ARTS & EVENTS
Liner Notes: Adam Franklin, 'Spent Bullets'
Adam Franklin photo by Johnny Moto
ADAM FRANKLIN HAS always sounded reserved, even when his previous band, Swervedriver, was crushing psychedelic riffs that sounded like The Stooges and Hawkwind engaged in a cosmic joy ride.
But with his new solo record, "Spent Bullets" (Second Motion), he's finally nailed his laconic post-Swervedriver voice.
Perhaps it was because Swervedriver's 2008 reunion tour went so well, or that his Magnetic Morning project with Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino was so well received, but Franklin's songwriting on "Spent Bullets" is as confident as it is consistent, presenting 10 mostly midtempo songs that capture his folky, dreamy melodies and quietly soulful voice.
"Various people have said - and I agree - that it's good that the whole album has a consistent sound," Franklin said. "But the songs are from various periods - some of the songs are quite old - but somehow it all kind of all falls into place thematically. ... But you never know quite how it's going to turn out: You start recording and there's one song you think might be the main song, then it falls by the wayside. Then another song that you think is a complete throwaway comes up at the last minute."
When Swervedriver was on hiatus, Franklin started recording and touring under the name Toshack Highway - mostly because he felt odd about being a solo artist.
"When you go out under your own name - it feels a bit strange," Franklin said. "That's partly why I went for Toshack Highway initially, but then I thought people didn't remember the name Toshack Highway. And basically when you're a band on the road, and you're at a truck stop, sitting down getting your coffee, and the waitress comes over and says, 'Hey, are you guys in a band?' And we say, 'Yeah, we're in a band.' And she says, 'What's the name of the band?' And it seems weird to say, 'It's named after him.' Now we can say, 'It's named Bolts of Melody.'
So, you named your backing band based on the fear and loathing you'd receive from truck-stop waitresses?
"I suppose so," Franklin laughed.
Express did manage to get the reserved Franklin to open up a bit with a track-by-track tour of "Bolts of Melody."
Adam Franklin, Spent Bullets
The title is a pun because part of the melody is like a Serge Gainsbourg melody from a song called "Ah! Melody." There's a trumpet that comes up in that Serge Gainsbourg song, and that was developed into the main melody. We were looking for a title and "Surge" came up. Lyrics end up being pretty instinctive; they're never really mapped out. Usually you write something and go, "that's quite good," and it ends up having a double meaning. I'm always quite fond of things, even in the simplest rock 'n' roll songs, that could have double meanings going on.
"Teardrops Keep Fallin' Out My Head"
The title is another pun, on "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." It's a very simple, straight-ahead pop-rock / power-pop song, really. It all came together when I was looking for a line to sing, and then there was this tune that fit that melody.
"Bolts of Melody"
That tune was inspired by "Stephanie Says" by The Velvet Underground. That tune was knocking around for a while, also. We did the "Bolts of Melody" album , and then I had this melody line, [sings] "Melody waits." And then I thought, "Hey, this song could be called 'Bolts of Melody.' I quite like the idea of having a song named after the previous album, which is kind of like The Doors, who had the album "Waiting for the Sun" and then the next album had the song "Waiting for the Sun" on it. But also, Bolts of Melody has become the default name for the band. The lyric "Bolts of Melody" comes from a Emily Dickinson poem - she coined that phrase. And I think it described the music really well.
"Autumn Leaf" [Click here to listen]
The first autumn leaf that fell? It's about someone born in the autumn, I suppose. Not entirely sure; the lyrics are kind of fucked up on that one. First lines are "You know I love you well / I just can't tell" or it can be "You know I love you / Well, I just can't tell."
There are a few initials referenced on that song. That song was written last winter or the winter before - I forget. That's a song about everybody being far-flung, with the last line being "When will I see you again?" It's not necessarily about one-on-one relationships; just general relationships and friendships. Things get so spread out these days. The world has gotten smaller these days even as it's gotten bigger. People travel around easily and become friends with people in other countries, whereas 30 years ago it wouldn't be as prevalent that people would be traveling around so much. It's about displacement.
"Hurts to See You Go"
That has its basis in "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells. I got a line from that: "It hurts to see you go." But it's quite funny that it's that line that's emphasized because it's otherwise a very happy song about somebody coming over.
There are a few songs called "Big Sur" I've discovered. The Beach Boys have one as well, but I've always loved the Jack Kerouac book. That song actually is kind of a reworking of an old Swervedriver chorus, from a song called "It's All Happening Now." It's the same kind of melody, but it has all these little harmonies - it has kind of a Motown-y thing. But it also has this Krautrock-y thing with the rhythm.
"Champs" Click here to listen]
It originally sounded like a Serge Gainsbourg tune before it got rocked up. The reason it was called "Champs" is because the working title was just something French - "Champs-Elysees" - and then it got cut down to "Champs." It's kind of a nonsensical title.
For years that had a working title of "Cavey," because I thought it sounded like a Nick Cave song. That's the oldest song of the lot. That was actually knocking around since "Ejector Seat Ejection," Swervedriver's third album. I remember muttering through the chords with Steve the bass player, but obviously that kind of rhythm wouldn't have suited Swervedriver. And in the past couple of years I've gotten into Scott Walker quite a bit, and then, ironically, I supposed it does have a bit of the Scott Walkery-y rock-pop tune. Nick Cave is a big fan of Scott Walker.
"Two Dollar Dress" Click here to listen]
I was hanging out with a friend of mine in Australia, and she was talking about the dress she was wearing and I thought it was quite cool she was wearing one piece of clothing that cost $2. That song already had the lyric, "You fell down the hill and tore your dress," so "$2 Dress" seemed like the logical name for that one.