By: Lindsy Carrasquillo
While best known for his role in My Chemical Romance for playing rhythm guitar and singing backup vocals, Frank Iero has been a part of many projects in the past and has fronted a handful of bands. Released in October of 2016, Parachutes is his second solo album and shows the heavier side of his sound. We were able to speak to Frank about his music, the New Jersey music scene and his show in Gainesville on June 21 at High Dive.
You just recently played the Slam Dunk festival in the UK. What was that experience like?
It was one of those types of festivals where I got the offer, saw the lineup and immediately knew “okay, we have to do this”. I had to do it from the good things I’ve heard about Slam Dunk in the past. It was one of those things where it just exceeded expectations. Not only did we get to see our friends and have a really great weekend of reconnecting and seeing bands that we loved, the shows were phenomenal. The kids who came out to the shows just went off. They were some of the funnest shows that I may have ever played and that just doesn’t happen at a festival. There was an intensity there that was just amazing.
Which songs have the biggest reaction from a crowd?
I wasn’t sure about what was going to take off. Sometimes you write a song and you’re like “well this is going to be a crowd favorite” and sometimes you don’t care if anyone likes the song, you just think “well this one’s for me”. For festival crowds like that, it’s a lot of the heavier stuff. We’ve been starting our sets with the first three songs off Parachutes and those seem to work really well. That was kind of the intent writing those songs, they seem to blend so well together that it would be weird for me to not play them as the intro to the set. That’s kind of strange because sometimes you don’t want to do that, playing three new songs right off the bat but I feel like the record’s been out now for a while and it makes sense to be able to do that kind of a thing. There’s also a song called ‘Blood Infections’ that we really haven’t played in a long time but we brought it back for this festival and I think kids were really excited because they didn’t think that they’d be able to hear that song.
Who were some of your inspirations during the writing and recording process?
I’m really inspired by real life stuff. I had long conversations with Ross Robinson who produced the record about how things happen in our lives. Sometimes we think they’re happening to us but they’re happening for us. If you turn that cheek and you look at it from that angle and realize that maybe those things are the best thing that’ll ever happen to you. I think that idea of growing from tragedy and picking yourself up and moving along is realizing that anything can be a parachute or a lifesaving event.
Who were some of your inspirations when you first decided to pursue music?
I grew up listening to music strictly through my dad. He was in bands and so was my grandfather, he was in bands that would play a lot of jazz standards and I would go see him on weekends. With my dad, he was in blues bands and I would go and see him on weekends too and he got me into a lot of blues records like BB King, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters. I think through there, he had a lot of appreciation for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and I got into classic rock through him. As I grew older and started to put on his records like Led Zeppelin, I started to realize through friends that there were bands my age that were doing stuff at a DIY level and I felt a deep connection to that. Growing up listening to blues and rock, it felt like this was his punk rock. People getting together in small rooms with probably one mic and not getting any appreciation until they were dead and gone. A lot of the punk bands had the same thing going and I was getting into Black Flag and hardcore like Minor Threat. They were contemporary bands my age putting on shows and I started to realize that there was a scene in that. So I started bands, put on shows, started going to shows. That became my life.
How do you think you’ve evolved as an artist over the years?
I think I have a lot of interests and a lot of outlets because I have so much I want to do and have trouble saying no to the things that inspire me. Often that’s a bad thing because I wish I had more time on my hands and if something arises that may make me happy, I have to do it. I think that every time you do something outside of your comfort zone that people may think you’re crazy for doing, you start to evolve and change and grow as an artist. You realize that you don’t want to do something anymore and you start working on new projects. My favorite artists are the ones that you can’t pin down. I like that people can’t predict what I’m going to do next because I can’t either.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned by being in the music industry?
I would say that the most important lesson if something that my dad told me very early on. He told me that there’s music and then there’s the music business. A lot of times, one has nothing to do with the other. It’s a very fickle industry to be in and also heartbreaking. In a musical endeavor, you put everything you have into it. You put in your heart and soul and your resources and you expect so much and very rarely does it love you back. But when it does work, you feel like you go it right and you feel that love back, it’s the most incredible high you’ll every experience and you’ll keep coming back. That’s what keeps me coming back, chasing that love and that acceptance.
You’ll be playing in Gainesville on June 21. What should fans expect from your set?
It’s been a while since we’ve been in Gainesville so you can expect to hear a lot of the new record mixed with some of the songs off the old record that you may want to hear. I think you’re going to see a different band from the last time. We’ve been through a lot in the past six to eight months and jeez, it’s been incredible. You’ll see a band that’s unparalleled to the band you’ve seen before it and is happy to be alive and playing the music that we love.
As our website is about local music, could you tell us about your local scene in New Jersey?
I think growing up, it really shaped me. It gave me a place to grow and a place to express myself. It took care of me a lot of the time and gave me purpose. By going to shows, putting on shows and playing shows, it showed me a lot of different layers and really made my dreams something tangible. It wasn’t just these rock stars and something out of reach, it was kids our age writing songs and making something that spoke to us. No one told them that they could do it or couldn’t do it, they just did. More recently too, in the New Jersey scene, there’s no barrier between genres which I think is something that ran rapid before. There was a separation and now everyone is inspired by everyone else and you’re getting a nice mix of different types of artists. Some local bands I like are The Scandals, Jared Hart, Low Road, Chained to the Dead, Organ Dealer and The Banner.
Following your headlining shows, you’ll be on tour with Rise Against and Deftones. How do you feel about playing to such a large audience?
It’s a different type of animal. If I had to put my two cents on it, I would prepare smaller club shows because that’s where I feel the most at home. But the thing that makes music and art so wonderful are the things that scare the hell out of us. Playing in a bigger venue and even outside venues, we’ll be playing to a lot of people who wouldn’t normally see us and that scare me but I think it’s just a totally different experience and something I’m looking forward to. Every time we do something like that, it makes the band better.
Are there any future plans you can tell us about?
A lot of things are under wraps unfortunately. We’re going to do a lot more touring and hit as many places as we possibly can and hit places we haven’t played before.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m just really looking forward to heading back down to Florida and I don’t see it being any different this time around, think it just gets better and better. I’m sorry it’s been so long but I’m looking forward to playing.