"I wanted to make a more pop record..."

Frankie Rose is breaking out on her own. This Brooklyn legend – and former member of Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls, no less – has ditched the backing band and cast off the girl-group/feedback fuzz of old to embrace something a little more cosmic – resulting in one of the most thrilling records of the year so far. Ethereal and blissed-out, ‘Interstellar’ sees Rose take full creative control to offer us angelic chorales, candy-floss soundscapes and a deceptively expansive sound. Clash met up with the charming Rose to discuss success, musical evolution and why sometimes it pays to have a producer with a completely different record collection from you.

You’re fresh from playing at SXSW. How was it?
Oh, it was a pretty mixed bag! Overall, we played three shows – we didn’t know that we were going down till the very last minute. One of them had some pretty terrible stage antics with the sound on stage. The monitors stopped working the minute we stepped up there, so it was a little terrifying. But we managed to survive!

So, we’re here to talk about 'Interstellar'. It sounds like it’s been beamed in from another planet. What was your initial intention when you started to record?
Well, actually, when I first started to record I started with the same person I did the last record with. But then I changed my mind mid-stream and decided to change what I was doing. Because I was very definite I didn’t want to make the same record twice. That was very, very important to me.

It was a dance-music producer that you switched to, wasn’t it? Le Chev?
Yeah, he’s someone from Fischerspooner and he does (and listens to) really pop, dance, house music. Basically, everything as opposite as it gets from me – which is exactly what I wanted! It worked out really well, in the end. I eventually I ended up with a much ‘bigger’ record than I intended to.

Obviously, there’s a massive departure in the sound. You’ve spoken before about wanting to leave behind the lo-fi/girl-group thing that you were doing on previous records. What was influencing you, musically?
Um, honestly…a lot of weird dance music! I can’t say that I was influenced by ‘one particular thing’ on this record; I just knew that I wanted to make a more pop record. And pop, to me, for my sensibilities – and this might date me a little – but I think of pop when I was a kid. Bands like A-ha and the Smiths and the Cure. So it was for me to translate what I do into a more ‘pop’ sound, and that’s how it manifests it. Which I think I am really happy with. It’s just a little bit of a change.

Lyrically, you’re giving away a lot more than you’ve ever done before. 'Pair of Wings' is a pretty open song – “show me your scars/I’ll show you mine”. How does it feel to lay it bare? How does it feel for you as a song-writer to be as intimate as that?
Honestly? I feel good about it. I feel like, if I hadn’t worked with such a great producer, I might not have trusted my vocals – as dry as they were. I feel I could have done the My Bloody Valentine thing and just buried them underneath the guitars but we were able to work with them, get really great takes and I totally felt great about them being ‘in front’ for the first time which is really refreshing. I don’t think I’ll go back to what I had been doing before, honestly.

You’ve been involved in a number of significant bands already. How does it feel to be out as an artist on your own? And to move from the drumkit to center-stage?
Um, I like it. It’s taken some getting used to – and the drums are a very ‘safe’ place to be. You know, when you step up there you get more attention and you have to then become a Front Person in the front. This said, I am still yet to go on a full tour with a band of my own. My longest tour has been like two weeks or something, so yeah. We’ll see. It’s a learning process, that’s for sure.

How is the creative freedom? Obviously these are your words and your songs, and it isn’t a collaborative thing. Make a change?
The first record was just me as well. The Outs were just my touring band, a couple of them played on the record – they gave my first hand and that was also totally self-produced.
I actually feel like the second record was more collaborative through working with a producer. I don’t think I will ever not work with a producer again! It was so wonderful to have someone to bounce my ideas off and make suggestions to – and to suggest things and ideas that I would never think to do. So I guess that on some level, I do want some collaboration. But as far as songwriting is concerned– I don’t think I’ll ever go back to before. I’m too bossy!

You’ve collaborated with Hannah Lew on the video for 'Gospel/Grace' – with similarly spacey, otherworldly imagery. How important is it for you to have a strong aesthetic as an artist?
I think it’s important. Mine isn’t as clear as I would like it to be, as I like a lot of things – and I like the way a lot of things look. It’s really hard for me to put myself in a box and say ‘this is me’ and ‘this is not me’ like that. But working with Hannah, she’s one of my best friends. She was actually – we were in our first band together. She knows me really well and she knows my aesthetic. So I didn’t really have to tell her what was wanted too much – we had a good feel for it already. It’s definitely a very magical-realism kind of vibe on that video. Which is what we were going for. But yeah, the look and the feels - it is important for me, for sure.

In America, you’re touring with DIVE. How is it?
My friend Colby – he’s a good friend of mine; he’s the drummer in that band. It just seems to make sense to do it. It’ll be fun.

Coming over to Britain at any point soon?
We’ll be there in July. Yeah, I’m excited about it. We’re doing a big European tour, and I think we’ll come back in September as well. We’ll be definitely be around . Last time I came, it was right in the middle of winter with the crazy storms – when people were getting stuck in the airport and the drives that were supposed to take us six hours took us thirteen hours. I was like (sings) ‘I’m never coming back!’ But this time, I think it’ll be better.

So, what’s next from you?
You know, I have to support this record but as soon as that is done – I’m really looking forward to starting on the new one. I’ll definitely be using the same producer, and we’re all set to make an even better album.

'Interstellar' is out now.

Frankie Rose has confirmed the following shows:

20th Jul Manchester Deaf Institute
21st Jul Sheffield Tramlines Festival
23rd Jul Glasgow Captains Rest
24th Jul Leeds Brudenell Social Club
25th Jul Birmingham Academy 3
26th Jul London XOYO
27th Jul Brighton, Green Door Store
28th Jul Dorset Camp Bestival

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Words by Marianne Gallagher


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