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.”

The Smith Street Band

The Smith Street Band is a four-piece Australian folk-punk band from Melbourne. The band formed in 2010, composed of singer/lyricist/guitarist/keyboardist Wil Wagner, guitarist/backup vocalist Tom Lawson, guitarist Lee Hartney, bassist Jimi O'Loughlin, and drummer/backup vocalist Chris Cowburn. Initially named Wil Wagner and The Smith Street Band, the band changed its name in 2012 after the release of Sunshine and Technology to signify a change to a whole-band songwriting style. Today, The Smith Street Band comprises of Wil Wagner, Lee Hartney, Chris Cowburn, and Fitzy Fitzgerald. They have released an EP and two studio albums, South East Facing Wall, No One Gets Lost Anymore and Sunshine and Technology which were released in 2010, 2011 and in 2012, respectively. South East Facing Wall was released on Jackknife Records in 2011 and was reissued in 2013 whilst the albums were released on the label Poison City Records. Both were acclaimed by critics.

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