“Remember that time we went down to the river with a bottle of wine?” Good things happen down below for those who wait—in basements, below river bluffs, and in various such nether regions. Now, finally we can experience another live Frances Gumm show down below. Keeping with tradition, the band are playing in a basement, the legendary Clown Lounge, below the Turf Club.
Wednesday, December 23rd, Frances Gumm are unleashing their fifth album: Girl Trouble/Cop Trouble. (Be sure to get to the Clown Lounge right at 7 p.m. to experience award-winning stand-up comedian/musician Mary Mack.) This is an excellent mix of new old-school Frances Gumm punk rock, including new hard-core thrashers and bittersweet stripped-bare ballads the like of which the band have never done in their 15-plus years on record. Girl Trouble/Cop Trouble also includes features you don’t often hear on other bands’ records: fade-outs; an instrumental, “Wild Mountain”; a metal guitar with everything turned off; and excellent keys and vocals by newest FG player Kim Ha.
Girl Trouble/Cop Trouble, clocking in at a mere 27 minutes, will rock your world with heart-piercing songs such as “Tiny Violins”—making you feel “a thousand arrows slice you a thousand ways”—and thrashers such as “Moonlight is My Guide” and “No Mercy,” a song fans of Judas Priest and Slayer can get behind. As we’ve come to expect, lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul D. Dickinson’s lyrics nail universal themes such as waiting (“Waiting for Your Car [To Go Down My Street]”), playing in basements and drinking beer (“When I Got Back to Town”), and the desire for domestication (“Being your prisoner is the only way I’ll be free,” goes a lyric in “Simple.”) Frances Gumm are “going to change our little reality.”
Cyn Collins: It seems you’re always breaking the rules. What are some rule-breakers on this new CD, and that we might experience at your CD release party?
Paul D: I am actually quite traditional. I just want to show up at a recording studio, drink a few beers, and play my guitar. When I do the vocals, I turn off the lights and croon into the darkness. I also come from the tradition of “set up your gear quickly, play loud, and get the hell off the stage.”
Your bittersweet ballads are followed by hard-core thrashers. I like the contrast. What is your intent with this extreme juxtaposition?
There was no real intent—I just ended up doing some stripped-down tunes. I have a punker’s distrust of sap and sentimentality. Also, I don’t come from the folk/Americana/acoustic world. I’m self taught. I can only play two covers: “Rock Lobster” and “Breaking the Law.” The songs [on this record] just happened the way they did, but not having the fury of a full rock band behind me made me wary—I feel quite naked without the distortion. But really, isn’t life either heavy metal mayhem or a rainy day ballad? I’m rarely found in between.
Songwriting vs. writing poetry. Do you have a different approach to each, and what is that?
Rock ‘n’ roll is the illiterate signature of life. I don’t like to get very intellectual with my lyrics…but then again, I guess the same could be said about my poetry. The songwriting is a bit more exiting, because it involves a distorted electric guitar, drums, bass and keyboard.
I really like the addition of Kim Ha’s keys and vocals! And your songs have a cool contrast of dark and light, destruction and playfulness. Tell me your ideas about this.
Kim is extremely talented. Her keyboard parts and vocals really made this a special project for the entire band, as well as for Ben Durrant from Crazybeast studio, who helped pull everything together for us. I am into the concept of male-female call-and-response vocals, as well as [the kind of] duets used in county and soft rock. I wanted to take that and pump it up and bring it into the realm of rock ‘n’ roll.
Dave “Stainless Steel” Thiel’s bass is killer, and so are Leo Kuelb’s drums. It must be awesome to play with such great musicians. You’ve played with them a long time. How does it work?
Dave is so good, he’s like a bass machine. I don’t even have to look at him when we play, but I do because he’s so pretty. Leo is just a power sensation as a drummer, [and] he also arranges the songs. It is just very easy to work with these guys; also, it keeps us off the streets.
Your new CD is only 27 minutes long. Is there a reason you made it so short?
I have very little faith in the American attention span.
There’s a lot of nostalgia in your songs on this CD, and yet you’re also intent on rock ‘n’ roll attitude: not looking back, just looking forward. Tell me your philosophy about looking at the past and not looking back, looking forward.
All I can say is that I live in an endless cycle of being destroyed and saved by beautiful women.