Frankie & The Heartstrings
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Frankie & The Heartstrings

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Rock Pop


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"Guardian Band of the Day"

ometown: Sunderland.

The lineup: Frankie Francis (vocals), Dennis Mennis (bass), Dave Harper (drums), Michael McKnight (guitar), Pete Gofton (bass).

The background: It's very early days for these north-eastern boys, who are currently unsigned and managed by Mark Bowen, co-owner of the Wichita label. They only played their first gig last Christmas, but have been gigging furiously, including a support slot with local heroes the Futureheads. The tracks we've heard by them are only really of demo quality. They are rough, ragged and requiring the polish and punch of a decent producer. But already there are signs here that Frankie & the Heartstrings could be that rare creature, presumed extinct: the simply thrilling indie band. They've got the charismatic, boyish singer who, in terms of wryly foppish demeanour and shaved hair-and-quiff combo, has been compared to the young Edwyn Collins. His distinctive yelpy vocals have also led to comparisons with the young Kevin Rowland. If Frankie can combine the ringing guitars of Orange Juice with the soul-rebel anthems - and horns - of Dexys Midnight Runners Mk 1, they will be very fine indeed.

They were almost called Pop Sex, which wouldn't have been right at all, or the New Groomers, which might. Like last Friday's new band, the Crookes, they're bright sparks – "I'll read you books by Fitzgerald", as the opening line to one of their songs goes – peddling witty, literate janglepop with rousing choruses. Oasis fans will consider them Walter Softies, but in fact there is a toughness to their tunes, a fist-waving quality, that should help stave off accusations of wetness. Some of their tracks, especially What Goes Around and Hunger, are the missing link between arty and angular indie-funk and bootboy stomp-pop – think Josef K meet JoBoxers. The latter were an early 80s crew who had big hits with Boxerbeat and Just Got Lucky, and dressed like post-war, northern, working class urchins, all cloth-caps and braces.

Funnily enough, when he was asked recently what era and place he would like to go back to if he had a Tardis-style time machine, frontlad Frankie Francis chose "late 50s or early-to-mid 60s Britain". He's not just about fetishising the dim and distant past, though. He's also a big fan of The Simpsons and admits the first record he ever bought was a seven-inch version of Do the Bartman when he was six. He now believes the answer to all his problems is to "listen to Bill Hicks". Joining the dots between these reference points you could say Frankie & the Heartstrings are erudite scruffs whose songs have a satirical edge, yet pack an emotional punch. They don't appear to have any mad manifestos or the projected passion of a Dexys, more's the pity, or the socks-and-sandals schoolboy chic of an Orange Juice. They could certainly do with a more defined, coherent image if they want to compete with their early 80s forebears, but there is substance here aplenty. Lads, if you want help with the styling and rhetoric, we're only a phone call away ...

The buzz: "Like the greatest bands, they come seemingly out of nothing. Listen, smash something, let the tears flow, sing along, and don't forget to dance ... "

The truth: This Frankie may not go to Hollywood, but they should manage to get out of Wearside.

Most likely to: Bring the Kevin Rowland hiccup back in vogue.

Least likely to: Start a new vogue for Frankie Says T-shirts.

What to buy: F&TH are unsigned.

File next to: JoBoxers, Orange Juice, Syndicate, Klaxon 5.

Links: - The Guardian (

"Frankie And The Heartstrings - Making British Indie Special Again (Since 2009)"

Ready to start feeling all gooey about homegrown grassroots indie? I know, it's been a while, right?

Frankie And The Heartstrings are the excellent Sunderland band who've been putting the lead back in the pencil of proper indie fans up and down this fair nation - a yellsome clatter here, a horsed Geordie swoon there.

Hey, Punka!

We were the first ones to do something on them back in March, so as to mark our loyalties, they gave us something back.

You know how all the idiots and fools 'blah' on about how these days the internet and downloading has devalued the concept of purchasing and actually owning music, and destroyed the collectability-factor in record buying? Well, lets not tell them nonces about this'un, ey?

Here's the latest in F&THS' series of limited releases on their own Popsex imprint. Cept yes it's a free download file- of various exclusive goodies specially constructed for NME readers. Think this is the coolest thing we've given away.

Click here to download Popsex 011 - NME (


Hunger / Fragile
(Vinyl, Single, Ltd) Rough Trade (UK) 2009

(10", EP, Ltd) Pop Sex Records Ltd. 2009

Frankie & The Heartstrings
(CD, EP) Pop Sex Ltd., Wichita 2010

(7", Ltd, Single) Pop Sex Ltd., Wichita 2010

Tender / Want You Back
(CDr, Single, Promo) Pop Sex Ltd. 2010

Tender / Want You Back
(7", Ltd, Single) Pop Sex Ltd. 2010




October, 2010 The North East of England is seen as a particularly fertile breeding ground for a certain type of band: passionate, literate, pop-savvy groups of gentlemen hawking their well-dressed wares and spritely, arch guitar-driven pop music. Inevitably, there is always one band who rise to the top of their scene by virtue of being that bit better than the rest - a small but notable increment in quality that ensures excitement and longevity, and an ability to permeate the wider consciousness of the music world.
Frankie & The Heartstrings are a five-piece from Sunderland, Great Britain, a town noted for its down-at-heel introspection that more than occasionally veers into self-loathing. In a way it’s not surprising that it pushes up bands who, musically, seem the very opposite of that.
Comprising of Frankie Francis (vocals), Michael McKnight (guitar), Mick Ross (guitars and keys), Steven Dennis (bass) and Dave Harper (drums), Frankie & The Heartstrings are a heart racing, foot stomping traditionally brilliant British guitar band. Described by one noted music journalist as ‘a Hannah Barbera animation of Marty McFly made flesh, fronting a C86 tribute band to The Supremes’, , the quintet have spent the past 12 months stirring up excitement across the country. They take a modern approach to the traditional virtues of hewing infectious songs out of deceptively simply melodies and arrangements, which are brought to life by front man Frankie, who seems to find the stage a more natural surrounding than anywhere else.
Formed less than two years ago when guitarist and songwriter-in-chief Michael McKnight and main stay David Harper recruited bassist Dennis to their project, they quickly identified the young man who they’d only ever seen perform once (in the manner of Jim Morrison, at a karaoke night) as the ideal front man for the band. Indeed, he seemed like the only singer in town who had yet to be co-opted by the interchangeable local music scene; there was excitement in the new. They were probably all a little surprised at how easily it gelled.
A fistful of songs came together readily; two of which became the band’s debut single. Hunger / Fragile was a double A side 7” released on Rough Trade in December last year. Indeed, it has the honour of being the only one-off single the label has released in five years after Geoff Travis declared to the band that Fragile was his favourite song of the year. Hunger is a crystalline-perfect indie pop anthem with a call-and-response hook that only needs to be heard once to be loved. Fragile is a different beast; a shimmering torch song of rare beauty that aches and shudders and crashes into a final soul-on-fire denouement. Together they hailed the arrival of a special band.
The release saw a clatter amongst the on-the-button types, with Hunger gaining the sort of airplay and attention that new bands usually only dream of. A debut tour supporting Florence & The Machine in huge venues across the UK wrapped up a year that finished as quickly as it had started unassumingly.
Rather than chasing a label home for the next six months, the band decided to release their next single on their own label, Pop Sex Ltd. Another double ‘A’ side 7”, Tender / Want You Back, was recorded in conjunction with James Ford who’d spent the previous summer recording The Arctic Monkeys and enjoying success in his own right as one half of Simian Mobile Disco. It was released in April, as the band embarked on their first headline tour of the UK plus a spell opening for fellow Sunderland luminaries The Futureheads. Around this time they were joined by fifth member Mick Ross, who adds steel, bite and panache to their musicianship.
In May they headlined the Introducing Tent at Radio 1’s Big Weekend before being pushed headlong into the tumultuous festival circuit. They graced Glastonbury’s Park Stage and gradually worked their way up bills over the months until they found themselves headlining stages at Summer Sundae, Lounge on the Farm and Latitude. Summer was capped off by an invitation to fulfill the much-vaunted opening slot on the vast NME / Radio 1 stage at Reading & Leeds festivals. Both shows drew impressively large crowds for a band who, at this point, more people had read about than probably heard. Frankie & co. won them over and those who attended left happy in their early-bird judgement.
Autumn has seen the release of a third single Ungrateful, a song whose rising chorus, and mantra-like call of ‘I wrote this song with you in mind’ is clever, enticing and grand. It is also the band’s first release as a digital download.
The coming months see them stepping up their game as they embark on debut jaunts across the world. A trip to the States will be followed by shows in Japan and an inaugural tour of Europe, sandwiching in a further set of shows across the UK with legend, hero and influence Edwin Collins.
Edwyn Collins is also the man entrusted to rec