Frank Turner’s one of our favourites here at One on One, so we couldn’t resist having a little chat with him about his Lost Evenings festival, his politicised new music, and his Get Better documentary when the opportunity arose:
You’ve got a few small shows at the Roundhouse coming up…
‘Haha, that’s one way of putting it! A little dalliance of sorts, yes – the Lost Evenings festival. It’s going to be awesome. It is also an absolute tsunami of work, both for me and my crew who work behind the scenes. It’s gonna be great once it’s there, but it’s also slightly one of those things where I think everybody is just longing for things to start happening so things can get ticked off to-do lists and we can all start enjoying ourselves.
Did you particularly involved with the organisation of the festival?
‘Yes, definitely. I’ve long wanted to have my own festival going on, and after much discussion we worked out that doing it in a venue (rather than in a field) would be better; I think the whole ‘festival in a field’ thing is a bit done at this point, personally, so I wanted to try and come up with my own angle on the idea. But yeah, I’ve tried to get involved.
‘I’ve been picking the bands for the bill, I’ve been organising workshops and discussion panels and all sorts of side-events – obviously, with a lot of help! – but it’s definitely been a huge amount of work so far. There’s still more to do, though…
‘It’ll be worth it once it’s done, though. Part of it is that I wanted to make a statement about myself and a career with this, so hopefully it’s gonna work on that level. The other thing is – and I can’t really talk about this in any more detail right now – but I’m hoping that this will be the first year of many.
You’re playing some pretty varied sets across the four days of the festival – are there any that you’re particularly looking forward to?
‘Yeah, definitely! It’ll be nice to mix it up. We’re topping and tailing with a full band set from myself and The Sleeping Souls; we’ve got a solo night that’s called Sensible Sundays, too, which is a nod to the acoustic night at Nambucca that gave me my start in my solo career.
‘I think that the most interesting night is going to be the Sleep Is For The Week night, though. My first album came out ten years ago in January, so we decided to mark the occasion by doing a gig where we play the album in full, and play songs from that era that make sense to play with it.
‘Having now started to look at the setlists and start rehearsing it with my band, I think we’ve all realised that it’s a terrifyingly large amount of work! There are a lot of songs that none of us have played for a decade, and Matt Nasir wasn’t even in the band ten years ago, so he’s got a lot of work to do. So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. It is daunting, to have to go through that many songs, but at the same time it is nice to be able to look back and think ‘ah, yeah! That was a great song!’, and be able to play it live again.
Well, at least you’ve got a nice and busy summer coming up to take your mind off the post-festival stress…
‘Indeed! We’ve got a big support tour with blink-182 coming up, which is going to be fantastic. I’m an old-school Blink fan, so it’ll be great to be out with those guys and just generally to be out on the road again. I’m very excited to be going back to Beautiful Days festival, too. I’ve always been a big fan of that festival, so I’m looking forward to that one. It’s a bit of a well-kept-secret, that festival.
You’ve just gotten back from showing your Get Better documentary in the USA, too. Is there any part of showing the film to an audience that still scares you a little bit?
‘Not really… I mean, the film hasn’t had a general release just yet – we’ve done a cinema release in the UK, and now we’re doing the USA screenings, and then we’re going to get it out on DVD and on streaming services – but for the time being, I think that there are still a lot of people who like what I do who haven’t seen the film just yet.
‘It is a little nerve-wracking: it’s a very raw and honest piece, about me, my personality, and indeed my failings, so we’ll see what people think about it when they watch it.
‘It was never something that I wanted to have total control over, though. The documentary thing was not my piece of art, if you see what I mean? I was merely doing what I do, but with a friend following me around holding a camera. I’d said to him that I wasn’t going to take any editorial control over the film, too, so there wasn’t really anything there that I had control over. It was quite weird watching the finished product back again, but that was Ben [Morse, director]’s baby, that one. Besides, the horse has long bolted on that score; I’m in no position to dictate what people say or think about it anymore.
I suppose it’s almost a credit – to both the piece of work and you yourself – that you didn’t just go and make one of those ‘everything is fine and dandy’ rockstar-on-the-road documentaries that pop up every now and then.
‘I suppose so, yes. I mean, I know that it’s a matter of personal taste, but I’ve always found those sorts of documentaries to be incredible boring myself; in my eyes, you might as well make a TV advert, you know what I mean? So, when Ben pitched this idea to me, I thought that it might be far more interesting to do something that was more honest, anyway.
We’ve heard a lot about you going back and playing old material, but when can we expect to hear something new from you?
‘The main thing that I’m involved in intellectually at the moment is working on a new record. I have written an absolute shedload of songs, and I’m still writing more; I’m just trying to make sure that I’ve got the right songs for the kind of record I want to make. I’m trying to do something pretty radically different this time around; I can’t say much more than that at this juncture, but I’d really like to try something different with this one. So, asides from the touring that’s currently in the diary, I’m mostly going to be spending the rest of this year knee-deep in a new record.
The last song you put out – The Sand In The Gears – was far more politically overt than anything you’ve released in recent years. Will this theme continue onto the new record?
‘Yes. The theming of that song will definitely continue onto the new album. Sonically, though? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.
‘It’s the first time I’ve consciously written a song like that in a very long time. In fact, I’d even be willing to argue – contrary to public opinion – that it’s the first time I’ve ever done it. In spite of public perception of who I am and what I do, I don’t think that I’ve ever been a particularly political artist…
‘The way that the world changed in 2016, though, was quite… Well, I thought that there were some serious historical things happening, but it was also quite inspiring for me from a songwriting point of view. It gave me things to talk about in my songs that I hadn’t talked about before.
If you could take one album from another artist and have it be a part of your back catalogue, which would it be?
‘That’s a difficult question. I’d have to go with Reunion Tour by The Weakerthans, or possibly It’s All Crazy, It’s All False by Me Without You.
Describe yourself in three words?
‘Ah, that’s very hard! I mean… English Folk Singer, there you go. Perhaps that’s dodging the question, but I’m a wordy person, and three words isn’t very many at all. So, English Folk Singer will have to do.