For a guy with a band that has a generic name like Frank Smith, Aaron Sinclair is surprisingly well-connected in the music industry.
Born and raised in Texas, the alt-.country songsmith, who served as the drummer for the dearly departed Boston noise punks the Lot Six, started Frank Smith as a jam session with a few indie-rock scene friends and Jesse Kramer, son of Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer.
And the band’s newest album of full-bodied, tradition-bound Americana, Heavy Handed Peace And Love, (click here to read a review) is the first album to be released on Ye Olde Records, a new record label run by former Blake Babies and indie-pop goddess Juliana Hatfield.
Kramer is gone now, having moved to L.A. to follow his own muse, but Frank Smith’s lineup has gained some sense of permanence, with Brett Saiia on banjo/vocals, Dan Burke on bass/vocals, Steve Malone on pedal steel, and Eyes Like Knives frontman Scott Toomey on guitar and keys/vocals.
Offering up a more depressed take on alt.-country, Frank Smith resembles Uncle Tupelo more than it does Wilco or Ryan Adams. There are bursts of ominous noise in folk-tinged tracks like “Ten Cent Hands” sitting alongside a bluesy murder ballad in “Lovesick Cynics,” psych-country wanderings such as the Gram Parsons-like “Put Some Curtains Up” and a bittersweet slice of Americana pie called “Throwin’ Rocks.”
What’s so funny about Heavy Handed Peace And Love anyway?
Goldmine: Do you ever get tired of explaining why you chose the name Frank Smith?
Aaron Sinclair: Not really. Hopefully I will get the chance to get sick of answering questions like that sometime; as for now I don’t feel like enough people have ever been interested enough in the music to feel like asking me questions in the first place.
GM: Why is it ex-punks, like John Doe and yourself, seem to gravitate to traditional country?
AS: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that I found myself drawn to it for a number of reasons. There is a vitality in old country music you don’t get to hear [in] too many other places. There is also so much beautiful poetry in the words and phrasing. The musicians playing are always amazing, and there is a general frankness (sorry) with the listener, that ability to speak about things everyone else feels without boring them.
GM:Heavy Handed Peace And Love has real lush country songs like “Planes And A Girl,” “Liar And A Thief” and “Throwin’ Rocks” where the arrangements are rich and full. Did you, in a sense, work more on filling up the empty spaces of songs on this album, or is that something that just evolves naturally for Frank Smith?
AS: We went into this record with the idea of making it psychedelic and lush. There are six of us anyway, so there tends to be a lot going on, but we definitely wanted a lot of background atmospheric sounds and floors for the music to float over. I suspect the next record will be a totally different approach, stripping everything back down. It isn’t very fun to try to do the same thing every time you make a record. I think we appraoch each one a bit differently.
GM: Gram Parsons is often seen as the bridge that brings rock artists to country, and his influence seems to be felt more in “Put Some Curtains Up” than perhaps any song you’ve ever written. What was it about his songwriting that you connected with?
AS: I am completely flattered to even be mentioned in the same sentence with him. The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo is probably my favorite country r