Frank talks all things 'Barriers' in a feature from this summer.
Frank Iero has won The Real Alternative award at this year's Rock Sound awards!
You can pick up a copy of his exclusive cover and poster print here.
To celebrate, here's a full Rock Sound feature from this summer, delving into the story behind 'Barriers' and more.
Life comes at you fast. No matter how steadily things are going, how comfortable you are, or how easy you think things are going to get in the future, life will always be there, ready to throw a spanner in the works. From a truly overwhelmingly positive experience right through to a mentality-changing trauma, nothing remains plain sailing forever.
Ultimately, the way we deal with those setbacks, or even triumphs, shapes us as human beings. Some of us look to toxins for relief, others bury things deep down inside, while elsewhere there are those who use their experiences as impetus for creation. Frank Iero is in the latter group. He sees life’s ever-changing tides as fuel for his fire. That outlook is evident across all the music he’s touched, and it has made him into a force of nature.
Since the dissolution of My Chemical Romance back in 2013 - a band so influential that the waves they made are still as fresh today as they were when they first dropped ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ almost a decade earlier - Frank has barely paused for breath.
Going from guitarist to frontman, he’s been involved in countless projects, most notably the triple-threat of bands united under his name. The first iteration, ...andthe cellabration, came in 2014, closely followed by ...And The Patience in 2016. Now the time has come for Frank Iero And The Future Violents.
In order to pave the way for this latest moniker, something needed to change. On New Year’s Eve of 2017, Frank made a decision. He was going to take a drastic step back.
“All of 2018 I didn’t play,” he recalls. “I wrote, and I stayed home, and kind of tried to learn how to live life again.”
But with Frank’s conscious decision to take a step back, a whole new set of worries took hold. Having played in various outfits since the tender age of 13, it all began with a fear of, “Am I able to not do this?” he remembers. “Am I able to live a normal life and be happy?” But it wasn’t too long before long the cogs of creativity began turning, a new road lay ahead, and the flip side appeared.
“[I’d] been off the road the longest I’ve ever been - did I still know how to do this?” he continues. “Did I still know how to play shows? Did I still know how to get up in front of people? It’s strange, it starts from one fear base, straight to another. You run the full gamut of emotions...”
It’s easy to see why these fears would take a hold of someone as prolific and relentlessly creative as Frank. He’s been involved with the whole spectrum of bands, coming full circle with those that thrive in the sweaty, dingy clubs, where alternative music lives and breathes amongst the sticky floors and sweat-drenched walls. He’s also been in a band who achieved their full potential in theatrical arena and festival-headlining shows - and won a lifelong fanbase to prove it - but none of that seems relevant to Frank. It’s all about feeding the creative beast that lives inside.
But with so many changes in name and band, and different worlds explored, it begs a question: does the constant change come from him never feeling truly fulfilled?
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt unfulfilled,” he says, pausing. “I think I create in order to feel fulfilled, that’s just something I’ve always done. I’ve always written songs and started bands ever since I was a young kid. I started my first band at 11, played my first show at 13, and I’ve very rarely said ‘no’ to anybody.”
Which is not to say that it all comes naturally or easily.
“For every record, there’s a part of me that says, I can’t even imagine doing that again,” he confesses. “It’s so depleting. I do feel enriched by the ability to make records, and I love making records, but it is so taxing, and I’m so tired and spent at the end of it that I cannot fathom ever writing another song or another record. So I don’t know when my tank will be empty.”
Music is built into Frank’s DNA, quite literally. His father and grandfather were touring musicians, instilling a roaming attitude into their kin, which has offered him a clear line of thinking while he barrels around the world scratching his creative itch.
“The feeling that playing and creating music is like breathing to you - that’s the only reason that anyone should enter into this life,” he says, matter-of-factly. “Because it is very much a life of giving everything that you have, every piece of you - a piece of your time, your finance, your blood, sweat and tears, your worry - you think about it constantly, it never leaves you. And very rarely does it ever love you back the way that you love it, but I do it because I have to do it, because I can’t survive any other way.”
For most, the prospect of being in a critically lauded band would be enough, but the reality is far different for Frank. “If you come to my house, I don’t have my plaques hanging on my walls,” he admits. “I don’t have trophies up on any of my shelves… none of that happens. It feels nice to be acknowledged, and I have these things! I have closets full of ’em, but, for me, I’ve always thought you hang that stuff up when you’re done. And I’ve never felt done.”
He continues, “I don’t sit back and on my laurels and put my arms up behind my head and be like, ‘Look at all of this that I’ve accomplished’. Because I feel like in this industry, in this path that I’ve chosen, you’re only as good as the last thing you’ve done. You could put out a magnum opus first and then follow it up with a shit record, and you’re only as good as your last record.”
On this quest to always better himself, each development of his work finds Frank exposing the rawest parts of himself. More pressingly, in an age where many are looking toward poppier pastures, he’s rooted firmly in the loud and proud.
When listening to any of his prior albums, and especially now with his third effort ‘Barriers’, you’ll find an aversion to any notion of ‘polished’ or ‘pristine’ sounds. He careers his way through genres, from the rousing opener of ‘A New Day’s Coming’, to the ’80s metal sounds of ‘Medicine Square Garden’ - they may all nod towards various influences Frank has amassed, but then they’re all thrust through his uniquely creative mind.
“I don’t like it, because life isn’t that,” he says of polished pop roads he could well have had the option of going down. “That’s not real life. I love people because they have these things about them that some might consider flaws, but to me, that’s the best part because no one is flawed quite like you. When I hear a mistake or a
wrong note on a record, that’s what I wanna hear!”
The excitement in his voice heightens, “That’s my favourite part. I like hearing real people in a room making music, [and] that’s just [what] these are - the records I love and the records I wanna make.”
Life tends to seep its way into the art people create, and this is especially true of Frank. His debut with thecellabration, ‘Stomachaches’, was born out of the sickness which has plagued him most of his life. Meanwhile, The Patience explored Frank’s outlook on life with ‘Parachutes’.
“I started to think about, from the moment we’re born to the moment we die is basically falling out of a plane, and the people and things that we love around us are parachutes that let us hover.”
And now, we have The Future Violents and ‘Barriers’.
Referring to the symbolic walls that often surround us during moments of change, conscious or not, the instigation of the album came in Sydney, back in 2016. It was there, on October 13, that an empty passenger bus crashed into Frank and The Patience unloading for a show that night, an accident that could quite easily have claimed their lives.
“It’s strange because when something like that happens to you, or rather...” he quickly clarifies, “It changes your DNA. I’m a completely different person than I was before it happened. I think differently, I interpret things differently; hell, food tastes different to me! So I knew I had to address this life-changing experience, but for the life of me I just could not come up with the words that would encompass the feelings I had about it.”
And in its unexplainable way, through an act of serendipity, that trip also gave Frank the idea for The Future Violents. Inspiration struck on the flight to Australia, a short while before the accident.
“A steward came over, and said, ‘Oh you guys look like you’re in a band, what’s the name?’ and I said ‘Frank Iero and The Patience’. He misheard and said, ‘What’s the Future Violents?’
“I [just] said…that’s an amazing name! I wrote it down thinking maybe that’s a song title or something down the line, but I started to think about that collection of words and what that meant to me, and when writing this record I started to think about life, and how life was for me... how the accident was this very abrupt and violent act and how life can be a precious thing.”
It may seem on the outside that Frank is in search of something, be it understanding of himself, or making sense of all that comes and goes, but the real truth is for someone that creates such angst-driven, howling tunes, he’s naturally a positive person. Building substantial relationships with his loyal fans on social media, especially Twitter, Frank is someone who’s accepted his position as somebody to aspire to be like with poise and grace.
As for the perceived darkness that surrounds his creative output, well, he’s not quite sure why everyone sees it that way. “It’s funny to me that people perceive records [and] the songs I’ve written as dark, depressing and sad records. I’ve always found them to be very positive and uplifting.”
“I guess what it is for me is I’ve always had a dark sense of humour. I’ve always found that light in the dark,” he says, continuing to explore his thoughts.
“Some people will find things about themselves to be flaws, [but] to me that’s the good stuff. Those are the positives. I think that you may think you’re messed up, right? But what I would say to you is that no one is quite messed up like you. That’s what the world needs because no one is perfect, no one wants to be perceived as they are. Everybody wants to be James Dean - everyone wants to be cool without trying.”
“The beauty of it is that all of us are a little bit fucked up and weird [but] none of us are fucked up and weird in the exact same way,” he says. “That’s the stuff I see in my own kids, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this is your inherent weirdness, this is the best! No one else has this; you didn’t get this from your Mom or me either, this is all you!’ And I love that. Sometimes along the way, we want to be ashamed of those things, and I hate that we lose it.”
It’s about individuality, and about staying true to who you really are, no matter what people on the outside may want you to be.
“I’d like to think that’s what people appreciate, or can get out of what I make, because I think it’s an important thing to hear,” he says. “We spend our entire lives hearing so much about the negative; people break us down to build us up, but they’re just making robots. People need to be built up for who they are. Be yourself, that’s all we need.”
And that is precisely why someone like Frank Iero is so vital to the world. He’s an example of someone who lives and breathes what they do, and simply cannot stop. Even when he’s exploring the furthest reaches of his mind, or when life works its wicked magic, it always circles back to being who he wants to be. Who he needs to be.
“The world has everyone else,” he concludes. “We have all these people - billions of people - the only thing we don’t have is you.”
Grab your copy of Frank Iero's Rock Sound Awards cover and poster print below: