“I’m not in a normal band,” declares English folk-punk hero Frank Turner. “It’s a dictatorship.”
While such a description of Turner’s current project seems abhorrent, for the past two albums and four years, he’s actually been a solo singer-songwriter. In keeping with traditional British humour, Turner’s really attacking himself as it’s only since third album Poetry of the Deed, released this past fall, that he picked up a backing band.
“I’m the boss and it’s definitely no democracy. Well, maybe it’s a consultive dictatorship,” he quips before getting to the point. “I work with some truly great musicians who offer ideas on everything from song structure to artwork. But as a strong-willed person, I generally have my own ideas and choose to ignore them — or not — as the case may be. They’re not fearful of speaking to me or any of that crap, but at the end of the day, it’s my project so I have to feel comfortable with how they represent me.”
By all accounts, they’re doing fine. Hired to flesh-out his aural presence on the tour for 2008’s Love Ire & Song, Turner was immediately impressed with “how much better they made me sound,” signing on the six-deep brigade full-time for Poetry of the Deed. In fact, he’s far more pleased with this group of professionals as compared to his previous band where Turner was forced to let others represent him.
“I was in a group for a long time before I went solo. There was a fair amount of psychological fallout after that,” Turner reveals about past endeavour Millions Dead, a revered post-hardcore punk outfit that dissolved in 2005 due to personal conflict.
“That group fell apart for really horrendous and pathetic reasons. I needed a couple of years of not being in a band for the head space. After that, I had to stand on my own feet to realize what kind of noise I want to make.”
That noise, a delightfully infectious commingling of punk rock passion with acoustic serenity and vocal warmth, has been realized on Poetry of the Deed, his most accomplished to date — Millions Dead or otherwise. Turner also feels that branching outside of the simplicities of punk and into the starkness of acoustic performance has allowed for greater musical growth, a prime reason for Poetry of the Deed’s success.
“I’m working on the whole songwriter thing and I’m getting better. Despite being in bands for such a long time, being in a hardcore band isn’t writing in the traditional Bob Dylan sense. It’s more getting a bunch of cool riffs together and putting them in some order as opposed to the holistic approach,” he says, concluding there’s still room for improvement.
“My subject matter has expanded because I’m a confessional writer and as my life moves on, the subjects do. There are fewer songs on this album about being lonely and on drugs than there used to be. It’s like I’ve grown up and got a girlfriend, man.”