Frank Turner:
The TVD Interview

As his fans already know, Frank Turner, an English folk-punk country singer, released his new single, “Recovery,” off his not-yet-released new record, Tape Deck Heart, on March 5th. Being a long-time fan of his music myself, I was anxious to hear it. 

You see, I get scared sometimes. I get scared that a man with such a long history of making great music that consistently makes me really, really happy is not going to be able to keep doing it time after time after time. I go into his new songs with a tight gut and sharp ears, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it never does. Ever. And this why I love Frank-fucking-Turner. His music and lyrics (seriously, the lyrics) have never failed to lift me up from dark places, make me think, and, most importantly to me, inspire me to take action and risks in my life.

Turner is currently touring the United States through March 15 and 16, where he will be playing The Black Heart Bar and Red 7 for SXSW, respectively. I caught up with him in New York to talk about Tape Deck Heart.

First off, how have the U.S. shows been so far?

Oh, they’ve been great. A lot of times, they’ve been sold out, and tonight is sold out, so I have no complaints. [laughs]

Oh, good!  So you’ve mentioned that this record is a “break-up record.” It’s really personal. Does it make you feel more exposed and vulnerable to your fans?

Yeah, very much, although, I mean, there’s a degree to it that’s deliberate. You see, one of my theories about why some bands get less interesting is kind of that, you know, after making a lot of records, they get too guarded about who’s going to look into what they are doing. Everything gets a bit more generic, and you just simply don’t write like that when you start out, when you’re a kid in your bedroom pouring your heart out, so, when writing this record, I thought it was really important to do quite the opposite of the obvious thing, which would be to kind of get more generic. I decided to be the most exposed I could. It helps that I am kind of, like, in a moment in my life where I have lots of things on my mind that are personal. But, yeah, I really wanted to kind of write something personal. Also, art is not supposed to be comfortable, and I think now that I’ve quite succeeded in writing something so personal, I am now actually quite nervous about what people might think about this record.

From what I’ve heard so far, “The Way I Tend to Be” and “Oh Brother” are particularly vulnerable. I think you’ve succeeded in your goal. I think they’re quite universal in theme and, you know, just really beautiful all-around.

Thank you.

Speaking of “Oh Brother,” I feel like it’s kind of a unique sound for you to go for one of your own records versus, say, one of your Mongol Horde  records.

Yeah, I think it’s something that breaks some new ground for me musically, which I quite like. It’s got a slightly different vibe to it. I try to break a little bit of new ground with every record, and, I think for me, that’s one of the songs that is at the edge a little more. The other thing I’d like to say about that song is that, like, ya know, that platonic, male love sort of thing, if you know what I mean [laughs a little] is a rare subject in popular song.

The song is about Ben [Dawson], who was the drummer of Million Dead and is the drummer of Mongol Horde. He’s one of my best friends, and I don’t see him as much as I used to, and I just wanted to write a song that said, “Hey, buddy, what’s up” kind-of-thing. He’s as close to me as a brother can be.

You have a really great track record for releasing your records on vinyl. Is there any particular reason why that is so important to you?

Yes and no. I just think it’s a cool thing to do, and I know that a lot of people who like my music like vinyl, and I aim to please. I’m a sort of conceptual fan of vinyl. I’m not somebody who buys a lot of vinyl himself, because I’m on tour the whole time, and it’s really, really impractical. It’s hard enough lugging around books I want to read without getting involved in trying to get records to and from the place that I’m going to. But yeah, it’s just at the end of the day, a lot of people enjoy vinyl. I think it’s a really cool format, and it keeps people happy.

You’ve had a lot of milestones this year. Is there anything on your career bucket list you’re actively trying to cross off right now? You’ve recently got a licensing deal with Interscope Records here in the U.S.

That’s not really a bucket list item, though. My bucket list items are a lot more esoteric than that. They’re not, like, “Oh, I want to sell out Madison Square Garden” or anything like that. They’re more challenges I set for myself, and I am definitely very hyper-self-critical and believe I should do better than I currently do. One I’ve been longing to do and hope I get to do today is meet Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, and it looks like I’m finally going to be able to pull that off tonight. It looks like he’s coming to the show tonight. I’m very excited about that.

I’m very excited for you! I love Counting Crows. I always love it when you play “Raining in Baltimore.”

Thank you.

This is something I’ve been asking everyone lately. How do you feel about Pearl Jam?

You know, it’s funny. This is a conversation I’ve had with Brian Fallon [of The Gaslight Anthem] many times, and I’m really not a fan. When I was a kid, there very much was the kind of Pearl Jam vs. Nirvana thing going on, and I made my choices [laughs].

I did notice you made a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” reference in “Oh Brother.”

Yes. [laughs]

I’m a big fan of Eddie Vedder the man. He seems like a good person.

He does seem like a decent human being.

Do you have any side projects in the works right now, like maybe a Buddies Two with Jon Snodgrass [of Drag the River]? Anything with Mongol Horde?

Right now, everything in my life is focused on this new record. I’m a reasonably kind of hyper-active person. I get bored easily. [laughs] I’m still trying to think of new ideas and new things to do and all the rest of it, but everything, including Mongol Horde, is kind of on the back burner right now. Everything is about this new record, and that will probably be the case for a year. Maybe more, but yeah, sure, there’s loads of ideas I have, but they will have time to gestate in the interim.


Here’s a silly question for funsies. Do you have any pre-show rituals, superstitions, or lucky charms?

Not enormously. We’ve all gotten into the habit, me being included in that “we,” of high-fiving each other before we go on stage. I used to have a few trinkets, to be honest, but I’ve lost them all jumping into the crowds and jumping around on stage. Things fall off or get lost or get stolen and all the rest of it. I’ve had pendants get ripped off me in the crowd, so I’ve kinda given up on that kind of thing.

How was your Christmas Break? It was your first one in over a year, correct? That had to be nice.

Oh, yeah, it was cool. I got to spend some time in London and catch up with some friends that was more than, like, “I’ve got two hours in town before I fuck off again” kind-of-thing. It was nice. I felt kind of reconnected with my home life in a way that I haven’t in a very long time. That was a good, refreshing thing. As much as I enjoy being sort of on the go, it’s nice to sort of break it up and be a bit human every now and again.

“Recovery” is out now, and Tape Deck Heart is due out April 23. Pre-order the record now.

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