UTG INTERVIEW: Frank Iero Shows Simplistic Brilliance With New Record

Frank Iero

Frank Iero stands with confidence behind his merchandise table. It’s a simple table — a few shirts hang while a stack of posters and records occupy the space between Iero and his patrons. He smiles as he deals out his products — all of which contain the symbol Iero created to represent his music.

Every person who comes to the table is greeted with poise and energy. A father of a group of young girls shakes Iero’s hand with vigor and tells him he came all the way from Cleveland for his show in Des Moines tonight. A mother walks up to the table, holding her nervous, young daughter who politely asks for a t-shirt and a photograph.

“She was so nervous…she started crying after,” the mother later confessed.

Iero doesn’t hide behind a veil of fandom — there is no illusion in his demeanor. He shows the utmost gratitude toward his fans. To a novice in the scene, one wouldn’t know that half a decade ago he was a guitarist in one of the biggest bands on planet Earth. He played shows in Wembley Arena, sold millions of records and even had music covered on the hit television show Glee.

Now, nearly two years removed from the disbandment of My Chemical Romance, Iero stands behind his merch table and takes photos with everyone who asks. Not because he has to, but because it’s what he wants. He doesn’t show the slightest hint of entitlement as his band fills the opening slot on the second leg of the Taking Back Sunday and The Used North American tour.

He embraces his role and oozes a creative pride for his music. He doesn’t ask that things be handed to him and his new band — he relishes in the conquest of searching for sustainability and success with his new music.

“It’s funny, man,” Iero says. “I like doing the smaller tour stuff. I wasn’t expecting this to be as large-scale as it is. I’m very excited to be on tour with these guys. They’re amazing guys and it’s a fantastic tour — but I didn’t want this to be our first tour because I felt like we needed to eat shit a little bit. I feel like we’re really spoiled on this tour.”

frnkiero andthe cellabration, Iero’s new band, is the modern day punk rock upheaval the alternative music world needs. The band’s new record, Stomachaches, written and produced by Iero, is a testament to the notion that punk rock music can be both vicious and warming, calm and cataclysmic, melodic and neck-breaking.

It’s a balanced showing of an artist mastering the craft of storytelling.

The title of the record comes from Iero battling literal digestive issues and coping through songwriting.

“It was a bit cathartic,” Iero says. “I feel like if anything, for me, it was more a process of forgetting how I felt — opposed to anything else. I don’t know if the way I was feeling was actually getting into the songs. The process was the most important thing — to feel normal again.”

Iero tapped legendary record producer Ed Rose (The Get Up Kids, Motion City Soundtrack, Emery) to mix the record. Rose announced his retirement from record producing last year — making Stomachaches one of his last projects.

“It was definitely on the cusp of the ending of what he was doing,” explains Iero. “I’ve been a fan of his records for a really long time. I grew up listening his records, things like The Get Up Kids. I became really good friends with James Dewees and he did James’ [last] record. He was just in the studio with James and I had all these songs and he asked, ‘Are you going to mix it yourself?’ I got too close to the project so I felt like I couldn’t mix it. Me and Ed had lunch one day and he said, ‘I really like the record. I’d love to work on it,’ so that’s what we were going to do.”

When a record is self-produced there can always be questions that run through an artist’s mind — but Iero stepped up to the challenge on Stomachaches and delivered an album with a surreal aural beauty.

It’s rough around the edges, but it doesn’t hurt when you listen — there’s a juxtaposition between the rough and smooth that strikes a perfect mixture.

“I think the problem is no one is there to help edit,” Iero says about self-producing the record. “It’s harder to self-edit. You can either think everything you do is great or everything you do is shit. You run into those two issues. I tend to try to cut the fat as much as humanly possible on things. I feel like, at least with my earlier stuff, it included way too much. I like things more concise. I try to do that as best as possible.”

Iero’s world has changed drastically since the days of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Now a father of three children — two twin daughters and a son — Iero views touring in a different light.

“I definitely look for wifi a lot more,” he confesses. “A day off is full of just trying to Skype or anything like that. You think about things a lot more. It’s not just my kids being born, it’s seeing them get older. I spent a lot of time jumping to ‘What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?’ thinking about the next thing while I’m doing what I’m doing — and I hate that. I don’t want to live my life that way. I’m trying more and more to just enjoy the moment.”

With a record like Stomachahes, there is little doubt that more enjoyable moments are on the horizon for Iero and his new band.

Written and conducted by Matthew Leimkuehler (@callinghomematt)

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  • Sara Schwartzberg

    Excellent article, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to see and meet Frank Iero several times and he is truly a genuine class act musician and person. I dont know what is more is more remarkable about him his music or his personality but he hasn’t received nearly enough attention for either.

  • Matthew Leimkuehler

    Agreed. If every musician had his mindset about music the world would be a more bearable place.