There are things better for a music reviewer than hearing material from a new-to-you band that you love. One of the rare things that is even more attractive is to then hear the second release, realise it carries a completely different sound and style from the first effort, but you still like it anyway.
This is where we are with Frankie Morrow and given, they are playing in Edinburgh and Glasgow in July, we had to get to them a bit better. SNACK caught up with songwriter and singer Maz McMillan, to discuss names, sounds, sweaty boxes, admin and central belt institutions.
Every interview with newish bands starts with an introductory question, but all that information is already online for people to find, so let’s dig a bit deeper, what’s the spirit and ethos of Frankie Morrow? What’s the band’s reason for being?
Our main reason for being is we’d all struggle to do anything else by this point! All five of us have been friends for years, we’re almost like a family. The ethos of the band is being yourself and following your nose in the studio. We just want to experience the whole breadth of music, and not define ourselves necessarily in one genre.
Playing live is what lights our world on fire, we love performing. We want to create in our live performance where people can do whatever they want, dance how they want, be what they want. We want that magical moment in sweaty rooms, which is where we often are!
It’s where we’re happy, give us a sweaty box, and we’re fine.
So, there’s no actual Frankie Morrow in the band, is there a Frankie Morrow in real life?
The mythical creature!! Yeah, there is a story behind it, it was my grandparents’ names.
My grandpa was Francis Morrow and he married Frances, who in taking his name became Frances Morrow, and they had a child called Frances Morrow. I thought this was a complete sitting duck so I went to my mum and said ‘I hope you don’t mind but I’m robbing this.’
Actually, one of the Frances’ will be in attendance at our gig in King Tuts, so will the real Frankie Morrow please stand up!
You closed out 2022 with the Blue Parrot Backpackers Hotel EP – How was that for you?
It was amazing, honestly. I sat on most of those songs for a long time, I’ve always been a nervous performer, it’s something I struggle with a lot, and it’s a push to get myself out there and share songs. It was amazing to get it together and work with so many brilliant people.
We were recording at my flat, at Sam’s flat (Samuel Nicholson), at Niamh’s flat (Neev), and everyone was so kind in showing me how the heck you record tracks! Most of it was done in one of our houses before the band came together, and we had freelance musicians in there. We had Nick Peeney who does a lot of stuff with Laura Marling, and various other people.
I’m still shocked when people tell me they like our stuff or it resonates with them because you live with it on your own for some time and its cool to then get Radio 1 and Introducing play, it blew my mind to be fair!
For an artist overcoming shyness, is there a single factor that gets you over the line to share and release music?
Honestly, I’m not sure, there was just a voice that nagged away for so many years that was going, I think you have something worth saying. Letting go of what might be the outcome and doing it because it’s what I love to do and I have to do, I’m constantly writing and recording, that’s what got me here.
Also, maybe the pandemic put things into perspective, maybe we should get on with things.
Recent release ‘Crave!’ was a big change in sound from the previous EP. Do you think there’s an archetypal Frankie Morrow sound?
We’re still finding our sound as a unit. The first EP was recorded before the band came together, it was sporadic, it brought different sounds together and I hadn’t had the chance to play with anyone, so naturally, it was an acoustic leaning record. Now, I’m wielding my white Stratocaster, I don’t want to put it down, we’ve had so much fun playing live, upbeat stuff, I want to follow that for a bit.
I’m still proud of the EP, and in the future, I want to find a happy medium between the two, if we have the chance to make a full-length record.
Do you find the songs change or evolve when you play live?
There’s a song on the first EP, ‘Sirens’, and there are electric guitars on it, it’s restrained but live, we have turned it into something else. I’m screaming, there’s solos everywhere, it’s a wall of sound, so it would be cool to record that live version, as it is now, as it’s a completely different song.
Given there’s so many talented musicians in the band, who also do their own thing, how challenging is it to pull everything together for recording/gigging etc?
Yes! Yes is the answer, but everyone is very committed. I’m in Niamh’s band, James (Smith) and Duncan (Carswell), who are on drum and bass duties, are often in Sam’s touring band, so it’s not just pulling them for Frankie stuff, all of us are in about different bands. There’s also Jemma Freeman and The Cosmic Something, a great punk band, and Sam plays bass for them, check them out if you have the time.
It is a challenge but we’re proficient at using our Google Calendar, as unsexy as that is! We’ll make sure if one band is touring, the other band is at home and then we switch, but quite often, we’ll tour together. Last year, all three bands did a mini-tour in Scotland and some dates in England. There are ways of working around it, but it can be tricky.
Rock n roll doesn’t happen without proper admin.
Right! That’s what they don’t tell you when you pick up a guitar. ‘Are you good at emails? You better learn.’
Are you tired by the end of a night when you’ve played a few sets?
We’ve done that thing, like The Beatles, you just move one spot down. It can be exhausting but it’s exhilarating as well, and you go off on adrenaline. It’s great, but it can get really tiring.
Speaking of things that were good and tiring, how was Glastonbury?
Honestly man, it was one of the best weekends of my life, so far. We only got together as a band last spring, so to have done that this year was something else. There was a moment on the Sunday afternoon, crossing the Other Stage, that’s the second biggest stage, with a massive field in front of it, The Tetskey Brothers were playing, and I burst into tears.
I couldn’t get over the fact we played Glastonbury, it blew my mind. Also, we don’t often get the chance to hang out together, when we get together its to jam, gig or talk about music, so it was an amazing time to be together, it felt really special.
Are you ready to go for the Sneaky Pete’s and King Tuts gigs?
We are indeed, yes. Sam is touring a record at the moment, so we’re supporting them at Sneaky’s this Friday. I love Sneaky’s as a venue, I’ve played there a couple of times, and we played Stag & Dagger. We saw Divorce at that, I loved their set, it was right up my street.
And then Tuts, first time playing there, it’s an institution, and I’ve been there more times than I can remember. The last time I was in Tuts was in December for The Vegan Leather and The Big Day, which was a great show.
Is ‘Crave!’ a standalone single or part of a larger release?
Well, we’ve recorded some songs, what it will be, who knows? We recorded a bunch of songs in January, and we wanted something out ahead of Glastonbury and these Scottish shows. We’ll probably release one or two songs, hopefully, before the year is out, we’re planning that at the moment.
We’ll be able to share that soon, but it’s been great playing the songs live. We had the chance to play a few before we recorded them, and as we said before, it changed a few arrangements. I could feel the way people were getting invested in bits or you felt there were high points, and we should emphasise those moments. It was quite a lesson in taking new songs to an audience first, and then going into the studio, it was really cool.
So the attendees this weekend have the chance to influence what you record next?
That’s it, 100%, getting to hear new stuff we’re working on before it comes out.
How are you finding creating your setlist for the shows?
We’ve been getting the chance to write as a group for the first time, jamming for three to four hours, and we’ve incorporated some of those jams into the set. It’s been okay getting the set together. The hard thing is if we have an hour and you don’t want to play every song we’ve written, so I’m looking forward to developing the catalogue and being free with what we play. I cannot wait until we can do a full-length show, I’m so excited for that.
Beyond these shows, and hopefully new songs before the end of 2023, what’s next for Frankie Morrow?
This next year or two is having the time and space to explore who we are as a band, learn who Frankie Morrow is, we’re still answering that ourselves! I’d love to tour like mad, and hone our craft live. You can practice all you want, but that’s how you learn. We’re fortunate so many of us have different experiences in that, but you still learn. And an album, a debut album, that is definitely on the horizon.
We’re planning a writing retreat in September in Inverness. There’s a few ideas and riffs that we haven’t carved out into proper songs yet so we’re going away for a few days, and we’ll see what we come up with.