Back at the beginning of 90’s something very special happened to me. The release of ‘Trains, Boats And Plains‘ was being hailed by the British musical press and the independent pop scene. As I -still- am always suspicious on anything overhyped, I had a careful listening to the album. Eventually, I found myself celebrating more than the rest! Each and every song was a beautiful three minute pop hymn. The guitars were sparkling original melodies, the bass and the drums were tightly functioning in a perfect way to support the tunes, the lyrics were pretty smart and the singer wasn’t hesitating to challenge his voice on higher octaves to color his words. The weirdest of them all, was the psychological impact of the songs on myself. At one moment there I was getting cheerful while listening to ‘After All‘, ‘Bake Us A Song‘, ‘This Is Not a Song‘ etc. and the next , there I was again possessed by a tender -almost comforting- melancholy while listening exactly the same songs! What was going on? What kind of magic was this? Who were they?! For sure, I couldn’t predict at this period, that this very personal grown bond, between myself and the band was destined to last a lifetime. The Frank & Walters turned consciously their backs to the faceless crowds, the fame and the money. But they never turned their backs to people like me. And the best was yet to come with every new release of theirs. And it’s still coming. Until today. Until the end.
Hello Paul! It’s nice to get in touch with you again. How is it going for The Franks nowadays?
All is good at the moment with the Franks. We had a busy year in 2016 and are looking forward to 2017.
Are you satisfied by the reception of the ‘Songs For The Walking Wounded‘ album?
Yes, we are happy with the reception from the new album. It was critically acclaimed in the media and the radio in Ireland gave it good support.
Did your fans enjoy the new songs at your recent gigs?
The new songs seemed to go down well with the fans and the response from them was very positive.
Cillian Murphy became a worldwide famous actor after acting in Ken Loach’s “The Wind That Shakes The Barley“. I know that he has a major role in Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming “Dunkirk” epic film. How did he turn out to join you in ‘Stages’?
Cillian came to see us in one of our shows in London and we met him afterwards. He told us he was a fan since 1991. We met after another one of our shows in Cork and he told me again that he was a big fan. I decided then to ask him would he do a spoken word piece for our song ‘Stages‘ and he said yes. I was so honored that he did it and he did a brilliant job.
The first time I watched a movie with Cillian on a leading role was in John Carney’s ”On The Edge” [By the way, John Carney directed in 2006 (my favorite) “Once“, which is a film focused on the relationship of two musicians who have a different national and personal background. In 2016, he directed another film on music (“Sing Street”)] .Cillian, I believe that he was born and raised in Cork too. Is that right?
Yes, he was born and reared in cork and it turns out that his mother taught me English in secondary school.
Which bands were your favorite ones during your puberty? Would you say that there were some particular influences that you had in mind when you start the band with Ash and your brother Niall?
The bands that would have influenced me personally growing up would be Prefab Sprout, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, Joy Division, The Beatles, The Stranglers and The Kinks.
I still remember your first NME interview, where you were saying that you were expecting the NME’s journalist to turn out with a costume and a tie(!) to interview you. Were you really that insecure at that time?
We were just joking. Pretending to be stupid.
When ‘Trains, Boats And Planes‘ was released, no one could be able to resist over the fresh guitar pop sound of yours and your witty lyrics: ”Fashion Crisis Hits New York, This Is Not A song” etc. It was much more than a breakthrough from Cork. Back in those early 90’s days, the whole music industry seemed to be on its knees in front of The Franks. Even bands like Radiohead used to open the concerts of yours. And yet, you decided to step back in order to keep your sanity unharmed, as you have mentioned. After all of those years do you regret somehow for the choice you made at that time?
We took a step back from the music business at that time because it overwhelmed us. If we continued, I don’t know what would have happened to us. We had burnt ourselves out with too much touring and recording etc. I don’t regret the choice as health is always better than wealth.
Do you feel fulfilled as a musician after taking a look back? What (if there’s any) would you like still to achieve?
I do feel fulfilled. I think we have a good body of work which I’m very happy with. What I’d still like to achieve is to travel more and play more gigs abroad.
When ‘Beauty Becomes More Than Life‘ was released, I didn’t know what to expect when I got ready to listen to it. Well, it just so happened that I lost my mind out in a world of incomparable beauty. ‘Plenty Times’ opening bass line never stopped haunting me. I have been hearing even in my sleep songs such as ‘Woman‘ or ‘Until The End‘. The whole record just kept on playing constantly for weeks in my apartment. Later on, I read on NME that this album should already be considered as the lost classic of the twenty- FIRST century. I couldn’t agree more .After the (underrated according to me) ‘Glass‘ album, it took you almost six years to get back with the wonderful ‘A Renewed Interest In Happiness‘. Why did it take you so long? What was going on during this period?
The reason why ‘A Renewed Interest In Happiness‘ took so long was because my brother Niall left the band and we had to replace him. We also lost our recording contract with Setanta Records and had to find another label.
I never thought that I was going to listen to such a heartbreaking song like ‘Father‘ by The Franks. How did you get inspired of it? Are there any personal experiences included?
‘Father‘ is written about my father and the relationship I had with him growing up. It is personal but I felt that I had to be honest with the listener and to myself to help me understand why I am who I am today. It was very therapeutic for me and as a result I get on better with him now.
‘Fishes‘ is another album’s gem which I know already that I’ll treasure until the end of my life. It radiates again, this never ending attitude of Franks to inspire strength and hope through their songs. How did this song come out? Once, you told that at the time you were reading James Joyce’s ”Ulysses”. Is there any bond between the song and Joyce’s masterpiece?
Yes there is an influence here from ”Ulysses”. Well spotted if you don’t mind me saying I consider Joyce as a painter of words. To me he’s an abstract expressionist. When writing the lyrics for this song I decided to try to be more abstract expressionist as I felt it suited the mood of the song.
Irish are definitely a music’s nation. Whether it’s folk or rock’n’roll (not to mention your vast traditional musical background), they never fail to surprise us. Is there any social or other explanation for this phenomenon?
I personally think there are a few reasons why the Irish write music. Pain is always a good reason to write. Artists write or paint to express and help to heal. A problem shared is a problem halved. Possibly the weather in Ireland can be very wet and grey and gloomy in the winter. This can dampen our spirits and writing helps us to lift them again. Also our legacy of being ruled by Britain for many years may have left us with an inferiority complex that we had to deal with. I think writing songs has help us with this.
You have been experiencing yourself the gradual change of formats from vinyl to cd and then to mp3. Do you think that this transition has influenced, somehow, the band regarding the songs that they are after to compose and release, or particularly, when they are about to release an album?
It doesn’t really make too much difference to us when we write and record music. It does mean that we can upload our music on the Internet as an mp3 and get to the listener quicker.
Many Greeks got stunned when they were listening to ‘Goddess Of Athena‘. They didn’t get the reason of yours to write such a beautiful song which is referred to the disappointing condition in Greece. From a strictly commercial point of view ‘Fishes‘ or ‘Riviera‘ would have been a wiser choice as the third album’s single. Do you feel any special affinity for Greece?
We chose ‘Goddess Of Athena‘ as the single because you made such a great video for it. The reason I wrote the song is because I love Greece and its people. When we played in Athens over the years we met many special people including you, George. I was so saddened to see how the Greek economy has been hit so badly in recent years and how the people have suffered.
Another reason for myself to be fond of Franks is that you and Ash have both a great sense of humor and an easy going attitude during your communication with your fans, whether it’s on the internet or at a live performance. I have noticed that you have the charisma of making your fans to feel a familiarity with the band. Sometimes I feel more likely a friend than a fan, as your behavior is far from being just gentle -but distant- to anyone. It seems that Rory Murphy and Cian Corbett matched with you very well and the outcome is obvious in band’s spirit while you are working in the studio or playing at a stage. Do I get this right? By the way, Cian did make an amazing work in ‘Goddess Of Athena‘!
You are dead right. Cian and Rory have been sent to us by God. They fit perfectly into the band both personally and musically.
Personally, I would feel honored, grateful and very moved to watch you playing in Greece. What would you think of playing ‘Goddess Of Athena‘ in an Athens’ gig? I believe that you will be asked to play it several times. Are there any wishes or plans for a gig in Greece?
We would be honored to play Greece again. And yes I would love to play ‘Goddess Of Athena‘ there as it is my favorite song on our new album. All we ask is for the cost of our flights and just give us a shout any time.
Paul, once again, I have to thank you for so much more than this interview.
Thanks for the interview George. God Bless.