Originally published October 2013 on ShortSleeveButtonDown.com*
90s Nostalgia and the Imminent Demise of Frank Smith
They say you don’t know a man until you fight him.
That’s how I feel about seeing a band live for the first time.
Frank Smith (which is a band, not a man) opened on the Fun Fun Fun Fest orange stage Saturday afternoon with a well-rounded set of their work. As it turns out, the distortion that’s present in the sound of their most recent album, Nineties, fades away in the live performance, and the bass and drums back Sinclair’s melodic buzz of a voice for a rawer, raucous sound. Thank goodness for that.
When I met up with Aaron Sinclair, frontman of Frank Smith, he had changed from his stage-wear of black suit jacket and white button-down to a black t-shirt; same black Ray-Bans, same scruff, same laid-back attitude, though. We talked about the future (or lack thereof) of the current Frank Smith, the band’s Boston-Austin sound, and weird foods. Read on to learn it all, and check out the Frank Smith Fun Fun Fun Fest set list.
SSBD: So there’s this really glorious photo of you guys on the band website with this, like, Mexican feast before you with maracas and Modelo and tequila… is that what it’s like to hang out with Frank Smith?
Aaron Sinclair: It was that night, yeah. We needed to take a new band picture because we hadn’t had a recent band picture in like a year.
You guys have gone through a bunch of lineup changes.
Yeah it’s been steady for about the last two years but we just hadn’t taken a picture in a while, you know, so there were just pictures getting circulated of people who had been gone for a while. And band pictures are just goofy so we thought we’d have a Mexican feast and eat tacos.
So I know this is a question you get all the time, but why the name “Frank Smith”? And do you ever get tired of being called “Frank-Smith-the-Band-Not-the-Man”?
Or is that a bed you’ve kind of made?
Both. Actually we’re going to start releasing music under a new name next year. So we’ve got new music recorded and starting in February we’re going to start releasing some EPs under a different name– we’re just going to be using “A. Sinclair.” So we’re looking forward to that. So this is sort of maybe one of the last official Frank Smith shows under that name… but it’s the same group of guys; the music’s still going it’s already made and recorded.
Why the change?
It’s just been going on for too long as Frank Smith, and it’s time to start something new. New beginnings.
Are you anticipating the lineup right now will stick?
Oh yeah, still the same guys. The music’s already recorded and we’re working on some new stuff as well now.
I know in 2007 you guys moved from Boston to Austin. Why did that move happen?
I grew up in Texas, and relationships and some other bands that I was in fell apart in Boston and my sister actually had some babies–she lives here–so I knew I’d be back here eventually.
What part of Texas did you grow up in?
Oh, so this isn’t too far away from home, then.
Yeah, I didn’t need to go back to Houston.
How do you think living in Austin has changed your music? And conversely, I guess, what did living in Boston do to it as well?
You know, I don’t know if it’s really so much surroundings as the people that you meet. Just friends and musicians I’ve played with and listening and being exposed to different things. There’s more country in Boston and less country here in Austin, so, I don’t know.
That’s really interesting. I didn’t know that Boston had a country scene.
Well, I mean there’s a good music scene there, but yeah. I mean I was all acoustic guitar and banjos in Boston and here it’s all electric guitars and rock music, so….
What’s your favorite Austin venue to play?
Probably Hotel Vegas [on East Sixth] right now.
What’s your favorite one to go to? The same?
Yeah, probably there. A bunch of my friends work there and there’s some good food trucks out back and pool tables and you can watch music, or hang out out back, or do whatever you want.
I haven’t been there yet. It sounds like smaller venue.
It’s a smaller room but there’s a huge outside. They pack a lot of people in there. But yeah, I bet in the music room there’s probably like a hundred people. They’ve got a great food truck called Crazy Ricky’s Dawg House and it has great burgers.
So I want to ask about [your most recent album] Nineties. Where did that album come from? Because it doesn’t strike me as, like, a “concept album”–
The name Nineties?
The name Nineties, the album in general. I mean clearly it has a through-line and a through-sound, so where did it come from?
I was a teenager in the nineties and I was sort of nostalgic. That’s when I sort of developed my love of music and stuff and figured out what I wanted to do.
So it’s kind of like a throwback?
It’s just a nostalgic area of my life, for me.
Where are you recording right now?
We’ve recorded most of our music at The Bubble with Alex Lyon. The new stuff we’ve recorded at Good Danny’s with Danny Reisch. And it’s going to get mastered in about a week and then be ready to go in February sometime.
Well, I wanted to wrap with a couple of weird quickfire questions in the spirit of Austin. What is your weirdest show or tour experience that you’ve had?
Is “I can’t remember” pretty good? Heh. Probably something happened… I might not be able to remember… Uh, a bottle of vodka…
What is the weirdest band or genre of music that you’ve been compared to? Because I’ve heard you guys referred to as “alt-country,” I’ve heard the new album referred to as Sonic Youth-ish… Does that strike you as insane? Do you care?
Nah, that’s pretty insane. We don’t sound like Sonic Youth at all. That’s cool, though. I love Sonic Youth. I try not to pay attention to that stuff the best I can.
Have you had any weird fan encounters?
No, nothing yet. I’m looking forward to that, though.
Weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
I’m Lebanese and my mom makes raw kibbe, which is a raw meat dish that I grew up on, and I love it. It’s like cracked wheat, bull meat, onions, and parsley, and you put it through a meat grinder a few times and you eat it with olive oil. It’s like steak tartare. It’s delicious.
Heh, if you say so.
I wouldn’t eat it if I didn’t grow up on it.
Who is the weirdest member of the band?
Let’s go with Brendan Bond.
And why is that?
He’s crazy. He’s the bass player.
I knew you were going to say that.
It’s always the bass player.
BONUS: The Frank Smith Fun Fun Fun Fest 8 set list
- How Many Ways
- It’ll Be Over Soon
- Throwing Up On The Ground
- Beaten Sacks Of Death
- You Gotta Decide
- Pretty Girls In Pretty Tights
- Shiny New Things
- Suit Up
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