Frankie Teardrop: We got to play for a lot of different people and we didn't kill each other
Photo By Erik Hess
Frankie Teardrop remains one of the most exciting characters to emerge from the local music scene in the past year, largely due to the fact that he's just that -- a character. Conjured by the twisted mind of songwriter and guitarist Jordan Bleau, Frankie has grown into a larger-than life persona, characterized by his monochromatic tall-tees, omnipresent Ray-Bans, gold chain, and cocky slacker attitude. But while the Frankie Teardrop identity once stood for a nihilistic rejection of basically everything, he's evolved in the wake of the band's recent tours to become a people's champion for the underground indie-rock community.
Teaming up with photographer Alex Uhrich, Frankie/Bleau is launching a record label called No Problem in an attempt to give some shine to the hardworking and talented bands they surround themselves with. We caught up with Frankie and his band before their release show for his new EP, Raiders, behind the Triple Rock to discuss the recent tours and their plans for our upcoming 10 Thousand Sounds Festival.
Gimme Noise: So, last time we caught up with you guys, you were a three-piece. Who's the new fella and how did he get involved?
Frankie Teardrop (vocals and guitar): That's my boy Dan, Cool Ranch, nicknamed Tom, Tommy. He's a good guy, nice boy, solid attitude. He came to all the shows and knew all the songs, suddenly knew all our friends. He's from the same place that I'm from but we never knew each other, but he started coming to all the shows and I was like, "you know what, I might add another guitar player so I think I might ask this guy." And he came to the practice and just played all the songs right, and now he's in the band or whatever.
Gunnar Kauth (drums): He had a good distortion pedal.
Frankie: He did have nice pedal. We always needed two guitars; on all the recordings I play at least two to four guitars so we needed another person anyways so.
Why add to the group's lineup when the chemistry was already so good?
Frankie: Actually, I like him a lot and the other guys not as much.
Dan English (guitar): It's because I'm from Iowa. That's why he likes me so much, because I'm an Iowa boy.
Gunnar: They'll be just chilling one on one, and we'll hit them up and they just won't text us back.
Frankie: Well, when I find someone that's cooler than both of you guys, what the fuck do you expect me to do?
Gunnar: We just did two tours, we dud a big tour to the East Coast and a little Midwest tour with Dan and it worked out pretty fine. He didn't disappear into the night, and he's generally a good guy, pretty healthy. He eats healthy on the road. He helped us find the clean bathrooms.
Frankie: Healthy boy...strong boy.... He's got fucked up pinkies though. Like, if you shake his hand, it's effed up kinda. [Dan Demonstrates] It's fuckin' weird.
Dan: It doesn't affect my playing at all, like, when I play, it's out here until I need it, then it's in here!
Frankie: He's like fuckin' Django Rhinehardt except way tighter. With way cooler shoes.
You guys have been really active this year, releasing a couple of videos and going on a couple of tours. Let's talk about the tours!
Frankie: They were sick, very tight. It was cool going to all these places on the East Coast with Howler, I personally had never been to any of those places, so it was cool, man. We got to play for a lot of different people and we didn't kill each other. We got pissed at each other, but that's just part of the fuckin' deal. I'm a hard guy to deal with, every one of us is a hard guy to deal with, so you know, you get it. You can't get away from people in that environment. But all the shows were good. I mentioned this in passing at shows and stuff, but Holyoke, Massachusets was terrifying. Our guy Rob that booked that show is fucking tight, cool amps, cool band, cool guy, but that place is fucking scary.
Gunnar: It's a nightmare, devilish trip dude, it was wild.
Frankie: So we're leaving Holyoke and we pull up to this McDonald's to fucking get McChickens, like normal, and we like go up to the window, and Gunnar's taking forever to order because he thinks that type of shit is funny.
Gunnar: It was funny.
Frankie: Yeah, whatever, see, he still thinks it's funny. So we pull up to the window and we're like, about to get the shit, and we hear this...what did they say?
[chorus of FUUUUUUUUUCKKK!!!!!]
Like full volume bloodcurdling scream from inside. And we're like "what do we do?" I wanted to stay because I wanted a fucking McChicken and they were all like "GO GO GO GO LET'S DIP!" It was just terrible, because after that scary show we felt really uncomfortable and then that happened, and then we ran into this huge storm and had to stay in New Jersey or some shit.
Gunnar: We were in New Haven, Connecticut.
Frankie: But other than that, all the shows were great, it was cool to go play different places, and the last tour with Mean Jeans was super fuckin' fun, those guys are double twisted constantly, they have like 20 beers per hour.
Gunnar: Fucked up dude, but they sold out Chicago.
Frankie: Sold out on a Monday night at like a 250 capped venue, and Milwaukee was packed and Iowa City was really good, that's where Dan's from and I've got people back there so, it was good man. It's nice to know that you can go other places and be appreciated and not fuck it up.
Gunnar: Yeah, and punks love us on the road, too. We play with a lot of really weird punk bands, and normally because we write songs that aren't three chords or whatever, well, some of them are.
Frankie: Most of 'em are three to four.
Gunnar: We almost write pop songs, right? So normally, that doesn't go over well, but people were super nice. We met this dude Bob in Chicago, shouts out to Bob. He had this anti-iTunes tattoo. Like, who isn't into iTunes?
Frankie: Jack [Woolsey, bassist] is a Microsoft Zune guy! I'm not that into iTunes, I'm more into releasing it yourself and pay what you want on Bandcamp. That's probably what I'll always do forever.
Let's talk about the process for your new EP, Raiders.
Frankie: I recorded everything, like last time. I played all the instruments on it, I recorded them like, last year, and I meant to put something up a lot sooner, that's kind of why I put "Bling Item" out was just to put something out a little sooner. I recorded everything at my practice space and Dan played a little guitar on one track, called "100%" and Ian Nygaard sang some backing vocals on some of the songs, but I did everything else. I recorded it, I mixed it and sent it to this guy in Arizona to master it, and I'm fucking pumped about it. I'm glad to be done with it, I'm glad to put it out and have that chapter of songwriting style kind of close, I think I'm gonna take it in a different direction in the future. I got some stuff cookin' and I'm gonna probably start recording that in the next couple of weeks, just trying to keep it moving.
Your Tough Guy EP uses these sort of overt, braggadocio lyrics to mask underlying themes of self-hatred, doubt, and frustration. Did that change at all for Raiders?
Frankie: The songs are a lot more direct and honest and it's not veiled behind jokes and metaphors as much. It's more just like plain language, and it talks about some of the same shit, a lot of the themes are basically dealing with relationships and not being able to navigate them, essentially. Just being pissed off at life and stuff like that, I think that I a rep that I'm like, a sad guy or whatever but I'm really stoked. The songs are all anthems, they just are. They're big songs musically, but all the lyrics are about self hate and dealing with love and dealing with dependency and stuff like that.
You're also launching a label called No Problem. Why? Who all's involved?
Frankie: I'm fuckin' hyped on it. I'm all about self-releasing, I mean, I do the whole process from start to finish myself, so it's really nice to meet someone who is like minded, has similar tastes and is driven to create a platform and a community for like minded artists, both in the Twin Cities and elsewhere, like California where Alex [Uhrich] went to school. But really what it is is a platform, and a way to get shit out that we love, and that we're hyped on and we're into. There's a lot of interesting shit going on under the radar in the Twin Cities, and I think it's worth hyping that shit, I think it's worth giving them a resource, giving them a quality physical product, and kind of forming a community. We're gonna book shows and have consistent events and have some solid releases.
Alex Ulrich (No Problem Co-Founder): I totally agree with what he was saying about Minneapolis being a really interesting place where a lot of rad stuff is happening creatively, but living out west was a very interesting experience for me. Going to school, because people in other places sometimes see Minneapolis as a flyover town, which is unfortunate because there is a lot of really interesting things happening here, a lot of really awesome creative people and they don't really have an opportunity to do that. With my own personal career as a photographer, I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of rad bands and go on tour and do stuff like that, but people still don't recognize necessarily that there are things happening here, so it's like a passion project for us, for sure. I want to be able to show my friends in other places that where I live is really rad, and there's a lot of awesome bands here. And also, we want to create our own careers. Working for people is a necessity to pay your rent, but at the end of the day if you can figure out a way to pay your own rent doing what you love to do then that's so, so much better. If you can help your friends do that with what you love to do, then that's the best you can hope for.
That sounds a lot like a DIY ethos -- Is that something you guys embrace?
Alex: Every single step of the way has been me and Frankie, doing it out of our own pockets, going to Kinko's at like two in the morning to print labels and cut them ourselves, and promoting ourselves and relying on our own sensibilities, what we care about as artists and as people, to make that a reality for our friends.
Frankie: You gotta band together when that's your process. And I've always believed -- since the beginning, especially with Frankie Teardrop -- that that's the most authentic way to make art, is 100 percent from your own fucking hard work. Period. If you really fuckin' believe in it, you'll work hard to make it happen, and it's nice to meet other people that feel the same way, and try to make some awesome shit. Put some really cool art out there for people to enjoy, you know?
Gunnar: It seems to me that that's always been the mentality of Frankie T from the beginning. Interacting with people, and not relying on some hype to cloud our vision. Chicago was a great example of that, we went and played at a little record store and 100 kids showed up to see us and another band, and I met so many people there that were just interested in what we were doing on an artistic level and wanted us to come back. I just feel like that approach warrants and allows for people to reach out and say, "Let's do it again."
Alex: We live in the perfect time for that too, where major labels aren't as desirable for independent artists. Maybe that's the dream in the long run when you're older or whatever, but at this point, the community still exists and it's even more accessible because of the internet. Because you can go out and have friends all over the country or all over the world and show them what you're doing with a click.
Frankie: And book tours and go see them and get at them on a personal level. It's like Gunnar was saying too, it's organic, and everybody knows that there's no rules to the industry and music business at this point. So you make your own rules, you get at people face to face and just work fuckin' hard at it and try to get good shit out there.
Gunnar: The result is just astounding. This girl came up to me in New York and said, "I came to see your band because I love this other Minneapolis band so much, and I've followed her since she was a teenager and she tweets about your band, so I drove an hour to NYC to see your band." Fuck! That's so wild!
Frankie: That's the shit that matters, that's the shit that I'll always remember. I met this dude in Boston that was probably in his 40s or 50s, lived a while outside of the city. He saw that Howler was playing and liked their first record and then was like, "I listened to your stuff on Bandcamp and I really dug it, I downloaded it," and he bought a tape from me and we just talked for a while. Totally different walks of life, I would never meet that dude living and doing my normal shit. We have different viewpoints and upbringings and things like that, but I mean, that's fuckin awesome and that's the shit that's possible.
What are your plans for the future of the label? Is it just gonna be your stuff, or is the aim to grow and add other bands to the roster?
Frankie: We have about three or four other releases. I think that both Alex and I were surprised that the people that came to us right away, just the caliber of artists that approached us right away, even though we are acquainted with them and a couple of them are close friends of ours. They came to us right away when we said we were going to start doing this and said they wanted to do releases with us. So we have three or four kickass tapes that we're going to put out in the next two or three months. I started another band that I'm gonna put a tape out with; Dan's got solo stuff that we'll probably at some point do. We'll probably announce the next one shortly after my release, so stay tuned.
Alex: We were talking the other day about how cool it would be to send out a catalog.
Frankie: Mail order! Check boxes!
Alex: Independent labels have always been about that. When you trust a label to consistently release things that you like...
Frankie: We're going to develop an aesthetic and we're going to develop a sense for people that have got an idea behind the shit that we're doing and have a taste and sound to the label. It's a discovery thing, that's one element that I think the internet has taken out of stuff. You read about a record 40 times before you listen to it, everybody tweets about it and there's this review or whatever so to see a picture of a tape and a short description on a piece of paper, check a box, and send it in is pretty fuckin' awesome shit that is great.
What else do we have to look forward to from Frankie besides the new EP and your 10 Thousand Sounds performance?
Frankie: I've got some new songs, tour definitely helped inspire some new shit. I'm writing a song about potions right now, I'm writing a song about how hard it is to take a piss in New York City because no one has a bathroom, anyone who's been there knows what I'm talking about. That feeling of burning fucking made me need to write a song about it. Not burning when I pee, but because I had to pee. I've been listening to Stones and CCR and stuff like that, so big riff type shit, but also like angular skronky type shit. Frenetic dance beat workouts [laughs] so we're working towards big riffs, but some more rhythmic type stuff. Still pop songs, but maybe draw 'em out a little bit longer, but it's gonna get kinda fuckin' weird. That other band that I'm working with I'm kind of getting my pop fix by writing short-format pop songs. But stay tuned, hopefully we'll have a single by the end of the summer, just a taste of what I've got going on.
How does it feel to be invited to play the 10 Thousand Sounds Festival? Are you guys as excited as we are to see you?
Frankie: I'm very stoked because we get to play downtown, and who the fuck wants to hear us play downtown? That's sick! Sick! It's gonna be very surprising for people I think. They're gonna go there expecting one thing, they're not gonna get it from us. [laughs] Tree Blood's gonna be there, they're fuckin' tight, I hope they freak some people out! If you heard about the "Drone Not Drones" fiasco, it's gonna be our own fuckin' spin on that, Frankie style baby, what's up! So there's a little mystery for you.
Set Times: 4:10 p.m. Tree Blood 4:55 p.m. Frankie Teardrop 5:40 p.m. Carroll 6:30 p.m. Allan Kingdom 7:20 p.m. Sylvan Esso 8:35 p.m. Poliça
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