[Thanks to Sara Phillips for sending us this article.]
Fitz and Starts by Peter Murphy
2 December 1996
GLEN HANSARD explains that, despite the tribulations of the last 12 months, THE FRAMES are more “focused” than ever before.
Over the last six years, The Frames have established themselves as one of the most incendiary live acts ever to come out of Ireland, with frontman Glen Hansard also emerging as one of the country’s most gifted songwriters. Mind you, the road has not been a smooth one.
The band were dropped by Island Records after disappointing sales of their debut album Another Love Song, but three years later returned with the triumphant, self-financed Fitzcarraldo (landing another deal with ZTT in the process). But they weren’t out of the woods yet. Following the departure of co-vocalist Noreen and bass player Graham this summer, the band then split with veteran manager Frank Murray just as they’d clinched a major American deal with Elektra. Having swiftly recruited new bass-player Joe Doyle, The Frames are currently preparing to go into the studio with Pixies/Nirvana/PJ Harvey producer Steve Albini to re-record a version of their classic ‘Revelate’ for the American market.
Glen Hansard is in a jittery but buoyant state of mind when I call him up to discuss the recent upheavals in The Frames’ camp. To begin with, I ask him to explain the circumstances that led to Noreen’s departure.
“Well, we were a six-piece band and we all felt uncomfortable with it being so big,” the singer confesses. “Going on the road used to wreck our heads, we used to have these long periods of time where it would be really difficult for me and Noreen to get on because we both had such different energies. In the end we had just had a tour of England which was horrific and we were about to go back out on another one. None of us wanted to do that, we’d made it clear to our agent, record company and everybody else that we didn’t want to, but they were all saying ‘You need to try and break ‘Revelate’ in England’. And Noreen said ‘Listen lads, I’m sorry, I can’t do it’. That was the thing that tipped it.
“Our whole existence for the last two years has been one of confusion, so she just wanted to get out and get clear and get her hands on her own wheel. And I’ve never seen anyone blossom so much since they’ve made a decision. She’s been doing art and making money from it, which is great.”
And what about the split with Frank?
“This is a reason why Graham left as well,” he reveals. “The whole thing felt a little bit like the ship had no captain. The last thing I want to do is knock Frank down because at the end of the day I love the guy. Whenever we went on tour we always slept on his floor, his wife always made us dinner, we slept in his kids’ beds, it was one of those situations where he was an amazing friend – but as a manager I just didn’t think that it was working for us.”
Was it a painful divorce?
“Oh man, it was so heavy. But when Elektra took on the album and ‘Monument’ started getting radio play in the States we thought to ourselves ‘This is it. If this doesn’t happen we can fucken well throw it there’. We needed to feel like Man United rather than West Ham. We needed to feel like a first division team. So we had to take a risk. I know he’s going to read this and it’s really heavy but there’s no other way. But we’re talking to five different managers in America now and the radio stations are playing us like nobody’s business. In January, hopefully, we’ll go into the studio with Steve Albini. Two of my favourite albums are Surfer Rosa (The Pixies) and In Utero (Nirvana) and he recorded both of ‘em.”
At the In The City seminar a couple of months ago, you mentioned that, regarding The Frames, England seems to have a glass ceiling.
“We don’t wanna know about that country,” the singer fumes. “The vibe I get in England is that if you’re in any way giving of yourself in music, they take it as a weakness. They don’t understand spiritual strength or being vulnerable. I get sick of reading irony in all their reviews. We do have people in England who love our band, but if we were to do it on a touring level the way they want us to, we’d be touring for the next sixty years. And our experience of America has been, we play a gig one night, the next night it’s full. Even on a business level you’re gonna go where the market is hot.”
Given all the turbulence of the last year, you sound remarkably positive.
“We feel more focused” Glen confirms. “The chemistry seems to have at last, suddenly kicked in. Joe (Doyle, new Frames bass-player) is nineteen, he’s totally willing to move with it. If it doesn’t happen in this incarnation, it won’t be The Frames. And I don’t think we’re afraid of that anymore. Most rock bands’ greatest fear is splitting up – big fucken deal! It’s a long road and you don’t get there in two days. But I think America is The New Country for us.”
C’mon pilgrims, you know he loves you!