“I don’t feel like the same person as before,” admits Frank Iero.
First, there was the period of steady growth and spotlight acceptance that came alongside his debut solo album, ‘Stomachaches’. A record made in basements for no one but himself, it quickly became so much more. Touring the world and sharing those fears with an audience who were just as afraid, he slowly became comfortable as a leader.
Next came the soul-searching, blood-letting, visceral exploration of ‘Parachutes’. An album of loss, despair and salvation, recording it was the hardest thing Frank had ever done, but that struggle created majesty.
However, before it was released, Frank, his brother-in-law and bandmate Evan Nestor, and their manager Paul Clegg were involved in a traffic accident that very nearly killed them. They survived, but things were changed forever.
“The cycle for ‘Parachutes’ was so stunted,” starts Frank. “To record a record like that, to be ready to finally release it, and then to have something swiftly come in and take everything from you, that was heartbreaking.”
By the time the band were back on the road some four months later, “I felt like a completely different person. When you have a near-death experience like that, when you basically meet the end and are then plopped back in, your DNA changes. I feel like every cell in my body is completely different. I interpret things differently. I think of things differently. Things taste differently to me. I’m not the same person I was.”
The Patience played their last show on 30th December 2017. Frank wouldn’t appear onstage again for fifteen months; the longest he’s ever gone without playing live since he was thirteen. Stepping away from the familiar patterns of life on the road freaked him out, but he needed the change.
And now he’s back. New person, new band, new album.
‘Barriers’ takes the excitement of a new beginning and runs with it. Aware of the past but not tethered to it, it’s a record of honesty, urgency and action. During his time away, he crafted songs as well as building a new band.
“I was trying to figure out what life is. I was trying to spend time with my children, my wife, and enjoy the now. I had to heal my body and my mind, and it took some time.”
He used those months away from the spotlight “to just get back to what makes everything worthwhile,” he explains. For so long, Frank had lived out of suitcases, and now: “I don’t know if this new person can do that anymore.”
With dates looming in the diary, he started to worry.
“It’s been a weird range of emotion and fears. Do I know how to not do it? Am I able to survive in the real world without this? Am I able to go do it again after all this time? It’s weird, forcing yourself to face all these different fears and scaring yourself into hopefully doing something amazing.”
“That’s why ‘Barriers’ was such a tremendous undertaking for me,” he continues. “It felt like the first time again. In my past life, this is what I did. But living in this new skin, and breathing this new air, do I know how to do this?
“And of course, you have a new band at this point. Everything was so new and strange and unproven. It was the first record I’d written since that accident. It was a time I had to address, without the words to describe it. How do I even attempt to address the feelings that I feel when nothing feels big enough to cover these emotions? There’s this varied spectrum of emotions that I’m dealing with, that I still haven’t made sense of just yet, but ‘Barriers’ is helping me do that.”
“I know I don’t have to explain myself to you,” he sings during the floor-quaking collapse of ‘Six Feet Down Under, “but I might feel better if I try.”
Now he’s emerging out the other side, Frank is determined to help others through the mire. For years, he’s has been sharing his own insecurities and being viewed as a role model by those that have seen themselves in those admissions. ‘Barriers’ is different though; it’s written to connect. It’s meant to start a movement. Frank Iero and The Future Violents are deliberate in what, and how, they want to inspire.
The name was an accident. An air steward misheard ‘The Patience’ as the band flew to Sydney, but Frank fell in love and wrote it down.
“Maybe it could be a song title or something, but along the way, I started to think more and more about that collection of words and what they meant. I started to think about the scope of the band, the things we had gone through and how life felt a lot like a pane of glass or a pristine lake. You can stare into it and passively live, or you can reach out, pick up a stone, throw it into the pond and actively participate.”
You can watch things change, or you can change things.
“It’s a very deliberate, abrupt and violent act but I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative one. It’s a way to actively smash things up and to leave a footprint.”
The idea behind this record and the name of the band is inclusive. “The Future Violents isn’t just the five of us; it’s the people that are listening: they’ll be the ones that will actively participate, disrupt things and leave a mark.”
“I feel like things have changed,” Frank continues, talking about the personal before switching to the global; the same agile shift that happens throughout ‘Barriers’. “I’m ready for something new. I need that. I feel like, everything that we have done in the past needs to be wiped away, and there needs to be a new spark.
“Hopefully, if I can contribute some fuel to that fire, that’s the point of this. To scare the hell out of each other so we can attempt the things we never thought we could attempt before.”
There’s nothing left to lose. Still, Frank, front and centre, fearlessly gives a lot of himself away on this record.
“That’s the scourge of the creative person, trying to figure out how much you give, how much you veil and when you do decide to relinquish all of it, what are people going to think? Are they going to get it? That’s a hard pill to have to swallow, but we do it every time. I’ve always felt like the biggest fear of many artists is for them to find out, ‘Oh I’m crazy’.
“The one thing we’re all desperately holding onto is our sanity. When you push that envelope, how far you chase those songs and the ideas that you have, sometimes you’re walking along the brink. It’s hard to know if you’ve fallen off the edge.”
Frank’s always spoken for the many, for the voiceless, for those who don’t quite know how to put into words the battle raging behind their eyes.
“I’d like to say that you don’t need it, but I truly feel like that’s the end result. That’s the final stage of any art. I used to think when you were done with it; you were done. The art was finished. The older I get, the more I realise that the first step is releasing it. The last step is having people take it in and then do what they will with it. To be inspired and create other things from there.
“When people get it, when they truly understand where you’re coming from, that’s a real wonderful feeling. When you’re playing those shows, and people are singing along, and it’s coming from the heart and not just because they read it in the liner note, but they feel it. What you’re feeling, they feel as well. That’s all we ever wanted. As humans, we just wanna be understood.”
“It’s funny man, I’ve always thought the stuff I wrote was very hopeful and almost celebratory,” he considers, “but other people have told me I’m wrong. But I don’t feel that. I’ll put out a song or an album, and people will ask, ‘Why is this so dark and depressing?’ I don’t think it is.”
The threatening, gnarled stare of ‘Police Police’ is a political one and it dances in the grey.
“You have things that we can all see to be inherently bad. The idea is that we need to remember that humanity is key. It’s not about right and wrong; it’s about your fellow men and looking out for one another. It’s not about rules; it’s about love.”
Full of deliberate tension and everyday horror, it sees the band at breaking point. “No more silence while children scream, locked in cages built overseas,” it rages. “Every time we condone another version of hate, we get farther from God,” it continues, but the power is given to the listener, hope for a brighter future and the insistence to take action now.
“It’s a song that I felt like I needed to write. I couldn’t see the things that were going on around me and not address something,” Frank explains.
“The pursuit of happiness is a fucking right,” comes the golden belief. “It’s not just words on a piece of paper. I’d like to think that light comes from dark. If it doesn’t, then what’s the point? I’d like to believe we are truly coming through the worst of it.
“The negativity is so loud right now because fear sells papers and it makes me people click links, but I do think there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we are going to see it as awareness takes shape. We’re going to start to hold each other up as opposed to break each other down. The majority of people are good and are trying to make things better. I do have hope, cos that’s all you can have.”
And it starts from the off. Following on from the sense of finality that came with finally releasing Death Spells’ “Nothing Above, Nothing Below’ as well as clearing the slate with ‘Keep The Coffins Coming’, ‘Barriers’ starts with the promise of ‘A New Day Is Coming.’
“It wasn’t the first song written for this project. It was a song that I’d been singing to my kids, but it wasn’t a real boy yet.”
Eventually, it grew into something without strings.
“When we heard it recorded back and playing over the speakers, it was like, oh man; this is the pallet cleanse. This is the wash. You can introduce anything at this point.”
And it had to be the first song, all resilient hope, new beginnings and anything-can-happen dare. It’s not Frank’s typical opening number though. That can be found halfway through the album, with the end of the world, party romp of ‘Moto-Pop’, snarling with the promise of “we create a new sound to kill the old sound. We open old wounds to flood the room.”
Elsewhere there’s the whispered bounce of ‘Medicine Square Garden’, the fuzzy build of ‘Ode To Destruction and the thrash of ‘Basement Eyes’, that pleads “I just want something to believe in.” And Frank’s found a few.
“Love and my family are the most prevalent. My kids, they give me that hope on a daily basis. That song’s about being in a basement with your friends and creating something. It’s about holding onto the things that made you want to do this, that light in your eyes and that spark. It’s not fully inspiration, and it’s not a desire for fame and fortune. It’s something different. It’s something so much more pure. Over the years, you see that light flicker and fade in some of the people that you started out with, and you hope they find their way back.
“That song doesn’t have to be about being in a band; it could be about anything in your life that you care about or are inspired by. That flame, that’s what makes us, us. Finding that thing to believe in, that’s important. If you were to ask me ‘What’s the meaning of everything? What’s the meaning of life?’ It’s definitely that pursuit of happiness. Finding that thing, that purpose, that makes you want to get up and go through all this. The thing that makes everything worthwhile.
“When you’re working towards that goal, when you’re doing the thing that you love, time flies by, and you have a smile on your face, and it makes you feel good. It’s that high you can chase and never stop,” he smiles, before thinking back to his time away from the road.
“I don’t think I can completely shut off the creative side, the touring side or the part of me that needs to be out there playing music, but I don’t think I need to be on full throttle as much as I did.”
Since ‘going solo’, every record has had a different flavour, a different band name. It’s always felt like a moment in time, but The Future Violents feels like it’s deliberately building something. It’s a new beginning, and it feels like there’s more to come.
“It’s weird, man; you’re not the first person to say that to me. It’s very early on in this project but here’s the thing, the fact you’re not the first person to say that, means something. This does feel like something different.
“I like that I set up the rule that it’s going to be different every time, and that the personnel and the name will change, but rules are meant to be broken. I have no idea what happens next, but I do know that this feels good. I know that this record feels amazing. It’s something I feel incredibly proud of.
“When I first started writing this record, I couldn’t fathom it. I couldn’t picture myself doing it. And now that I’ve done it, I can’t imagine my life without this record. I can’t imagine not writing these songs and have it be a part of my life. It’s an amazing feeling. Will this continue? Who knows. Will I ever make another record again? Who fucking knows.”
What’s important is now. The rest can wait.
“My main goal is to inspire people to do the thing they think they can’t do. To push it beyond their comfort zone. To be scared.”
Frank’s lived it, time and time again. He knows how powerful it is.
“It’s important to do the things that scare the shit out of us. I’ve been there. A lot. It would have been very easy for me to say, ‘nah, I’m not going to do that. I’ve got all these grand plans, but I’m never going to execute them’.
“That feeling of not being able to do something, that statement of ‘I can’t’, I want to attack that. Really succeeding in something that you thought you couldn’t do, that’s the big bang. That’s what we need more of.”
Breaking down those barriers, that’s how we make the difference.
Taken from the June edition of Upset, out now. Order a copy below. Frank Iero and the Future Violents’ album ‘Barriers’ is out 31st May.