Don O’Mahony talks to The Frank and Walters who visit unchartered territory with Songs from the Walking Wounded
HAVING established a reputation for crafting unremittingly upbeat, sunshine-filled tunes that only ever occasionally dipped into the realms of the bittersweet, The Frank And Walters have taken on some darker tones for their seventh studio album.
The single trailing the release, We Are The Young Men, doesn’t quiet hint at it, containing as it does the familiar presence of a sing-along chorus, but drummer Ashley Keating feels the record’s title, Songs from the Walking Wounded, suggests we expect something a little darker.
“I definitely think it’s our most kind of introspective/honest/darkest record,” he offers.
“And just from the title, I suppose you can guess Songs from the Walking Wounded is about how as you get older you realise that people slow down, people get injured, people get heartbroken. You know we’re all walking around with something wrong with us, whether it be physical or mental. You know we’re all carrying some sort of baggage. And as you get older, that becomes very apparent to you. I guess we’ve tried to deal with those issues from first-hand knowledge, from our own experiences, and from the people around us, people we know and people that we see and what we observe happen around us.
“I mean, it‘s been a tough time since our last album, I guess. You’ve had the crash; you’ve had austerity; you’ve had a lot of homeless issues. Suicide, a kind of problem that Ireland had which for our generation, it got swept under the carpet.
“I guess it’s an album that deals with the darker side as opposed to which our usual formula would be to kind of err on the positive of everything. With this one we kind of went there a bit.”
Keating gives a little chuckle to lighten leaven the downbeat mood.
“I hope it’s not too depressing for people,” he adds. “But I think it was a kind of an album that we had to make. As a band, the worst thing you can ever do is repeat yourself. Like we didn’t want to make another Greenwich Mean Time or another A Renewed Interest in Happiness, so it was important we do something different.”
To this end, they decided to approach the record in a different way.
“Normally when we go into the studio we kind of have everything done beforehand so we know what the songs are and where they’re going and how they’re going to end up. but with this record we sort of let the songs kind of push us in whatever direction they were moving. It might sound a bit odd being led by a song but that’s what we ended up doing,” says Keating.
At one stage, the band had 30 songs demoed for the album. By this point, the band had released a single, Look at Us Now, a typically jaunty offering anticipating an
adherence to the tried and tested formula. However, a different picture was beginning to emerge in their other songs.
Says Keating: “That just didn’t fit in with the album. We expected it to be on the record, we just couldn’t. It was just too upbeat and too kind of positive so we left it off.”
Singer and bass player Paul Linehan has spoken previously of how he still has songs to finish off going back years. One such example is Stages, a song that first popped up around 14 years ago, but has found a berth on the new album.
It makes sense for Stages to have appeared then, as it was a period of uncertainty for the band. Their record label for over a decade, Setanta, had folded and their guitarist, Niall Linehan, had left. “It’s a heavy song,” says Keating, “and I suppose back then we were probably unwilling to confront our situation. It popped up a few times over the years; it was just never quite the right time. And then this time it was just — bang! It made sense.”
But Keating reveals the song was missing something, but they weren’t quite sure what.
“Paul wrote a narrative piece. It was definitely a talking bit but we needed someone with a commanding voice. We tried it and it just didn’t work,” recalls Keating.
The solution was a little Hollywood magic courtesy of fellow Cork superstar Cillian Murphy. Paul put the idea to Murphy when they met last September during the Sounds From A Safe Harbour festival.
“Cillian did a spoken narrative piece on it and it really brought the song to another area as well,” says Keating. “It’s nice when something like that happens. A song you had years ago which didn’t fit in with what you’re doing but then it comes back. It’s like a super sub or a player who didn’t make it like a Jamie Vardy!”
n The Frank and Walters play Cork Opera House on Friday, April 15.