Why Barriers Could Be The Most Important Album Of Frank Iero’s Career
Last month, on March 20, just 24 hours after Frank Iero went public with the official announcement of his new album, new bandmates, new label and future plans, he simply couldn’t wait to stir some mischief among his fan base.
As the world reacted to the news that he would release third ‘solo’ LP Barriers through UNFD on May 31 under the name Frank Iero And The Future Violents, the musician took to Instagram to post the handwritten lyric sheet for launch single Young And Doomed. So far, so standard… right? But, of course, Frank knew exactly what he was doing. Because right at the end, three lines from the bottom, it read, ‘I promise that I’m not okay (Triggered?)’ as the song aired live on BBC Radio 1, revealing the additional and crucially not annotated nod-to-camera-style follow-up line, ‘Oh, wait, that’s the other guy’ – a clear reference to his former life in My Chemical Romance.
Frank laughs about it when we ask if he’s prepared for the inevitable shitstorm coming his way as a result. As anyone who follows the 37-year-old on Twitter will already know, though, he just loves having fun and winding people up. And today, Frank, as ever, is in playful form. This being the first full-length release since he and his former band The Patience were involved in a serious road accident in Sydney, Australia in October 2016, though, laughter is something of a coping mechanism to help deal with the ongoing trauma suffered as a result – much of which is dealt with on the heavy subject matter that makes up his new album’s 14 songs.
To help gain a deeper understanding of where his head is at, we sat down for a catch-up ahead of a more in-depth, personal and soul-searching insight coming to Kerrang! soon. For now, here’s a taster of what to expect from Barriers…
Is it true you went into this album thinking it would be your last, Frank?
“Well, for me, it’s crazy. Like, after every record, I have this idea in my head. I’m like, ‘This is it! This is the last one we’re going to ever make.’”
Why is that?
“I don’t know. I feel like maybe because I enjoy it so much, but at the same time, it takes so much out of me that I can’t even fathom having to ever do it again. It’s strange. I also think… with mortality, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Given your brush with mortality in Sydney two and a half years ago, does it make you wary of making promises you might not be able to keep?
“Yeah, I guess so. But I always have that mentality when I’m making a record, like, ‘This literally could be the last one,’ so you have to give it your all, right? You have to go above and beyond and make it the craziest thing ever. And then when it’s finished, I’m like, ‘Right, that’s it.’ At some point, you’re going to play your last song. And you’re not necessarily going to know when that is and you don’t get much choice in it either. So I guess I always think, like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I can have some sort of control over it if I approach everything like it’s the last thing.’”
Would you say that you’re a control freak, then?
“I… suppose? It’s weird. That’s not something I would have said about myself ordinarily. If you were to ask me to write down a list of my qualities I’m not so sure that I would think to write that down, but I guess when I think about my fears, and the way that I act, or react to certain things, then yeah, there is an element of control in that – or at least the illusion of having control. Going into a record I have this idea in my head of where I want to see things go. And I also have this fantasy of delegating, but a lot of the time I end up being like, ‘Okay, let me just do it real quick,’ and I end up taking on more than I intended.”
When did you start in earnest on the songs that would become Barriers?
“After [2016’s Frank Iero And The Patience album] Parachutes was done, we played what we set out to be the last show for that record, and for that incarnation of the band. And then I was like, ‘Alright, I’m done for a while. I’m gonna take some time and rest.’ And, you know, we had survived the accident, and all these things that happened on that record cycle that made my head swim. I didn’t really know where to begin anymore. I knew that the next record I was going to write was going to be the first one I’d have to write past that experience. I knew that I was a different person, I knew that things felt different. I knew that I thought in a different way. Everything was different. So I kept thinking, ‘Well, if I’m going to make another record, it’s got to be something really special, really poignant and really important.’ So I shied away from it. And I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can put everything into words; what I’m feeling.’ It took some time.”
Had you psyched yourself out about the creative challenge of that?
“A little bit. But then I started to think about the people that I wanted to make a record with – those people were Tucker Rule [from Thursday], Matt Armstrong [Murder By Death], Evan Nestor, and Kayleigh Goldsworthy [Dave Hause] – and it just so happened that all these schedules started to line up, and they ended up being free. So I reached out and I started writing songs so that I could have stuff for us to work on together. Before I knew it, I was saying all these things that I wanted to say and I had all these ideas for what the next chapter was. It’s weird, I feel like on every record, I didn’t want to make a record but I just fall into it, and it just keeps fucking happening! It’s almost like that [famous Al Pacino line in The Godfather Part III], ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’ It just started to pour out of me this time.”
You were very specific about the people you wanted to work with next, even before you had the songs, which is interesting. What can you tell us about the band The Future Violents?
“I met Tucker and Matt around the same time – probably in 2000. And both were these unbelievable players in unbelievable bands. I always thought, ‘Wow, I would love to make music with that person. I wonder what that would be like and how much better that would make me.’ Matt’s brain works on another level, for example. Evan has been somebody that I’ve known since he was a little kid, and I’ve watched him grow. It’s unreal. He’s so talented, and sometimes I feel like he’s a genius and he has no idea. He’s also very calming, and I don’t ever want to not be in a band with them. And Kayleigh is somebody that I met maybe two years ago, on tour with Dave Hause. We talked about music and spoke about doing a cover song together, and ended up learning Losing My Religion by REM – it was so much fun to record that at the BBC. She knows how to play all these different instruments and I love her voice – she’s just so rad. I thought to myself, ‘If there’s ever an opportunity to have her in an incarnation of the band, I need to make that happen.’ Here we are!”
What’s the significance of the album title, Barriers, and how does it reflect the ideas you’re writing about on these songs?
“I think that sometimes we’re so concerned with protecting ourselves that we build up these obstacles and these barriers that we think are going to keep us safe, but they end up holding us in and not letting us go experience the world and try new things. And because of that we end up missing out on so much. Barriers can keep us in and they can keep us safe, but they also keep us out.”
Steve Albini recorded and mixed Barriers, after you worked together on 2017 EP Keep The Coffins Coming. How was he?
“Right from the off, he’s unreal. From his mic-ing to his quick edits to capturing a tone you have in mind, and if you have a problem with something… I was able to really scope tones on this record, which was so much fun for me: to mix amps and really refine things. One of the things that you’ll hear on this record is that tonally there’s a lot of stuff that I haven’t gotten to do before because of time restraints and whatnot. But he really helped me feel comfortable in searching for those things. The other side of Steve, though, is that he’s very much reserved. And he’ll tell you his position is that he’s not a producer, he’s an engineer, and he will not give you his opinion on things unless you torture him into giving it.”
And did you torture him?
“Hell yeah! When you do a take of a song and then you finish he’ll go silent. So I’ll be like, ‘How was that?’ He goes, ‘I don’t know. How was that?’ And you’re like, ‘I… I think it was good. Did you hear anything?’ And he’ll say, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t heard the song that many times. So I can’t tell you if it’s correct or not.’ And I get it. He doesn’t want to colour what your intention is, because [he thinks] his opinion does not matter because you know the song better than anybody. You wrote the song, so you should be able to know if this is what it should be. And that puts a lot of pressure on you. He essentially forced me to be the producer of the record, and I’m glad because I think it came out really great.”
Given your excitement about Barriers, it doesn’t sound like this will really be your last record. Is it fair to suggest that maybe you’ll never truly be done with putting out new music?
“Well, if things keep happening, where I’m as proud of them as I am of this record, then I’m okay with that. Even if you have to drag me out of a fucking coffin and strap a guitar to me, that’s fine!”
Frank Iero And The Future Violents will release Barriers through UNFD on May 31. The band are set to play 2000trees festival in July.
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Can we make it any more obvious?