It has been nearly two years since Frank Turner released his last album ‘Tape Deck Heart’, and finally ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ is due for public release this Friday (August 7), and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak!
“I feel like this record is my definitive statement, a summation of the first five records,” says Turner.
The critically acclaimed 2013 ‘Tape Deck Heart’ set a bar of a higher standard for Turner with tracks such as ‘Recovery’ and ‘Plain Sailing weather’ showing the rough punk style whereas ‘Tattoos’ and ‘Good & Gone’ provided a stripped-back acoustic sound, really showing the unique vocals of the Winchester singer-songwriter.
Both tonally and to a certain literal extent, ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’ picks up exactly where ‘Cowboy Chords’ finishes, as opening track ‘The Angel Islington’ continues the acoustic reflective tone giving a smooth transition whilst hinting at what is to follow with the rest of the album.
The sixth installment to Turners’ studio album collection features his backing-band ‘The Sleeping Souls’ and as a result the majority of the tracks embrace heavier punk-esque vibes which also helps the album achieve it’s positive feel that the name promises.
The lyrics also show a further transition from the last album as ‘PSFNP’ shows acceptance of past demons with a sense of moving on and embracing a positive future with tracks such as ‘Get Better’ and ‘The Next Storm’ showing the eagerness in the ever-meaningful Turner.
A lyric video for ‘Get Better’ was released back in March and ‘The Next Storm‘ is the first music video fans have received hinting of what the new album holds and features a wrestling Frank Turner facing WWE star CM Punk, who is currently the longest reigning champion of the modern era.
After several live performances around the world at many different venues, including the Manchester Arena and the London O2, Turner eventually turned his attention towards the new album at the tail-end of 2014.
Thinking back to his debut album he said: “When a band makes a debut record, there’s a freshness and excitement to it that bands often lose as time goes by.
“I wanted to try and make a record with that young, exciting feel.”
The record was written and perfected in Oxfordshire but was actually recorded in Nashville, USA by producer Butch Walker. Unlike conventional recording techniques of constant efforts at perfection, Turner and his Sleeping Souls opted to instead endure an intense nine-day recording session in which the album was completed.
“Pretty much all of it is live, the end result is everything I want it to be,” says Turner.
Like most of Turner’s tracks, ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ takes on life’s big issues – triumphing over the darkest adversities – and places them inside a mix of beguiling, intricate punk-chanting anthems.
‘Josephine’ is a punky-sing-along and ‘Mittens’ is a fist-clenched song of defiance whilst tracks such as ‘Glorious You’ and ‘Demons’ pack a bittersweet emotional punch.
The album ends with ‘Song For Josh’, a touching track recorded live in Washington, which shows the reflection of the journey Turner has made since the issues faced in ‘Tape Deck Heart’.
“Positive Songs For Negative People” is Turner at both his most reflective, and celebratory.
[I then had the pleasure of interviewing Frank a few days later]
In the back of a small dingey storeroom of the Arndale’s HMV store, I met a busy Turner working away at signing pre-ordered copies of his latest album. He does however, somehow find the time to introduce himself and apologises for being all over the place. The launch of the new album seems to be certainly taking its toll on the three person strong tour, as The Sleeping Souls are not part of Turner’s entourage.
“When and wherever things are possible, that’s how I want to present things right now, I write the vocals and guitar and then I take them to the band and we arrange them together but there’s a kind of spine that runs through the songs and I like the idea I’m always going to be able to do shows on my own, If everyone in the band hates me I can still go and do some shows with a guitar.”
The latest instalment in Turner’s collection of studio albums, Positive Songs for Negative People, bears a reflective and reminiscent tone of a self-embarked journey that Turner has been on for 10 years now, originating in his first band ‘Million Dead’.
Briefly mentioning the band, a subject in which Frank has expressed in other interviews he grows tired of, he expresses betrayal that the band fell apart around him: “I think that’s a big part of why I decided to do solo stuff. But looking back now I was probably as much of a dick as anyone else, but there’s something comforting about knowing that if everything goes to shit I could just pick up a guitar case, get on a train and go and do some gigs.”
With PSFNP being Turner’s sixth album, and the essence of moving forward on his journey, Turner jokes about taking time out joining friends in Costa Rica who have recently opened a bar: “They keep trying to get me to go out there but the idea of me living in a bar for a week is like, the end of me, I would die,” however Frank also mentions he has never visited Costa Rica, so time will tell.
At the beginning of Frank’s career, he relied on favours from generous audience members offering a place to stay for the night in exchange for the performance.
With the album bearing the reflective tone, Frank expresses delight in finally maturing: “I’ve got my own place now, I was just living on peoples sofas and stuff and now I’ve got a flat and a flat mate and my records up on a shelf and now actually, I kinda want to go home, and sit on my sofa and watch my TV.”
As our interview progresses the initial hard working, autograph signing Frank Turner has now completely regenerated into a chilled and relaxed character, now laughing and joking throughout.
Frank has earned somewhat of a reputation from being difficult to interview, he does however reveal that there have been moments where he has lost his temper: “The problem with me is that if I do snap at somebody I then spend a week not sleeping and tracking them down to buy them a drink.”
“I’m really lucky to do what I do, I travel around playing guitar for a living, the fuck’s not to love? On a bigger picture, what the fuck am I complaining about?”
Talking to this character of Frank Turner, one can begin to wonder if this is a character or the real person. Is this all one big charade of a nice guy and his guitar? Laughing at the very question, Turner fumbles to construct a reply.
“As much as I’m engaging in a specific activity when I’m doing it I’m not trying to do it through the medium of my own character, I’m not trying to be a different person on stage so when I’m hanging out with people afterwards its just me hanging out with people. The flip side of that is things like meet and greets, and I don’t really like that idea. My existence isn’t something I want to sell. I don’t mind selling tickets for a gig, but selling tickets to sit next to me in a bar seems a bit fucked.
“When I was in million dead I used to subscribe to that idea that ‘writing songs about love is a cop out because it’s over done, your principle subject is love is minimal it’s sex for a profit’. We didn’t have any songs about the opposite sex but the thing that I realised as I got older is that it’s the universal subject for a reason and it’s the thing that consumes most people’s emotional energy but at the same time you want to say something new. The love song [in the album] is Josephine and it’s about someone who doesn’t really exist. It was in a dream I woke up in a Travelodge outside Lancashire!”
As our conversation draws to an end, Frank’s manger Tre interrupts to inform us that we have one question remaining. Continuing with the relaxed character, Frank leans in and whispers “ask me two more, fuck it.”
The album title suggests an aim for the record but due to the nature of the tonality mentioned previously, Turner says that the album is “directed at me as much as anybody”.
He then reminisces of growing up and listening to Radiohead and people questioning his music choice, in which he exclaims ‘of course I listen to Radiohead, it makes me happy because it engages with who I am and doesn’t try to brush it under a rug. I’m a sad teenager listening to Radiohead still’.
In one final reflectory statement over the new album, Turner reveals that the songs he writes are mainly for his own amusement: “They are for me, the word sell out is an extremely overused but to me it means ‘to create art for any audience other than your own best judgement’. It doesn’t mean fuck everyone else, I have a gut feeling and I don’t go with it to please someone else, that’s bullshit right there. But I’m fucking overjoyed people sympathise and agree. I’m writing a record I would listen to.”