Frank Iero on Peace, Pride and Parachutes
The former guitarist for emo heroes My Chemical Romance, Frank Iero began pursuing a solo career a couple of years ago with his band the Patience. Now, Iero and his band are heading out on the road in support of Parachutes, their sophomore release. Co-produced by Ross Robinson (Slipknot, Korn, the Cure, Deftones) and Steve Evetts (the Used, Saves the Day, Senses Fail), the album commences with the noisy “World Destroyer,” a song featuring parched vocals and snarling guitars. Iero, a vegetarian who has spoken freely about his pro-gay rights stance, recently spoke to us via phone about the album and what it’s been like to be an activist at a time when activism is under fire.
You grew up with parents who encouraged you to play music. What was that like?
My dad was a drummer and still is. My grandfather was a drummer. That was how I grew up. I would go through their datebooks and see where they’d be playing. They had huge datebooks with big rubber bands wrapped around them. They were like superheroes. When I got old enough, my dad would take me to shows that were more accepting. I got to see him play with B.B. King and all these blues legends. That was huge for me. My grandfather played at an old speakeasy. He played old standards.
You were in a band by the time you were 11, right?
Yeah, and I played drums. It was horrible. We were terrible. I just needed to find someone else to play music with. We had a band and that was it. We spray painted our name on a drumhead. We would write the name on notebooks and jackets. That was it. In my mind, I fucking made it.
What was it like to transition from My Chemical Romance to your solo career?
It was weird because when we stopped My Chem, I wanted to go try other stuff. I just wanted to do something else, not even music. I wasn’t sure what that was. I worked on this project with my friend James. In the meantime, I started writing these songs and this label had gotten in contact and I put out the record out. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d start a solo career. Never in a million years did I want that. First off, it’s hard to spell my name and pronounce it. I don’t have the name for a solo career. I never wanted to be a singer. All of a sudden, four years later, here I am and I’m actually really enjoying it. There’s something amazing about being the beginning to end of it all and getting to write all the lyrics. I thought I had it figured out until this came about. It’s an untapped outlet for me.
Parachutes is your second album since leaving My Chemical Romance. Talk about your approach on the album and how the album differs from Stomachaches.
When I was writing Stomachaches, I didn’t think I was writing a record. I was just writing the songs in my basement because that’s what I do. This time around, I had a label and I knew people were going to hear it. I knew it was going to see the light of day. That was a different animal. I was going to record Stomachaches and show it to my kids in 20 years. This time around, I had to get my shit together. I didn’t do that the first time. It was daunting. I put a lot of effort and work into it. It’s one of those things where all those sleepless nights paid off. When I listen back to the record, I feel really proud of it. That doesn’t happen all the time. I’m used to putting my heart and soul into something and then hearing it for the first time and hating it. This time around, I felt at peace and proud. That happens once every ten years, so I feel blessed.
Ross Robinson and Steve Evetts co-produced the album. What was it like working with them?
What a dream come true. I was so scared going into the studio. I had gotten to work with some heavy hitters and guys I really looked up to. I was afraid of these guys. You hear these stories and don’t know if you’re ready for it. I was scared to make that call. I started writing the songs and they wanted to push me beyond my comfort level. It was beyond any experience I thought I could have. Hands down, it was the most creative recording experience ever. I don’t think I could record another record without them.
“Dear Percocet” is such a blast. What’s the story behind that tune?
That song is about feeling that if you were allow yourself to fall over the edge, you totally could. It’s about the fear of falling into an abyss and loving it so much. You get to the point where you don’t know if you want to self-destruct anymore and leave your consciousness and surrender to it. Being an addict is a hard thing. You’re not just addicted to one thing. It’s anything. When you have that addictive personality, it’s not just alcohol but it’s TV. It’s sex, spending money and everything. You take your eye off what is really important and this song is about that.
What made you want to keep “Miss Me” as something stripped down and folk-y?
I think when I played it for Ross and Steve, they wanted to adopt that Johnny Cash vibe. I always wanted to try something like that but I didn’t feel confident enough to do that. They told me they didn’t want me to try it any other way. We tried it and it’s a palette cleanser. There are moments when it comes on and if you thought you knew what the whole record was about, at that moment you realize you have a lot more to learn.
As an activist, how do you deal with the current political climate?
It can be very disheartening at times. These past couple of months, I felt like if someone could wake me up, it would be great. At this time, the main job for an artist is to remind people what it is to be human, and that we need to look out for each other and love each other unconditionally. We’re all in this together. The only thing that can save us is love and respect. The most important thing you can do is remind people about that.
UPCOMING 2017 SHOWS
Hamden, CT | The Ballroom @ the Outdoor Space
Lancaster, PA | Chameleon Club
Baltimore, MD | Soundstage
Pittsburgh, PA | The Club @ Stage AE
Columbus, OH | The Basement
Cleveland, OH | The Agora Ballroom
Detroit, MI | The Shelter
Grand Rapids, MI | The Intersection
Chicago, IL | Bottom Lounge
Madison, WI | Majestic Theatre
Lawrence, KS | Granada Theater
Denver, CO | Marquis Theater
Santa Fe, NM | Meow Wolf
Las Vegas, NV | The Bunkhouse
San Diego, CA | Casbah
Anaheim, CA | Chain Reaction
West Hollywood, CA | The Troubadour
San Francisco, CA | The Chapel
Jacksonville, FL | Daily’s Place Amphitheater
The Woodlands, TX | Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Dallas, TX | Gexa Energy Pavilion
Austin, TX | Austin360 Amphitheater
Denver, CO | Pepsi Center
Salt Lake City, UT | USANA Amphitheater
Seattle, WA | White River Amphitheater
Concord, CA | Concord Pavilion
Chula Vista, CA | Sleep Train Amphitheater
Las Vegas, NV | Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
Phoenix, AZ | Ak-Chin Pavilion