For a while, it seemed that enigmatic, bright-eyed Frankie Rose would donate her considerable singing and drumming talents to bands that were — whatever their sometimes convincing charms — beneath her.
A founding member of garage-rock outfit Vivian Girls, Rose moved on to Crystal Stilts and then Dum Dum Girls before forming Frankie Rose and the Outs in 2010. In early 2012, Rose dropped the Outs and released Interstellar, a synth-pop album, to critical acclaim. The follow-up, September's expansive Herein Wild, signals an artist coming into her own.
Ahead of her Tuesday show at RecordBar, we dialed up Rose at her Brooklyn home.
The Pitch: You've made quite a transition in sound over the years, from the Vivian Girls to the Dum Dum Girls to the music you're making now.
Rose: It's kind of funny, because I never actually know what I'm doing at any given time. I knew that when I finished my first solo album, which was definitely more of a garage project — and it was totally my creation, my songwriting, my production — I realized that I didn't want to make this kind of garagey-sounding music anymore. I wanted to bring in electronic drums and synths, and that was all I did when I started Interstellar.
By the time Herein Wild came around, I didn't know what I wanted to do anymore. It was definitely a weird place for me. And I made that record without making any plans. Like, "Whatever happens and whatever the songs are like is just what's going to happen. I'm not gonna judge it too much." I think before I make another album, I'd really like to know exactly what I want to be doing.
In an interview you did a few months ago, you were talking about lyrics, and you said that for this record they became more real for you. How exactly did the lyrics become "real" or more important this time?
I think that I didn't used to care that much about lyrics. I don't think I thought I was really capable of writing them, and I just thought, "Well, I'm not going to try and make something sound beautiful. I'll just sound like an idiot, like I'm trying to be a poet or something."
I didn't plan when I was writing the lyrics for Herein Wild — it just ended up being so dramatic. They're pretty sad, dark songs. I don't think I was really aware of it at the time. It was what came to me. When you're alone with yourself and you're just being honest, a lot of times the truth will come out, whether you want it to or you expect it to or not. I was a little horrified when those songs came out, actually. [Laughs.]
I wasn't setting off to make this sad kind of pop record. I know that, looking back on it, it's going to be a really weird one for me. Not that it's good or bad, just strange.
There's a lot of drama in Herein Wild. What made you decide to bring in the strings and the horns?
I just always wanted to record and have a real string section and see what that would be like, to record real strings in a proper space. There was a lot of criticism about that, too, because Interstellar has a lot of strings and stuff, but it's not real strings — it's string pads — and I was told that it [the real thing] weighs down the recordings or whatever. But I don't think that that's true. It was just fun to record them and have someone actually playing those parts, like putting emotion into the moment. You can't get that out of a synthesizer, you know?
Why do you think you had to cycle through three bands before you struck out on your own?
Well, to be honest with you, I've been doing my own project now for longer than I've been in other people's bands, but people always think about my other bands before they think about that. They don't actually realize that I've made more records on my own than with the other bands that I've been in. [Laughs.] I'm consistently considered "Frankie Rose of 'X,' Frankie Rose 'X' this, Frankie Rose 'X' that, Frankie Rose 'X,' 'X,' 'X.' "
I don't think people think of Neko Case as one of the New Pornographers. To me, it's funny because I'm just Frankie Rose. I have another project that's coming out in June called Beverly, a two-piece with myself and the lead guitarist in my band, and I wonder if I'll be "'X' Frankie" then. That'll be interesting.