Frankie and the Heartstrings | Living North

Frankie and the Heartstrings

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Frankie and the Heartstrings © Paul Alexander Knox
We chat to the drummer of Sunderland's biggest indie-rock offering in recent years, to discover why they swapped festivals for running a shop in their hometown
‘It was when all the HMVs on the high street were closing down and we thought, if everyone's illegally downloading music and there's nowhere to buy it, what will bands do?’

Hailing from Sunderland, Frankie and the Heartstrings are an indie-rock band with a difference. Having played at Glastonbury, toured America and met Morrissey, they decided to open their own record shop in their hometown. And last month, Sunderland welcomed successful indie bands, The Cribs and The Vaccines, all thanks to Frankie and the Heartstrings. 

'It's not just a record shop,' says 37-year-old Dave, 'It's a cultural thing. Watching The Cribs and The Vaccines play at our shop was the closest I've come to tears over a gig, I felt so much pressure before but so emotional throughout,' says Dave, who really doesn't seem like the sentimental type, stating during the interview that if you don't like his music, he will grab you by the head, punch you in the throat and tell you to listen. Breezy.

Dave admits that opening the shop has hindered their music career, 'We didn't do many festivals last year,' he explains, 'Because we made the silly mistake of opening a shop.' 

So why did they do it? It started as a statement about the changing state of the music industry, and it was only supposed to be open two weeks in lieu of their album launch. Two years later and it's still going strong as a record shop, coffee shop and gallery combined. 'We opened it when we brought out our album, it was when all the HMVs on the high street were closing down and we thought, if everyone's illegally downloading music and there's nowhere to buy it, what will bands do?'

The band began six years ago, when Dave, who was working in a school at the time, met Frankie, a bar manager, and along with their friend Michael they started thinking about forming a band. 'We were bored,' explains Dave, 'We weren't seeing anything that was that impressive out there, so rather than being lazy about it we decided to impress ourselves.' 

So rather than technical ability, the band was formed from desire to create something different. And Dave doesn't think a lack of skill should stop you. 'It's not always the most technically talented people that have the most interesting things to say. In fact the most technically gifted people are nearly always the dullest,' says Dave.

Originally, Frankie played base, while Dave and Michael played guitar, but they soon found these roles weren't going too well. 'We realised very quickly it wasn't our calling to be doing those things,' explains Dave, 'So we shook it all around a bit and then got signed very quickly. I don't know what happened, there's a lot of luck involved I suppose.'

The name they chose seemed like an obvious choice. 'It's a retro name,' says Dave, 'Michael chose it, he likes the idea of the Fifties.' Frankie's name scored the title because, although all five members think of themselves as equally important, Frankie is the one who gets the attention. 'He is an incredible frontman and you don't get a lot of those these days.' says Dave, 'You get a lot of people who want to be a cool frontman and have a stylist but you don't get many natural performers. He is of a rare breed.'

The band have toured around the world, travelling to Australia, Japan, and Europe several times, but the highlight of their six years for Dave is their performance at Glastonbury. 'I went there for five, six, maybe seven years before as a punter, and then I got paid to play there – to real people on a real stage. That was one of the best days of my life,' says Dave.

A lowlight is the music videos. Dave is fairly blunt when describing his feelings towards the band's creative videos. When asked where they come up with the ideas he says, 'Probably in a toilet because they're all terrible. I know the other guys in the band like them, but I hate them. That's one of the problems with being in a band, people have opinions and a lot of the time they don't realise that I'm right all the time.'

The video for Hunger, which was directed by Sting's son and features comedian Rob Popper is Dave's least favourite. 'It cost eight grand,' says Dave, 'I couldn't believe it. When you realise there's someone on the set who is employed to get you a sandwich, you think you're joking me aren't you – I can get my own sandwich, I've been to Greggs numerous times.'

But the video is a hit online, with fans commenting on how rare it is to see a good music video these days. The opening mimics Blue Peter, with the band as an act on the show and Robert Popper playing a typically over-enthusiastic kids TV presenter.

This year the band are touring prior to releasing their third album in June. Plans after this depend on how the album goes down. 'If the album goes to number one or our single goes to number we'll be touring the world and elsewhere,' says Dave.

For more information on the band visit www.frankieandtheheartstrings.com

Pop Records Ltd, 50 Fawcett Street, Sunderland SR1 1RF 0191 565 2150 www.poprecsltd.com

Published in: April 2015

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