Frankie & The Heartstrings are a five-piece from Sunderland, Great Britain, a town noted for its down-at-heel introspection that more than occasionally veers into self-loathing. In a way it’s not surprising that it pushes up bands who, musically, seem the very opposite of that.
Comprising of Frankie Francis (vocals), Michael McKnight (guitar), Mick Ross (guitars and keys), Steven Dennis (bass) and Dave Harper (drums), Frankie & The Heartstrings are a heart-racing, foot-stomping traditionally brilliant British guitar band. Described by one noted music journalist as ‘a Hannah Barbera animation of Marty McFly made flesh, fronting a C86 tribute band to The Supremes’, the quintet have spent the past 12 months stirring up excitement across the country. They take a modern approach to traditional songwriting, hewing infectious songs out of deceptively simply melodies and arrangements. These are then brought to vivid life by front man Frankie who seems to find the stage a more natural surrounding than anywhere else.
Frankie & The Heartstrings formed two years ago in Sunderland when guitarist Michael McKnight and drummer David Harper hooked up with Frankie over cocktails at a calypso night in a pub the singer was running at the time. They were probably all a little surprised at how easily it gelled.
A fistful of songs came together readily; two of which became the band’s debut single. Hunger / Fragile was a double A side 7” released on Rough Trade in December last year. Indeed, it has the honour of being the only one-off single the label has released in five years after Geoff Travis declared to the band that Fragile was his favourite song of the year. Hunger is a crystalline-perfect indie pop anthem with a call-and-response hook that only needs to be heard once to be loved. Fragile is a different beast; a shimmering torch song of rare beauty that aches and shudders and crashes into a final soul-on-fire denouement. Together they hailed the arrival of a special band.
The release saw a clatter amongst the on-the-button types, with Hunger gaining the sort of airplay and attention that new bands usually only dream of. A debut tour supporting Florence & The Machine in huge venues across the UK wrapped up a year that finished as quickly as it had started unassumingly.
Rather than chasing a label home for the next six months, the band decided to release their next single on their own label, PopSex Ltd. Another double ‘A’ side 7”, Tender / Want You Back, was recorded in conjunction with James Ford who’d spent the previous summer recording The Arctic Monkeys and enjoying success in his own right as one half of Simian Mobile Disco. It was released in April as the band embarked on their first headline tour of the UK plus a spell opening for fellow Sunderland luminaries The Futureheads. Around this time they were joined by fifth member Mick Ross who adds steel, bite and panache to their musicianship.
In May F&TH headlined the Introducing Tent at Radio 1’s Big Weekend before being pushed headlong into the tumultuous festival circuit. They graced Glastonbury’s Park Stage and gradually worked their way up bills over the months until they found themselves headlining stages at Summer Sundae, Lounge on the Farm and Latitude. Summer was capped off by an invitation to fulfill the much-vaunted opening slot on the vast NME / Radio 1 stage at Reading & Leeds festivals. Both shows drew impressively large crowds for a band who, at this point, more people had read about than probably heard. Frankie & co. won them over and those who attended left happy in their early-bird judgment.
October saw the release of third single Ungrateful with its rising chorus and mantra-like call of ‘I wrote this song with you in mind’. (It was also the band’s first release as a digital download.) Shows in New York and Tokyo followed, plus an inaugural tour of Europe and a further set of shows across the UK with legend, hero and influence Edwyn Collins.
Edwyn Collins has also produced the band's album, during sessions throughout late summer/early Autumn at his West Heath Studios in London. Titled "Hunger", the record was realeased on 21st February 2011 on PopSex Ltd. / Wichita Recordings. Few bands have the sort of year that 2010 has been for Frankie & The Heartstrings, but few bands are as vivacious,exciting, enticing and downright brilliant. 2012 is set to be the year that the music world recognizes them for the stars they are.
“The pop dream the band has been chasing for a year now is starting to come true” – NME
“Their stomping sound – which is surely scientifically impossible to dislike – dips into Dexys circa Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, mid-period Clash, 60s pop, Orange Juice, northern soul, romance and literature without loitering anywhere.” – The Guardian
Hunger Album Reviews:
"Ten Tracks of exuberant, blissful pop...take Frankie to your hearts and it'll swallow you whole" 8/10 - NME
‘’Hunger’ could easily be a singles collection, such is the callibre of it’s contents’
4.5 stars out of five – The Fly
'Someone has to do indie rock well, and Frankie Francis' Sunderland band are a cut about the 'Landfill Indie' Heard. - MOJO
'The listener is never without a smile on their face - there's simply that much fun on show' - BBC MUSIC
'It's Brilliant' 4/5 - Total Guitar
'Gorgeous' 4/5 - The Sun
'Desire reverberates through the Sunderland band's music.' - The Independent On Sunday
'A Life-affirming debut' - Uncut
**** - Q Magazine
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