When My Chemical Romance split up in 2013, it spelled the end of an era for countless teenagers and twentysomethings that had come of age with the band’s music as their soundtrack. As much as their detractors would have you believe otherwise, they had been one of the most important rock bands of the 2000s; transcending passing fads and bringing high-octane and high-concept guitar music into the hearts of millions and onto the charts worldwide. There was a certainty, however, that the members of the band were far from done with music altogether.
2014 saw the release of two solo albums from MCR alumni – Hesitant Alien, the debut album for frontman Gerard Way; and Stomachaches, the debut for guitarist/vocalist Frank Iero under the truly-puzzling and spellcheck-breaking moniker of Frnkiero andthe Cellabration. The two were drastically – and tellingly – different: While Hesitant Alien focused more on the darker pop elements that Way had brought to the table (particularly on their swansong, 2011’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys); Iero’s LP was a noisy, clattering and radiating garage-rock record that flew out of the gates with reckless punk abandon and all the fuzzy, crackling joy of a lo-fi cassette. While both albums were both generally well-recieved, it also made things exceptionally as to what each now wanted out of music in life after MCR.
With Frnkiero andthe Cellabration set to make their Australian debut as a part of 2016’s Soundwave festivities, we spoke with Iero about fan art, new favourite bands and loose teeth – no, really.
UPDATE 17/12/15 5.50pm: Soundwave 2016 has been officially cancelled.
Music Feeds: Did we catch correctly that we’ve caught you on tour?
Frank Iero: That’s right, man. We’re playing through California at the moment. Right now, I’m in this massive antique store and we just found all these weird old toys. Honestly, things couldn’t be better… unless I was at home with my family, of course.
MF: It almost goes without saying. How are the kids doing, if you don’t mind being asked?
FI: Not at all! Oh man… they’re way too large for my little being! I can’t fathom it, man. I feel like they’ve gotten so big. I see them when I face-time my wife and it feels like they’re way bigger than they should be. Just the other day, Cherry had a loose tooth. I was freaking out, because it feels way too soon…
MF: She’s five! Five-year-olds lose teeth all the time!
FI: I know! I know! [laughs] I just want all the teeth in that mouth! I’m not ready for all of this! At the very least, she told me on the phone the other day that she’s doing all she can to keep it in until I get home.
MF: That’s a commendable effort.
FI: I think so, too! [laughs]
MF: Imagine if one of the kids gets a loose tooth when you’re over here in Australia next month. No way they’ll be holding it in then…
FI: Not likely! [laughs] Man, I can’t wait for this trip. It’s been so long since I got to come see you guys… the last time I was there was when we [My Chemical Romance] played the Big Day Out in… what was it… 2010? 2011?
FI: 2012? Okay, that sounds right, at least… I’m not that good with math! [laughs] When this album [Stomachaches] came out originally and I was chatting with one of my agents, they were like “Where do you wanna tour?” I’m pretty sure “Australia” was the first word out of my mouth. For some reason, I just had this immediate and really certain feeling that Australia was going to dig this record and this project. I’ve been meaning to get down there for over a year now. I’m really grateful that the opportunity has arisen – I genuinely think that it’s going to be so great.
MF: On that note, it’s just over a year since Stomachaches came out. Given a bit of distance from its writing and production and eventual release, how do you feel about it as an album now? Do you view it as simply a product of its time; or are you the kind of person who picks apart your projects and scratches about seeking out flaws?
FI: Man, honestly… normally, I am that guy. I’m totally that guy. I think my attitude changes from project to project, though. In the case of Stomachaches, I always knew it was going to be different. The purpose of this record was to be a snapshot in time. I didn’t even think anyone else was going to hear it apart from me and some close friends that I trusted with it.
The whole idea was to just record some songs that were a documentation of where I was at that point in my life. I’d put it in a box, leave it for 20 years and then maybe show the kids. “You gotta check this out!” I was just going to treat it like an old photo album. That was it. Then, all of a sudden, I played a couple of songs to the right people, cut a new record deal and had a record on my hands.
It was funny… I was talking about this just the other day. When the songs were presented to the label, they wanted to know where I wanted to record them. I was like “Oh, no, see… that’s the record. If you don’t want to put this out, then we’re done here!” Thankfully, I found a label who was willing to support that. So, when I think about the record and I listen back to it for whatever reason, that’s what comes to mind. It’s imperfect. It’s supposed to be. It’s broken. That’s cool. Life’s imperfect. I’m imperfect. The next one, I think, is going to be a lot different.
MF: Really? What do you have in mind?
FI: Y’know… I don’t have anything tied down just yet. I’m working toward something that feels really special. It’s scary and fun to do that. I’m in a different place in my life, too. Either way, it’s going to be different to Stomachaches. Like I said, Stomachaches was a purely selfish record. It was made without anyone looking in on it or judging it. With this record, I know for a fact going in that people are going to be hearing it.
You can’t do a record like Stomachaches again. You have to do something different. I just hope that the creative process isn’t tainted by that fact. I’m fine with it – I wanted to do something different, anyway. No point doing the same thing again – I’ve already done that, y’know? Moving forward, things are really different. It’s actually kinda cool… it’s kinda freeing, in a way. I’ve shed my demons and I’m keen to keep working.
MF: You more or less hit the ground running after the release of Stomachaches, touring quite constantly. What have been some of your highlights of touring as Frnkiero andthe Cellabration?
FI: The Against Me! tour was a big one for us. When we were looking at tours to do, I always had a handful of bands in the back of my mind that I thought would be a fantastic match for what we were doing and what we were going for. Against Me! was at the top of my list. I’ve been such a big fan for such a long time, and amazingly I’ve never had the chance to tour with them.
For all the years that My Chem played festivals at the same time and kind of did shows in the same places around the same area, we never got the chance to tour with them one-on-one. They all felt like old friends almost immediately. It was everything that I wanted it to be. That was a huge highlight.
The other highlight has been doing our own tours and handpicking the bands we got to play with. The first tour we did was with Homeless Gospel Choir and Modern Chemistry, who are both acts that I really love and am really excited about. Now, this tour is with Roger Harvey and his band, who are unbelievable. Watching them every night has been a complete pleasure. We’re also touring with Jared Hart – he’s another Jersey guy and plays in a band called The Scandals. This is his solo project, and it’s amazing.
I love the joy that comes with curating an entire show. Having the power to share music that you love with people that might never have come across it… I can’t even tell you how great it feels. I always get these messages telling me that people have left my show with two new favourite bands, and it’s amazing to know that I made that happen.
MF: On Twitter recently, you mentioned receiving an influx of art getting sent to your P.O. box. You then floated the idea of adding to the artworks – painting, sketching, whatever else – and returning them to the artists with your collaboration. Tell us a little about how this concept came to you.
FI: I’ve started doing it already! It’s really exciting! Here’s the thing: I’m really lucky to have a lot of people take inspiration from the art that I make, and it motivates them to make art of their own, which they send over to me. What they do is fantastic, man – the stuff I get sent over to me is just unbelievable. The catch is that there’s just so much of it, I can’t keep it all.
There’s a lot of it. I was saying this to a friend the other day – how weird would it be if you came over to my house, and I was like “Hey, come on in!” You walk in and there’s just thousands of paintings and drawings and sketches and portraits of me. It’d be really weird, right? My kids would grow up to be really strange if that’s what their rooms looked like. [laughs]
So, I have to part with it all at a certain point. I always take pictures of what I get sent and I post it up on Instagram, but I still feel like it’s just not enough. I get inspired by what they’re doing, man. Some of these pieces are just incredible. That’s when the idea came to me. What if I turned these submissions into impromptu collaborations? That way, the art lives on in a different format. I’ve taken a few pieces that speak to me on a level, and I paint over them and turn them into something new. It’s another way to communicate artistically with people, but it’s an experiment. It could fall flat on its face – I mean, I hope it doesn’t!
MF: No doubt your fans are behind you on this one.
FI: That’s all the encouragement I need, man.
Soundwave takes place next January, get the full and ongoing Soundwave 2016 news and details right here.