The Frames are led by Glen Hansard, a Dublin-based singer/songwriter who quit school at age 13 to begin busking on local streets. By 17, he'd borrowed enough money from his parents to record a demo, 50 copies of which were pressed and distributed to family and friends. One of those copies made its way to Island Records' Denny Cordell, who successfully lobbied label founder Chris Blackwell to sign Hansard to the roster. Now signed to a major label, Hansard founded the Frames, taking the name from his childhood fascination with bicycles; he regularly repaired his friends' bikes as a kid, and with the frames scattered about his family's yard, the Hansard home was consequently known as "the house with the frames."
The alternative pop group, whose lineup included guitarist Dave Odlum, vocalist Noreen O'Donnell, bassist John Carney, violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire, and drummer Paul Brennan, made its debut at an Irish music festival in September 1990. After taking a brief hiatus to allow Hansard to co-star in Alan Parker's hit film The Commitments, the band issued a debut single, "The Dancer," in early 1992. With the help of producer Gil Norton, whose work with the Pixies proved to be a major sonic influence on the sessions, the Frames (sometimes credited as the Frames D.C. to avoid confusion with an American group of the same name) completed their debut album, Another Love Song. A scheduled U.S. tour was canceled when Mac Con Iomaire fell ill and Carney quit, though, and even though bassist Graham Downey was quickly added, a shakeup in Island's roster left the band without a label. Moreover, O'Donnell left the lineup in the midst of recording a second album, 1994's Fitzcarraldo. Bassist Joe Doyle soon replaced Downey, with Dave Hingerty assuming Brennan's drumming duties for the Frames' third album, 1999's lo-fi effort Dance The Devil.
The Frames switched labels again, this time signing with a Chicago-based indie, Overcoat, before recording the band's fourth and finest effort, For the Birds. Where previous Frames records often suffered from over-production, 2001's For the Birds (recorded in part by Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Studios) boasted an intimacy and fragility that complemented Hansard's heart-wrenching compositions. Despite critical hosannas, Odlum left the band in November 2001 to focus on production work, with Simon Goode stepping in as the new lead guitarist. A U.S. tour planned for the following month was suspended in the wake of the death of Hansard's close friend and sometime collaborator Mic Christopher, former frontman of the Mary Janes. The Frames finally made it to the States in support of the New Pornographers during 2002; they also released their first live album, Breadcrumb Trail, that same year. The Frames' next release was 2003's The Roads Outgrown, a nine-track collection of studio outtakes, followed in February 2004 by their first album for Anti, Set List. Although the Frames continued issuing new material (including Burn the Maps and 2007's The Cost), Hansard began devoting equal time to the Swell Season, a side project that eventually turned into an award-winning, globe-traveling band. Members of the Frames were recruited to form the Swell Season's backing band, thus keeping parts of the original lineup together.
Jason Ankeny, Rovi
Anti Records Biography:
Acknowledged as one of Ireland's most successful current bands, The Frames released their first album in 1992 and, over nearly a decade bounced through various well-documented record deals and band line-ups releasing consistently excellent records (Fitzcarraldo and Dance The Devil) along the way in spite of it. Finally, as the new millennium appeared the band shook themselves free of outside influences, beginning work on For The Birds which they released on their own Plateau label in March 2001.
Two years later after constant touring and an ever-rising fan base the band released their live opus, Set List, which became the first of their albums to debut in the Irish Album Charts at No 1 in May 2003 and has gone on to be their biggest-selling album to date. They continued with their relentless touring schedule around the world, inked an international record deal with the Anti record label (whilst retaining release rights for their own label at home and in Australia) and still found time to record and release their 5th studio album.
Following hot on the heels of a monumental sold-out open-air show in front of nearly 20,000 at Dublin's Marlay Park, Burn The Maps was released in September 2004. It went straight to No 1 at home in Ireland and became a long-term fixture in the Irish Charts in spite of the band having to spend most of their time away on tour supporting its release worldwide in 2005.
The Frames finished up 2005 with a sold out gig in Dublin's Point Theatre and meanwhile in The States, Burn The Maps finished at No 5 in the New York Times end of year Top 10 releases. 2006 began with Esquire magazine giving them the coveted Best Import award (which Coldplay had won the previous year).
Indulging in a spot of moonlighting in March 2006 front man Glen Hansard released a universally acclaimed collaborative Swell Season album and tour with Czech singer/pianist/composer Marketa Irglova.
All of The Frames' albums to date have achieved Double Platinum sales status in Ireland. The band's live album, Set List, has sold in excess of Triple Platinum status in Ireland.
For The Birds Biography:
Fronted by singer-songwriter and guitarist Glen Hansard (b. 21 April 1970, Dublin, Eire), this highly acclaimed band was formed in Dublin at the end of the 80's, making their debut live appearance at a festival in the west of Ireland in September 1990. At the same time, Hansard also appeared in Alan Parker's film adaptation of the Roddy Doyle novel The Commitments, a lucrative enough experience at the time, but a connection which has proven wearisome over the years. While the other band members David Odlum (b. 14 January 1970, Dublin, Eire; guitar), Colm Mac Con Iomaire (b. 18 May 1971, Dublin, Eire; violin/electronics), Joe Doyle (b. 8 May 1977, Dublin, Eire; bass/vocals) and Dave Hingerty (b. 4 March 1968, Dublin, Eire; drums) supported Hansard through the negativity of media queries over the years (specifically in relation to The Commitments ), Hansard himself shrugged off criticisms by ensuring that the Frames quickly became one of the most talked about live attractions in Ireland. A debut album for Island Records was lost in the label's subsequent housecleaning, and the band went about recording new material with the assistance of bass player Pete Briquette (ex- Boomtown Rats (The) and Tricky collaborator). Such was the strength of the new songs that ZTT Records signed the band. Yet at this time, they were undergoing an evolutionary process which witnessed major creative changes: the Pixies (The) -meets- Drake, Nick sound of their earlier years was slowly transforming into a style of US post-rock, with influences from acts such as Slint, Tortoise, Pavement, and Oldham, Will making their presence felt. The Frames mindset was getting stranger but was no less incendiary, and the new material reflected their evolution, being simultaneously direct but sonically askew. They recorded For The Birds in Kerry, Eire, with Craig Ward from Deus, and in Chicago with Albini, Steve. The Frames remain one of Ireland's best kept secrets.
"I left school when I was 13," proclaims the effusive Irish native Glen Hansard, lead vocalist and founder of the Dublin band The Frames D.C.. "I knew then I wanted to be a singer, so my mother said: "OK, if you want to sing then you better earn off it, so I began busking on the street during the day." Hansard, who grew up around a family who loved music, had never dreamed that such a gentle kick from the nest would eventually lead to one of Ireland's most magnetic rock bands. Their Elektra debut, Fitzcarraldo has been hailed as an unpolished gem, combining rustic poetry with Hansard's soaring vocals and a contagious live energy that caused The London Times to write: "Raw, rocky and for real, this lot are undoubtedly going to be a force to be reckoned with."
Hansard learned his straight-ahead playing style from working the Irish passersby, combining it with a tramp-like propensity for "truth at a slant" dynamics in both the songs he writes and the stories he tells. "After I busked for a couple of years, I came home one night and told my mom I wanted to make a demo. She went to the bank the next day, and lied to 'em about what she needed the money for. Said it was to fix up the house or something. Hansard used the small loan to record some songs. "I did four songs, made 50 copies and scattered them around," he says.
Much to his surprise he got a call a few days later from legendary record honcho, Denny Cordell (he discovered Tom Petty, and managed Joe Cocker, among others) who was working with Island Records. "He calls me over to his flat. I was shocked when I got there. Sitting around his coffee table are Ron Wood, Stewart Copeland and Marianne Faithfull. Now you got to remember I'm only 17 years old at the time." Hansard says he sat a bit stupefied as the famous rockers sat around listening to his demo, talking about music. At the end of the night, the record executive called Island founder Chris Blackwell right in front of Hansard and said he wanted to sign the young singer. "I told him I needed time to form a band. I went back to all the friends I knew who were busking and put one together."
But the young Hansard learned fast that record company shenanigans can be even more brutal than playing for street dollars. He released an album on Island, but was just as quickly dropped. "It was partly my fault I guess," he laughs. "I was listening to too much Pixies at the time and made a record that wasn't really me." Hansard, who was groomed on Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen as a boy, strayed from the raw roots music that garnered him the early attention and made what he calls "a half-baked punk album." It would be the last time he'd ever abandon his own muse for a grasp at instant popularity.
"I got extremely depressed, though," he says. "I didn't know if I should give up or keep going. So I took this strange trip to New York where I got away from everyone I ever knew. I needed to be in the loneliest place on earth. Sometimes you have to get up from the canvas, away from the picture if you know what I mean, before you can see the whole painting." Hansard says he stayed in one of Manhattan's cheaper hotels, walking the streets during the day - looking, as he puts it- for a sign. "I even stood in front of the Dakota hoping the spirit of John Lennon might give me a clue," he says.
"He told me to find a Shaman," smiles Hansard. "The next thing I know I'm wandering into the Natural History Museum sitting in front of the exhibit with all the Shaman." But Hansard says he needed further inspiration to keep writing songs. "I met this tramp who kind of became my Shaman, in a way," he says. "He was about the only person I spoke to during the two weeks I was in New York." A mystical exchange of gifts between the two (a chestnut from Hansard, half a billiard ball from the tramp, which Hansard still treasures) sealed their friendship, and somehow inspired Hansard to keep going. "I wrote a lot of the songs on the new album on that trip," he says. The smouldering "Revelate," and the plaintive "Say It Now," were the results of his New York adventure.
Hansard returned to Ireland, getting his band together to "redeem ourselves". The band borrowed money to make their own record. "We were playing in this club in Dublin called Whelan's, where we really built up a following." The Frames line-up, which includes Hansard, David Odlum on guitar, Paul Brennan on drums, Graham Downey on bass, and Colm Mac Con Iomaire on violin, have all played together since the busking days. The strange route to another record deal seemed a natural progression for these players, who have always based their musical fortunes on the faith they have had in each other. Says guitarist David Odlum: "There was about 20 of us who always busked. We had always traded off in each others bands. There was always a sense of camaraderie." Odlum says it was because of their tight-knit circle of friends that they were able to raise money to make their own record. They enlisted ex-Boomtown Rat Pete Briquette to produce. "It was done on a shoestring budget."
But it was the bands resourcefulness that led to the group being recognized by legendary producer Trevor Horn, and others. "I think the way we did our video had a lot to do with a buzz happening around us," says Odlum. With no money left after the recording of the album, the group was stuck on how to make a clip for their favourite track "Revelate." "We had a friend whose mum worked in the Postal Office," says Odlum. "So we decided to wait until she was on a lunch break, and we went in an put a video tape in the security camera, we did our video during the break, and put her original tape back when she came back." The video which cost four dollars to make, became a cult-hit in Ireland. Says Hansard: "A friend of ours put it on a local video show there and people loved it. Then we got it on an even bigger show, and it got even more requests."
Eventually, this homemade security clip was nominated for an MTV Europe award. "By that time people were starting to take notice of the album, our live show and everything," says Odlum. The newfound buzz caused Trevor Horn and his company ZTT, to sign the band, which ultimately led to the band signing with legendary A&R executive Seymour Stein and Elektra. "We re-recorded some tracks with Trevor," says Odlum. "But it all stays true to the spirit of the original album we did ourselves."
Fitzcarraldo, is a passionate piece of work, layered with acoustic touches like the wistful "Red Chord," but it is also anchored by the ferocious attack of "Monument" and other powerful rockers. And true to Hansard's promise, the album is amazingly free of any of the flavour-of-the-month trappings that have plagued countless post-alternative releases of late. Hansard writes with a dented, cockeyed sort of optimism that shakes its fist at the world, while at the same time revelling in it. It's much in the spirit of the mantra he invoked to the group upon returning from his lonely, but magical journey to New York. "I said to 'em, from here on in we're gonna sink or swim," he laughs. "So let's fucking swim until we drop."