Listening to Frankie Rose’s second solo LP, the excellent Interstellar, you might get the impression that the 33 year-old singer – and former drummer for garage rock acts Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls – might be less than interested in others’ opinions. “Know me / Don’t know me / I hear what they said,” she sings on surf rock-via-The Cure single “Know Me”, and lest you think that’s getting under her skin, she’s quick to add, “It doesn’t own me / I’d rather be deaf.”
It doesn’t come as complete surprise then that when you reach her phone’s voicemail, she doesn’t sound particularly keen on your leaving a message. In fact, she flat out instructs you not to. But rather than coming off cold and disinterested, her automated greeting previews everything that you learn in a conversation with her: she’s exceedingly personable and funny and reflexively honest.
“Hey!” she eagerly welcomes anyone trying and failing to reach her. She then makes a reasoned and reasonable request: “I don’t check my voicemails, so don’t leave a message – just text me.”
“Um,” she pauses, it would seem thinking this through as she goes along. Her tone isn’t especially stern, but it does warm and open up, even turning slightly bubbly, as she continues: “Otherwise I’ll never know you called me. Alright, byeeeeee.”
After I’ve gotten through to her, Rose laughs at the mention of this: “Oh yeah, it’s crazy. I have to change that.”
Following a six week sabbatical of sorts, Rose embarks on a brief string of East Coast and Midwest dates tonight, her final tour in support of Interstellar. In anticipation, we chatted with her about how she’s spent her time off, where she wants to head next, and why you shouldn’t call her a drummer.
Catch Frankie Rose at Rock and Roll Hotel tonight.
After touring fairly extensively for the spring and summer, you recently had over a month off. Was that a welcome relief?
Kind of. It’s really pretty bittersweet, because I don’t know usually what to do with myself between tours, quite honestly. It’s not usually a creative time for me. Physically, yes, it’s been rally restful, but it’s a little weird creatively. It’s kind of like dead-time.
How have you been spending your days?
Well, I moved into a new place, so there’s been lots of weird busy work. I’ve been trying to find a job for when I get home, because I like to have a job. I don’t know! Not much, honestly. I’m trying to sort of prepare myself for when I will writing music again, some time soon hopefully.
What kind of work are you looking for?
I don’t know yet! That’s a good question. Something fun, something… I don’t know!
Is it hard to find something flexible enough for when you’re recording?
It’s going to be a long time before I’m in the studio. I really flush everything out before I go… Like, I usually have a full album – as demos – before I go into the studio. There’s going to be a lot of me being at home, working on music alone for a really long time before that happens. I’ve been setting myself up to start doing that.
Have you found time for any movies or concert?
I’ve been rewatching “Six Feet Under”, which is really dark. [Laughs] But fun. I mean, I haven’t watched it since it came out, which was 2001 or something. It’s pretty dark, which led me on this whole weird… I don’t know, I started reading about near-death experiences and then I got really obsessed with it. All I did for an entire day was watch video after video of people recapping their near-death experiences, which is pretty morbid now that I look back on that day, like, a week ago.
What was the takeaway from those videos?
Oh, I don’t know. [Sighs] I don’t know! I don’t know if anything exists at all after death. It’s a nice idea. It seems nice that there would be something, instead of just lights out, which is kind of what I think. So, yeah… [Laughs] This is why I need to have a job and this is why I need to be working on music, because I sort of do these things, which is weird.
Is that part of motivation for heading back out on the road for this brief tour?
To be perfectly honest, I was sort of… I don’t know. These dates have been booked for so long. I just had to do it, kind of. But to be honest, I might have rather just shelved [Interstellar]and started something new. But I’m excited to go out. I do like it. I really like my bandmates.
Is there anything in particular that you don’t like about touring?
The driving. Being in the van. I think anybody would tell you that’s the worst thing about touring.
Until you get one of those big buses.
Yeah. [Laughs] But then it’s still bad – it’s just bad in a different way.
Have begun thinking about what you want to do with a new record yet?
I’ve begun thinking about it, but it takes me a while, because I’m not the sort of person that’s just constantly working on music. I need to be adequately inspired and have some sort of a concept of what I would like to be doing. I always just try to bring it back to the base of “well, I would like to write some good songs” – and then start with that. If I start trying to think of something more lofty than that then it’s trouble. But even getting in that mind state for me after having finished a record and then going on tour is hard. I have to take a step back for a while and have a dumb job and just live my life for a minute.
Going into making Interstellar, did you have a pretty clear idea of what you wanted to make? Did you know you wanted something lush and expansive?
Well, I did, but it didn’t instantly come to me. I started listening to music and thinking about what I wanted to make, which is kind of what I’m doing now. I’m just listening to music and thinking about what things I like about this or that or whatever it is that I’m listening to at the time. Hopefully that gives me some sort of idea of what I’d like to do and how I’d like to grow on my next record. My whole idea for Interstellar happened in steps. I was never like, “I’m going to make this kind of an album.” I still don’t even know what kind of album it is, to be honest. It definitely did not happen gracefully.
It comes off as a thoroughly conceptualized album though, thematically and sonically.
By the time I was actually in the studio and really doing it, I had a great idea of what I wanted it to be. But even then, you never really know what you’re going to come up with – it’s the same thing as, like, a painting: you might have an idea of what you want to do and it comes off totally different. I definitely had a vision very seamlessly of what I thought I wanted. What I ended I up with was, of course, a little different than what I thought I wanted. Mind you, I perfectly happy with what I ended up with. [Laughs] I think it’s the same idea, but sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get exactly. Right now, I’m still trying to form my ideas [for the next record]. It’s like looking at Mt. Everest for now.
Is there anything coming off Interstellar that you know that you don’t want to do?
I know I don’t want a guitar record. I know I don’t want, like, a band record. I don’t want a record driven by guitars.
Is that a product of your experience in other, rock bands too?
I’m just done with it. It really doesn’t interest me anymore. I think that synthesizers and sampled drums are just a lot more interesting to me. But what that’s going to look like, I don’t know. Maybe I want real strings on the album. I don’t know yet. Like, maybe I want orchestration. [Laughs] That’s my new idea I have lately. I relisten to [Interstellar] and I definitely hear the things that I would have done differently, but I can’t generalize about it. If you ask me for each song what I wish I had done, I could probably break it down for you. Part of me doesn’t want to have real drums any more.
That’s funny to hear coming from a drummer.
Yeah. [Laughs] I guess. That’s the funny thing: I never claimed to be particularly good at any one instrument, to be perfectly honest. I happened to play drums in a few bands but I don’t feel like I was ever, like, a drummer. Like, Zach Hill – isn’t that the guy’s name?
Yeah, Zach Hill of Hella and Death Grips.
That guy is a drummer. He’s a sport drummer. You could put him in an arena! Like, me? No. [Laughs] That’s what I think of when I think of a drummer. But I do think that I think of things rhythmically. Mostly, I think of the whole picture now; like, do I want to take an entire drum set on tour? Do I want to tour that way anymore? Or are drum machines just as interesting? I really don’t know. Those are the questions I’m asking myself now. Does a whole band mean anything to an audience anymore? Does putting on a show like that matter? I’m not so sure it does anymore, to be honest.
What sort of music are you listening to?
Right now, a lot of [Claude] Debussy. [Laughs] Like, classical music. I really just can’t handle listening to anything else right now. My ears are just…There’s nothing really new that I’ve been like, “Oh my God! This is blowing my mind!”
How about the Teen Daze single that you contributed vocals to? That was released this week.
[Laughs] Oh yeah!
What was the story behind that?
Literally nothing: He just wrote me like, “Want to sing on a song? Here’s an MP3! Just send it back when you’re done.” And I was like, “Sure, man.” And then I put it in my thing and I recorded it and that was it. It took about an hour. [Laughs] He was a cool dude. It was fun and easy. And… yeah, I’ll usually do that if you just harasses me.
It doesn’t sound like you would turn down a lot of would-be collaborators.
Yeah, I mean, it all depends if it’s easy and, you know, it’s like, “Sure. Why not?” It’s funny: I didn’t even know he was on a label or anything. And now he’s got a lot of attention, I think. Or, a little bit.
What’s going on with Slumberland’s repressing of Interstellar?
Oh yeah, they’re repressing it with two demos and a few of the remixes, which is awesome. I actually like those demo versions quite a bit. I’m happy that they’re being released. One of them I like more than the version that ended up on the record.
Which one is that?
“Apples to the Sun”. It’s a guitar version of the song, and I think that it actually plays out a lot better than how it ended up on the album. And I’m pretty sure all of the remixes are being released with the repressing. I hope.
Were you involved in farming out those remixes or was it something that Slumberland handled?
The label was like, “What do you think of this idea?” And I was like, “Great. Why not?”