It’s 8:03 p.m. on a Wednesday night, I am standing in an alley outside of Frank Iero’s tour bus waiting for a brief interview with the man himself—a man who I first saw play with My Chemical Romance back when I was in 8th grade, a man who would shortly take the stage of The Loading Dock and deliver an uproarious and unruly performance with his latest project, Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration. I am somewhere between getting mugged and over-elated. The bus door swings open, a tattooed hand gestures for me to move closer, I come to the door and find myself greeted by Iero. He welcomes me onto the bus, asks me to sit, offers me water, and takes his place across from me—all I can think is “just keep it together man.”
With the sounds of Homeless Gospel Choir belting tongue-in-cheek anti-establishment lyrics over acoustic guitar progressions highly reminiscent of ’60s folk music and every Punk Goes Acoustic album you’ve ever heard—ringing in the background, I began my conversation with Iero:
SLUG: So, let me start out with some of the more business-type questions.
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: (laughs) Okay.
SLUG: You’ve been touring pretty consistently for a while now. What is your favorite part of being on tour?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: I have. My favorite part of being on tour is just getting to play. It’s unlike any other occupation, of course, but it’s also unlike any other drug. It is very much like a drug. The first time that you play a show and someone is singing back songs that you wrote, the feeling is like…
SLUG: Nothing better?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: The only thing better, and I swear to God, was when my kids were being born or when I married my wife, those are untouchable experiences. But below that, it’s having someone sing a song that you wrote back to you. That’s the best part of tour. The worst part of tour (laughs): traveling in general, being away from those people I love—that is the end-all be-all worst. But the good outweighs the bad.
SLUG: What would you like people to take away from your newest album Stomachaches?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: It’s funny because that record was very selfishly made. I didn’t ever think it was going to come out—I just did it for myself. For me, making it was the end game, and then I put it in a drawer. I played it for a couple friends, who had asked what I had been up to, and they convinced me to play it to a couple more people, and I got a deal out of it. I never thought about what people would get out of it, if I had thought about that, I don’t think it would be the same record. But if there is one thing I wanted out of the record, I wanted it to be a very pure representation of the time in which I made it. I wanted it to feel like you were listening in on it, as opposed to listening to it.
SLUG: You’ve been a part of quite a few projects—My Chemical Romance, Leathermouth, Death Spells, The Cellabration—what do you do to keep each new project new and interesting?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: I think it’s easier than you’d think. When you are creating with different people, different things come out, and different moments in time garner different results.
SLUG: Okay, now some questions that aren’t so business-y. Say you were to ever quit music, and say you had the skills, money, or time, what would your ideal career be?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: I would probably still like to make things. If I had an unlimited amount of time, I would definitely go to culinary school, I would learn carpentry—but then I would probably hate it, because I don’t like splinters … I would like to do something, but I don’t know if I could ever do it: I find myself envying people that go to work, and do something, then go home and don’t think about that thing. I’ve never done anything that I haven’t overly thought about, 24/7. I can’t imagine the mail man stressing about a route, constantly. … That would be awesome… or maybe it’s stupid. [Laughs]
SLUG: No, it makes sense. As an artist I’m sure your work is hard to get away from, like there is this pressure to be constantly putting things out. Do you ever feel that pressure?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: I think there is a pressure to be “on,” and I don’t like that very much. Some days are just bad days, everybody has them. Some days, the last thing you want to do is talk to another person. But, even if you are having a bad day, you might run into someone who really enjoys what you do, and you just feel the need to be “on” and be cordial. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve just gotten better at saying “no,” but I’m also a habitual people-pleaser, like, to a fault.
SLUG: The album’s title is Stomachaches, which I’ve read stemmed from some stomach issues that you were going through. What would you say is the best way to soothe a stomach?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: I carry a large bag of medication, I’m sure there are a lot better ways. Homeopathic remedies, I don’t think work very well on me. I think that 50 percent of it is in my brain—it’s weird, the fastest way to my stomach is through my brain. So the way to calm my stomach down is to knock me out. [Laughs]
SLUG: Okay, one last question and I’ll let you get back to what you got going on: Do you believe in ghosts?
Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration: I would love to believe in ghosts, no seriously. That’s a very good question to ask me, because I’m very split on it. I want to believe so bad, that I force myself to, however I’m 90 percent positive that there is nothing else out there. And I think that is the most troubling realization that we could ever come to: that there is nothing else. But if there is something else, then that is a really nice warm feeling, that the people who aren’t here anymore are somewhere. But if there isn’t, then you really have to make this life worth it. I would love being a ghost; I would haunt the shit out of my kids. [Laughs]
And with that I thanked Iero, left the bus, and made my way into the sea of black T-shirts—part of me still wasn’t sure what had just happened.
8:45 rolls around and Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration commandeer the stage like a flaming cartwheel careening down a moor toward a well-inhabited and especially flammable manor. They open with “All I Want is Nothing,” a fuzzy, feedback-driven spree of noise and melodic aggression. With hardly a breath, drink, scratch, or wink, they blow through their next two numbers at such a pace that one could hardly keep up with anything going on on stage. Yet during the buzz-throbbing romp, one became keenly aware of the separate personalities at work in the band: Evan Nestor, the bassist and one of the backing vocalists, represented the punk/funk fueled side of things—lips pursed and head banging. Rob Hughes, guitarist and second backing vocalist, was stoic by all definitions, but by no means un-lively. Matt Olsson, the drummer, played every tom, snare, cymbal and hi-hat with a precise anger and animation. Yet, even one minor glance in the general direction of the stage was enough to see that Iero—in all his fed-past-midnight-gremlin-rage-and-glory—was the centerfold to this exquisite nightmare.
With brief word to the crowd, and a motion towards someone just out of view, Iero welcomed Zanetti onstage for a collaborative cover of Jawbreaker’s “Boxcar,” which was all but lost on the crowd of early high-schoolers. The band then began to swing into more bass/percussion-driven numbers such as “Tragician” and “Stitches,” and after oscillating between quick-paced noise and hardcore inspired numbers (“My Mirandas,” “Smoke Rings,” “Weighted”), and the slower more soft-grunge inspired songs (“She’s the Prettiest Girl at the Party, and She Can Prove It with a Solid Right Hook,” “Guilt Tripping”), announced their last number: “Joyriding.” Iero said his thank-yous, and welcomed the audience to share the mic with him—which they gladly did—to fill in the verses and most of the choruses. The band, seemingly satisfied with their work, left the stage and Iero to fend for themselves. Iero pushed his way into a stripped down version of “Stage 4 Fear of Trying,” and had the audience provide every melodic word.
With a last sip from his tea, and a general wish for a safe night, Iero left the stage, and I began my journey home—a little lighter, a little more in touch with things one can only see by moonlight, and more than glad to have spent an evening in the company of Iero and his Cellabration.