Interview: Frankie & The Heartstrings
Published on October 20th, 2010 | Jonny Abrams
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Rocksucker caught up with Michael McKnight (08.02.10), guitarist of hotly-tipped north eastern band Frankie & The Heartstrings, to discuss the excitement of working on the band’s debut album with Edwyn Collins…
Onto the music side of things. When’s the album out?
It’ll be out in January. We’re in London at the moment recording it in West Hampstead. It’s pretty weird because we all had full-time jobs up until April. We never expected it so it’s been the best year of our lives, really. Edwyn Collins is recording the album for us.
He was very unwell for a while, wasn’t he?
Yeah, he had a few strokes about five years ago and he was on his death bed, really. All his family went to say goodbye to him but he managed to battle his way back. Not only that but his new album came out a couple of weeks ago, his first full album since his stroke and it’s got one of The Cribs on drums and Johnny Marr and Franz Ferdinand on it. He’s collaborated with all these people to finish it.
Who’s the most exciting person you’ve met on your musical journey thus far?
Edwyn. Orange Juice are my favourite band and Edwyn was their singer so that’s been exciting. We played at a festival called Latitude over the summer and we were introduced onto the stage by Paul Heaton from The Housemartins, who are one of our other favourite bands. So that was pretty cool.
What’s the strangest experience you’ve had so far?
We toured with Florence and the Machine at the back end of last year and that was really strange because we all still had jobs. We did two nights at Brixton Academy and went to an aftershow party where there was people like Kate Moss and Johnny Borrell and those types there. Then we had to get back into our Renault Scenic and drive back to Sunderland afterwards and go to work the next day. That was pretty strange at the time.
I then caught up with him again a few months later to see how it was all coming along…
Whose idea was the Blue Peter motif for the Hunger video?
It was the girl who did it – Lucy Cooper, I think – who came up with the idea. We just wanted something a bit fun and weird for the video and she came back and said, how about this? We liked it, thought it was funny.
How about the two rabbits, er, “smashing it” towards the end?
It’s really funny because they went and got the rabbits that morning from the pet shop. It was supposed to be a weird kind of Blue Peter so we thought the rabbits shagging would be funny. There was a crew of about fifteen people and, when they were shagging, all the lads in the room were shouting, “Go on son! Get in there!” When they were finished, we were like, “What shall we do with them now?” and Dennis, who’s the bassist in our band, says, “I’ll have one of them!” So he took the boy rabbit home with him – he just lets it wander round his house and it plays with his cat! One of the girls who was working on the video took the girl rabbit. I don’t know what the results of the shag were, like, but she’s probably got a few little rabbits kicking about now!
The album’s out February 21st. What can we expect from it?
What can you expect? I dunno. I think it’s a great album. We didn’t want it to be too stylised – we wanted it to have quite a broad appeal, so the songs range from about one and a half minutes to much longer ones. It’s not too stylised, I hope. I’m dead proud of it.
How much of a say did the band have in the production of the album?
We just wanted the songs to come across as they are live. It was Edwyn [Collins] and Sebastian [Lewsley] who produced it and they tried to capture what we do live and put it on record, so it wasn’t like a huge production where they’d be telling us what to do and trying different things. It was just what we wanted.
How is Edwyn these days?
He’s good. His new album’s done so well that he’s off touring round the world. I think he’s doing the NME show at Shepherds Bush Empire next week.
What do you think of Frankie’s Edwyn tattoo? Whose idea was that?
It was Frankie’s idea. When we were down the studio, Edwyn was showing us all these drawings he did – he drew one of those pictures every day of the seventy days he was in hospital. It’s a self portrait but because he was only semi-conscious he didn’t really know what he looked like, so he just drew this man every day. He’s a very talented artist. He showed us these and Frankie said he’d been looking for something to get as a tattoo and that would be amazing. So he went and did it.
Has your band’s claim of having the “best trousers in pop” been challenged yet?
No, I think we’re still flying the flag! We found a pile of vintage plus fours but we only bring them out on special occasions. I’ve not seen a better pair yet. We had to do this photo shoot for GQ magazine and they had us in tartan trousers, so that was probably the ‘trouser low’ for us.
You should campaign for ‘Best Trousers’ to be a category at the NME Awards.
Yeah, they should do one. We might get an award then. We’re never going to win any others!
Any top tips for 2011?
I love a band called Veronica Falls. I think they’re going to do well in 2011. They’re from London and they’re actually playing with us at Heaven on the 21st, the night of our album’s release. I can’t wait to see them. I think Dutch Uncles have a new album coming out and, even though it’s their second one, I think they’ll get a bit more press this year. They’re a really good band from Manchester.
Finally, seeing as we seemingly didn’t ask you last time – could you name your top three albums of all time, bearing in mind that your answer may change on a daily basis?
You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever by Orange Juice would be my favourite. London 0 Hull 4 by The Housemartins. And The Best of David Bowie – can that count as an album?
Yes, in an Alan Partridge kind of way.
(Laughs in recognition) “The Best of The Beatles!”