Frank Iero: “I’m still surprised and excited by everything that goes along with this life”

This year, Frank Iero will be taking his latest brilliant band L.S. Dunes to Slam Dunk Festival. Ahead of those performances, the guitarist reflects on everything they’ve achieved so far, their 2023 demo album Lost Songs: Lines And Shapes, and why creating stuff is still his favourite thing in the world…

Frank Iero: “I’m still surprised and excited by everything that goes along with this life”
Emily Carter
Paul Harries, Kevin Estrada

Just under two years on from launching L.S. Dunes, Frank Iero has developed one major physical issue since forming the emo and post-hardcore side-project of his dreams. All things considered, though, it’s a pretty lovely obstacle to be facing.

“Honestly, this is the most fun band I’ve ever been in, in my life,” the guitarist tells us happily. “The only problem is that my ribs hurt from laughing so much when we hang out!”

It’s an abdominal challenge that Frank’s been tackling a lot lately. Since dropping killer debut album Past Lives in 2022, the band – completed by vocalist Anthony Green, guitarist Travis Stever, bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule – have spent months on the road together, playing festivals, touring the UK, and most recently, supporting Pierce The Veil in U.S. arenas. And, of course, making each other giggle on a daily basis.

And with more gigs planned for this year, including Slam Dunk Festival on these shores and Las Vegas’ nostalgic spectacular When We Were Young in October, things show no signs of slowing down. Which is a thrilling surprise to Frank, given how Dunes first came to be during the pandemic.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he admits. “We’re all friends and we had nothing else going on (laughs), and the world had shut down so it was like, ‘Let’s make art.’ Really, I thought it would be something that just passed a little bit of time, but the more we got into the songs, and the world started to heal a bit, I was like, ‘Oh wow, I really enjoy this.’ I always have these conversations with my wife – because she’s the most sane person I know, thank god! – and I was like, ‘Do I need another band?’ The answer to that is, ‘Definitely not,’ but she was like, ‘The dudes that you’re doing this with are fucking rad and great musicians, and if you think it’s cool, then you should see where it goes.’”

And where things have gone has already exceeded expectations. Not that Frank had set his sights too high at first, mind…

“I’ve never started a band going, ‘I want to do this, this and this in terms of success,’” he explains. “That stuff just doesn’t ever enter my mind – even though it probably should! My expectations are just: can I create things that inspire me and are fun to me? That’s the only thing I’m looking for.

“You know, I’ve been doing this for quite a long time – I don’t know if that shows in my face!” he adds with a laugh. “But I still enjoy it, and I’m still surprised by and excited by everything that goes along with this life. Personally, I really love making records, I love creating new songs, I love working with new people, and making something from nothing – the creation process is a high that I’ve always wanted to chase.”

Last November, Frank and L.S. Dunes gave fans a deeper look into their own specific creative process with the release of demo album Lost Songs: Lines And Shapes. Here, K! finds out about this previously-unused material and the joy of hearing flaws, as well as where things are at with album number two, Slam Dunk and more…

Releasing Lost Songs…, you shared a statement about the craft of songwriting and the many dynamics of being in a band. You’ve got the kind of fans who also love all those kinds of details too, so who was the one to be like, ‘We’ve got all these demos and we know people will appreciate hearing it’?
“That idea was kind of in place from the very beginning of this band. We lived with the demos for so long, and we loved them so much, and there’s such a character to them. So it felt weird to not have that release, even though we were fully realising the songs – and we knew that people would probably fall in love with those [finished] versions. I think the story of the creation of the band is just as important as the output, and when going in, it was like, ‘We should definitely have people hear the process, because the process is just as important as the product.’”

Were there any moments listening back to those demos where you’re like, ‘Oh no, I actually preferred it that original way’?! Because it seems like you have this very creative approach where you’ll go down all sorts of different roads and could end up anywhere…
“Oh, totally. I don’t know if there’s anything that I wish we hadn’t changed – the changes that we made were for the best. I try very hard not to get demo-itis on things. I listen to things ad nauseam in order to create it, but then when I’m doing a new version I have to abandon those demos, because your brain is going to trick you, and you’re always going to think the grass is greener on the other side, and you’re going to want to chase something that maybe can’t be chased. So you need to go out and beat it. And once you feel like you’ve beaten it, that thing needs to be dead and buried. But for this process, it was a fun walk down memory lane, because when I listen to those demos I can remember what was happening at that time, where I was, and also with that trauma of falling off the ladder and breaking my wrist, I can almost pinpoint my recovery process through the demos – it’s kinda crazy. I know what was recorded when there were stitches in my arm and all that!”

Speaking of which, Anthony wrote the song It Takes Time about that very incident. What was it like hearing that demo back again – especially now you’re further along in your recovery?
“That’s always been one of my favourite songs that we did, and it’s funny: when I’m recording or playing with a singer, I don’t normally or necessarily have the same emotional attachment to a song that the lyricist has. So my recollection or emotional attachment can be completely different. I know Anthony wrote that song about what I was going through, but I don’t think that song necessarily embodies that process for me. I do, however, remember going into that song at [producer Will Yip’s studio] and staying up very late the night before, and rewriting a lot of that, and putting in different riffs – things that I’m very, very proud of. So in that respect it kind of intertwines, but it wasn’t a conscious effort, if that makes sense.”

What are some of your favourite albums by other bands, where you’d love to hear a similar demo record to get a peek behind the curtain?
“Oh, man! My top three have basically been the same since I was a kid – I think that does hold true for older people (laughs). In Utero is one of those. Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers is another one of my top three, but I don’t know if you’d get demos out of that because of the way it was constructed. And the same thing with Sgt. Pepper’s: that was probably constructed within the studio. So those two are ones where I’d definitely even like to just have a behind-the-scenes making-of video, so I could watch the process of that and see, like, RZA construct a lot of those beats. Recently I did see an interview with Method Man and he was talking about how when he was making that record, he recalled of songs from his youth – nothing that he would rip off, but things that he would reference, and it was so interesting to see, ‘Oh, that’s right, that melody is taken from this other thing but used in a different way.’

"I’m just a fan of the process, and the older I get and the more records that I make, the more into that process I am. I want to see how other people did it, and what they were going through, and how they made what they made. And one of my favourite things about art in general is leaving in the mistakes, and how that can shape something. It’s not about perfection, because human beings aren’t perfect. And why would you want to be?! I like to see the mistakes, I like to see the flaws, and that stuff is what I find so beautiful about what we do, in all walks of our discipline. When it’s too fucked-with, it ain’t my thing (laughs).”

To you, is there an unsung hero on the Lines And Shapes album?
“I don’t know if there’s an under-appreciated member [in general], but I think that Tim really shines on this record because of his arranging and production. When it came to the demos, he was very good at piecing together these puzzles. We would send him different elements – like, Travis would send a verse, and we wouldn’t know if it would turn into anything, and then Tucker would play drums and we’d send it to Tim. And Tim would put that together, and it’d be like, ‘Okay, now I have a chorus and a bridge for this…’ and he would just craft a song. I think that Tim’s strong point is in seeing a grand design in chaos. He’s a very astute organiser, and that’s a wonderful thing. He does have a very good ear for that kind of stuff, and I think in another life he would be a fantastic producer.”

There have been two new songs L.S Dunes since Past Lives, recorded in Joshua Tree in a completely different situation and context to the album. Is there a unanimous feeling in the band that either recording experience suited you better?
“I think it was just a time and a place, you know? We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do both. If you do one thing – even if you do it really, really well – you wonder if you’re a one trick pony, right? So no-one knew, ‘Can we write together and record together within an actual studio setting, playing it live and doing it that way?’ Taking that time to go into the studio, and seeing how that felt doing that together was awesome. I think we learned a lot, and we have had a lot of fun – I really wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to dial back the shenanigans in order to get a lot of work done (laughs). But we somehow did it, so I’m happy about that. It was a very relaxed and fun process. And people will probably get sick of hearing about this, but it truly was just a bunch of fucking friends hanging out – and I guess this is our way to fund our hangout. It’s like, ‘Hey, we also play music!’”

You weren’t in Joshua Tree for a massively long time, but was there anything else recorded there that we might get to hear one day?
“Within the time constraints of how long we had to record, nothing else will be released from that session, I think, because we really wanted to focus on and finish what we had there. But with that said, it got us farther along in our search for what is LP2 – we’re currently writing and also have things in the holster, ready for that. I don’t know if I’m speaking out of turn, but we’re looking to finish some stuff soon.”

In a few months’ time you’ll be back in the UK for Slam Dunk Festival. You last played there in 2017 with The Patience – do you have any particular memories from those shows?
“I do. I really enjoyed Slam Dunk, although we did have some weird generator problems – I remember that vividly! And that wasn’t the most fun, but I feel like this trip I’m due for a win (laughs). So yeah, I’m excited; I’m really looking forward to that.”

You’ve had such a long and successful career, but do you ever look at these festivals with the ambition of, ‘I want to headline Slam Dunk with L.S. Dunes one day’?
“I mean, yes, but it’s weird, right?! Because I don’t feel like I still have anything to prove – I don’t go into creative projects going, ‘This is my five-year plan.’ That just doesn’t happen. However, I think it would be silly of me to say that I didn’t have grander aspirations of this doing more, and getting to a certain level where it could be a little bit more self-sufficient.

“I love this band so much, and I’ve never been in a band where I didn’t feel like we were the best band in the world (laughs). Everybody will make fun of me, but that’s just the way I feel. If I don’t feel like we’re the best band in the fucking world, then I can’t get up there and do what I do. That always comes into my head, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, one day we’ll be up there.’ Hey, it could be Reading & Leeds where one day Dunes is headlining and one day My Chem is headlining! That’d be fun. That’s the shit that’s in my head, but at the same time it’s not at the forefront – I don’t have a sell-by-date on it!”

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