Anybody who has grown up to the sounds of alternative/emo rock and roll is probably still heartbroken over the breakup of the iconic My Chemical Romance. Don’t fret – when one door closes another one opens, right? As the past year or so of their breakup carries out, the ambitious band members have already moved on and gone solo. The first one to make a move was ex-guitarist Frank Iero. He ended his August with the release of his debut solo record, Stomachaches under the band name of Frnkiero andthe Cellabration. A week ago he kicked off his first tour with this new punk rock project in Howell, NJ, and staff writer Emma Guido had the opportunity to chat with him about his new record, his thoughts on the music industry, and his evolution as a solo artist.
MEB: Congratulations on the new album! You start touring now with your new solo work Stomachaches. You have had many different musical projects before, aside from My Chemical Romance. Now that you are about to get back into the touring mindset, what feels different about this new project, now that you are a solo musician?
Frank Iero: Every project feels different. There are similarities of course, but it is such a different animal every time. It always requires a different mindset and different parts of your personality. With this one, it might be the hardest one because there is a lot less to hide behind. I never set out to be a frontman or singer that gets asked questions and stuff. There was always somebody else and I could say, “You take this one!” (Laughs) Now I feel like I have to let people in a little too much and I don’t know how comfortable I feel about that just yet.
Now that you are touring again, what are you most excited about in the next month and a half?
I’m really excited about seeing these songs come to life. This is kind of the first time these songs have really been played in a band setting. When I was writing it was just me. I’m used to having about five guys in a room playing really loud and playing a song out and this was the exact opposite of anything I’ve ever been used to. It’s like working backwards.
Since the birth of your first children, you have been balancing a role as a father and a touring musician. Now that your children are starting to get older, has it been easier or harder to balance the two jobs?
It’s getting harder and they fucking hate it, too. It’s weird because they are at that age now where they can tell you to come home and ask me why I have to leave. That’s a hard question to answer, you know? At first, they got really excited because I write songs so they thought I wrote Frozen (laughs). When I told them no they were like, “Then what are you doing?! What do you do all this time downstairs if you aren’t writing Frozen?”
Your solo debut Stomachaches dropped at the end of August. After the split of MCR, which was such a big part of your life, and taking the time to get back in it, how did it feel for you to take this big step as a musician on your own?
It’s nerve-racking, but also exciting. It’s a lot of different emotions all wrapped up into one. I don’t know how to feel about it because this was never a goal I set for myself. I’ve never thought of My Chemical Romance as a springboard for my solo career. That thought never came into my head. I always wanted to be in bands and that’s why I think I’ve made this as much as a band as possible. I’m really lucky to play with people I really respect.
I really love your lyrics on the album. Every track has its own strong identity. Do you have a specific writing style or technique when it comes to making music?
I don’t. Each song is different. On this record, I started a lot of the songs by programming drums then playing bass to that, then singing along to that as well. I’ve never really done that before. I don’t know why I did that; it just kind of happened and I like when music just happens. You’re usually doing something totally unrelated, and suddenly a song pops into your head and it won’t leave until you get it out there. Those are sometimes my favorite songs I’ve ever made.
The words and sounds were balanced really well, also. There were really great elements from all different ends of the emotional and musical spectrum. What inspired these strong emotions from you?
I feel like at the root of this record, it’s really like a folk record. They are very much based on stories of things that have happened to me or people that I know or things that I’ve seen. This is my attempt at telling those stores. It’s funny when I think about it, because a lot of these songs are from early on in my life. So I guess this record has really been written in the past. I don’t know why I channeled that. I tend to like things that are beautifully broken, though.
Which song ended up being your favorite to make?
They each have a special place in your heart, you know? I would say, however, “Guilttripping” was the hardest. I did not have fun making that one. It was just one of those things where I knew what I wanted to hear and how it had to sound in order for it to be true and pure, but it just didn’t want to work. Sometimes it’s a fight, and sometimes it’s a partnership. And that fight went on for a long time. It took maybe two weeks. I even remember having to step away for a while and thought, “This is not going to work.” There was another song I did that with as well and it was “All I Want Is Nothing”. I wrote and finished it, but it just didn’t sound right. I thought I was going to have to take it off the record. Then, at the last minute, I went back in with my brother-in-law, Evan, who plays guitar and sings, and had him do some backing vocals on it. It changed one of the transition chords and somehow fixed it.
My Chemical Romance was clearly not the only band or project you have been involved in in your career. What elements from your previous work did you bring to the table when creating Stomachaches?
I don’t know if I can say specifically. I think each time you do a project or have an experience it warms its way into the threads of your DNA. Do I know specifically what I’ve learned from each project? No, but each experience, I’m sure, had a place in who I am today. Whether it was songwriting or the styles that I’ve tried to experiment with on the record, I don’t think I could have done this record without doing everything I did in the past.
Now that you are front and center on that stage, has your view or opinion of performing changed in any way?
Each one is different. I’m looking forward to this show because it’s the first one and the first time we all play together. I’ve played with Rob before; he played guitar in a band called Leathermouth. I’ve wanted to be in a band with my brother-in-law, Evan, for years now and this is a great opportunity to do that. Also, I just met Matt this year, but we hit it off like we’ve known each other for a long time. I think it’s been a really great experience so far. I’m looking forward to getting up there.
Being in the music industry for so long, you have seen a lot of the changes and styles that have come and gone in the past years. Now with social media at the height of popularity, how do you think it has affected the music scene and the fans (youth) of it?
I think it’s good and bad. Nowadays, they tell you that you have to update this and you have to have a Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, etc.! I don’t understand how you can do all of it. It doesn’t make sense for you to have time to do all that and still create music and be a human being. I don’t want to be playing with my children with one eye and one hand while the others tweet and text people I don’t know about…Starbucks, you know? It’s not something that appeals to me. Everyone once in a while if you have some free time, you can do that kind of thing. I think that works and it’s fine, but I personally can’t find the time to do it. It’s nice to have these instant, mini-interactions; it’s nice, but sometimes it’s not, depending on the people you are interacting with. You try not to let one bad apple ruin it for everything, but sometimes it’s hard. People think they can say whatever the fuck they want to whoever. You have these young people who are just trying to get a reaction and it’s a “notice me” kind of thing, like “I’ll just say the most messed up thing I can think of so someone will just recognize that I’m here.” And that’s really sad if you really think about it. To do something so negative just so that someone realizes that you are alive. I think you need to look into yourself and find a purpose as opposed to that.
I completely agree. Also, how has your opinion of the music industry changed throughout the years as well?
There is music, and then there is the music business or industry, and one tends to have anything to do with the other. They are so completely different. I think music has its highs and lows and the music industry… it’s a business, you know? It doesn’t always have the arts’ best interest, unfortunately. I think people are very scared and you can see that in the way things are being run.
Now that you are doing your solo work, how has the reaction been from My Chemical Romance fans and new fans? Did you expect it at all?
I don’t know if I expected anything, because when I was making the record I didn’t think I was going to make a record. I just thought I was writing songs for myself. Then things got released and I played it for some people and they wanted to release it. I agreed to that somewhat reluctantly, but somewhat at the same time [there was] this morbid curiosity of like, “I guess that’s kind of cool that I didn’t mean to do this but it’s happening.” Maybe it was meant to be, somehow. It’s a nervous feeling to put something so naked out there and then have people criticize it or interpret it as if it were meant for mass consumption. When anybody says that they get the album or really like it, it feels incredible.
Before we end this interview, is there anything you would like to say to your fans and supporters?
Basically, thank you for letting me do what I do. I can’t be anybody but myself and you guys have allowed me to do that. That’s one of the best gifts anybody could give you.
You can also check out our own Murjani Rawls’ excellent photography of the concert right here.