“It’s only ever been done once before, which was by George Thorogood in 1981 six months before I was born”
Frank Turner is going to be all over the United States this summer. Along with his backing band the Sleeping Souls he’s going on a 50 states in 50 days tour—officially dubbed the Never-Ending Tour of Everywhere—that has them starting in New Hampshire later this month and heading all the way to Hawaii by the beginning of August.
Along with that outing, Turner recently released FTHC (the initialism for Frank Turner Hardcore) via Xtra Mile Recordings and Polydor Records in February. The album has him embracing his inner punk while garnering a ton of acclaim.
In support of that project and as part of this grueling expedition, Turner and his band will be at Roadrunner on June 17 with Avail, the Bronx, and Pet Needs rounding out a stacked bill.
I spoke with Turner ahead of the show about the new album, having a remote producer, enlisting talented musicians for the recording process, and wanting to tour everywhere.
From listening to FTHC, it seems that your hardcore punk side that you exhibited with the bands Million Dead and Mïngle Härde meets halfway with your singer-songwriter side. Did you have this in mind from the getgo or did this materialize organically as you were writing the songs?
There was a bit of a thought in that direction. I try quite hard not to write in a pre-directed fashion and just let stuff arrive in the matter of its own choosing. Having said that, during the summer of 2019 I did a bunch of festivals and one of them was the Punk Rock Holiday Festival in Slovenia where we were on a bill with Descendents, Pennywise, and that kind of crew. We’ve done shows like that plenty of times before but it was very specific that day and I felt like we had to prove ourselves because there were a few people who were like, Why the hell are these guys here?—and we did, successfully. I felt really good about it, while wandering around the festival I kind of felt like I was at home and musically I hadn’t been very much at home lately.
My previous two records are both within my own canon of experimental affairs so that felt pretty good. In 2020 after the pandemic started we released the NOFX split which we had been working on for a little while. Again, the critical placement of that felt really good to me so my mind was thinking about doing something more “punk” and the songwriting was sort of heading in that direction. I guess the other thing would be to mention the obvious point of the pandemic, the lockdowns and all that kind of thing. There was a lot of time to just sit around, not just write but demo stuff in more depth than I’ve ever done before
The two creative directors that were in play already had a sonically heavier sound and also a more personal, in-depth lyrical approach. Both of those got intensified throughout the endless months of doing fuck all because I had finished Netflix. It sort of metastasized in that period of time but the idea was kind of floating around before then. It’s funny, the expression “back to my roots” or “back to one’s roots” is an overused cliche and it’s honestly not strictly true with this record because my early solo releases don’t sound like this but it’s definitely me going back to the music I grew up listening to. I guess one of the things for me was allowing my first musical instincts to have free reign.
What was it like having Rich Costey on as a remote producer while you were recording the album at the Abbey Recording Studio in Oxford during the summer of 2020? Did you do a lot of video chats and exchanging files via email?
It was really strange. It helped that I had worked with Rich before and I say this with all the respect in the world for Rich, the first time we worked together was 10 years ago and at that point he didn’t really know who I was. It was my first time working with, as they say, a major-label producer or a major league producer perhaps I should say and it was quite a caustic and scathing experience. This time around, after we both circled each other for a decade wondering if we were going to work with each other again, we were both ready for it and then the pandemic kicked in. We kind of came up with this methodology to do it and there’s technology that exists now where you can send live feeds through the output of a mixing desk, which is what we did.
He was getting a constant feed of anything going through the desk on our end and we had a great engineer who was on a facetime call practically all day. Before we started I was a bit nervous thinking about whether this was going to gel and if there was going to be any vibe, but it weirdly worked out to be an excellent methodology for this particular record. First off, I demoed it in more depth than I had ever done with anything before partly because I had the time and partly because my other lockdown project was to learn how to record and mix music myself anyway. The demos were in pretty good shape and then we basically set out to replace the demos as they were. Illan Rubin from Nine Inch Nails redid the drums, then we redid the bass, we redid the guitars and added more guitars, keys and everything else.
It sort of came together in that way and I think it involved a fair amount of trust between Rich and I, but the fact that we weren’t in the same room ultimately is quite weird because I haven’t seen him since we made a record together or during it. There was little time for fucking around, basically. We didn’t come into the studio first thing in the morning trying out weird guitar amps and showing each other funny cat videos that we found on the internet or whatever it might be. Everything was set up, the Facetime is rolling, the engineer’s ready, let’s just get on with it and it ended up being a very focused session as a result.
Along with Illan, Domenic Howard from Muse, Jason Isbell, Jason McGerr from Death Cab For Cutie and Kevin Fennell from Guided By Voices played on the album. How were you able to get all of them involved? Were they all in the studio with you?
I’ve actually still never met anyone who played drums on this record (laughs), which is a very strange thing. The drummer angle came through Rich, he’s kind of Muse’s in-house producer, he knows Illan so he sorted out the drums side of things. For Jason Isbell, he’s an old friend of mine and we’ve talked together a bunch. We wanted a showoff, ripping lead on “The Gathering” and I gave him a shout. It was in the depths of lockdowns and Jason texted me back straight away saying “I’m so bored. Yes, I’ll do this. I’ll do it today” and he did the track so that worked out. I also had my friend Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro, a band I have links with stretching back two decades, throw in a vocal on “The Resurrectionists” as well and it was a real honor to have that on the record too.
I’m a big fan of Biffy Clyro, they’re great live. What gave you the idea to do this “50 States in 50 Days” tour?
There’s a couple things to say. First of all, as with so many things in my career, it started as sort of a game of dare between my booking agent and I about what we could achieve. Ultimately, every time during the planning stage when I think, Why the fuck are we doing this? the answer is, Because you came up with the idea! So it is my fault that we’re doing this. We’re not literally playing a show every day for 50 days, that would probably kill me so we’re going to do some matinee shows like New Hampshire during the daytime and Maine in the evening but we are going to hit 50 states in 50 days.
It’s only ever been done once before, which was by George Thorogood in 1981 six months before I was born. I’m hoping to have an interview with him because we’re documenting the experience and I kind of want to get some tips, if not warnings, from him before we start. It’s going to be pretty crazy, in one particular bit the Dakotas are tough. They’re very far away and I’ve never played South Dakota before and I’ve only played in Fargo once which was more than a decade ago. There’s going to be some flying involved in that particular stretch but I think it’s going to be fun. I think I’m going to have to really brace myself physically and psychologically for the tour but I’m looking forward to it.
You got this new album out and along with this United States tour you also have some European dates slated. Will the rest of the year just consist of touring in support of FTHC or do you have any other projects in the works?
There’s a couple of side project things. Everyone thinks that Möngöl Hörde was joking when we announced our name change to Mïngle Härde on April Fool’s Day, which was deliberate I might add. We’re the slowest working band in the history of music but we’ve put out one new song and there’s been talk about doing more. I have another side project that’s about to hit the world this summer which is called Eating Before Swimming and I’m not gonna tell you anything more about it other than it’s probably going to make you cry. It’s a super, super weird and uncomfortable electronic project a friend of mine and I have been working on for years.
There’s some bits and bobs but the main thing for me is making and releasing an album in the tail end of a pandemic was a really strange experience. I believe in these songs a lot, I love these songs a lot and I really want to do them justice. It’s also the case that right now I have a new full-time drummer in my band, the incredible Callum Green, and it’s such a joy playing with him. I think it’s really changed me and The Sleeping Souls into a different band, in the live aspect we’re much more of a punk band than we ever were before and I just want to play this record properly. I want to take it all over the world, I want to get to all the places I missed during the past two years we were locked inside and I want to make sure that we do it justice.
Obviously, I’ll do another record when the time is right but for now my focus is getting everywhere. After we do the 50 states, we have a similar plan for Canada next year, we have European plans and hopefully we’ll hit Latin America. I’m gonna be on the road a fair bit.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.