August 9, 2017 | by Jeffrey Thiessen
This interview with Frankie Rose marks the third piece I’ve done on her, which is the most I’ve written about any artist since I’ve got into this racket almost a decade ago. And it’s by no accident. The first time was a review of her excellent 2013 album, Herein Wild, and the second time was another interview. I always enjoy when the interview comes across as an extension of the person’s work I’m familiar with. Frankie Rose is definitely a great example of this — like her music, she drifts along, finding beauty in strange, isolated places.
When it was released in 2010, Rose’s Interstellar seemed connected to everything, and nothing, all at the same time. It floored me, and seven years later, I still am transfixed by its beauty. Herein Wild continued down the same path, and although it wasn’t quite as groundbreaking, it still captures that same gorgeously bizarro world she creates. Every longtime music journalist has one or two acts they make every effort imaginable to push onto people. Rose is certainly one of mine. I have a singular goal: Convince people beyond a shadow of a doubt they must hear her music.
Over a recent phone interview, I chatted with Frankie Rose about the album, how she feels about being an artist in the US these days, and if she misses those Dum Dum Girls. Rose’s upcoming album Cage Tropical, is set to release this week.
NO RECESS!: Let’s just start out with Cage Tropical. Tell us about it. I’m obviously really curious about it.
FRANKIE ROSE: Okay, well, it's my fourth record. It’s coming out August 11 on Slumberland/Grey Market. It was recorded partially in my closet in Los Angeles, and finished in Brooklyn, NY. It took me about a year to make it. It’s near and dear to my heart.
NR!: Is there any reason in particular you switched from LA to Brooklyn?
ROSE: Yeah, I just did not like living in LA. I was living in Brooklyn for like, a decade, and then I moved to LA and I don’t know why — I thought I wanted some space, and I would like it and be at the beach every day, which is a lie if you’re living downtown. And I sort of got stuck there, and it was by way of a miracle that I was able to come home and finish [the album].
NR!: Last time we spoke four years ago, you talked a fair bit about your headspace and bringing people into that. Obviously, a lot has happened in the country you’re living in. Is this still your approach when making music?
ROSE: I think it’s sort of by default, you know. I think every album I make is a time capsule of how I’m feeling, and what’s happening with me in the moment, and I just can’t help having the music being an embodiment of that. If I’m able to bring people into that space, I’ve succeeded.
NR!: I’m just asking because a lot has happened where you live, and the US is in a really weird spot these days [The author, Jeffrey Thiessen, lives in Canada]. But it sounds like you’re pretty much the same as when I talked to you last time.
ROSE: Yeah, I think so. I’m sure I’m in a totally different headspace, but that will just translate into whatever I make, whether I like it or not. I don’t think I have any kind of control how things turn out, or what I’m trying to do at the time. It’s just the only way I know how to work.
NR!: Just to build on that a little bit, with all the division in the US recently, as an artist do you feel any pressure to sort of pick a side, or do you feel more obligated than ever to actively move away from that?
ROSE: I do have strong leanings, and I do feel the need to speak out about a lot of those things, but I feel like my music is occupying a very personal, different space. I do believe politics are personal, but I’m not trying to put a poster up for anything in particular. But if something was moving me enough than I would, you know.
NR!: Okay, let’s move on to your newer stuff. I listened to “Trouble,” one of the two songs you’ve released to promote this last night, and I’m gonna phrase it in a way that I hope agrees with you: It’s a little more glitched out, and it’s not quite as spacey as the last two albums you’ve released. Can you tell us anything about that track? It has a different sound than some of your fans might be used to.
ROSE: Yeah, the whole album is definitely less dreamy, more hard-driving. It’s a little bit more pop, I would say. I do kind of think it’s genre-less; if you asked me what category this album would fit into, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s kind of without classification.
NR!: And that’s kind of the case with your last two albums. I’ve wrote about them a few times, and I really have trouble defining... I basically bang the drum of telling people they have to hear the records for themselves.
ROSE: Yeah, I think so, too. And I think that’s good. I do what I do, and I’m not trying to lift anything from anyone else. I mean, obviously influences make their way into music, without a doubt. But yeah, totally genre-less, especially this album. I never know what I’ve made until like, three years after I’ve made it.
NR!: And with the other track you’ve put out, “Red Museum,” it’s similar to what I said about “Trouble.” There’s a lot going on there, sonically. Is there an urgency on Cage Tropical that wasn’t really present on Herein Wild and Interstellar? It just seems like you’re driving towards something.
ROSE: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely different, and it’s funny because I felt like the last album had an urgency to it, and I don’t know why. Weirdly, I took my time on this.
NR!: Yeah, you made us wait quite some time.
ROSE: [Laughs] Sorry, don’t want to do that again.
NR!: This year we’ve seen, and will see, releases from some really big acts. Bon Iver, Radiohead, The National, and Queens of the Stone Age are putting out new records. Everything is more fragmented now, but do you ever feel healthy competition when you feel surrounded by such strong music?
ROSE: No. I’m completely oblivious. I just do the best I can with my own thing, and concentrate on what makes me happy, and making music makes me happy, and going with the flow. What’s the term, “compare and despair?” I think I try to avoid comparing myself to anything. It’s just such a weird time in music, and there is so much of it coming out all the time, you know?
NR!: Yeah, it’s overwhelming at times. Can you tell us about the recording process a little bit? Was it different than Herein Wild?
ROSE: I took my time with it. It was about a year, because I took months in between of not working on it. If there was studio space available, I would go. Some of it was done in my closet, some in Dr Wu’s [Cage Tropical’s engineer] studio, some of it in Williamsburg. It was really a matter of working with people when I could. So it made the process pretty slow, which is good because I was able to take time in between working to think about it.
NR!: In my experience, your last couple albums were some of the best escapist music that I’ve ever heard. It takes us to a very specific, weird place. When you were recording them, did you ever worry you were going too far that way, to dream land?
ROSE: Nah. I don’t really think about other people when I’m making records. I’m just like, “You wanna come along for the ride? That’s cool.”
NR!: How did you stumble onto that sound? Was it a conscious development?
ROSE: I think it’s all very intuitive for me. Nobody ever taught me how to play anything. I’ve played in punk bands, and I’ve always trusted my own intuition for what sounds good. That’s really it, that’s always what I’ve done. Because the minute you start making music for other people, I think that’s a danger zone.
NR!: You’ve been out of the [Dum Dum Girls] for like, seven years now. Are there any days you wake up and miss being in a band?
ROSE: Uh no, not really [laughs]. I have an incredible band! They’re amazing.
NR!: Yes, but your name is on this. It’s more or less a solo venture. Would that be fair to say?
ROSE: Yeah, I guess so. I mean, being in a band is like being married to people. So it can be nice, but it can be really intense. So I just find it a lot easier to not be married [laughs].
NR!: So you don’t miss that era at all?
ROSE: Nah. Not really. I had fun with Dum Dum Girls, those girls are amazing and fun, and it was fun touring times. But collaboration? No. With collaboration I can collaborate with anybody I want, and you’re not married to anybody, or making weird business decisions with them, or whatever.
NR!: Well, that’s all I have for you. Enjoy the heat, and sweat, and all that. Can’t wait to hear the new record.
ROSE: Oh my goodness gracious, okay. Well, thank you, it was so nice talking to you. Have a good
NR!: Thank you so much, Frankie.
Watch the video for "Red Museum"