that shall remain unnamed,” Rose says of the latter track. “Unfortunately, I got it in late and it didn’t fly because I got it in late. It was originally written for a movie about vampires, but I really liked it and I decided that I wanted to keep it as an album track.”

Rose is currently on a national tour, and she acknowledges that calling the shots now as a solo artist has its advantages and disadvantages. “You don’t have to make decisions with other people, [which] can be really difficult at times. But now I have to answer every e-mail. If something happens or doesn’t happen, I’m completely responsible. I also have bandmates [who] I need to make sure they’re happy on tour. It’s a different level of stress for sure but it’s one that I’m actually more comfortable with.”

Having been in three indie bands before going solo has been a learning experience for her. “I’ve literally seen the worse of things and the best of things. I’ve had every experience that you can possibly have on tour and different dynamics of being in a group: What it’s like to be a great band leader, what it’s like to be a bad band leader , how things can be dealt with in a good way or a bad way. Working with Dee Dee in Dum Dum Girls, she’s amazing. She’s a real egalitarian band leader. She made sure everyone was happy. I actually learned so much from her.”

After putting out Interstellar, Rose is already thinking about the next record, which she hints may contain more strings. “The question I’m asked over and over again is why do I leave bands. Because generally I don’t want to do the same thing twice,” she says. “So I really doubt it will sound anything like Interstellar. It depends a lot on what I’m influenced by at the moment. I have some ideas swimming around in my head that sounds nothing like Interstellar. So I think it’s going to be a surprise to me too.”

For someone with an interesting track record in indie rock, Rose says the thing that she cares about is recording as far as a career highlight is concerned. “That’s the most joy I have. It’s the reason why I play music at. all. I enjoy being in the studio. It’s bittersweet when the record is done for sure. I’m always looking forward to being back in there. That’s for me pure joy.”

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