Frank Iero, well-known as the rhythm guitarist and back-up vocalist for My Chemical Romance, has had a successful solo career over the past several years. He started playing in local bands on the New Jersey punk scene when he was just 11 years old and served as the frontman for the punk band Pencey Prep before joining My Chemical Romance. He later fronted the hardcore punk band Leathermouth, as well as the digital hardcore act Death Spells with James Dewees. He released his first solo track, “This Song Is A Curse”, as a bonus track to Tim Burton’s film Frankenweenie Unleashed and has since released three solo albums with three different band line-ups. Stomachaches was released in 2014 under Frank Iero and the Cellabration, Parachutes in 2016 under Frank Iero and the Patience and Barriers in 2019 under Frank Iero and the Future Violents. Having survived a near-fatal bus crash in 2016 while he was touring in support of Parachutes in Australia, Barriers, which Iero calls the best album of his career, deals with the aftermath of the accident. Referring to The Future Violents, which is comprised of Murder By Death’s Matt Armstrong on bass, Thursday’s Tucker Rule on drums, Evan Nestor on guitar and The Mermaid’s Kaley Goldsworthy on piano, organ and violin, as his dream line-up, he wrote the songs on Barriers with them in mind. With more tour dates and festivals ahead, including two appearances at the upcoming Warped Tour anniversary dates and a UK tour, Frank Iero and The Future Violents have a busy year ahead of them. You can follow Frank Iero and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase his music via the following links. Check out the video for “Young and Doomed” below.
Photo credit: Mitchell Wojcik
You recently released your third solo album Barriers and have taken a more sonically diverse approach with that album. You said that you had wanted to experiment with your sound for a while, so what made you decide that this was the album to do that with?
Well, I think with the first album, I didn’t know I was making a record. I was just fumbling along and making songs in my basement on my own, figuring out how to record and do all of those things as I went. Those songs were very much like an experiment. I didn’t think anyone was ever going to hear them. It was me just kind-of making things. With the second record, I was like “Oh, ok. I’m making a record that people are actually going to hear” and I didn’t have a lot of time to do it (laughs). I loved those songs and I feel like the process was really introspective in the creativity of it, or the lyrical side, like what I was writing about and how I was saying it. This time around, I took all of the lessons I learned from the first two records and applied them to this record.
This album deals with the aftermath of your accident. How do you feel that making the album has helped you to work through that? Do you feel that you are in a better place now that you have made the album than you were before? I know a lot of artists talk about music and songwriting as a form of therapy almost. Did you find that to be true for you?
I think that anytime you can make something positive out of a negative it’s good for your soul. As far as trying to work through the issues that maybe presented themselves because of the accident, I don’t know how far along I am with all of that. It’s weird. I feel like recovery from stuff like that is never linear. But it’s definitely been a confidence booster. And also too, I think that when going into writing this record and going through this…maybe mental anguish is a bad description of it…but sometimes it was. I didn’t know if I knew how to do this anymore. I almost felt this was something I’d done in a past life kind-of thing, like that skill set wasn’t something I had anymore…a lot like trying on a dead man’s clothes. The fact that I was able to do a record and something that I’m really proud of was really nice, to know that I can still be creative and still express myself in that way.
You’ve said that you want to write songs that your kids can look up to and finds hope in. How do you feel they have changed the way you approach songwriting?
When you have kids your life is just completely different. I think an easier question to answer would be how do they not change your life because they change everything. As far as wanting to write songs that they can look up to and find hope in, I always thought I was writing really hopeful and positive songs. People always told me my songs were depressing and that made me sad (laughs). I thought I was doing something different. I think what I was specifically referring to in that statement was that I was writing the song “A New Day’s Coming” and that was a sentiment that I really wanted to put across for them and for other people out there that needed that. I wanted to convey the idea that whatever you’ve done and whatever’s happened can be wiped clean and that tomorrow’s a new day and the first day of the rest of your life. We all need that reassurance sometimes.
You’ve mentioned changing your band with each solo album to put you out of your comfort zone and grow as an artist. How do you feel you have grown with each album?
Umm, I mean, I feel that I have. I know personally that every time I’ve experienced exponential growth, either as a musician, songwriter or just a creative being, it’s been when I’ve been in a position where I was working with or in a room with people that I thought were way better than me or who inspired or challenged me. It’s nice to search out those people along the way and it’s fun to change it up. You play differently when someone else is behind the kit or when someone else is locking in with the drummer. One different human being thrown into the mix can change the whole thing.
It keeps things fresh and exciting.
Absolutely! That’s the thing. There’s reasons why certain bands sound a certain way or certain records sound a certain way. It’s about the people who were in the room, whether or not you know all of their names. That’s an important factor. Like if you put a little too much baking soda in something and are like “Wow. This tastes like shit” (laughs). You have to get the right recipe together for it to work.
You recently had the opportunity to tour the Musical Instrument Museum. As an avid music fan, what was that experience like for you and what was the highlight of the day for for you?
Oh man! Yes! I got to see Tommy Tedesco’s telecaster. He worked in a band called The Wrecking Crew. They were great musicians that basically played on every song you’ve heard a trillion times and love. I believe The Wrecking Crew and Tommy, they did Beach Boys recordings and Phil Spector recordings and stuff like that. To see documentaries about that guitar and him as a player and that band and then to see it in real life was like “Oh my god!”. It was amazing. It was also cool to see different instruments that I can’t remember the names of and never even knew existed-that’s amazing! I guess percussion is the element that kind-of starts it all, just finding different things to bang on that create tone and what you can do with that is amazing. The thing is, we may be separated by miles and miles and miles, but we all found a way to make musician our own way and that’s amazing!
You’ve spent the last five years learning how to be a band leader. Do you feel you’ve grown more comfortable in that role? Do you see yourself that way or do you feel it’s a more collaborative effort where everyone is on equal footing?
I like it like that. I think that, just because maybe your name’s on the project or you’re standing in the middle of the stage, it doesn’t mean that you’re more important than anyone else . Everyone’s working really hard up there. I do find though that there are certain jobs or roles in a band that are super stressful. I didn’t know how stressful being a singer or frontman was until I took on that role and had zero respect for singers until I had to do it (laughs)! I was like “Oh my god, this is horrible” (laughs). Drummers too…Oh my god, what a fucked up position to be in…to carry an entire band like that. Everyone’s been working really hard, though, and everyone on that stage is so talented. I like going into a room and going “Listen, here’s an idea I have for a song” and we’ll all throw our hat in the ring and see where it goes. I think you play better when you have an investment in the songs and when it’s something you’ve helped to come up with and enjoy playing. Everyone on that stage is a very amazing and accomplished musician and are really great human beings. I feel very connected to them.
Your hope for the band is that it encourages people to go out and actively live and get involved in helping others. Was that your goal going into the album/project or was that a goal that later developed?
I think that an album doesn’t really present itself to you right away. As I started to kind-of go through this, I realized that for me, I was attacking things that seemed unattainable or mountains that I didn’t think I had any business climbing. The more I chipped away at those elephants in the room, the bigger problems that I thought “Oh I could never talk about this or write a song about this”, the less scary they seemed. I’m a firm believer in going out and attempting the things that you are sure you’re not going to succeed at. I think we should all fail a little bit and learn how to get hurt and get a scar. I think those learning processes are so much more important then actually succeeding.
Or doing something you don’t think you can do but then you do it and you’re like “Alright!”!
Yeah, you beat yourself up and dust yourself off and try again. That lesson there is so important. That’s what I hope the record does, is shows people that they can go out and do the things they don’t think they can do. I think that’s where you find out a lot about yourself.
What inspired you and your bandmates to auction off used and signed Future Violents drum heads with original artwork? It looks as though Tucker does the majority off the artwork. Has there been a good response?
Yeah! He started doing that in his other band Thursday and I thought that was so cool. It’s such a great idea. If I was someone going to a show and I really liked the band and there was something that was used on stage that had one-of-a-kind original artwork, it would be so cool to have that, rather then just throwing it out and having it end up in a landfill somewhere. I thought it was a really interesting idea and was like “If you want, we can so this”. It’s awesome! What we do is we put them up and it’s a silent auction and we pool all of that money together and go out and do something together as a family. It’s really nice.
On your tour with Taking Back Sunday, the band did a special fan experience where 10 VIP ticket holders were invited onto your tour bus. You are also doing a VIP experience this time around, as well, minus the tour bus. What has it been like for you to cultivate that kind of relationship with your fans and have those special kinds of experiences for them?
That was never really something where I was like “Oh, we should do this”, but people have been asking me for so long to do something like that. I thought if I had something to offer that was special then maybe we would do it. I couldn’t think of anything and didn’t want to…I don’t get that whole “you have to pay to shake my hand or take a picture with me” thing. That’s really weird. I thought it could be cool if we had something to offer. It just so happened like…when you make a record, basically you’re in the studio and you record it and then there’s this weird purgatory where you have this record you know about but no one else can hear it until it comes out. I was like “Well, we have this record and can only play it for our family, but the people that really want to hear it are out there”. I thought that maybe we could do something where we sit around and we play them some of the record and hang out and if they have questions, we could talk about them. That was the first initial experience of that kind that we tried to do and it went off so well and everybody loved it so much. We have three records and the third record is out so we can’t have a listening party. That’s silly. What we do have is a plethora of material and not all of it will fit into a set. We’re already playing the longest set we’ve ever played on this tour-a 21 song set, which is long (laughs)! We still wanted to play other songs. There are certain songs off of our records that are not on the setlist that we still would like to play for people. We decided to do this thing where people can come in early and we’ll play a couple of songs not on the set list that night, so they get to hear even more if they want, and maybe do something with a t-shirt and they’ll get the set list before everyone else and do a Q & A. It’s been really awesome! People have been really receptive to it and have enjoyed it. Some people have even done multiple nights in different cities so they get to hear a lot of different songs. That’s really cool! It keeps us on our toes too and we get to be creative about what we’re doing. Sometimes we’ll get excited and decide to play a song that we are playing that night but play it in a different way. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and we’re like “Let’s not do this again!”
You recently released the video for “Young and Doomed”. What was the making of that video like?
That was fun. We knew we had a very limited amount of time to do the video and I had this idea in my head of what I wanted it to be. We rented this practice studio where we could actually practice in the morning and then do the video at night. In my head, I had this idea of working with projection, using it as a background and as a foreground. I had no idea if was actually going to work or not. I thought if it didn’t work, at least we would be able to have a practice.
It’s a cool video! I love the lighting throughout. What made you decide to put childhood photos in the video?
That was an idea I had and I didn’t think it was going to work but it did. It worked creepily well! Thank you so much to Steve Pedulla who directed the video. He also plays guitar in Thursday and is very, very talented. As a director, too…Oh my god! He took all of the ideas and was like “I think we can make this work”. That was a really fun process. That was the first time we were all in a room doing something like that together. It’s a really nice bonding process when you are starting a band, to do a video together.
The band will be performing at the west coast and Atlantic City dates of this year’s Warped Tour anniversary dates. What are you looking forward to the most with those performances?
With those, I mean, I’ve done the tour in the past. The tours are hard! As a young man they were fun, but as an older person they’re more exhausting. Showering out of bags and things like that are rough. I like that they are stand alone dates and getting to do that tour again. It will be nice to see friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s going to be really fun and I’m looking forward to it.
What else is coming up for the band after tour?
After this tour we do Asbury Park and Warped Tour on the East Coast, then we fly to Europe and have European festivals. We’re doing a UK festival there, too, and have shows in Russia. Then we come back to the US and do our west coast dates.
You’ve said with each solo record that it’s the last one. Do you think you’ll do another record after this?
It’s weird. I love writing songs so much and recording. I love touring too, but that’s probably third on the totem pole. Every time I finish a record, it’s so depleting but also enriching. But it takes so much out of you that you can’t even fathom being able to another one. You’re like “How could I possible ever write another 15 songs?”.
The subject matter for this album is so heavy and I’m sure having to go through all of that to write the album was exhausting.
Yeah, it’s like wringing your own towel. At that point you can’t ever see yourself doing it again. I think it’s just something you go through and then all of a sudden you have a song. Could I never write another record? I’m not going to say that. We’ll see!
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.