It’s widely believed that keeping something wild in captivity will only cause it to wither. Frankie Rose might be the exception that rule.
A veteran songwriter who forged her rightful place in indie rock history with bands like Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls, she now enjoys the artistic freedom that comes along with making music under her name alone. But despite having created no less than three full length albums on her own, Rose’s triumph over her own isolation is what’s fueling her most recent work.
After surviving personal difficulties that caused her to take a hiatus from music altogether, she was able to crawl her way back through the slow and deliberate reconstruction of her creativity. She set about creating something new from the closet of her cramped L.A. apartment, an endeavor she refers to as an “act of faith.” With careful reflection and a little help from the late paranormal radio host Art Bell, she was able to turn feelings of claustrophobia and insomnia into the inspiration for her latest record. Aptly named Cage Tropical, the album chronicles confinement in California to her journey home, both literally and artistically.
Rose is proudly back in her element these days, feeling inspired from touring and writing new music from her true home in Brooklyn. We caught up with her at Shaky Knees Music Festival to talk about homecomings, new beginning and breaking out of the cage.
Vinyl Mag: I know you’ve only just arrived to Shaky Knees, but is there anyone you’re excited to see?
Frankie Rose: I would love to have been here on Friday. Friday would have been the night for me because of Franz Ferdinand. I got to tour with them, and they’re my favorite people in the world. If I could have one job, it would be opening for Franz Ferdinand for the rest of my life.
VM: There are some constant themes in Cage Tropical about feeling trapped, running away and coming home. Was that your original concept for the album from the start?
FR: I started the album in LA, and I was feeling very trapped and claustrophobic there. When you start an album you can’t really see the end of the line; it’s just an act of faith. That’s how it started in my apartment in LA. I turned my closet into a vocal booth and was just acting on faith. I didn’t want to be in LA at all; I just wanted to be back in New York. I ended up finishing the album in New York, so it was kind of this journey back to my home. I feel like I had to go through a lot to realize what a home Brooklyn is for me.
VM:I think your story really resonates with most people. Sometimes you have to put dreams on pause because life happens. What advice would you give someone trying to step back into the music world after a hiatus?
FR: My mother says, “everyone gets a tumble in the dryer.” It can happen to anyone, I don’t care how rich you are or how poor you are. Life is hard and bad things happen sometimes. I really did have to step away from music for a while and I didn’t know if I was going to return it or not. Slowly, I tried to feed my creative side with other things like going to art museums or nature hikes. Just anything to sort of stimulate that part of yourself that encourages you want to make art. And I think as long as that’s your main motivation, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. For me it’s music, and that’s what I’ve come to learn through that experience. I just want to make music regardless of what the outcome will be.
VM: How has the song writing process changed for you over the years from being in groups to going solo?
FR: I like it better, but I still collaborate. I can do it all myself, but I do love having someone to bounce ideas off of. It’s totally different from being in a band. When you’re in a band, you’re married and constantly making compromises. So the fact that I don’t have to do that is quite nice. It can also be bittersweet, because at the end of the day you are solely responsible for what you put out. It’s my name on that product. Actually, I think that’s my only regret, that I didn’t come up with some awesome pseudonym.
VM: We heard that science fiction was a big influence on this record?
FR: When I was making Cage Tropical, I became a bit of an insomniac, so I started listening to a lot of Art Bell at night to go to sleep. It just sort of subconsciously started to influence the album.
VM: What are your plans after tour?
FR: I’m writing a new album. Every record is like a time capsule for me. I just want to write a record where every song could be a single. I’m striving for perfection right now, and I feel inspired, which is great! Often times after tour that’s not the case, but it really is right now.