Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls

The recurring theme throughout Tape Deck Heart, Frank Turner's fifth album, is change. Those
who have followed Turner's career since he went solo in 2005 won't be surprised. After 1,400
incendiary live shows and four acclaimed albums, last year saw the musician previously known
as a punk poet become (whisper it) a sort of pop star. From a fake Glastonbury Tor, Turner
performed at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. He headlined Wembley Arena. He sold more
than 100,000 copies of his fourth album, England Keep My Bones, which entered the UK charts
at No 12 on its release in 2011.
Turner, of course, would never describe himself as a pop star. He prefers the word 'entertainer',
with its tradition of vaudeville, theatre and music hall. His emergence from the underground he
still adores – and still regards himself as part of – was tinged with trepidation. "Insane things
have happened since England Keep My Bones came out," he says. "The success I've experienced
was entirely unexpected. It made me think about where I started and where I'm heading. It
made me wonder if I could continue as a musician with integrity influenced by punk rock while
doing arena tours. The answer I concluded is yes, obviously, or I wouldn't be here."
From Tape Deck Heart's sublime opening track (and first single) Recovery, however, it's clear
that the changes in Turner's life have been personal as well as professional. One of several
break‐up songs on the album, Recovery sets tales of cider‐fuelled nights in strange flats to
joyous, jubilant, singalong rock. "I like that contrast between upbeat music and dark lyrics," says
Turner. "It sounds like a happy song, but it's clearly not. The album is about unexpected change
and a big part of it is relationships ending. I was in a long term relationship with someone and it
was a huge shock for me when we split up last year. Because I write in a reactive way, I knew it
would come out in the songs. As you can tell from the record, I'm still not sure the spilt was for
the best. That's something else I'm conflicted about!"
Tape Deck Heart was recorded last October in LA, which gave the 31‐year‐old more cause for
concern. "It's such a cliché – bands reach a certain level of success, go to LA to record an
album," laughs Turner. "I was nervous about recording outside the UK because my music sounds
English and I like that, but in fact, it didn't make any difference. We stayed at the Holiday Inn
next door and didn't finish until dark every day, so I scarcely saw the sun shine."
The reason for relocating to LA with long‐time backing band The Sleeping Souls was producer
Rich Costey (Muse, My Chemical Romance and Nine Inch Nails). "Rich has worked on
Springsteen and Johnny Cash records. I really love what he's done with Weezer. If any record
fired the spirit of this album it is Pinkerton, which is dark and emotional album with an
incredible standard of songwriting. It's pop with a dark, evil soul – a great combination."
Before recording began, Turner tried out several of the songs on tour. One in particular became
an instant fan favourite. A toast to punk rock, Four Simple Words is a fun, ferocious, celebratory
stomp with an intro inspired by Noel Coward, which was given to fans as a free download on
Christmas Day last year. "Lyrically, it's a love song to punk," explains Turner. "The music I make
has only ever been partly punk, but it remains the cornerstone of my music, as it has been since
I was 15. I was aiming for a song that crashes Noel Coward in to Bad Religion. It's one of quite a
few songs on the album Rich said reminded him of Queen. My sister introduced me to Queen as
a kid and while I'll never make music as ambitious as theirs, the song's stylistic schizophrenia is a
nod in their direction."
On Tape Deck Heart, Turner exposes his soul as never before. His most personal album, it is
packed with songs he found difficult to record and now worries about releasing in to the world.
It's also the album on which Turner pushed himself hardest and allowed himself to be pushed.
The reward is in the rich detail, in unusual turns of phrase you'll hear once and never forget, in
the raw emotion with which Turner tells of a turbulent 12 months.
"We spent 30 days recording – the most for any previous album was 10," he says. "Rich made
me do 42 vocal takes for Tell Tale Signs. That pissed me off, but he was convinced there was
more I could bring to the performance and he was right. It's the darkest song on the album, with
a vocal that's both delicate and powerful. It sounds absolutely vicious."
Tell Tale Signs is a farewell – or rather, a fuck‐off – to a mythical character called Amy, who first
surfaced on Reasons Not To Be An Idiot (from 2008's Love Ire & Song) and resurfaced on
England Keep My Bones' I Am Disappeared. "Amy is a cypher," says Turner. "More than one
person contributes to that character, that awful person I want out of my life."
Equally difficult for Turner to sing was the barely‐accompanied ballad Anymore, on which he
describes the 'three short steps' from his lover's bed to the door – the final, painful moments of
a relationship that went out with a whimper. "It took a lot of persuading for me to record it," he
admits. "It's still really raw. But if I wanted to make the best album I could, Anymore had to be
on it. I played it to a friend and she said it sounded heavier than Slayer."
Tape Deck Heart also portrays the positives of love and the benefits of change. The Way I Tend
to Be is a gloriously sunny pop‐rock song about a lover who brings out the best in you. Oh
Brother is a midtempo track with a tinge of REM to it that describes Turner's relationship with
his best friend Ben, the drummer in Turner's previous band Million Dead. "We spent 10 years in
each other's pockets and now we don't," says Turner. "I feel bad about that, but Ben will
definitely be best man at my wedding, if I ever make the mistake of getting married. I played the
song to him the other day and he cried and I laughed at him."
Fisher King Blues is pretty country‐pop with a hefty sense of humour. Losing Days is charming,
chiming rock on which Turner addresses the changes that come with age ("I used to think that I
/ Wouldn't live past 25," he sings, as though surprised that he has). Sonically, Tape Deck Heart's
most surprising song is closer Broken Piano, a majestic, five‐and‐a‐half minute ballad boasting
military drums and electronic loops.
"It's the most progressive song I've ever written," says Turner. "Musically, I don't really deal in
originality – I'm no Bjork or Aphex Twin. It has something of a traditional English melody, but
juxtaposed with lots of weird, electronic stuff. It's the song that pulls the album together. The
rest are about being caught up in the middle of the maelstrom. On Broken Piano, I realise I've
made it to the other side and that chapter of my life is closed."

Upon returning to his hometown of Toronto from a final European tour with his band, Peter Dreimanis sat sweaty and half-drunk in a candlelit basement bar, nursing a drink, debating his next musical pursuit. Lulled in lethargy, he paid little attention to the beat-up acoustic guitar being passed from patron to patron around him; that was until it found its home in the hands of Leah Fay.

It took only seconds of strumming and dreamy, dulcet singing for Dreimanis to realize he'd met his muse. He sat listening, dumfounded, dreaming up ideas for what could come to be between the two of them. Clear-headed the next day, he started his search for the stranger from the bar with whom he seemingly shared a soul. He found her; they founded July Talk.

Despite their relatively young union, the primary pair behind July Talk has already established its own sonancy: a sound rooted in roots and Americana with the dual-voice charm of Johnny and June, the creepy quirkiness of Tom Waits, and the hooks of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It's a very unique blend that borrows from different decades and domains, though where those influences begin and end is cleverly disguised.

Most special about a July Talk experience, though, is the foiling of Dreimanis and Fay as personas; who they are inside or outside of the public eye and just what it is that exists between them. Lyrically, the pair plays with the juxtaposition of gender roles and perspectives, distorting social preconceptions. It's often a war waged between clashing personalities in a frame that shares two perspectives of the same relationship – at times conflicted, at times chaotic, most times just downright bewildering.

The opposition between the two forces is only heightened when the band brings its buzz-building show to the stage as both Fay and Dreimanis physically exercise their interpersonal demons via everything from bite marks to blown kisses. Even the line between spectator and spectacle blurs as some crowd members in themselves become a canvas for the art being produced onstage.

It's a relationship full of extremes, both poetic and musical. The lyrics seem to skew an onlooker's perspective of the ever-morphing relationship these two share. The sonic dynamics, on the other hand, are equally polarizing, from whiskey-whetted lyrics at the forefront of a few softly-strummed chords to a flurry of frantic shouting, overdriven guitars, and pulsating rhythms. The loudest louds, the most haunting quiets.
July Talk is currently at work on their debut LP, eyeing a fall 2012 release on White Girl Records. Should it contain even a fraction of the passion and in-your-face frenzy of one of the band's performances, there's no question it'll capture ears and propel them to new plateaus in new places.

In the meantime, see them soon, because as their audience continues to expand, so too does the likelihood that they won't remain a secret much longer. As the story of their origins only exemplifies, you really never know who might be listening at any given time.

photo by Stephen McGill

Billy The Kid

Billy the Kid is a songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. New album "Stars, Exploding" produced by Jamie Candiloro (Ryan Adams/R.E.M./Willie Nelson).

“I have a feeling this kid doesn’t know what “impossible” means.”- Alan Cross, Corus Entertainment Group

“Billy the Kid is an amazing talent.”- Patrick Zulinov, Shore FM

“Her music is the perfect combination of edgy sweetness that ventures into the grittiness of the life in the city.”- Tamara Stanners, The Peak FM

“Precociously gifted.” The Georgia Straight

“One of Canada’s rising stars.” – See Magazine

“Prolific and incredibly talented.” – The Leader-Post

“Billy is a DIY poster girl.” – Vue Weekly

‘Lost – a phenomenon, not a trend.” – The Cambridge Voice

“It’s not enough to say that Billy The Kid is a talented artist. It isn’t enough to say she’s successful. It isn’t even enough to say that Billy and her band of Lost Boys have a stage–presence worth seeing over and over again. Billy the Kid exemplifies the essence of the independent spirit, charisma and inspiration for artists on the rise or for those hoping for the chance to make it that far. ” – Echo Weekly

“Always stood apart from the pack with true street-level integrity, an almost Mennonitish indie-rock work ethic and outstanding musicianship.” – Nerve Magazine

“With her popularity spreading and in no sign of waning, her many musical endeavours are beginning to pay off and no one deserves it more. After a chat with this winsome pixie, it would be difficult to dislike her.” – The Gauntlet Magazine

“I bought her independently produced CD on the spot and have been trying to find out as much as I can about her because I know she is going to be huge one day soon.” Canoe Live

“One of the best female guitarists I’ve ever met.” – The Daily Nar

“(Billy)’s the kind of thorough, do-it-yourself poster girl that will go to hell and back in order to put out a good record.” – Beatroute Magazine

“If you need any inspiration to keep your New Year’s Resolution “I shall cast off the shackles of procrastination and actually do something with myself…” look no further than a young lady who goes by the name of Billy the Kid.” – Chartattack


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Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls with July Talk, Billy The Kid

Monday, December 2 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 7:45 PM at Ritual

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