Frank Iero: Patience Is A Virtue
It’s 7am on a Wednesday morning when BLUNT jumps on the phone with Frank Iero. Otherwise making up for his shortness with a voice that eclipses all laws of volume, the New Jersey noisemaker is today attempting to use as little of his speech as humanly possible. Riot Fest has laid absolute waste to his vocal chords, but yet, he’s adamant on fulfilling press obligations anyway. He’s optimistic – after all, we’re just around the corner from the release of what damn well may be his defining work.
After a tumultuous two years of jumping blindly from platform to platform, Iero finally knows where he’s heading with his solo career. Not even he expected 2014’s Stomachaches (released as Frnkiero Andthe Cellabration) to unfurl upon the world the way that it did, and thus, the journey it took him on was one no less than cataclysmic.
But now, Iero looks at life through cleaner glasses. He’s more grounded – hence the new band name, Frank Iero And The Patience – and he’s got the clear-cut punk opus, Parachutes, to prove it. Ahead of the album’s October 28th release (and this week’s Australian tour), we sat down with Iero to vibe on how he finally came to terms with putting himself into an album, working with some of the scene’s toughest producers, and how he’s always equipped with an arsenal of pre-show tea.
I feel like we need to kick off with the most important question: how are your many perfect dogs?
[Laughs] They’re getting really old, but they’re doing good. They’re happy… Happy and slow.
Have you ever thought about bringing them on tour with you?
Oh, man! I’ve taken them on tour once or twice in the past, but it gets to be a little bit of a hassle. You feel weird, and plus, they tend to get a little freaked out by new places, so you get accidents and those kinds of things. It’s less enjoyable than you would think, but yeah, some dogs travel better than others.
You’ve spoken in the past about how Stomachaches was written with no intentions of actually releasing it, so there was never any worry about how it would be received. With that in mind, was it daunting for you to write Parachutes knowing that people are going to listen to – and have expectations for – these songs?
Absolutely. When we were going into the studio, I realised, like, “I’m going to have to write a record now.” The first time around, the songs just came into my head and I recorded them, but I never thought that I was writing a record. Now, it was like, “Alright, you have to sit down and write a record,” and I was like, “Oh man, do I know how to do that!?” That was a scary realisation, but y’know, I started to think about it, and I realised that I didn’t have to do it all at once. I started to think about how I could do it on my own terms, and I just started to write songs – little by little.
The idea of having people hear them… I feel like it’s like writing a diary, and knowing that someone’s going to read it, you could either cover everything up and lie – veil the truth so that it’s indecipherable – or you can be as honest as humanly possible, and make sure that you’re being as clear about what you’re trying to say as you can. And that’s what happened. I decided to take that opportunity to be very conscious about what I was saying and how I was saying it.
There’s very much an aura of immediacy on Stomachaches – in the best way possible, it’s a total clusterfuck – but Parachutes feels a lot more contained and studious. Would you say that’s a reflection of where you are in life right now?
I think so… I really do. Like I said, the first time around, I wasn’t writing a record – I had no intentions to do anything with [Stomachaches], and there was no plan. It was like, “I’ll write those songs because they make me feel better physically; I’ll put them in a drawer someday and they’ll be a time capsule – a glimpse into what I went through.” This time around, it was different. Everything was different – my life is different. I’ve been doing and playing in this project for two years now, and I’ve grown a lot as a performer and a songwriter. I feel more comfortable in the role of being a solo artist – or as a frontman – and that was never something I ever intended to be so I could never prepare for that, y’know?
So this time around, I knew what I wanted to get out of the project. I knew that I could have fun if I did it the way I wanted to do it, so I was very calculated in how I wanted these songs to be presented, and how I wanted these songs to sound. [The songs] told me that they wanted to be pushed, so I did everything in my power to push them to the edge. I feel like that makes it a lot more of a cohesive– It’s a record, as opposed to Stomachaches being a collection of these standalone moments.
I like the background behind the title – that parachutes are a life-saving device, and this album is one of yours. How did you channel what you’ve been going through into this record, and how did it end up becoming a parachute for you?
It’s funny: Ross [Robinson, producer] and I had a lot of conversations, while we were making the record, about specific moments in our lives – the moments that shaped the people that we became. He would ask all of these questions, like, “…And what’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?” Or, “What time in your life is this song about?” You think that things happen to us, but the reality is that sometimes, they happen for us.
And so I started to write about these moments that, at first, I felt were the worst things that could ever happen – but then realising that sometimes, getting knocked down is just another opportunity to learn how to get back up, and that sometimes the worst things that happen are actually the best things for us. That’s what a lot of these songs on the record are about: they’re these moments in time that force us to take account of the people and things that we care about in our lives, and our surroundings. They’re not always a bad thing, even if they make us feel like it’s the end of the world. It’s about realising that there is no bad; there is no good. It’s all relative.
The last time we spoke over the phone, we were talking about how you were influenced by your kids, because of how imaginative and weird children just are. Did your kids inspire you much when it came to writing Parachutes?
Yeah man, every second! I feel like they even inspired the name of the band – the more that they come into their own and become these little people with their own personalities, the more I realise how precious every moment is, and how worrying about what’s ten steps ahead of me isn’t always the best bet. Sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees, y’know? The one thing I wish I had more of is patience – the ability to take a step back and really appreciate the now.
So you worked with Ross Robinson and Steve Evetts on the LP, which you’ve described as “the most heartbreaking yet uplifting, [and] depleting yet inspiring experience” you’d ever had. How did that all unfold as such?
I’m sure everybody has heard all of the stories surrounding Ross and Steve, and how they work. There’s a lot of folklore about what goes on in the studio for them to get a certain performance out of their artists. So, for a long time, the thought of working with those guys really scared the heck out of me [laughs]. But from all of those stories, nothing I heard could have prepared me for what it was actually like. We were in the studio together for seventeen days, and we did twelve songs. He does this thing – he calls it “mental surgery” – and he asks all the right questions that get you to the core of what your songs are truly about, and he does it in such a powerful, but positive and uplifting way; a way that I’ve never really been worked with before.
I think I come from a long line of that “beaten down in order to build yourself back up” kind of thing – that conversation where it’s like, “I’m not good enough! I need to get better in order to get better” – and he never did that. He shows you that you are the greatest you that you could ever be, and whether you like it or not, he’s going to show you why that is. There was no aggressiveness, or anything, it was just pure positivity. And yeah, he threw shit at us, but it wasn’t in a negative way. He was just psyched. He was just into it so much – he’d be in the room for every take, in your face, psyching you up. He really does become another member of the band… It was the most exhausting experience of my life [laughs].
Over on the touring side of things, of course, you guys are coming back to Australia this month! What brings you back so quickly after being here in January for those acoustic shows?
The original intention was to come down then with a full band, but unfortunately, we didn’t really have the opportunity to do that. In January, it was like, “Well, nobody can tell us that we can’t come,” so we just picked our guitars up and drove to any place that would have us, basically. But this time around it’s an actual tour, and it’s a situation where I can actually bring the full band down. That’s something I’ve been looking forward to for years! When we came down and did those acoustic shows, we got a call shortly after that: our people were able to secure promotors and told us we could get a tour going, so I just jumped at the chance!
You actually got a tatt while you were performing in Melbourne! What was that like?
Yeah, that was a first [laughs]! When we were talking to the label, were like, “We still want to come [to Australia],” and they were like, “Okay, well, what do you want to do?” I told them, “I want to play! I want to go to places and hang out – I want to be a kid, and stuff,” and they were like, “Okay, we’ve got to find some places where we can do that,” and one of the places that they found was this wonderful tattoo shop [Eureka Rebellion] in Melbourne. I was like, “Alright, perfect! …Is there any artist there that would want to tattoo me while we hang out?,” and they were like, “Yeah!” So it was just one of those things where it was like, “Let’s do it!” It sounded like fun [laughs].
Can you tell us a little bit about the tatt itself?
I got a “Hey Jealousy” tattoo! I love Gin Blossoms, and that’s a song I’ve sung to my kids during bedtime for a while, so I was pretty excited about it.
I remember when we did the Blunt TV session, you brought your own tea bags from home to make tea with, and I’ve just been insanely curious since: is that like a little ritual you have before you play, to drink this very specific tea?
[Laughs] I’ve only recently gotten into tea! Here’s the thing: before I recorded Stomachaches, I never had any intentions to be a singer or anything like that – I had no idea how to use my voice. And so I went to a vocal coach, and immediately, I was like, “Okay, if I’m going to do this, I should really figure out how to actually work this instrument.” [My vocal coach] got me really into tea, and doing vocal warmups and stuff like that – and it’s imperative, y’know? It’s so important to do that kind of stuff and to take care of yourself… Of course I sound like shit now, but that’s because I’ve been on this part week of touring where I’ve been doing double-headliners every night, and then a Death Spells set, and then interviews all day, so now I’m at a point where I just have no voice at all… But I’m still drinkin’ the tea!
But yeah, I bring this little Tupperware case of different teas with me at all times. I bring ginger with me as well [laughs]!
Friday October 7th – Astor Theatre, Perth (AA)
Sunday October 9th – The Triffid, Brisbane (AA)
Monday October 10th – The Gov, Adelaide (AA)
Tuesday October 11th – Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
Wednesday October 12th – Arrow On Swanston, Melbourne (AA)
Thursday October 13th – Metro Theatre, Sydney (AA)