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Hybrid magazine recently got the chance to meet up with Glenn Hansard and Colm Mac Conlomaire from The Frames on the opening night of their current US tour in support of Damien Rice. After catching a bit of the (rather rough) sound check, David DeVoe got to chat and laugh for a bit with them about winning a Meteor award, moms, and getting arrested.

Hybrid: Glenn, it's been just a bit over a year since we last spoke. How are things?

Glenn: Good, thanks. Yeah. We're a bit rusty there, I just noticed. Basically before we came out I wanted to go to Barcelona and go busking for a six days as kind of a break before this, and the band wanted to rehearse. I suppose I was the one going, "No let's not rehearse. It'll be fine." And now tonight… We stood up there and start playing, and I was like… well, maybe… But you know, I'd much rather have gone to Barcelona. So if we're a bit rusty tonight, that's why. It's my fault.

Hybrid: The big news is the Meteor that you guys just got.

Glenn: Oh yeah. That's right.

Hybrid: Was Bono in the crowd crying?

Glenn: First time in ten years that U2 didn't win it. I don't know, it's amazing. It's a trophy. It's one of those things, and I don't mean this in any cynical way - please don't get me wrong - but if you're into trophies it's a good thing. Like my mother loved it. My mother was there, she absolutely flipped out. And we, without even arguing about, gave my mother the trophy because she absolutely had to have it. And for me that was really good. Through all of this I've never been able to say to my mother "look at us now". There's never been anything so significant… I mean, playing with Bob Dylan I suppose was one. Because my mother is a huge Dylan fan, and that was a huge paramount for her. You know, mothers want to see you on Top Of The Pops, they want to see you on MTV. They just want to see their son doing as good as everybody else. So I've never been able to explain to her or put it to her in the right way that we're not doing things in that way. We're kind of doing this roundabout, kind of longer route - way to success. And it's funny because she's the only one that can call me on it and that can say, "what the fuck are you doing? Why aren't you famous?" There's no one else I will take it from, and with her it's always the hardest.

Hybrid: You never said, "Hey mom. I was in that movie."

Glenn: That's the thing. She was SO proud of that, and she couldn't believe that when we were offered the sequel… she couldn't believe I didn't take it. She was devastated, and almost disowned me. But obviously, never would. But the fact that the sequel didn't happen was absolute… I think it's ironic that… Well, I won't get into that. It doesn't matter.

Hybrid: But the Meteor thing was kind of big news, actually.

Glenn: Yeah. You know for us it was kind of a case of for fourteen years we've built up a situation - I'll put it that way. I won't use the words cult following or anything, but that's kind of how it's been. - There's been this kind of huge growth thing at home. You know, fourteen years is a long time -about fucking time we built it up. But basically we've had a really loyal following at home, and it's been really, really healthy; for years. Like for ten years now, our home following has been really, really strong. And it's kind of got to this point of where it's kind of boiled over into this other thing, and we're still ignored. And then it bubbled over into this really big thing, and we're still ignored. And Set List went to number one for two weeks, which is a live record we put out without… Basically the idea of it was put it out, put a bit of cover on it, sell it through the website, make enough money from it to sort of finance the next album. That was the whole logic behind it. But we ended up putting it out in the shops because it had done so well. And then it went to number one. So it's great. Of course, at this point, the media is like… well, they're kind of six years too late.

Colm: It's kind of an industry award. And it's like we're an embarrassment to the industry in Ireland. They've no shares in us.

Glenn: Exactly. No one gained anything from us winning that award. You know, and not even us really.

Hybrid: Just your mother, apparently.

Colm: It's nice for our families.

Glenn: And for the people who like the band, it's nice to see us getting something. And that makes us really proud. But in terms of the actual award, you're either into the awards and the glamour of rock'n'roll, or you're not.

Hybrid: To me, it's not even such a big deal because you guys got the award, it's such a huge deal because U2 didn't.

Glenn: That's it. The bottom line is the more time that a band like The Frames is on the radio, the less time Britney Spears is on the radio. And that's a very heart-warming situation. I'll tell you it was interesting, because we were nominated last year. For the first time in the history of that award ceremony we were nominated for something, for best band. And U2 won it, and Bono said, "We'd like to say we know who the Frames are. We'd like to acknowledge them." And he's been a good guy, kinda through the years. He's kind of taken me aside a few times and given me the ol' bit of advice here and there. Which I probably, to be honest, haven't taken.

Hybrid: Well, it's kind of different paths.

Glenn: Yeah. He's never publicly acknowledged us, and last year he kind of stood up and went… The Frames. You know, the Frames should get this.

Hybrid: Well, that's even better than the award actually.

Glenn: It is. Is nice.

Hybrid: Because I'm sure, just like us, you grew up listening to them. You grew up with October and Boy. You know, when they were still at the peak of their game.

Glenn: Absolutely. Great band. They're the sound of our country. You know, as an Irish rock band you have a lot to live up to, having U2 as the band that came before you. It's a big deal, and they really are a stunningly great bunch of songwriters. There's a lot of people in Ireland, because they are from Ireland, and we're basically a small town and we've got a small town mentality, there's a sort of great leaning towards knocking them. Which is crazy, cause they're really good.

Hybrid: Yeah, being Irish you kind of have to live up to Christy Moore or U2.

Glenn: Or Damien Rice, nowadays.

Hybrid: Obviously, you weren't at South By Southwest this year because you were gearing up for other things.

Glenn: Yeah. We were at a wedding. Rob, our guitar player got married a few days ago. Two days ago! This is their honeymoon. Cherie, who was standing beside you, she's selling the t-shirts. They just got married, this is their honeymoon. So we're calling this the honeymoon tour. It's a great story for the grandchildren. "We went straight on tour, sharing a bunk."

Hybrid: I apologize for not being more prepared, we just got back from South By Southwest last night.

Glenn: How was it?

Hybrid: It was… I think you and I talked about it last year, that the overwhelming spirit of the thing seems to be getting a bit damper and kind of more commercialized. And this year, there were 30% more registrants than last year, so it was HUGE! So, the lines this year were tremendous to get into any shows.

Glenn: And who was the special guest this year?

Hybrid: Ozomatli was one of them. They got arrested and spent a few days in jail, a couple of the guys.

Colm: Did they do something wrong?

Hybrid: I guess they do this thing at the end of their shows where they pick up hand drums and make a conga line and march around outside. And so they came out of the club being followed by all these people and the poilice were there and said, "No, no. you can't do this." And I guess, allegedly, when they were turning around to go back into the club, a policeman accidentally got hit with one of the drums. So they arrested two of the band members and their manager.

Glenn: Wow. Cause yeah, you don't get put in jail for a few days for busking. But you'll definitely get put in jail for a few days for hitting a cop. We've been arrested a few times. We know all about it… The Procedure.

Hybrid: But all in all it was good. It's just getting to be so huge that the spirit of the thing is lost.

Glenn: To be honest, a band like us got what we needed from it. I mean, we signed with a record company, Anti. And we signed with them this year, but we handshaked the deal last year at South By Southwest. You know, cause that's what a band goes to do. You go to get signed or find yourself a publicist or to get yourself an agent. And we sort of got what South By Southwest had to offer to us, and if a band like us doesn't show up this year, it's just more room for another band who needs it. So it was kind of a conscious decision on our behalf to not go down, not to take up any more space than needed. I would have loved to have seen Daniel Johnston; He plays every year, and I absolutely love him.

Hybrid: I don't think any of our writers saw him this year.

Glenn: That's the thing. He plays every year, and I saw him two years ago in the college… the Austin sort of… I don't know what it's called, but its up near all those cool record stores. But he was playing for about 20 people in a huge hall in Austin. And we've seen Daniel Johnston in Amsterdam with 2000 people in a room, crammed into every doorway trying to see him.

Hybrid: He actually played twice this year. One spot in the showcase was "Daniel Johnston" and then the next slot was "Not Daniel Johnston". So I have a feeling it was probably him and other people doing some other stuff. [editors note: we have since received word from "Not Daniel Johnston" regarding the fact that he is indeed NOT Daniel Johnston, and instead an amazing artist in his own right... we apologize for this mistake in the conversation, if he could go back and do it over, I'm sure David DeVoe would not make this same mistake twice.] That went on a lot this year… So, what's the story with the new record? I hear rumors that it's…

Glenn: What's the rumors?

Hybrid: I hear rumors that it is cut. That you've recorded it. Is it mixed?

Glenn: Yeah, it's finished, but no… it's not mixed. It's at that point now where we're swinging between "It's shit"… "It's amazing. It's the best record we've ever made"… "Oh my God. We're going to be hated for this." You know, there's a point in every creative process where you're just working. You're not thinking about other people. And then just before it's getting ready to go on the shelf, you start thinking about the whole fucking world. And you start freaking out, going "oh no". You're just wobbling. For me, I'm wobbling, the boys have been keeping my… you know, before For The Birds came out I quit the band. I thought it was the worst album I'd ever made. And I was probably right, in retrospect. [laughs] No, I'm kidding.

Hybrid: It's the best record so far!

Glenn: It's amazing.

Hybrid: But you still have your doubts?

Glenn: Always! That's the thing. When you stop questioning… Now I sound like every fucking band in the world. When you stop questioning yourself, you know… But really when you get to that point when you're just sort of fucking churning it out then you're in trouble. The only way I'm sort of propping myself up with the insecurity about it is that this must be a good artistic sign. So there you go. But yeah, it's finished. What we have to do now is we've got about 21 songs, and there's potentially two very different albums sitting in those 21 songs. So what we have to do is decide: right, are we going to make this album, which is going to be very positive and up and nice and almost sort of poppy. You know, almost. And then this other one is going to be very dark and moody, and kind of For The Birds Two. Which we have in us, because that's… the decision. OR, to make a really good blend of both of those records and see if it works, and then put the rest out as something else afterwards.

Hybrid: Kind of the unreleased album material.

Glenn: Either the unreleased material or kind of save it and put out an album next year. You know, some new songs and then that stuff. Because there is a lot of stuff sitting there right now that is a result of being a band that puts out a record every four years. We don't stop writing, we just pontificate way too fucking much. We sit around wondering what its gonna be like; we just spend a lot of time mulling.

Colm: But as you said, the world is full of pieces of plastic. So if you're going to make an album, that it's going to be the best album you can make. And that's a very time consuming process.

Glenn: We're in a weird position, because most indie rock bands will put out an album every year, because that's the only way they can make any money. So whether the record is great or not, most bands will make a decision. This is where I am. It's a very honorable decision. This is where I am, it's what I'm doing. And 30 percent of it I'm very proud of, 70 percent of it will pass my fucking censor. And then to put it out, and people will buy it. And I love this relationship that certain bands have with their audience, where the audience knows it's not their best work, but the audience wants to own the record because they know they are investing in the artist as a man. They're aware - and I love this thing- where audiences are aware that if I buy this Smog album, that Bill Callahan gets to rent his apartment for the next three… and you know, it's that basic. That is I and all of my friends buy this record, that's not the best Smog record, that he will live. And that basically you are very much a patron of the arts rather than just somebody who buys a cd, you know… Dire Straits, and says "yeah, I like that." That's valid too, but what we have and what we've built up is that people come out and have sort of an opinion about it.

Hybrid: Well, and it's a support instead of merely an audience.

Glenn: It's an investment, to be honest.

Hybrid: I was glad to hear that Set List did so well, because it is sad to think that some people have never gotten to see the Frames live. I mean the records are amazing, but the live show is the embodiment of the music.

Colm: I think we were happy with Set List, because for the first time we had something you could just kind of hand people something… For years people have been telling us you know, I love your record, but the live thing is an experience.

Glenn: But there also, you know, the inner censor says "that's our home crowd", and so the adrenalin level is just so much higher. You know, we're in front of our own people and so the energy level is just Owww!

Hybrid: I can't imagine the adrenalin level being any higher than any of the shows that I've seen.

Glenn: Well, thanks very much. It's kind of one of those things where every gig is a bit different. And we've kind of moved off that set list now, kind of moved off that place, and now we're in a place where we're playing much more new songs. It almost feels like Set List is a year old now… and you give it to someone and kind of say, "you know, that's not actually what we sound like." But it's the most recent photograph, you know? [laughter]

- David DeVoe

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