Music

Interview: Frank Turner talks touring, songwriting and album six

‘You can’t just sit around wondering if you’ve made your Nevermind – because that was three albums ago’, Frank Turner. 

‘God damn it’s great to be alive’, Frank Turner roars on Demons, a standout track on his sixth album, Positive Songs for Negative People.

When I ask him how on earth he’s managed to make six albums, he admits he doesn’t really know. “It’s quite rare for a band to get round to a sixth album at all, he says, “and it’s particularly odd to get to a sixth album, and at least to some people, still be on the up side of the graph.”

This continued rise in stock is largely down to almost constant touring, documented in his recent book The Road Beneath My Feet, spending weeks on trains and beer-soaked sofas and picking up thousands of devoted fans along the way. 

Frank Turner shows no sign of slowing down any time soon, having just announced a mammoth UK tour in November. Fittingly, it ends at London’s historic Alexandra Palace, the only large venue in London he has yet to play – having already filled Wembley and The 02.

He’s particularly excited about this, not least because he can walk home to his Holloway home afterwards. It’s almost impossible to imagine any other arena sized artist entertaining the idea of walking home from a gig and his down-to-earth demeanour is yet another reason why Frank is so well loved.

After a brief love letter to North London, The Angel Islington, Positive Songs For Negative People launches headfirst into the powerful, Springsteen-esque Get Better,  a defiant anthem of positivity. ‘Rejoice, rebuild, the storm has passed!’ exclaims Frank on current single The Next Storm. Love Forty Down is an anthem of perseverance when the cards are stacked against you and Out of Breath is comfortably Frank’s fastest and punkiest anthem to date.

That said, the album is not completely upbeat, and album closer Song For Josh is a heartbreaking tribute to Josh Burdette, of Washington DC’s 930 Club, who committed suicide in 2013. It does, however, ram home the message of the album – life is short. 

Frank Turner 2015 November tour

Whilst Frank is reluctant to agree with my statement that PSFNP could well be the definitive Frank Turner album – his ‘Nevermind’ if you will – he does admit that ‘it somehow feels like it might be the conclusion of a certain phase of my songwriting and album-making career’. It was recorded live in nine days and this comes across in the production.  This is the sound of Frank’s gigs: once communal sing-alongs in pubs, now arena-sized events with tens of thousands of die-hard fans screaming every word.

Album aside, before his upcoming tour, there’s the small matter of his Reading and Leeds sets. Frank headlines the Festival Republic stage 10 years after his first performance there. This looks set to be incredibly special, and the tiny tent will no doubt be packed to the rafters with fans he’s picked up during his previous nine performances at the festival.

“God damn it’s great to be alive.”

Positive Songs for Negative People is out on Friday 7 August. Catch Frank Turner at Reading and Leeds Festival in August and on his UK headline tour in November