Ready? Click, submit. As I start to write this, Glen Hansard, founder, lead singer and lead songwriter of The Frames, has just put up an auction on eBay. He's auctioning a “private house concert” from him and Mark Geary to raise money for Haiti. It'sd a move that sums the band up: a big gesture on a front room level. A powerful message delivered low-fi.
Glen's story starts young, and with undeniable focus. At 13 he leaves school to learn his tools of the trade as a busker on the streets of Dublin. He borrows money to record a demo tape a few years later that quickly spikes the interest of Island Records.
On signing, he gathers a band around him, The Frames, “taking the name from his childhood fascination with bicycles,” writes the All Music Guide. “He regularly repaired his friends' bikes, and with the frames scattered about his family's yard, their home was consequently known as 'the house with the frames.'” We were never sure if that story was true, but there was something poetically perfect about it. A band needs a history, from
the day they're formed.
As the band assembled, Glen took a right turn, taking the part of Outspan Foster, the guitarist in Alan Parker's The Commitments, alongside a soon-to-be famous Andrea Corr, and Frames violinist and singer Colm Mac Con Iomaire.
The critics and audiences raved. “Fresh, well-executed and original,” Variety called it. But by the time it was in cinemas, Glen was getting back to business with The Frames: Dave Odlum on guitar, Noreen O'Donnell on vocals, John Carney on bass and Paul Brennan on drums. And Colm Mac Con Iomaire on violin of course.
In 1992, The Dancer became the band's debut single. And Pixies producer Gil Norton took the helm of a debut album, Another Love Song. But just as things should have started going skywards, they started going sideways. Graham Downey replaced John Carney on bass, the band were dropped from Island Records, they signed to Zang Tuum Tumb, became The Frames DC (to, ironically, avoid confusion with an existing set of frames in the USA), and Noreen O'Donnell jumped ship...
But all of this just strengthened the songwriting, and the commitment, and the resulting album: Fitzcarralo, the one you're holding. Another album for Zang Tuum Tuum followed, Dance The Devil. And after that? You couldn't have predicted it... Tours, albums, singles, another feature film, an Academy Award, an acclaimed Finnish/Czeck/Irish fusion, an appearance on The Simpsons, a cover of Bob Dylan, a tour with Bob Dylan, a cover of Britney Spears, ... More big statements to intimate audiences. And that's only the next few chapters. But we don't have the pages to tell those stories. Stop here, and enjoy Fitzcarraldo. Ready? Press, play.
As a postscript, 66 bids later, Glen and Mark's personal gig for Haiti has been won, to
the tune of £5,700 and is booked for Friday 29 January 2010. We wish we were there.
Ian Peel, 2010
Dance the Devil... (Element Series Edition)
Fitzcarraldo (Element Series Edition)