“We’ll eat anything. A banana slug. Whatever. We don’t care,” says Twin Peaks‘ guitarist Clay Frankel. “We’ve eaten food at gas stations. Grilled cheese? Haw, haw.” The band recently accepted my challenge on Twitter to tackle the Melt Challenge from Cleveland’s Melt Bar and Grilled, which lured Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman here a few years ago. Frankel has no idea what he’s getting himself into with the massive Melt Challenge, which weighs in at over five pounds with thirteen different cheeses and three slices of bread alongside a pile of hand-cut fries and homemade slaw.
I’ll admit, I highly doubt their ability to conquer this massive sandwich, but there’s a small part of me that thinks just maybe they could. Musically, it seems, the band can tackle anything that comes their way– including a broken leg during a tour–as witnessed at Pitchfork Music Festival a few weekends ago.
I caught up with Frankel to talk Pitchfork, the deep bond between the band’s members and sage advice he’d pass down to kids trying to be in a band. Check it out before you catch them in Cleveland on Saturday, August 9th at the Beachland Tavern.
You’ve all known each other for quite some time. Did the band form sort of naturally or did one of you prod the others to get involved?
We all went to public school in Chicago and those kids all get to know each other if you’re into the same things, like wizardry and dam building and all that stuff that seems important in high school. So we all got along even though half of us turned in our homework miles apart.
What did your families think when you dropped out of college to pursue music?
Our families are supportive. Not exactly thrilled when we showed up for a never ending holiday break, but yes, very supportive.
Was there ever any question that you’d be doing anything else with your lives?
Oh, sure. We were gonna be factory workers. The smell of the oil and grease and all that. Or lawyers. Or quail hunters. All probably more sensible than what we did, which was follow the dream.
How has the scene in Chicago helped your band to grow?
Chicago is the greatest city in the world. We were a young buncha wimps, but nobody cared or judged us and they just tossed us in a crammed basement and gave us thirty minutes to do whatever the hell we wanted. Which is great. Chicago is known for garage rock, but it’s not like that’s imposed on the bands that play the houses here. It’s a good atmosphere. I think a lot of people thought it was funny when we first started, a group of kids falling over the amplifiers with their guitar strings breaking every two songs and some guy you never met before would be running out to his car to get a bass out of his trunk because yours just stopped working for no good reason at all. I mean that’s what it’s about, love, you know?
What differed with the production for Wild Onion versus your first LP, Sunken?
Sunken we recorded on a whim. It took about a week and we did it all in Cadien’s basement using a couple of old microphones. It was fun and over before we knew it. Wild Onion was done a bit more consciously, but not by much. We recorded at a studio in Chicago that throws a lot of DIY shows, which was how we heard of it in the first place. It took about two weeks total to record, with a week between to get fresh ears and take it easy. It was nicer, with our buddy Andrew Humphrey acting as engineer saying things like, “it’s rolling you sissies” and “you can start playing,” whereas before we just sort of leaned over and tapped the R button on the computer keyboard. We got to do a lot of stuff live, which was an impossibility on Sunken and really helped our recording process, both with time and energy. We’re no perfectionists; we want to sound human because, well, that’s what we are.
Wild Onion explores growing up a bit. Has touring and pursuing this lifestyle forced you to grow up a bit more quickly?
Oh yeah, I almost got shingles from touring so much, which is kind of an old man disease. The nurse said it can be caused by prolonged consumption of unhealthy food, irregular sleep schedule, and high stress levels–which is not a bad description of tour. But we ain’t that old. I still can’t grow a damn beard! There was a kid in my grade school who had a beard in eighth grade. He came back one summer talking like Johnny Cash with a big patchy beard, taking girls behind 7-11 and all that. I wonder what happened to him. Maybe he’ll show up at our show in some random city, like Tucson. It happens; faces from your past showing up at the merch table.
I saw you recently at Pitchfork Music Festival where you put on a helluva show, despite having one member on stage with a broken leg. How do you persevere when something like that happens?
Helluva. I’ve always liked that word. It looks real nice on paper. I think old Caulfield used to say that and that thing where he says blue as hell. That’s good, too. I feel blue as hell, haha. Anyway, yeah thanks about the show. You just keep going when things happen. We call it the Peaks Rule of Showing the Rock Gods We Can Cut It. A lotta bad stuff happens, but it’s like huh, well your leg’s all broken but you don’t need that to play an E chord so let’s just go ahead and play. Huh, the front tire exploded on the highway in the middle of Montana. Well, great, who’s got a cigarette?
How does a show in a smaller venue differ from a festival performance?
We play shows with no real intention other than to make people feel good and if people don’t like it we don’t just become a musical mirror of a stiff crowd. We have a good time on stage and usually they become conscious of their stoicism, which is funny. Every show’s different, a million things can go wrong or right and blah, blah, blah, go ahead and dance if you want to.
If you were to give advice to kids starting out now, what would you tell them?
Advice? Be a band you’d be a fan of. We see bands sometimes that you can tell don’t dig what they’re doing, like play an entire set of slow moody boy indie ballads and then go backstage and start blasting Black Flag and Wire and it’s a bit like, hmmm. You should just be yourself and be honest and have some fun. Good luck, kids! You know I used to sit listening to music and thinking good bands just fell out of the sky, but now I know they just grow up together.
We’re giving away a pair of tickets to Saturday’s show. Leave us a comment and let us know what you like from Melt. We’ll pick one winner, announced tomorrow evening!