Frankie Teardrop: All of my songs are deadly serious
Photo by Rachel Collier
At first glance, Frankie Teardrop reeks of a gimmick. In a meeting with Gimme Noise, the titular character in the local garage-punk trio presents himself only as Frankie, and keeps his sunglasses on throughout an hour spent in a dim booth at the CC Club. He projects a sage dissatisfaction straight from The Outsiders, and it feels completely deliberate.
But Frankie isn't trying to fool anyone. For him, this identity is a tool to grasp at emotions that often go unacknowledged, to confront internal demons, and to channel the sincere, undiluted rock 'n' roll found on his self-released debut, the Tough Guy EP.
Originally from Iowa, he dabbled in music from a young age, eventually abandoning academia and taking root in Minneapolis.
"It was my older brother who got me into music," he says. "He'd play me Guided By Voices and Pavement on my way to school. I always looked up to him. He always said that he'd grow out of rock 'n' roll, and he did. But I'm not gonna do that."
After playing in local groups such as Candy Breaks and Gloss, he found his identity as Teardrop. Earlier this year, Frankie entered a small practice space with only three written songs, and mere weeks later he had completely finished Tough Guy. He released it on Bandcamp in October.
"It's a reaction to other bands I've been in taking months to record and produce and 'develop an aesthetic' and all of that garbage," he says. "All of that stuff is secondary. High output is something I really respect. All you have to do is write all the fuckin' time and play all the fuckin' time and it starts to come out. I worry less about sonic quality than the real essence of the song."
As it turns out, Tough Guy is a sonic blast -- smoothed-out garage-punk with a greasy underbelly, the playful, riff-driven musings conceived to leave basements sweaty and satisfied. (And rest assured, they do.) But as Frankie guns out the lyrics of "Pizza Lyfestyle," he's subtly making a statement about being broke. Each track echoes genuine personal struggle, which clarifies part of the relationship to his name, drawn from a nightmarish 1977 Suicide track detailing a man's descent into becoming the murderer of his own family.
"That song has come to mean a lot to me and, believe it or not, all of my songs are deadly serious," he says. "They're about isolation and dealing with issues of internal validation and loneliness. Those are all very real things that the character in the song experienced to a point of terrifying desperation. Desperation is something that's deeply implanted in my core because of life experiences I've had and that I know the other guys in the band have had. That's what it's about -- that feeling. And regardless of whatever walls or masks I throw up in the songs or in life, it's the realest expression I've got."
Those weighty issues aren't communicated with self-pity or in a tragic way, though. Manifested live, Frankie is in your face, demanding to confront head-on what afflicts us all in varying ways. He, drummer Gunnar Kauth, and bassist Jackson Woolsey embrace the catharsis together. It has emboldened them, and it's the truest testament to their mutual understanding and respect.
Kauth admits he was in a really "dark, lost period" in April when his friend and Phantom Vibrations bandmate Henry Mackaman died suddenly after contracting bacterial meningitis.
"Coming back and having something like this to identify with is crucial to my identity in music now," Kauth says. "These feelings may come from a place that isn't fun, but we get through it and we have to fucking face it and so we might as well face it with rock 'n' roll."
"Deal with that stuff," Frankie exclaims. "Get it out in the open! It's stuff you bury under the surface, that hate or panic or desperation that is the elephant in the room. That's why I act the way I do."
FRANKIE TEARDROP play the second night of BNLX Fest on Saturday, November 16, at Cause; full weekend itinerary here; 612-822-6000
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