The Milk Lizards
Sun 22 Dec 2013 Price: SOLD OUT Doors Open: 20:00ShareThis
After selling out Cluny 2 in March this year - as part of their Profit Is Overrated austerity gigs - the sound of young Sunderland, Frankie & the Heartstrings return to headline the main Cluny!
The North East of England is seen as a particularly fertile breeding ground for a certain type of band: passionate, literate, pop-savvy groups of gentlemen hawking their well-dressed wares and spritely, arch guitar-driven pop music. Inevitably, there is always one band who rise to the top of their scene by virtue of being that bit better than the rest – a small but notable increment in quality that ensures excitement and longevity, and an ability to permeate the wider consciousness of the music world. 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. Formed in 2008 and 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 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 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 2009. 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. 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 of that year 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 2010 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 first album, during sessions throughout late summer/early Autumn at his West Heath Studios in London. Titled “Hunger”, the record was released on 21st February 2011 on PopSex Ltd / Wichita Recordings. The success of this record led to an extensive touring period, taking them across the world including Australia, Japan, Europe, the US and UK. In June 2013, Frankie and the lads released their second album, The Days Run Away was recorded during 2012 in Newcastle and London with former Suede figurehead and producer Bernard Butler. The band initially collaborated with Butler on a one off single ‘Everybody Looks Better (In The Right Light)’ released in November 2011. The eleven-track album continues the pursuit of guitar perfection they began with their debut Hunger released in February 2011. The Days Run Away maintains the F&THs tradition of songs that refuse to outstay their welcome – a precise blend of passion and guitars, with enough new tricks to show that they’ve spent the last six months updating their book of indie nous. Lead off track Nothing Our Way is the prime example of that – similar to the zealous and the fervent collectivism of their hit track Hunger from their debut LP, but with an additional sense of scope and restrained grandeur. To celebrate the release of their second album, and never a band to sit back and relax, they opened the doors to their own record shop come community space, bar, coffee shop and art gallery, ‘Pop Recs Ltd’, a play on their label’s name ‘Pop Sex Ltd’. A feat of which, due to the shear amount of hard work required, not many could pull off. The concept of the shop was to deliver a service to their city by enriching it with music, art and culture- all for free, and at the same time showcase local talent and offer a platform for musicians, artists and photographers alike. Pop Recs Ltd has already had in-store performances by the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, The Futureheads, Bernard Butler and Edwyn Collins. Not to mention numerous art exhibitions and an evening with Rough Trade’s very own Geoff Travis. Between curating shows, making coffees and cashing up at the end of the night, they still found time to headline their own UK tour to celebrate the launch of the album and perform at numerous festivals this summer.