Frank Iero creates bands to destroy them. His first two solo projects, The Cellabration and The Patience, lasted one album cycle before collapsing and re-emerging as something new.
You might think that was a rebound reaction to leaving the runaway, cultural goliath that was My Chemical Romance, but Iero reckons it was all part of a longer journey.
“Everything you’ve done in your life gets you to where you are,” says Frank. “You’ll be inspired, learn things and that affects the future of what you create, but I don’t think it’s a deliberate reaction to that.”
“My favourite moment in a band is the honeymoon period when you’re just starting out, when you’re scared, when you don’t know what it should sound like, and you get to discover it. If you’re lucky, you get to do that once in a band but I thought fuck it, if I’m going to do this thing and be the frontman that I don’t want to be, then I’m going to do it my way and make it fun for me.”
If Frank Iero has spent the past five years learning to be a bandleader, new act The Future Violents sees him taking charge. Their album, ‘Barriers’, is more than a record of diary confessions and basement fears. It wants to inspire something bigger. The idea is that the Future Violents aren’t just the people onstage – they’re a force of change. They’re you, if you’re up for it.
‘Barriers’ is about encouraging people to be more open and not being scared of the things that are holding them back. For Frank, those barriers came about after a near-death experience in Sydney shortly before the release of his last album ‘Parachutes’. He, alongside his bandmate and brother-in-law Evan Nestor and their manager, were hit by a bus while unloading their gear from the van.
Miraculously, all three of them survived – but things changed. “
I knew I was going to have to talk about it, if I was going to make another record, but I had this huge boulder on my chest. The things that I was writing, nothing felt like it encompassed all those feelings. So I put it on a shelf for a long time thinking maybe I don’t even know how to do this anymore.”
“When you have a crazy, near-death experience, it seeps into your DNA and changes you. You’re not really the same person you were before. Everything is different. I thought maybe writing songs was something I used to be able to do and now I can’t. It felt a lot like trying on a dead man’s clothes.”
“When you have a crazy, near-death experience, it seeps into your DNA and changes you”
– Frank Iero
The turning point was the opportunity to get in a room with musicians Iero had “wanted to be in a band with for 20 years” – Tucker Rule and Matt Armstrong. “I thought to myself, ‘How much does this suck? The stars align and I get this amazing opportunity to start a band with people I’ve always wanted to start a band with and I don’t have the songs. I can’t get over this thing that happened.’” But rather than let it beat him, he “started to chip away at it. I started writing February of 2018, just so I’d have songs ready for May.”
Perseverance won out, and the result is ‘Barriers’, a record that flips between hope and hopeless. ‘A New Day Is Coming’ promises just that, all giddy optimism and sunshine futures, while ‘Medicine Square Gardens’ admits, “some might say that better days are on their way, but they lie”.
But that ever-changing, half-full, half-empty glass is to be expected. “I have this weird, three-pronged set of feelings about the accident,” says Frank. “One is, yes, you’re happy you’re still able to have these thoughts because it could have been so much worse… To be able to crawl out from underneath that bus and still have my family and, even though it was painful, to still be able to play guitar, that’s an amazing thing so I feel very thankful.”
“The second set of emotions you go through is, most people, they meet death once and that’s it. It’s not a fun thing. The fact I’ve had to stare death in the eye, shake its hand and then see it walk away, now I’m waiting for that second meeting knowing what it’s like. That’s a daunting feeling. Part of you is scared about that because you know how brutal and abrupt that can be and part of you feels cheated out of your trajectory.”
“You think: what if I didn’t make it and this is what the afterlife is? Maybe it’s just a manifestation of your subconscious…”
“The third thing, which is probably the hardest to deal with, is convincing yourself that this is actually real. You think: what if I didn’t make it and this is what the afterlife is? Maybe it’s just a manifestation of your subconscious and this is just another life you’ve created. That gets a bit hard to deal with because no one can tell you yes or no.”
“The positive that comes with that final one is, you have to come to this realisation or acceptance that, even if this isn’t real, it’s real to me. I have to make the best of it… I have no reason to be scared. I should do everything I’ve ever wanted to do because I’m making the rules. Everything I do is going to work out the way I want it to. That’s a pretty amazing thing and that’s a cool super power to have, to be your own god in that.”
The record offers people a choice – the same choice Frank faced. Wallow in the hopeless and accept your fate, or do something to make a change. Chase that hope. Frank made his choice by putting the track ‘A New Day Is Coming’ first, and setting the tone. “It takes on that hope. If you were to start the record with the second half and with ‘Moto Pop’, it takes a different approach. That’s where I would have been two or three years ago.” It’s about creation over destruction.
Frank has been direct about wanting The Future Violents to encourage people to actively live. To get involved. More than a band, it’s a chance to be part of something. “I imagine that it’s going to be against the grain for a while but I’d like to think we can get to a place where that active living, that going out there and finding what it is that you love and ferociously attacking it, that’s going to feel like a really amazing, artistic community. Being an active live-r, and someone who lives passionately, it can be as simple as going out there and making other people laugh, or helping people in their daily lives. All of that is so valid and so important.”
That belief in making a stand can be found across the record, from the personal battle of ‘Great Party’ to the political rage of ‘Police, Police’.
“As far as being a political activist and wanting to throw my hat into that ring, that’s not a place where I feel most comfortable but I’ve always seen a human element in all of that,” says Frank. “That’s where things get very black and white for me. All humans should have the right to pursue happiness, all humans should have the right to love whomever they want and be able to be themselves as long as it’s not hurting anyone else. That, to me, isn’t political but in this day and age, it seems to be [political] and that seems wrong to me. The fact that someone can be punished more harshly because of the way they look, the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs their sexual preference or even their gender, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Alongside hope, the record wrestles with the past. You can be trapped by what’s come before, or you can accept what’s happened and move past it. “Ultimately, we’re all struggling to find ourselves and our place.”
Frank’s not afraid of still being known as the guy who used to play guitar in My Chemical Romance. “And I promise that I’m not OK/Oh, wait, that’s the other guy,” he winks on lead single ‘Young & Doomed’.
“I don’t really care, as long as it’s not detracting from the things that are happening. It’s detrimental when it’s used in a dismissive way or to be judged and classified on only one thing you did in your life, albeit something that I’m so incredibly proud of. I love that band, I love the songs we made together. I’m proud of the records we made, the shows we played, the barriers we broke down and the inspiration that we gave to people. It’s pretty cool to have done that and still be doing different things. I feel very blessed.”