Frank Iero may be best known to most music fans as guitarist in theatrical emo punk heroes My Chemical Romance, but for the last year or so he’s been steadily building a following as a singer and frontman in his own right with new band Frnkiero andthe Cellebration. Frank brought the band to Leeds Festival for the first time late last month, and we sat down to chat with him about adjusting to life as a frontman, the associated anxieties that brings as well as the creative freedoms of writing a solo record and much more.
AH: It’s been a while since you’ve been here at Leeds Festival, are you happy to be back?
Frank: The last time I was here was 2011 I think. I was having this conversation earlier that I remember as a young kid hearing about the Reading and Leeds Festivals and reading about them in magazines and all the bands that played them. And I never knew what that was or what it would be like until I got to play here and it was pretty awesome.
AH: Does being here for the first time with your solo project make it feel more pressured then previous visits?
Frank: Not really. I think it’s just a different kind of anxiety. Any time you play shows like this, even if it’s with a band that you’ve played with a million times or a band that’s played the festival before, you still don’t know what to expect. I feel lucky to be getting the chance to play here again.
AH: You’ve been performing as your new project FrnkIero andthe Cellebration for a decent amount of time now, have you adjusted to being the main man and the focal point of the band yet?
Frank: No! (laughs) It’s fucking weird man. It really is. I’ve always been in bands and now I’m able to do it with close friends and family, so that takes some of the, I don’t know the suck off of it. But it’s still weird. I never, with all due respect, wanted to be talking to people about shit. That was never my idea, like oh I can’t wait to do all these fucking interviews, I can’t wait to talk to a million different people. That’s like an anxiety thing I never wanted. But I’m getting more used to it I guess, and I’m realising I can learn to do it on my own terms.
AH: Was there a moment of realisation around the first few shows where you felt like “oh man this really is all on me now”?
Frank: Oh yeah absolutely. That whole first tour there was a lot of that and it was like ‘oh man do I really want to do this’. I had long conversations with my wife about it. Like I didn’t ever really want to do this and now I’m doing it is it something that I really want to do. She said well give it time and at least you’ll have tried. So I gave it a bit more time and it was a learning curve is what it was. I’m having way more fun with it now.
AH: Did the process of writing and recording every single instrument yourself make creating this record seem like a lot more of a labour of love then previous records you’d been involved with?
Frank: Well that’s the thing in making this record I had no intention of anyone ever hearing it. It was just for me, it was solely for me. That was it. So as far as a labour of love, absolutely. It was selfish, it was a selfish labour. Now I’m thinking about the next record and what that means. Knowing people are actually going to hear the songs it changes things. It’s weird.
AH: Was working on an album where you were in complete creative control a liberating or daunting experience?
Frank: Not thinking of it as a record helped with that, but also those moments where you’re trying to make something and you’re the only one that’s there. So there’s no playing off of each other, there’s no impressing anybody. It’s just what you like. It made the self-editing a little bit weird, needing to do that. But I imagine it’s going to be a lot weirder the next time around.
AH: The record goes in a lot of different directions musically, did that make trying to fit it all into a live show awkward?
Frank: I thought it was going to be awkward but it’s not. Which was surprising. What’s really funny has been in the last year taking a record that I heard in my head and then recording it, and then trying to work out how to do it live. Now these songs have evolved a bit and changed in the best way possible I feel. Now I know what I want out of a live show that’s going to be a good lesson to have learned going into the next record.
AH: Did writing the record provide a release of being able to let go of certain issues or feelings you’d been carrying around, once you’d written songs about them?
Frank: I feel like some of those issues and some of those stories have an ending and some of them don’t. Some are more like that was the beginning of it. I’ve never heard it put that way before, that’s a really good way to put it. There are certain things that have now been dealt with. But then again am I the first person to hold a grudge? I don’t know.
AH: How opened minded have fans and critics of your previous bands been when approaching this project?
Frank: I don’t know if they have much choice. Here’s the thing, there’s always going to be people that don’t, but it’s more laziness. Where they go “oh I don’t need to listen to that because it’ll sound like this, this and this”. That’s just how some people are. As far as critics and people like that go, I feel like they were interested to hear it and wanted to know what was going to come out of it. I think a lot of people have been pleasantly surprised.
AH: Were there any particular songs on the album that were challenging to either complete or play live?
Frank: The quintessential answer would be they all mean a lot, and it’s true they’re all like your kids and all of that. But there are definitely some where I’m like I wrote that song, I recorded it and it was a fucking horrible process and I never want to play it again kind of thing. And it sucks. I’ll say that to people and I’ll say a song like ‘Guilt Tripping’ and they’ll inevitably say that’s my favourite I wanted to hear that. At this point right now we have to play everything we know because we need the time and the material. And it is nice to play the songs, but down the line there are definitely songs that I would like to phase out of playing. And not for anything other than my own selfish thing. Maybe sometimes you record songs and it’s the best that you can do, and you don’t need to recreate that every night.
AH: How much of a learning curve was the experience of writing and recording so many different instruments?
Frank: Here’s a thing. When I listen to my favourite records, some of my favourite parts of them are the human elements, the mistakes and stuff like that. I was very happy to have these moments in time included on the record and use some of the shortcomings and the weaknesses and exploit them for it. I didn’t want everything to be perfect because the songs weren’t perfect and that time in my life wasn’t perfect. So to have a well-polished studio musician record would have been fake. As far as it being a learning curve it’s nice to learn that about yourself. That you can pull things off and that you don’t need to be a virtuoso on everything to get a feeling across.
AH: At any point did you listen back to the stuff you’d written and surprise yourself by how dark it was?
Frank: I get that a lot, where people say the stuff that I’ve made is stupid dark and I never think of it that way. I can sit down and write a happy song and inevitably someone will say that’s the most depressing thing they’ve ever heard. But I think we all just find the silver lining in different things.
AH: Lastly where did the name for the project come from and what exactly is it that you’re celebrating?
Frank: The name came from me wanting something that wasn’t genre specific and wanting something that would maybe detract from the fact that I wasn’t a sociable person and couldn’t be a crazy frontman. So I thought if I named the band it would be a tongue in cheek kind of thing. I’ve been thinking more and more that maybe the next record the band doesn’t need to be called that. That the band changes every record. Not the people but the name. I think that would be fun.
‘Stomachaches’ by Frnkiero andthe Cellebration is out now on Hassle Records.
View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Leeds Festival 2015 here.