FRANK Turner wants people to be more kind. It’s a reasonable request, but in this current political climate it’s probably not realistic.
Anyone who reads the comments section on Facebook or Twitter knows its a heated battleground in cyber space. Regardless of the issue, lines are readily drawn between left or right and intellectual debate often disintegrates into abuse.
In Turner’s native England, no issue creates greater division than Brexit. It was in this political atmosphere that the folk-punk singer-songwriter wrote his seventh solo album Be More Kind, released in May.
“I have to say it’s a strange thing as a record in that it’s an attempt to write a non-partisan political record, which I know sounds like a contradiction in terms,” Turner tells Weekender from Bremen in Germany where he is touring with his backing band The Sleeping Souls.
“My preoccupation is the way we conduct our arguments with each other, rather than the content of them.
“I just feel collectively that everyone is giving in to their worst instincts and lacking consideration.”
The 36-year-old Turner was hesitant about delving back into politics and had actively avoided the subject on his recent album Positive Songs For Negative People (2015).
Back in 2012 Turner received hundreds of death threats following an interview with The Guardian where he was quoted saying, “I consider myself to be pretty right wing.” He later clarified his position as being a libertarian and not “Tory”, “conservative” or “Republican.”
However, the backlash naturally steered Turner away from expressing himself politically.
That was until the ultra-politicisation of current debates around Brexit and Donald Trump convinced him to re-enter the fray.
“The album is about getting out of my comfort zone both lyrically, thematically and musically,” Turner says.
“In terms of the politics, I could live a long and happy life and never talk about politics again and it would do wonders for my blood pressure.
I could live a long and happy life and never talk about politics again and it would do wonders for my blood pressure.- Frank Turner
“The point of that hopefully demonstrates my decision to sing about it, in this instance, is sincere and unforced. I felt like things were happening in the world that were coming out in my songs if I wanted them to or not.”
Turner’s family and educational background starkly contrasts with his position as one of England foremost folk-punk artists.
His father was an investment banker and Turner spent five years at the prestigious and ultra-conservative Eton College on a scholarship, where he was a classmate of Prince William. Naturally Turner didn’t socialise in the same circles as the future King of England.
“I was a fish out of water while I was there, which to be honest, is why I got into punk rock,” Turner says.
“I got shipped off to boarding school in a social atmosphere I was not really ready for, used to or particularly keen on at any point.
“In that atmosphere at age 13 discovering The Clash was transformative for me and the thing that kind of - not to be overly dramatic - saved me. I was very pleased to get out when I did.”
After leaving Eton, Turner followed his passion for punk and metal by joining post-hardcore band Million Dead that featured London-based Australians Cameron Dean and Julia Ruzicka.
Million Dead recorded two albums and toured the UK and Europe before disbanding in 2005.
“With the benefit of age and hindsight, ultimately I’m really proud of the music we made with that band, but the wheels we destined to fall off after a while given the personalities involved,” Turner says.
As a solo artist Turner developed a cult following in folk-punk circles for his passionate delivery and poetic lyrics.
His fourth album England Keep My Bones (2011) was his first to crack the UK top 20 and his subsequent releases Tape Deck Heart (2013) and Positive Songs For Negative People (2015) both peaked at No.2.
Be More Kind is easily Turner’s most accessible album and with several tracks like the single Little Changes embracing the sound of The Cure at their most pop.
“This is my seventh solo album and I think if I’ve ever earned the right to take some risks and get out of my comfort zone it might be album seven for God’s sake,” he says.
“I’m always keen to not repeat myself if possible and I was messing around with new influences.
“I read David Byrne’s book about music, which was a fascinating read about his approach to layering and rhythm. I’m not necessarily saying I’ve made a Talking Heads record.”
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls play the Cambridge Hotel on December 6.
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