In Sunderland everything of worth was born of adversity. This is the terrible truth for the creative freaks in this city.
In 2008, Frankie & The Heartstrings found each other in a bar on Sunderland’s left bank. It was raining (obviously), words were exchanged and the rest is up to you to pick out of the anecdotal lucky dip. The truth is the band had been formulating itself without us knowing. Our very own hideous experiences in pit villages, school-yards and Sunderland’s city center, meant that Sunderland knew long before we did. It wasn’t romantic, it was cold, and it was necessary.
Frankie ran a bar at the time; it served poorly-kept lager at a price which regularly angered natives already juiced up on their cheap angry dust. Michael was a teacher who seemingly taught nothing but how to cope with being a teacher who teaches nothing. Den was handsome and enigmatic (turns out that was thrush) and I was getting older and less talented by the fortnight. The other one, with the benefit of hindsight, has been erased from the band’s history. We then recruited Mick Ross, who soon after was granted the freedom of The Cluny.
Having no aspirations beyond playing music and putting on shows the way we wanted to hear it and see it, we set about the North East, not giving a fuck as we went. We played the shows we wanted to play, politely (to their faces) said ‘no’ to the shows that made no sense – they were usually spearheaded by a promoter we thought was a wanker. A demo recorded in a fucking freezing back room later, and Bob’s your uncle. I’ll get to Fanny being your aunt later.
We found a home with independent loose cannons Wichita Recordings who continue to tolerate 5 pig-headed wankers until they read this.
After dealing with the bombshell that Brian Connelly from The Sweet was dead, we recorded our first long player with Edwyn Collins from the 1980s. Over 3 weeks we endured being treated with respect and love from the Collins family and in return we got drunk in their house and watched a man put his testicles in Edwyn’s didgeridoo.
Our debut album Hunger entered the hit parade at number 32. The week after it didn’t bother.
Then we went around the world a bit.
We ate chicken cartilage in Japan, we tried (unsuccessfully) to get mugged in New York, drank beer from bags in Australia, confused Morrissey in Sweden, soiled beds in Germany, had chips in Wrexham and we have enough anecdotes from Holland to give my dad another heart attack. To all the countries I haven’t mentioned, just take it as read that we are sorry but that it will also probably happen again.
Not being huge fans of liars we do try not to bullshit too much ourselves. We haven’t got 150 songs for our second album, we don’t always love one another, we frequently contradict ourselves and we are not the best band in the world*. We do play as hard as we can to whoever we play for, we do not take anything for granted and if we behave like dicks, it’s because we are dicks, not because we are dicks in a band.
We have been privileged enough to support The Vaccines (showed them my penis a lot), The Kaiser Chiefs (again, penis), Florence & The Machine (invented a game involving a well known confectionary and a penis). I could make a list of bands that we have played with to make us look cool but I’ve forgotten (Primal Scream) most (The Walkmen) of (The Beatles) them if I’m honest.
Last time round we played all the festivals you pay a fortune to attend and always said ‘thank you’ to the caterers, from Glastonbury to Deershed and then back to Split fest in Sunderland. Which is especially handy for me because I live round the corner and I had a dicky tummy.
But these things are a privilege. Over the course of the last few years, we’ve seen every backstage wanker in shades and boring band bastard going, and Harry Enfield and Steve Davis. We saw people ‘accidentally’ dropping snapper bags out of their pockets and one unfortunate band who thought it was a reasonable idea to take one of Dennis’s beers.
We remain a product of who we are, where we are from and what we do. And what we do is start our own record label (Pop Sex Ltd), curate our own Pop Sex Nite events, make our own merch and run our own shop. The bare minimum simply won’t do. We have seen the bare minimum and frankly we don’t care for it.
We have another record coming at a time when the way we consume music is changing. A transitional period when bands and artists are afraid of something without really knowing what to be afraid of. We can only try our best.
PS We didn’t forget about the pizza advert thing.