The Anatomy Of Frank came to my attention last November at Iceland Airwaves. I instantly loved their sound and their passionate live shows. So much, that I wanted to introduce this act from Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, to the world. It took a little while to arrange for an interview, but then singer and guitar player Kyle Woolard was kind enough to take the time for a few questions. He is currently touring Europe as a solo artist with Anatomy of Frank songs (tourdates here http://www.theanatomyoffrank.com).
Since I don’t know much about you, let’s start with an introduction. Who are The Anatomy Of Frank? When and how did the band come together? Give me a bit of history.
I assembled the band during my last year of college, and a couple of members have come in the last 2 years as well. All in all, we played our first show 4 years ago, and have been going steadily ever since. We didn´t release our first album until 2013, but by this point we had played hundreds of shows and so were getting to know ourselves pretty well. Now it´s 2015, and we´ re finishing our second album, North America, set to be released in the Fall.
Are you full time musicians or do you – like so many – need jobs to support yourselves?
We definitely need jobs to support ourselves. Trying to make money off music this early in our careers is too stressful.
Which backgrounds do you come from? Have you always made music or do you come from different careers?
I studied astronomy and physics, Erik (guitar) studied Russian and music, Jimmy (keyboards) studied poetry, Jonas (bass) studied sociology, and Max (drums) was drafted into the band just after graduating high school. We definitely came from different places, but we all shared the goal of having music be a part of our lives. I started writing music when I was 14, and doing it for a living became the biggest dream I´d ever had. Combining it with travel has really made it that much more special to me.
How did you come up with the band name? Does it have a special meaning or is there a story behind it?
Frank is a dapper, mustached, knowledgable man with universal sex appeal and a lot of mystery surrounding him. We should all want to know him better.
On you Facebook page you list your genre as “Post Pop”. Please elaborate a bit on that. What makes your music, your sound? How did your musical style develop?
Good question. Post pop comes from the genres “post rock” and “pop.” We are suckers for catchy melodies and accessible listening, but we are also bound by a love of the atmospheric and cinematic aspects of bands like Sigur Rós and Mogwai. Much of our music is some form of pop, set within the envelope of post rock. We tend to indulge in a lot of extended builds and climactic moments.
What are your musical influences?
For me growing up, there were a few important eras. The first was Billy Joel. Then the Beatles. Then Queen. After that it was Phish, Elliott Smith, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, and from then on it´s just grown into a mass of others. The other guys in the band have much more varied musical tastes than myself. Erik loves The Wrens, Jimmy listens to a lot of Iron & Wine (among literally thousands of other artists), Jonas has been to a record number of Tegan & Sara concerts, and Max has brought me around to thinking Icubus was…pretty good.
Is there a particular philosophy behind your works, or where do you get your inspiration from?
We are going to record an album for each continent, and plan on recording each album on its respective continent. From there, I simply look to people, stories, and anything else for inspiration. I view making music much like Johann Sebastian Bach did: it doesn´t feel as much like creation as it does discovery. I feel like I am rediscovering songs I had once forgotten, or making music appear that was simply unwritten.
Tell me about your songwriting process. Is it music first or lyrics first?
It changes from song to song, honestly. I don´t have a process. Some songs take a day to write, most take months, and some take years. Usually when I come up with lyrics first, I get writer´s block and can´t think of the music, so I tend to start with music and then either write lyrics or draw from some lyrics I had written elsewhere.
On your album “Pangaea” all songs are credited to the band. Is every song teamwork?
No, I write most of them. Erik contributes a song or two here and there. But the reason we attribute our songs to The Anatomy of Frank is because the orchestration, energy, and effect of the songs is totally due to the band. I can come in with a song completely finished, with five parts written out, and it can end up sounding entirely different. The guys in the band aren´t just instrumentalists, they´re creative forces of their own.
What are your goals and dreams? What do you want to achieve with your music?
There are songs that have made me see the world differently, or have reached inside me and pulled out a new aspect of my personality that I didn´t know was there. I have left concerts feeling inspired and more ready to tackle obstacles. Some have drastically changed my life. All I hope is to have some of these effects on other people.
As I understood you are at the start of a project that involves recording one album on each continent. Tell me more please.
How did you come up with the idea? Where do you want to go with it?
I came up with this idea in high school. I had become obsessed with the tiny island nation of Sri Lanka, and was in my parents´ basement recording song after song about owning a tiny, tin-roof house on a cinnamon plantation. When I think back to that time of my life, around when I was 17, I almost remember being in Sri Lanka rather than in southern Virginia. After Sri Lanka, I became obsessed with Antarctica. No one understood that one. It was the onset of wanderlust, and it was more powerful than I knew how to handle, so I expressed it with music.
That´s when I decided I wanted to record an album for every continent, and that I had to travel to these continents to do so. It was at the end of high school, though it would be half a decade before I started on the project.
Last November you played 13 off venue shows at Iceland Airwaves and rumor has it you did the same the previous year. How did that happen?
Did you develop a following during these five days?
Man, we love Airwaves. Yes, it´s become our reputation to play an absurd amount of concerts during that festival, and we hope to always make it as interesting as it has been the first two years. As for a following, I remember our first gig at Airwaves being almost empty, and by the last gig there were people unable to get in. That was an amazing feeling.
It seemed to me that you easily connected with the people who visit your concerts. Describe your relationship with your fans for me.
I will never be one of those artists who says “thanks” and walks off stage, then complains about being on the road. I appreciate when people listen to my music. I love them for it. If they are somehow benefiting from me standing on stage, whining about my feelings, then what could be more magical than that? I love being able to travel around the world and break through language barriers, stereotypes, class differences, and norms, and communicate directly with people.
How would you describe your concerts to someone who has never seen you live?
You will watch five guys (or one guy) get on stage and play music like it´s the last concert they´ll ever play.
Do you play mostly acoustic shows live (like you did at Airwaves) or is there a different live set-up as well? Your album “Pangaea” differs from your live sound (at least from what I heard) – I like both, just wondered if you always play acoustic live or if it was just due to the circumstances.
In America, where we have all of our equipment, we have electronic instruments, guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, a light show, and stage decorations. Europeans have only gotten to hear the acoustic show so far, because we can´t afford to bring 800 kilos of gear across the Atlantic just yet. But fortunately, we worked very hard on the acoustic show and it´s proven to be a great success. It also is responsible for getting all 5 of us singing in harmony, which has brought us closer together.
What is the perfect venue for you?
What a great question. The perfect venue is dark and quiet, with tall ceilings and no windows (unless there´s something spectacular to see outside). The crowd is there for the music, not to talk. I would say the closest we´ve ever come to playing in the perfect venue have been some of the venues at Iceland Airwaves and in Germany/Switzerland.
Is there a dream show or a dream tour you would like to do?
Going on tour with my friends Árstíðir would be the ultimate dream. Oh, wait. I guess the next dream would have to be playing a concert on every continent.
Is there any band/artists you would like to collaborate or tour with? Why?
Sufjan Stevens is my favorite musician, and I love the way he orchestrates music. It would be fantastic to either tour with him or collaborate. Also, I plan on asking a few artists (Comet Kid, VAR, Svavar Knutur, etc.) to collaborate on our next album.
What are your general thoughts on touring? What do you love most about it? What do you hate?
Touring Europe is great. The hospitality is always wonderful, the crowds are attentive, and we are compensated fairly. The USA is a different story. I speculate that it´s a combination of cultural differences, too many bands, and us not being foreign (and therefore less of a spectacle). It was harder for us to get shows, get paid fairly, and attract crowds for a long time. Things are getting easier now, finally, but it was tough.
We love meeting people the most. Playing a great show is a feeling that is hard to replicate, and connecting with people afterwards is incredible. The part I personally hate most is trying to keep a positive attitude if a couple of shows have been bad, or if people are apathetic or talking while we play. That still happens, particularly in the USA, and it´s really tough to handle.
Do you have any weird, absurd, interesting tour story you’d like to share?
All the ones that come to mind involve some stranger showing or offering their genitals unwelcomed. But let´s see. One of my fondest memories was singing a song in an old oil tank, in a small village in northwestern Iceland with my friends Myrra Rós and Július Björgvinsson. You had to crawl through a porthole in the side, and inside the reverberation was so powerful that if you rubbed your fingers together, the sound would echo. We sang a few songs together inside.
You are an independent band. Are you independent by choice or by necessity?
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
At this point, we are independent by both choice and necessity. We´ve had offers, but have turned them down because they haven´t been ideal or seemed to take advantage of us. The advantages of having help is that you often get told where you´re going and when, and you don´t have to book your shows or worry too much about the details. The disadvantages are that you make less of the money, you are no longer controlling where your career takes you, and sometimes the quality of concerts will be diminished.
If a record company were to offer you a contract, what should the company be like ideally?
The company that signs us is going to need to be engaged with our music. We have had too many offers from companies who didn´t really take the time to understand our art, or who didn´t understand how to promote effectively, or whose financial support put us in a risky position. Our ideal partner will stand behind us on our goals, use them to promote us effectively, and will like long walks on the beach.
What do you do when you do not make music?
I tutor calculus and physics. Erik gives tours of Thomas Jefferson´s home. Jonas and Max are baristas. Jimmy is a restauranteur.
What are your plans for the (near) future?
Finish the album, tour with Árstíðir in Europe AND the US (you heard it here first!), and generally just get 2015 booked. We hope to return to Europe in the Fall as a full band, too, with a new album in hand.
Thank you for the interview!
text & photos Stefanie Oepen