"It’s all part of reaching out to people so you feel less alone yourself,” Irish indie demi-gods The Frank And Walters’ frontman Paul Linehan said in 2005.
To which The Observer added that this fundamental human longing, a desire to connect, “is the backbone to The Franks’ music”.
“Without wishing to sound pretentious,” Linehan continued in an interview with that paper’s Michael Hubbard, “I do believe in art and I do believe that music is a medium for art and it’s the only way to bridge the gap between yourself and everyone around you — reach out, using music as a language. When someone comes up to you and says that they feel the same way about something, it brings you closer, you feel less isolated.”
A decade later, sitting in the Ringsend studios, Paul is hopefully feeling less isolated having just performed a quirky reworked rendition of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes for The Windmill Lane Sessions for Independent.ie. One of the more enduring Irish acts, The Frank & Walters formed circa 1989 taking their name from two colourful Cork characters.
I have vague memories of dancing badly to Fashion Crisis Hits New York in 1991. Two years later there was a patriotic twinge when I watched them perform their hit After All on BBC’s influential music show, Top Of The Pops. It seemed to go all downhill from there for The Frank & Walters but some of us still have a soft spot for the Cork eccentrics, who are still going all these years later, with various bumps along the way. Having just released a new single Look At Us Now and due to play the Killarney Music Festival on June 27, Paul reflects on the beginnings of the band in 1989 in Cork.
“The music scene wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t that many gigs you could get. I remember when we started out, the only place we could get gigs was in the outskirts of the city — in places like Kinsale and Clonakilty. I remember our very first gig was in Clonakilty.”
Paul adds that he grew up listening to “a diversity of music. We were big Joy Division fans and Echo & The Bunnymen fans. We also listened to The Kinks and The Velvet Underground, The Who and The Beatles.”
Be that as it may, Paul’s favourite band all those years ago was Prefab Sprout. “They were probably one of the inspirations and one of the reasons I had for writing music.”
Paul met one of his heroes from The Beatles, Paul McCartney, when The Franks played Top Of The Pops in 1993. “He was doing a song called Hope of Deliverance. We met him. He was there with Linda and their daughters. Being a big Beatles fan, I went up and I hugged him.I told him I loved him. It was just amazing meeting him. Linda was trying to convince us to be vegetarians backstage, because she was a devout vegetarian. She was telling us that for every burger we eat, an animal is slaughtered for it. I remember looking down at her shoes and I said to her, ‘What about the animal that was slaughtered for your shoes?’ She said, ‘Ohmygod! They’re leather!’ Ah, we had good crack.”
As an outsider, after the initial huge early success for The Franks, things didn’t seem to go plan. “We had a huge rise with success, I suppose, then we came back. It was amazing. Our first album Trains Boats & Planes is a good album, but we actually came back with a better album, Grand Parade. With the first album we were in the right place at the right time with the right music,” he explains, “but I think the timing was out with the second album. Britpop had kind of taken over around then. In our heads it was an injustice, because Grand Parade was a better album.”
“We’ve always been writing. We’ve written six albums. And they’re all good! We aren’t as famous as we were in 1992 but I believe if you call a Martian down he will say that the six albums are all as good as the first album.”
To hear the full interview plus two exclusive songs by The Frank & Walters, see independent.ie/windmill
NOT AS FAMOUS AS THEY WERE IN 1992: But the Frank & Walters are still penning irresistably catchy tunes. Photo: Joleen Cronin