Frankie Rose

SEEING STARS

Previously best known for stints in various acclaimed Brooklyn Lo-Fi Pop Bands, this is set to change with Frankie Rose's critically lauded sophomore solo record, Interstellar. Rose's carefully crafted, synth-rippled, downright gorgeous sounds show this constantly growing artist knows what she's doing. We sent Nojan Aminosharei to meet New York's velvet voiced dreampop starlet.

Frankie Rose runs out onto a sleepy street in Williamsburg while a Manhattan bound train rattles overhead. It’s night time, and 33-year-old Rose - a 5’3” wisp, with straight, beetle black hair and dusky features - gets my attention through shadows with a chirpy jumping jack, before we climb the iron stairs to her eclectic, straight-out-of-a-sitcom apartment. In the light, her skin is luminous, her face adorned with only a pair of glasses, and she wears a simple dark jeans and V-neck combo. It’s a far cry from the Rose I’ve seen on stage, and in photos, as the famous band-hopping drummer for the Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, and Crystal Stilts.

There, it’s all black clad, red lipstick, tough girl chic. Though nowadays, she wryly cops to an onstage style that mixes Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” video with The Breakfast Club. “Oh, but the New Yorker posted a picture of me where I look like a troll,” Rose tells me in her charmingly self-flagellating way, “It’s like they were out for revenge!” Photo accompaniment aside, reviews of Rose’s recently released sophomore solo album, Interstellar - her first was a 2010 self titled record, under then moniker Frankie Rose and the Outs - are dazzlingly consistent. The album is atmospheric and beautifully unshowy. Beneath layered melodies and airy synths, dramatic bass and drumbeats add electrifying movement in perfectly choreographed time.

Rose has earned near unanimous raves for trading in the jangly garage rock and wooly reverb of her ensemble efforts (which bled into her solo debut) for a sleek, new wave sheen that feels massive and intimate all at once. “My last record, everything sounded like it was sitting in the middle,” says Rose. On Interstellar, she hasn’t just stepped out of the middle, she’s leapt out of it. But then, she has a tendency to do that. Las Vegas-born Rose grew up in Seal Beach, in California’s Orange County. “Fun fact!” she chimes, “I went to high school with, what’s that guy’s name from Glee? Matt Morrison! We were in The Sound of Music together. He was Kurt and I was Liesl.” Though she seized on every creative outlet she could - “I did everything,” she says, “Acting, sewing, painting, building,” - it was music that eventually stuck. From age 12 she hung around record stores and bought tickets to “every kind of show that would roll through town.

I was, in the most honest sense of the word, a total fan,” she says. “I’d go see Shellac, Sublime, No Doubt. It didn’t matter what it was. I saw Beck before he was Beck, just him and his guitar.” Frankie Rose as we first knew her — her and her drums, effortlessly, and unassumingly, pulling focus with her cool insouciance — began after she moved to San Francisco to be a full-time bike messenger (“Thinking about it now,” she says, “that was crazy”) and at age 23 picked up a pair of drumsticks to play with local bands, including the girls who would become West Coast post-punk trio, Grass Widow. “We used to have generator shows in the park, where someone would just drag out a generator and play a set,” says Rose. “It didn’t matter how you sounded. Nobody cared.” Despite her onstage smolder and casual in-person effervescence, Rose says she was drawn to the drums for an opportunity to “seem really tough, even though I was so shy. ‘I’m into bikes, I play the drums, and I’m tough!’ But really, I’m a scaredy cat!” That didn’t stop Rose from moving to New York at the age of 27, where she had a hand in forming the Brooklyn based Vivian Girls in 2007. She helped establish the band as local darlings, writing one of the standout tracks from their 2008 self-titled debut, “Where Do You Run To,” a catchy, surfy riff on the lo-fi teen dream nostalgia that would define the band. Meanwhile, she worked in a coffee shop in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood where, she says, “I served Yeasayer and MGMT every day. They were very nice!” (There’s that “total fan” again.)

There she worked with Crystal Stilts frontman, JB Townsend, just before his own stripped down garage inspired group burst onto the scene in tandem with Vivian Girls; both with music bloggers’ breathless adulation in tow. “Crystal Stilts was nothing at the time. They were just on MySpace,” says Rose. “I went onto their site, and it blew my mind. ‘Converging in the Quiet’ made me cry! I pleaded with JB to let me play drums with them.” Though she didn’t need to do much pleading. “I just liked the way she played,” says Townsend, “She plays simply, but with an attuned, perfect tempo. And we were never the kind of performers to jump around onstage. It was all about the feeling of the music.” Rose eventually left Vivian Girls to focus on the Crystal Stilts, citing creative differences, over a half-decade age gap (“That was a big part of it, actually,” Rose tells me in a rare moment of pensiveness), and an exhausting performance schedule for the split. “I almost had a nervous breakdown,” Pause. “I think I did have a nervous breakdown. There was a three week period where I only had two days off from shows. I was exhausted, I was grumpy; I was out of my mind.” When Rose went solo in 2010, under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, she transplanted the ethos of her garage rock and girl group background. The album was well received, but the girl who bounced between four projects in just over four years, and who grew up genre sampling and city hopping, already felt an itch.

“Two minutes after my first album came out, I listened to it going, ‘ugh,’” she says. “It’s pretty boring to do the same thing over and over. I like to keep it spicy. But then you have to play those songs live every night for six months…” For her second album, Interstellar, Rose made changes. Her first act was to axe mention of “the Outs” (always simply a touring band) from Frankie Rose and the Outs. “I think people make too much of the name change. My first album was as much mine as this one. To be honest, I just don’t think I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do yet.” To find that vision, she called in Fisherspooner bassist and maestro remixer Le Chev (Michael Cheever), a longtime friend through Alex Pasternak, drummer to electro band Lemonade (Cheever remixed their track “Lifted,” and Rose’s “Candy”), and the two recorded in a Brooklyn thermometer factory turned production space. “She grew up listening to the Cure and New Order,” says Cheever, “and I grew up listening to R. Kelly.” Rose says Cheever “made me push my limits. I used to bury my voice under guitars, as if I wanted to be My Bloody Valentine or something.” The mix of his synth heavy, meticulously programmed pedigree, and her garage rock meets new wave reverie, created Interstellar’s prismatic vocals, with Rose’s breathy lilt - as Cheever says - “right in your face” before dissipating into a massive, soft, all encompassing sonic atmosphere.

Cheever half-jokingly calls the process “space control,” and control is precisely the album’s appeal. Spector-style revert remains, with dial toned back, as does a hint of sixties flair. Simple drumlines add adrenaline without urgent bombast and synths never err into, as Rose says, “the sounds of spaceships landing.” Without veering into a new wave - or garage, or miscellaneous Brooklyn indie - pastiche, Rose wistfully cribs from her influences without copycatting. Not that it would bother her. “I look forward to the date when I can make a record that’s like nothing else, that’s only Frankie Rose,” she says, before reconsidering. “But everything references something, and then something else references that, right? Isn’t that how you last forever?”

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