Fans bleed for Frankie Rose. Sure, a zillion artists have that story—your small headlining tour includes a stop in the middle of nowhere, where three people come to see you play, one of whom cherishes your album like a religious text. But how many can say that devotee ignored a dripping head wound to meet her?
“There really was a bleeding guy once, in San Diego,” she says on a Friday evening earlier this month, over a beer on the sun-sizzled patio at Roberta’s in Bushwick, around the corner from her apartment. “He was bleeding from his forehead, but he made me sign his shirt with a permanent marker. . . . It was kind of awkward, because he took it off first, and there really was an open gash on his head.”
There’s something about Rose that inspires that kind of urgency in her audience. Maybe it’s that she’s played in not one but three influential, über-buzzy lo-fi garage acts out of Brooklyn—Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, and Crystal Stilts—starting in the mid-’00s. It could be that, until recently, she’s been signed to Slumberland Records, a dream-poppy DIY label with a devoted fanbase and artists including Sic Alps and the Softies. Maybe it’s how critically celebrated Interstellar, her last album (and second as a solo artist), was among online indie media outlets like Pitchfork, Stereogum, and SPIN.
But if you’ve ever read an interview with the synth sorceress—or better yet, met her in person—you might begin to suspect it’s how, after every project and every record, Rose seems poised to quit the music game entirely, and then does the complete opposite, rallying and one-upping herself in the process.
That’s exactly what’s happened with her third album, Herein Wild (out September 24), an addictively dynamic 10-song set that acts as a foil in many ways to its ethereal predecessor, but this time it’s moving twice as fast.
The album almost didn’t happen. After an endless 2012 tour across Europe and North America, Rose thought she was squeezing the last drops out of what had been a decent run.
“I had a deep disappointed feeling,” she told one reporter this summer. “I didn’t think anyone would want [another record]. It felt over. Most people have an existential crisis here or there, and I definitely had one; I just wasn’t sure if being a musician was for me.”
Then, the counter: All of a sudden, Oxford, Mississippi’s storied Fat Possum Records (Black Keys, Jay Reatard, MellowHype) was offering Rose a bunch more money and resources to record a third solo album, provided she could do it on a strict—and fast—deadline. The fates had spoken, so she said goodbye to Slumberland, hired brand-new management and publicity, booked time both at a private studio in Fort Greene and in a small church on the Upper West Side, and went right back to work.
“It was unlike any record I’ve ever made before,” Rose, sounding a bit exhausted, now says of Wild, which, with the help of frequent collaborator Michael Cheever, was recorded in just five weeks.. Her lately straw-blonde hair is knotted atop her head, and she wears a cropped T-shirt that lets her tattoos (a pair of scissors on her inner arm, some tentacular curlicues at her wrist) stretch out in the sunshine. Her guitarist, Drew Citron—”the Blixa to my Nick Cave,” Rose calls her—sits beside her on a picnic bench. “I usually mull over the ideas for a really long time. Interstellar happened in three stages over months—I even started with one engineer and finished with another. This was the opposite scenario: ‘We have this much time; we have to hammer it out; 12-hour days with no days off for a month and a half.’ This [album] is a moment in time, captured.”
That moment, instrumentally speaking, is a step forward for Rose, though no one from her band actually plays on the record. In fact, for the sake of time, the only other musicians who appear on Wild besides Rose and Cheever (and Citron on vocals here and there) are a string section that she immediately hired after hearing a recording they’d done for a band at Doctor Wu’s, a Williamsburg studio where Dirty Projectors and Solange Knowles have both recorded.
Lyrically, though, it’s not so much an evolution as the other side of the coin entirely.
“Interstellar was a record about being somewhere else, being far away, in the stars,” she says. “This one is about the opposite: the passing of time, being human, being on the planet. What it’s like to be here, living your life in a person’s body.”
That’s because coming down and getting real is exactly where Rose is now. Parsing that existential crisis—while working against the company clock to boot—inadvertently made Wild a psychological exercise in automatic writing, especially for a secondary lyricist like Rose.
“I don’t sit at home and write poetry about my feelings; I’m not that person,” she says matter-of-factly. “I write lyrics on the fly—I’m like, ‘Oh, we have to record vocals today?’ So I’ll do it the night before, or the morning of. On this record, [the time crunch] made them very personal for me. I’m not saying they’re very deep or interesting—I’m rhyming ‘blue’ with ‘you’; I’m no genius lyricist—but it’s really honest.”
Now, in keeping with the breakneck speed of her recording process, Rose will perform at her album release party at Bowery Ballroom on September 23; though U.S. headlining dates aren’t yet announced, she’s slated to play a string of U.K. dates in December opening for White Lies, the British post-punk outfit whose albums are top-10 mainstays on their home charts. It’s not her ideal pace—”That [speed] is almost what’s required of you now, but I don’t think I’ll ever be that person; I don’t want to crank them out”—but it’s better than sitting still.
“I’m so excited about my band, finally playing these songs with them,” she says of Wild‘s economical tracks, which she notes are markedly more “playable” than the last album’s (save her favorite, “Cliffs as High,” which won’t be performed live for want of those string players). “Plus, playing 6,000-capacity venues [as an opener] will be wonderful. We’ve never been on a support tour before.”
Rose is all good and revved up again, it would seem, so bleeding devotees have nothing to worry about—at least, until she starts thinking about leaving again.
Frankie Rose performs at Bowery Ballroom on September 23 with Tamaryn and Weeknight
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 18, 2013