We had a chat with Framing Hanley frontman Kenneth Nixon about touring the world, the pressures of growing up in Nashville and the genius of Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil…
You’re heading out on a huge US tour this week – you excited?
Oh, yeah. Any time we get to go out and play the songs that we’ve been keeping secret for so long is a good time, so we’re really looking forward to it.
What’s the best thing about playing live?
Well, when you worked on an album for as long as we worked on The Sum of Who We Are you start to feel like some of the songs have been kept secret from the world, so to be able to go out and share these songs live is really the reward for us. That’s why we spent so long recording the album – we wanted to make sure we got it right for when we finally got to play the songs live.
You’re heading to the UK next month – what’s the best thing about the crowds in the UK?
Aw, man. The crowds in the UK appreciate music like nobody else. That’s not to say that our fans everywhere else are unappreciative, but I always just feel like people in the UK go out to a show to let their hair down and have a good time. You’d never get anybody standing in the crowd with their arms crossed – everybody’s moving, jumping and singing along, and it’s really just above and beyond what we were expecting the first time we went over to the UK.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
I really enjoy playing Collide, from the new album. If that’s not my favourite, I’d say that it’s definitely tied with Criminal. I think that there’s a contagious energy in those two songs – for Criminal, in particular, it seems like everybody in the crowd was singing along by the end of it. One of the things we’ve always dreamed of is seeing a room full of people singing your lyrics back at you, so it never gets old for us, but it’s never something I take for granted. I realise how lucky we are to have people who care enough to come out to shows in the first place, so for people to be willing to come along and scream their heads off is honestly something we can barely believe.
How have the new songs been fitting in with the old songs live?
I don’t know what it is that makes the ‘Framing Hanley sound’, but to me it feels like we’ve evolved with every album. That’s always been our goal as a band – we never wanted to feel like we were putting out the same album over and over again, and we never want to set limits on what we can do as musicians. How do they fit in? I’m not really sure, because we don’t go in to the writing and recording process necessarily looking to make something that ‘fits in’ with the rest of our discography. It somehow always manages to come out sounding like Framing Hanley, which I guess is a good thing!
You released your new album The Sum of Who We Are in April – was it easy to write and record?
It was a lengthy process. This album was fan-funded through Kickstarter, and with crowd-funding came the pressure of not wanting to let our fans out. Those people paid their hard-earned money for us to be able to go into the studio and record the record, so we wanted to make sure that we spent as much time as was needed to make a record that we were both proud of and confident that our fans would like. We didn’t want to just put an album out for the sake of it – we recorded over thirty songs, and we narrowed it down to thirteen. I couldn’t be more proud of it.
Will we ever hear any of the other songs that you recorded?
Well, there are a couple of songs on The Sum of Who We Are that were originally songs for the last album, so I feel pretty comfortable saying that some of the songs that didn’t make it to this album will be taken back to the woodshed and Frankensteined into something new for the next record. We never just throw a song away – whether they get released as b-sides or reworked into something else for the next album, we always make sure that they see the light of day in some form.
What’s your favourite song on the album?
Castaway is a special song to me, because that song is about our relationship with our fans. It’s really about the moment we realised how special it is to have a group of people who stand by your side and who just want to hear the music that we’re creating. That’s something very special in this day and age – people have short attention spans! That song was just about realising how lucky we are to have made those connections and bonds with the fans, and we’ll keep doing this for as long as those people are out there.
What made you want to start making music in the first place?
Guns ‘n’ Roses! My dad was a country musician, so being born and raised here in Nashville I always kind of grew up around country music. Guys like Johnny Cash were making the music I grew up with, but I’ll never forget my uncle leaving Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction at my father’s house when I was a child – that was my first real introduction to rock ‘n’ roll, and I then realised how angry and brash music could really be. There was no looking back from there!
Did you ever feel any pressure to conform to the ‘country vibe’ of Nashville?
It was far more accepted to be a country musician around there, and I think if my father and the rest of my family had it their way then that would be the kind of music that I’d be making. As time went on the scene here in Nashville changed – I know that we’re the band we are because of how strong the rock scene here is. Bands like Kings of Leon, Paramore and Safety Suit are all notable rock acts from Nashville, and I think that Nashville is now being looked at as more than just a country music town.
Which song do you wish you’d written?
There’s a whole book of those… There are a number of songs by Biffy Clyro that I wish I came up with! Anything from Opposites or the b-sides album Similarities would be fantastic – I daresay that I might even enjoy Similarities more than Opposites, but that might just be because I’ve listened to Opposites so much! I always get lost in Many of Horror, too, but I do think that there are a number of songs on Opposites that give me that feeling too. Similarities is definitely my favourite album of this year.
You mentioned Biffy Clyro’s b-sides album as being one of your favourites – are b-sides important for you as a band?
Like I mentioned, we recorded a lot of songs for the last album, so you often make connections with songs that don’t make it on to the album. You don’t want to just discard those songs, so I think that it’s important to keep those songs and to put some of them out as b-sides. You’d be doing yourself a disservice as an artist if you just threw them away.
Who’s your ultimate musical icon?
Freddie Mercury. He’s the greatest voice in the whole of music, and in my opinion he’s the very definition of ‘icon’ in the music industry. The craziest thing is how much they accomplished in such a short space of time, really. As far as icons from our generation? I would definitely say Dave Grohl and Simon Neil are two guys that I look up to, and I think that a lot of musicians in this day and age look up to them too. It’s kind of crazy when you think about whether we’d know about the genius of Dave Grohl if Kurt Cobain’s life hadn’t been tragically cut short.
Describe yourself in three words?
Idiot, sarcastic and loving. Actually, get rid of ‘idiot’ – that was me being sarcastic! Sarcastic, loving and appreciative. Lucky, too. We’re very fortunate to do what we do as a career, and the fact that people enjoy the music we create is something that we’re eternally grateful for.