"I'm so sick of singing about hate, it's time that I made a change." So says Frank Carter on Bury My Bones, the lead single of the ex-Gallows frontman's new band Pure Love.
He's certainly made the change, and it's a big one. Tapping into a rich seam of classic rock, Pure Love is a long way from the hardcore punk which Carter and guitarist/co-conspirator Jim Carroll (formerly of Hope Conspiracy and Suicide File) first made their musical mark. Debut album Anthems is all chunky riffs and catchy, melodic, almost - whisper it - poppy choruses, Carter having made the transition from hardcore screamer to bone fide singer with almost unbelievable ease.
MusicRadar sat down with the pair to find out how they made the transition to their new sound and why they are the Kobe beef of rock bands...
How did Pure Love first come together?
Jim Carroll We initially met in Norwich, at a show that our old bands played together, but we both don't really remember that, apart from playing the show.
Frank Carter I remember watching you play.
JC We met there initially, and then got put in touch in Brooklyn through mutual friends, we both live in Brooklyn. We were both looking to start something new. It took a few months of meeting up and running into each other and saying we wanted to do something. Finally when we sat down and talked about it, it went from there - we wrote our first song that night. After that it was easy.
FC That's how it's been since then as well, songwriting has been so easy and natural. Every now and again he'll get a little burst of energy and send me three or four ideas. I'll listen to them straight away, then set 'em aside and then come back a week or two later, listen to them again and figure a few little parts out. We've already started writing for album number two. It's just so easy. I hate the word organic, but it is, it's very natural, and it's been really calm and easy. But everything about it, from meeting, deciding we wanted to start a new band, and then we didn't really have to pick what kind of direction we were going to go because it just chose us out of the way the ideas that he had and the kind of direction I wanted to go, I was singing. So it just fell into place really easily.
So the musical direction was never a question?
JC It was never something we said. We said what we didn't want to do.
What didn't you want to do?
JC Initially when we were meeting up we were like 'oh, we're going to start a heavy band'.
FC A hardcore punk band.
JC 'Cos that's what we knew of each other. When we sat down, I think initially I said it'll take me a while to write some songs, I hadn't really been writing any heavy music for a while. I sent him a bunch of demos that I had from over the years that I never really used, and he had a bunch of stuff too. It was never really a question of what we were going to do. We felt energised instantly, we wanted to just write rock songs and like he said, it was a very natural, easy decision to go forward with.
Were there any bands or albums in particular you had in mind or were listening to when you were writing?
JC No, we've said since we started it's more about the bands that we fell in love with when we were younger, the first bands that really got us excited about music and made us want to be involved with music - stuff that we grew up with like the Beatles and the Stones, all of that classic rock and pop that was so abundant when we were kids - all of that got channeled into this.
FC He sent me 12 songs, the first night we actually sat down and talked about starting a band, and instantly what I heard from that immediately changed everything I'd been listening to that year. Suddenly my recently played was all Beatles, Stones, Bowie and Queen, everything I'd listen to when I was younger. I love music, I've got a really eclectic taste in music, like most people that love music they just love good music. I'd been painting, I'd been doing nothing but painting for a year, playing no shows. So I had just been listening to Sleep basically, and Boris, and Mogwai, just really heavy droney stuff so I could focus at 3am.
When he started playing me that, I was like 'songs! Songs, and choruses, and hook lines!' It was so much fun to get my hooks back onto my youth and start listening to music that I heard initially as a kid. That's what made me want to be in a band and play shows, and that's what we're doing now, playing that music. I'm able to get on stage and play these songs that we've written, and I can see that they're translating that the same way like when I heard Madness for the first time, or Genesis. It sounds weird, but that's what I grew up loving you know? It's so nice to see than, and it's a very classic sound. It's modern enough that it translates, but for me it sounds like it's a couple of generations too late, which I fucking love. That to me is how it should be, it's when it was at it's purest and that's how it all ties in together. We've always wanted to be in this band, we didn't know we wanted to be in it together, it just happened.
There are a lot of big hooks, big choruses, the album is called Anthems - did you have to really work at crafting those big moments?
FC No. The way he writes is so beneficial to a singer, 'cos you're just like 'oh yeah, I can rap all over this shit!' It's so exciting to hear music driven that way, this anthemic rock you know. And that's how I've always written as well, I've always liked those big hook lines that get people involved that are simple, and memorable and have a catchy melody. So we play off each other in that respect. It's very selfless, and in that way extremely selfish. What we provide for the other is like a diving board - 'go and do your swan dive now, now's your time' - and every song is like that. Every song's got a solo, and every song has a moment when I really can feel like I'm the fucking king. And that's what I love about the band, every night we get up and it means playing shows is fun. And I don't just mean 'fun', I mean fucking fun, I've never had this much fun before, I've never had this much fun seeing a band. I feel great. I can't contain it, I'm really excited.
How have the reactions been live, you've been touring a lot - have you seen a lot of fans from old bands get involved?
JC I think anyone that was in to any of our old bands, they haven't really made themselves know. I think for the most part it's newer fans, and everyone's just been really excited about it. The shows have gotten better and better, each one better than the last. People are singing along to songs that haven't been released yet, and that's a great feeling. You can tell people want it, and they've been waiting for it for while.
FC They're committed to the band, that's what we feel just from a handful of small tours and small shows, so that makes us want to give them everything. Get involved with the show, get involved with the music and the band and what we're trying to do, because they appreciate the fuck out of it. That's all you want when you start a band, you just want people to get a little bit of what you're trying to do, but really you want everyone to love it and adore it, and need it in their life. I see that, I see that happening in small circumstances, and it's a great feeling to have an album written, finished and have people singing the word within our third show. People had been watching Youtube videos, and that takes effort on their part, so it's nice to know that instantly we have fans that are willing to put the time in. I'm hoping that's what this band can become.
It's very difficult, and especially with the current climate of music and the industry, it's hard to have any kind of lifespan when you're in a band. It's difficult to keep the momentum up, and it costs you more money to do it, and it means that you have to sacrifice more things. I really hope that people get behind it in a way where people really need it, and that enables up to write another record. I don't think people have heard the best of us yet, which is silly as we haven't even released one album yet, but just from what we started writing last month, now we're in tune with each other and we know we've got a great band behind us, it's gonna be great, but it just depends on whether we get that opportunity.
The sound is quite far removed from what you were both doing before - was that intimidating for you to go into and launch something so different, and were any of your old fans a little sniffy about it?
FC I'm sure they were. I didn't encounter much of it, apart from the odd 'wanker', which is standard! Everyone's been pretty fucking chill about it, it's just been good. I assumed that was going to happen. The bands we've been in were quite specific in their sound and their style their genre. And that genre especially, hardcore punk rock, is very specific. They're lifer fans.
JC They're not known for being the most open minded at all times.
FC And yet they are, you know? When you're in there playing, those people have the most diverse tastes. And yet the fans might not, at that very instant when they suddenly become so immersed in it, and then they slowly start to realise… I think hardcore music is amazing, it does open your mind, but when you first join it, it's like 'this is mine, and I will fight for it'. And that's why it's so important, because it breeds life fans of music. I always assumed it was going to be a lot harder that it was, but it just seemed that as soon as we started to release music, people appreciated that we'd gone and done what we wanted. It wasn't even a case that it was so different to what we'd done before - obviously that helped, but I think because it was so different and because we were so happy about it, everyone was like 'I can totally get behind this'.
This isn't hardcore, but it's got punk sensibilities. It's a rock and roll album really, but it's big. The choices of singles that we let out to begin with, we just went on stage and were like 'fuck everyone, you don't like this? This is what we're doing,' and people liked that. They embraced it. You can either drive that nail further home, or you can hit the metal steel and it won't go in any further, and we just drove it home, and everyone embraced it and held on to it. I just see it going from strength to strength. To be in a position where we played Reading and Leeds without an album, that was August last year, we've played almost 40 shows within a year with no album out, nothing, and people are so eager for the band. I can't explain how good it feels, it's nice to be in this position. Our fight is to take it to the label, and say 'listen, you've got a great thing here, just give it a bit more of a push'.
You've done all that without the album - what's been the hold up there?
JC It's been pushed back twice, and it was just to build it up a little bit more. The label wanted to put a bit more behind it, which was nice. If a label wants to give you a bit more money, you don't say no because it doesn't happen anymore these days.
FC It's so hard to get money from anyone now. Without sponsors and energy drinks and all that shit, it's difficult for people to release music, 'cos nobody buys it. To have a major label like Mercury, that's backed by Universal, to say we want to hold off on this, it was so disappointing. Because for us, this isn't one year, this is two years. We met in February of 2011, and we started working on it then, we had the album by the summer. We're going into our third year now.
When was the album finished?
JC April of last year.
You recorded with Gil Norton, how was that, and what was the process?
JC We did pre-production over here in Henley, and we were there for three weeks in the country which was nice. Then we played out first show, and went back to Brooklyn and recorded the record. Gil was awesome to work with, he was very nurturing of the whole process. He was on the same page as us the whole time. He knew what we wanted to do, he had out best interests in mind, and he didn't stray from that. He just moved it along and massaged it a bit.
FC We're the Kobe beef of bands. Feed them up, massage them, nice expensive meat.
JC He was awesome, it was a great process. It was such an intensive couple of months, but him and his engineer Dan Austin, we couldn't have asked for a better team to work with to record a record.
Did you go in knowing what sound you wanted? Did you record to tape, or use any of those classic rock recording techniques?
JC We had talked about it, we spoke to Gil. He was there when we signed our record deal, which was a first for him and a first for us. That night we got to talk a lot about our ideas for recording, and we called him later the next day and said we wanted to do it to tape. He said 'that's fine if you want to do that, but the thing is it's going to be more expensive and it's going to take more time which we don't have. If you trust me, I'm going to make it sound great and it's not going to be a disappointment', which it wasn't. He made a great sounding record.
FC A classic sounding record. He's made some really classic making records, and I hope he's made another one with us, I really do. But when you get down to it, really yeah, it's great to have stuff on tape and all that but it is just expense for expense's sake. What I think we have is a slick record that doesn't sound slick, it sounds gutsy and raw. It all is down to our playing and him capturing what we're doing. We gave everything. I was so fortunate in that I was able to start recording vocals on the first day. As soon as we had the first track of drums down, Gil was like 'you wanna try something now?' and we did. Within that first seven days I'd done pretty much the whole record, and then it was just a case of bettering myself on every take. We went in there with about 30 songs, and we knew we had to come out with 10. We ended up with 11, and we wrote three or four new songs in the studio. I felt young again, excited about music - I was in a barn, with my friends, playing music and writing songs. There's no other feeling like that in the world.
The band is just you two - when was that decision made?
FC That was the first decision. We thought about getting a few other people in, but when that didn't happen we just stayed as it was.
JC How we write songs, it worked between the two of us, and we didn't want to mess that up.
FC It was always designed to be like this. The kind of music we're writing, ballsy rock and roll, bringing in different people with different influences is a good way to shake things up. We'll always write songs the same way, we'll sit down and write the album first. When we were signed, we had five songs.
How did you manage that?
FC I have no idea. They'd heard a rumour of it, they'd spoke to Craig who'd managed me when I was in Gallows and asked what I was doing. When we met them, they were so overwhelmingly excited about it, it was a no brainer, we went with those guys. They wanted it, so it was done. And then they got fired before we finished the album, which is always the way, it's happened to me twice now. That's when the hard work started for us I think, when we had to convince them that we were a viable option. I still don't know if they believe that!
Let's talk about guitar sounds - what were you using, what was your rig?
JC It was pretty limited, it wasn't a crazy selection of stuff. I used a Les Paul that I've used since I bought it, it's one of the only guitars I own, I don't own many guitars. Used that, my Gretsch, an SG, a Danelectro baritone on a few songs to beef up a few things, a 12 string electric. I kept things to a minimum, found stuff that worked like classic sounds. I had a few different pedals, I like putting delay on a lot of stuff to give it that extra something. I had a Marshall JMP which is what I use regularly, had a Fender Twin Reverb, a Vox AC30, an Orange head - all classic rock sounds. You don't really need much more than that. We had a wall of amps set up at all times, and we could switch between them. Most songs had one or two sounds going on at once just to give it a fullness and a body. But all of it was very classic, basic sounds, but how they worked together was the beauty of it. I put some fuzz on some things, some delay, some reverb, nothing crazy. There were plenty of toys in the studio, but we kind of sprinkled it on when we needed to. Live I've been playing through an 800, my Les Paul, a couple of pedals and lots of volume. I had my hands full with the amount of guitar playing I was doing.
Frank, your voice sounds great on this record, what did you do differently to what you'd done in the past?
FC Everything! When we first started playing together, I'd done a handful of demos for some slightly different music with my brother, and I showed those to Jim and he fully backed it, then it was just a case of singing as much as I could. It manifested itself to a point, and then I started hitting walls. Then luckily I met my now wife, and she is a singer as well. She had a singing instructor in New York, and she put me in touch with her and I went to see her. Immediately that told me what I was doing wrong - everything! She was like 'sing me one of yours songs' so I did, and she said 'awful, this is wrong, this is wrong.' She had me breathing right, I had a couple of lessons and I could hear the difference. More importantly I felt completely different. I felt like I'd cheated everyone. Instantly I was like 'I can fucking do this'. It's unfortunate because if I could re-do the record now I might, because I sing things quite differently, but it's got a character that I love. I'm really eager to get into the guts of the second record because now I feel really confident. It didn't come easy, but I put as much work into that as I would with anything. Anything you want to be good at, you've got to apply yourself and do it as much as you can.