Frank Iero has undergone a massive metamorphosis in the last two years. While we expect the band name and line up of his solo project to evolve with each record, it’s the front-man himself that has changed the most on the forthcoming album Barriers. Dropping on 31 May, it’s the New Jersey punk rocker and former My Chemical Romance guitarist’s third solo release but the first since his near-death experience just over two years ago.
Just weeks before the release of the sophomore record Parachutes and while finishing up their Australian tour in October 2016, Iero and some of his bandmates were struck by a bus while unloading their van before a gig in Sydney. Although everyone was lucky to escape with their lives, the traumatic experience has had an undeniable impact on the way Iero now approaches life and music.
While he thought he may never make music again, a series of serendipitous events led him to Barriers. Firstly, the new iteration of the band name was a product of coincidence after an airline steward asked and misheard him pronouncing the old moniker.
“I was taking a flight to Sydney on the trip that the accident happened and the steward came over and was like ‘You guys look like you’re in a band.’ And we were like ‘Yeah, you’re right!’ (laughs). And he was like ‘What’s the name of the band?’ and I was like ‘Frank Iero and The Patience’ and we weren’t actually The Patience at the time, we were going to be. So that was the first time I actually said it out loud and he misheard me and was like ‘Oh, the Future Violents? That’s a crazy name’,” Iero remembers laughing. “I was like ‘Yeah, you’re right! That’s not what I said but I’m going to write that down because I don’t know what it is and I think it means something.’”
The term ‘The Future Violents’ has lingered in his notebook and on his brain ever since. So when it came time to create the new record, he knew it was the perfect way to describe the near-fatal experience and the band’s next chapter.
“I started to think about that collection of words that the universe threw at me in 2016. I started to think about what ‘the future violents’ meant and how this crazy accident happened and how brutal and violent and abrupt it was. I started to think about how life is a lot like that, you know? Or at least actively participating in life and having this pristine notion of what should be your life kind of shattered in an instant.”
As well as thinking of it in the literal sense regarding the brutal accident, Iero also considers it a broader metaphor for the duality of life.
“That conjured these images in my head and I started to think of life almost like a lake. You can passively sit back and enjoy it and vicariously live through other people or just taking things as they go and watching the fish travel underneath the lake or the wind take the current. Or you can reach down and pick up a rock and throw it at it. That violent action, that actively participating or leaving a footprint, being the future activist.”
Iero hopes that the name, the record and his experiences will inspire others to embrace what scares them, rather than lying dormant in life.
“That’s really what the band is about. The people who are in the band and also the people who are listening to the music, I hope they go out and pick up a rock and smash that pristine façade and make their mark. And attack the things that are scary to them and find their true selves.”
The band also fell into place in a way that Iero can only describe as a twist of fate. “The line up is many years in the making. This is definitely a very serendipitous arrangement of people.” Iero had been meaning to collaborate with many of his current bandmates for years (and in some cases, decades).
So as the cards intended, this iteration of Iero’s band includes Evan Nestor on guitar and backing vocals, Murder By Death’s Matt Armstrong on the bass, Tucker Rule of Thursday on the drums and multi-instrumentalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy on piano, organ and violin.
“There are some people that I’ve known for a really long time and have always looked to as ferocious players and inspiring people.” After years of conflicting schedules, Iero accepted this as a sign that it was time to start the new record.
“It just so happened that all of these people were free around the same time and that really shocked me. It made me realise that the stars were aligning and the universe was kinda opening up and I needed to make a record about the things I had been shying away from and pushing away.”
Revisiting traumatic memories and sharing some of your darkest moments in an open book for the whole world to read couldn’t be easy. So when asked about reflecting on that time in his life to forge the new record, Iero did admit that he was momentarily tempted to leave the past in the past.
“Oh, absolutely! But I feel like that’s the easy way out. That idea of ‘Oh, I just want to crawl under a cover and never come out’, I feel like that’s a little bit of human nature but it’s also letting that thing win.”
Instead, Iero used the accident as an opportunity to transform and break down these barriers he was building to trap himself.
“A friend of mine Ross, who did the last record with me, there’s one thing he drilled into my mind. It was probably the most poignant and amazing thing he may have ever said. Life is not a collection of actions that happen to you. We’re not just running away from a bees’ nest that we struck. It’s a collection of actions that happen for you and these are opportunities that you can take and learn from.”
So instead of avoiding these painful recollections, he went toe to toe with them.
“To get up and dust yourself off and try again, these are the things that make you stronger. They don’t make you weaker. You’re not you in spite of your faults, you are only you because of them and you need to celebrate these things because they are what makes you, you.”
As well as this introspective revelation, Iero acknowledged that writing a record that didn’t address these well-known events would be dishonest to both himself and the fans.
“There’s this elephant in the room and I can’t write a record after a life-changing event and not address that. It would be dishonest and silly of me to not even mention it. When you go through a near-death experience, it changes your DNA and you evolve into this new person,” Iero explained. “So to try on the clothes of a dead man and to pretend like nothing is different, it wouldn’t be fulfilling. It wouldn’t be my truth and it certainly wouldn’t be a good record.”
Iero’s previous record Parachutes was almost a prophecy for the accident, aftermath and recovery as well as the creation of this record. I was lucky enough to interview Iero just a few weeks before the accident and release of Parachutes and when re-reading it to prepare for our chat, I was taken aback by the way he described it as a “life-saving device” and the parallels it had with the narrative that runs through Barriers. The irony of his unintended clairvoyance wasn’t lost on Iero either.
“It’s pretty insane! The accident happened maybe two weeks prior to the record being released. At that point I was like ‘Oh my gosh. This is horrible.’ I have this record coming out and I can’t do anything with it. I can’t even listen to it because it made me feel sick. The idea of having this thing that I dedicated so much time and energy to and not being able to work and play it for people and do any of that. But when I did come around to it and listened to that record, I was like ‘Oh my god! I wrote a record about what was going to happen to me.’ That blew my fucking mind (laughs). I couldn’t even believe it.”
He says it’s like listening to a different person describing events that are yet to happen in the future.
“That’s a very strange position to be in. But now, listening to this record, you get a very different perspective…I don’t know if it’s better or worse. I’m just different. I’m glad I had this opportunity to do this again. I didn’t know if making music and writing records was just something I used to do. It’s funny that as different as I am, it’s something that I still enjoy and hold dear. It’s just in a different way.”
You can hear this layered self-discovery throughout Barriers. The 14-track record opens with ‘A New Day’s Coming’, a joyous hymn originally written as a bed-time lullaby for his two daughters. Meanwhile tracks like debut single ‘Young and Doomed’ and ‘Basement Eyes’ pack the rebellious punch we’d expect from a Frank Iero side project. Then at the pointy end of the record, the haunting and bluesy ‘Six Feet Down Under’ recounts Iero’s struggle to grapple with what was real and what was fantasy after the accident.
A mixed bag of genres, sonic references and emotions, the final product is Frank Iero’s most harrowing, honest and impactful work yet. Yes, his recent experiences may have left him battered and bruised (both literally and figuratively), but music is still his weapon of choice to attack the obstacles that life throws at him.
Frank Iero and The Future Violents are about to hit the road for a US tour, but it could be a while before we see them down under.
“I didn’t think that returning to Australia was going to be as difficult for me as it ended up being. I had to return last year for doctor’s visits pertaining to the accident and as soon as I got off the plane, it was like it just happened. I definitely regressed a lot and that was hard for me. I felt like I had made a lot of strides forward before that trip.”
“Well, we couldn’t really blame you if you were just like ‘fuck that place’,” I reassured him.
“Oh no, I haven’t written you guys off! (Laughs) I would like to think that I can do that (trip to Australia) but I really don’t know. I’m gonna try. I’m definitely gonna try.”
Until then, holiday to the states anyone?