Carter and fellow Rattlesnake Dean Richardson talk new music, new shows, and the switch from raising Hell to raising hope
Frank Carter and Dean Richardson used to have a folder nicknamed ‘The Graveyard’. This is where they put all the sketches of songs that never quite found a place on one of their albums, or which didn’t work, or had been written in a moment of downtime when they weren’t specifically looking to write a record. Nowadays, they call that folder ‘The Garden’. They no longer wanted to see that folder as the final resting place for the ideas they didn’t chase or didn’t fit anywhere. Those songs weren’t dead; they just hadn’t germinated yet.
Funnily enough, every time the pair have made an album as Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, one song has been cut because it didn’t fit. It’s happened so often that they’ve started to think it’s a means of divine intervention. “Every single time when we’re writing, we get this gift from the future,” Carter elaborates. “It’s like ‘Lads, this is where you go, and it’s gonna be beautiful. You just have to get through this moment’. Every time we have that song, I get such an impetus to finish the record.”
That was how the seeds were sown for their new album, Dark Rainbow. The album took root as soon as they wrote the delicate mid-album piano ballad ‘Sun Bright Golden Happening’, not that they knew it at the time. They’d written it during the sessions for the buzzing, hedonistic punk ‘n’ roll opus that was 2021’s Sticky, but it was never going to make a home for itself on that record. Nonetheless, they knew that song deserved to be heard – after all, they fancied it one of the best songs they had written. It ended up becoming the springboard from which they wrote its follow-up, and it’s no surprise that it gave way to the creation of a more tender version of Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes. “We always talked about Sticky being the soundtrack to your pre-drinks and your afterparty. Those are the two best parts of the night,” says Frank. “Dark Rainbow is the 90 days after record.”
At first glance, this new era looks like a radical transformation. It did when it was first unveiled, with lead single ‘Man Of The Hour’ presenting a more suave yet introspective version of the band, who seemed willing to crush any rock star pretensions in their bare hands. Coupled with the image of the band in suits with slicked back hair, it appeared they were worlds away from the men who would lead sold-out sweatboxes in rowdy choruses of “I hate you/And I wish you would die”. In the band’s minds, however, this isn’t as drastic a change as it might have otherwise looked. They have moved forwards and sideways all at once.
“I remember someone saying that as a musician, you can open three doors and that’s kind of the limit for most musicians,” Richardson considers. “But you do get a choice of going back through a door and going into another one”. Some comparisons have been drawn between Dark Rainbow and the band’s more melancholic 2019 album End Of Suffering, but the resemblance was rather unconscious. “We start the process by getting into a room and not really speaking but showing stuff to each other. We sort of dance around and see where we meet in the middle. [We never said] we wanted to get back to the sound of End Of Suffering; it just feels like we’ve carried on from where we opened that door.”
Indeed, perhaps they’ve always had this in them. “So much of the stuff we put on this record sounds like the stuff Frank and I wrote together 10 years ago,” Richardson continues, “but we just self-edited and self-censored, almost. It doesn’t feel like a new sound; we just let it have its moment.”
It’s hardly a coincidence, then, that upon the album’s announcement, Carter declared that the record represented the Rattlesnakes at their most authentic. That, in itself, was made possible by Carter becoming more deeply acquainted with himself. “I have definitely done a lot of learning and a lot of growing over the past few years,” he says. “Through that and the insight and self-awareness that I gained, naturally I came a lot closer to myself. In that process, you really start questioning what it is to be you, and not only is there the question of who you have been but who you are today, and that dictates how your future is going to look too.”
That intimate self-knowledge was made possible by getting sober. Today, Carter is proudly sitting on 16 months without alcohol or drugs. “That changed everything for me,” he recalls. “I had a complicated relationship with coping mechanisms. When I got sober, there was nowhere to go. There was nothing to numb, there was nothing to distract myself. I made sobriety my one top priority; it was the only thing that mattered to me. I wake up every day and I’m really grateful for it.” It’s improved his creativity too. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard creatively as we have in the last year.”
While Carter and Richardson aren’t wearing new faces, they’re an evolved pair nonetheless. The one place this is set to become most apparent is their live show. “When you get closer to your true authentic self, you don’t need to wear a mask anymore, and you can go out [on stage] and be as bombastic or as reserved as you want,” Carter says.
They’re bringing that live show to more eyes than ever over the coming year, with a UK and European run already booked in, followed by a US jaunt, before they return home for a coveted main stage slot at Download Festival this summer. “We’ve changed up the live show completely,” Carter asserts. “Anyone coming to this tour is gonna see us in a way they’ve never seen the Rattlesnakes before. Every part of the show has been crafted in a way that’s much more engaging – there’s more space held for the tenderness and intimacy our songs have always had, but that you sometimes lose when you turn everything up to 11. This is a much more dynamic show.”
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes start their UK tour on 6 February. Find tickets here. Dark Rainbow is out now, available to buy here.
Download festival runs between 14-16 June 2024.