Interview: Warren Franklin
Posted: by The Editor
Warren Franklin is back. Second April, the project’s first release in four years, finds them exploring poppier, softer, and hooker sounds than ever before. The Alternative caught up with Warren Franklin, frontman of the band Warren Franklin, to discuss Second April, collaborating with his hero Max Bemis, returning to live shows, and of course Elden Ring. Read that below and be sure to stream Second April while you do.
How was the record release show yesterday? Man, it was an incredibly dope lineup, gotta say.
Man, it was a great turnout. We got the records like an hour before the show and typical you know fashion, where everything’s turned like rushing you’re just trying to make everything work correctly, but we got the records so that’s good.
Because I think there was a Joie De Vivre release show a long time ago, where we got the records after we played the show so like doesn’t always happen, but so it did this time, which is good, but it went really well. I feel like the reception was good. July I hadn’t played a show in like two years and my band Warren Franklin hadn’t played a Chicago show, and probably about two years we had our first tour in a very long time last year to the Fest in Florida. That was super fun. I love going out there and playing that show which is always so cool because you get to see all your friends that you haven’t seen in such a long time, and just feels like everyone’s there to like meet up and hang out and play music – it’s just so cool.
This was sort of like a hometown show for you, yeah?
Exactly, yeah, and it’s also good to see people we hadn’t seen in such a long time – so many friends and people in bands we hadn’t seen. It was a nice warm welcome.
What was it like getting back out there?
We just feel grateful man. A lot of bands are probably didn’t realize how burnt out, and I feel like I was in that boat, like I didn’t realize how hard I had been pushing myself, until I had that break and was able to recover. I just – we just feel happy to be able to do it, have that joy in our lives again.
The EP is out now, so how’s the reception been?
It’s been great man. Having the song with Max Bemis, people have definitely received that well.
Yeah, “January” is a really cool song. How did that collab happen?
I love Max and he’s been one of my favorite artists for a long time, especially like when I was younger. When In Defense of the Genre and Is a Real Boy came out I probably said that was my favorite band around that time. So it’s pretty surreal to be able to have him on the song, yeah. I wrote that part with him in mind. The way that it came about was that I had an Instagram show during a lockdown called Franklin Comes Alive. I was having like different artists on that inspired me to like chat for a little bit. And I asked Max, just kind of threw a message out there on Twitter not really expecting him to respond – just you know just see what’d happen. He messaged me back and he said he was down to do the show, but he had to cancel because something didn’t like line up correctly, but the day that he canceled he was like, “You know what? I can’t do this, but we should do a song,” and I didn’t really take it seriously at first, because a lot of artists, we say that a lot and it just never happens, but after he had said that I had this piece of a song, and it actually sounds nothing like it sounds now – it was actually very slow, melancholy song and it became a pop song, became very upbeat – I had this very slow and melancholy piece, and then I was thinking about songs like “Dancing in the Dark,” or like “Kyoto,” the Phoebe Bridgers song, like songs that have that melancholy feeling under it, but are pop songs and upbeat – like you wouldn’t know it unless you really dig into it. So I thought it’d be interesting to take this this song and just completely rewrite everything about it but keep that melody; then that’s when I decided I could write something for Max right here, and that’s what I came up with this part, and it all just came together really fast, and I think it turned out really good. I’m really, really proud of it. When he first sent me the song back, I couldn’t listen to it with the music – I only had like a clip so I was just listening to just his voice, trying to imagine it with the music – it was just really surreal, just – it was awesome. It was really fun to work with him and I feel like he resonated with it – didn’t change much about the part that I wrote. It’s pretty much exactly what I sent to him so yeah it’s really good.
Once you had that done, then, were you like, “Yeah, this has gotta open the record”?
All the songs were written in order – I was like, “We don’t have a vehicle for this!” Because we’ve – we have a full length that’s not released yet that we been working on for forever, but it’s a different style completely. This is more pop and there’s no distortion , like it’s not loud, but it’s just kind of like upbeat acoustic multi layered – totally different sounds. I was like, “Well, we need a vehicle for this, so we should write something around it,” so that’s when I wrote the next song on the record, “A Year in Between.” I then kind of just tried to use those ideas that came from “January” of it being very lush with no distortion. A lot of our older stuff is loud, distorted but we tried to write a whole entire EP without ever going there, which took a lot of restraint for us, because we’re used to just cranking it up. Also, though, we were never in the studio together, not even for one day – it was during the pandemic or was during the lockdown, around that time. We would just going into studio one at a time, so I would go in and put down a layer and Brandon who plays bass would go in put down a layer and I come back and put a layer over that. These songs had never been performed in the same room together, so we kind of had we kind of had to figure that out for this show, especially – how do we play these? We just multi layered everything, so a lot of the parts – I had to kind of piece together parts of the melody to make it make sense and tried to retain that fullness of the layering which is difficult sometimes.
So I feel like you buried the lede there a bit. This is your first release in, what, five years? And you’ve got a whole full-length done?
There was a lot of things that gotten the way – our label Count Your Lucky Stars, which is run by Keith, they disbanded for a long time, so we wrote this full length and then there’s just kind of a lot of changes in our lives that were going on, like Grandon became a father. Everyone’s lives just kind of changed a lot, you know, so we kind of had to figure out well how does music fit in to our new lives, you know? And that can be a difficult. There can be some growing pains there – that’s why it took so long to get this out and then on top of the pandemic happening. It felt very uphill, but I feel like it’s worth it once you get past all that, you know.
I think we talked in September, October – sometime around there – and this EP was totally finished.
Yeah! Yes, yes, absolutely. Yes, yeah the vinyl was delayed like six, seven months or something like that, like the transfer backed up. So it’s just like yeah like one thing after another just kept delaying and then, and then Max had another project he was working on, so we didn’t want to release it at the exact same time you know so l scheduling issues like that, but finally made it.
Perfect timing too, right at the start of April.
Yeah, the release show was April second! It’s really funny because that show also got pushed. COVID reasons. It got pushed to April second – I think before it was supposed to be in February so it’s just funny how that all worked out right. I‘m just thinking about “Second April” and people – I mean it’s hard to fully explain what that means. People think that it’s the date, just backwards, but what it really is – it’s a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that refers to second April. It’s kind of like a second chance so it’s kind of also the perfect title for this record, with us having been gone for so long, you know.
That makes sense and then that leads into something I wanted to touch on – each song on here has some kind of reference to time, whether it’s months or time of day or years. Was that intentional to develop a theme for the EP?
The rest of the band kept bringing it up like, “Oh, another month or season song!” Not doing this on purpose! I was just writing and this is how it’s coming out, you know. But then I started to lean into it a little bit more and that’s when I wrote the song “Second April” like, “All right I’m going to lean into it.” I guess we might as well just put a nice little bow on it and lean into it, but it wasn’t done on purpose yeah. I’m not entirely sure – just came naturally this way, you know. But a lot of the songs, they are about the passing of time or looking at a situation from you know different angle, like in the future, or from the past, you know.
So then when you released the song “A Year in Between” last year, what was behind the decision to just drop that one standalone?
We were about to go on tour. We wanted something out there, just so people’d know that we have a release coming, like yeah we’re back. That’s probably one of my favorite songs on the record, so I liked putting it out there as a standalone and then incorporating it later on to the bigger picture. I think at that time, also, we had planned for the record to come out a few months later. But then it got pushed with the vinyl plants being so backed up.
So then this new LP…is this written? Is it recorded? Is it done?
It is recorded. There’s a few things I want to change with having this release in mind, knowing what that is I kind of want to go back and like sprinkle some of the ideas from this project. And it’s such a different sound and I’m excited for people that like this release to hear this new one.
Second April was definitely a bit of a curveball because you’ve always been, like, quote-unquote emo revival, and this – you’re right – this is just, like, pop rock.
That’s my favorite thing about this EP, how fresh the sound is to me. And that’s something we’re definitely proud of, and piano has such a big part in all these songs. It just changed everything for us, so I’m really, really excited to incorporate that type of sound into this new record. We weren’t even thinking about playing the songs live, so that’s part of it. That never entered our minds, so it was never held back by by the fact that we’d have to learn it.
All this said, what else can we expect for the rest of the year?
I’m hoping to do a big tour in the fall for this record.
I also wanted to ask – I know you’re a big FromSoftware guy. Which Souls game was your first?
Bloodborne was my first. I didn’t know much about those games – I just thought the art style looked really interesting and that game was brutal, man. That game’s oppressive – that game was difficult – like I don’t know if you’ve played Bloodborne. Everything’s fast and there’s no defensive option, no shields, nothing like that. It’s all wits and weapons. And it’s more horror-based. I gave up on a few different times. I probably played it over the span of like six months, and I quit twice. I felt like there were definitely points where I was like, “Why am I even playing this? This is just making me upset! Why am I even like banging my head against the wall playing this game?” But then I would achieve something or I would beat something and then I’d get that rush. I‘m like, “Oh, this is awesome! This is the best game of all time,” and I would play a little bit more like, “Nope, this is bullshit” after dying 100 times. That’s the cycle, but then you eventually start to appreciate how much the game challenges you, you know. I went to Souls games after. I played Dark Souls 3 so I did go backwards. That one, Dark Souls Three, I absolutely loved it, man. That game is so cool. The first Dark Souls is rough around the edges, and that’s charming. They smoothed it out for Dark Souls Three, though, and the experience just is so fluid, and that game definitely is, I feel, one of the easier ones. The DLC on that game is incredible and has some of the hardest bosses in Souls history.
So is that the one I should do after I beat Elden Ring?
I think so. That’s the most similar to Elden Ring. I feel like I don’t know if you should play Dark Souls 2. It’s a janky game. But that game is still awesome, though, like even the worst Souls game is still like a great game. I think play that one last. Although I didn’t play Demon’s Souls. After beating Elden Ring, the post Souls game hangover, it’s like, “Man, I could keep playing this forever and just like squeeze every ounce of content out of it, but I need to take a little bit of a break for my own sanity or I’m just going to keep like obsessing over the game!” Now that I’ve beaten the main quest I am going to take a little bit of a break and come back and I’ll explore stuff that I haven’t found yet, because that game is massive – I don’t know ie how far you’ve gotten in the map.
Not far at all.
Oh, holy crap – that is one of the most massive games I’ve ever seen, and the amount of content, the amount of bosses, the amount of everything is crazy, just wild how much there is to do in that game. It’s daunting, yeah.
Did you see they delayed the Breath of the Wild sequel?
Yeah, I did, yeah. But I feel like I got everything that I could have gotten out of Breath of the Wild. It’s sad, but I feel like Elden Ring is everything I would’ve wanted out of a Breath of the Wild sequel. They’re both about having that sense of adventure, you know.
What’s your one hope for the sequel?
You and me both. I’d love a dungeon that’s not just pressing a few buttons.
I want old – I want Ocarina of Time dungeons. The Water Temple? It’s – it’s just like a Dark Souls area, kind of similar in difficulty, like you’re running around trying to solve a puzzle and also defeat these incredibly hard enemies. It’s – it’s very similar in the way that it’s set up when I think about it.
Second April is out now via Count Your Lucky Stars.
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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