Not A Real Giraffe - A chat with Frank & Beans

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A short while back I found myself lost in the bizarre seaside playground of Brighton, bafflingly drunk and looking for a good time. I realised as soon as we arrived that I had somehow boarded the wrong train, but rather than double back and continue on my quest for Baldock I decided to make an evening of it.

After throwing chips at pigeons for the best part of an hour, I got it into my head to find some music. A kindly woman in a giraffe costume directed me to the nearest venue, and away I went.

‘Which band is this now?’ I said to the man on the door. ‘Um, I’m not sure.’ He replied.

The poor fool didn’t know what he was missing out on. The band, it transpired, was Frank & Beans. Their unique, charismatic sound kept me on the right side of the brink for the next half hour, offering slick, infectious rhythms buoying truly astonishing guitar work. Half the time it was unclear what on earth the guitarist was up to, and how he was producing such a vast sonic array. Sticking a piece of card under the strings, re-tuning mid-song; the man was a real magician. Their songs brought to mind words like ‘kraut rock’, ‘post-punk’ and ‘electro’, but also words like ‘visceral’, ‘waltz’ and ‘larceny’. 

Far from a one-trick pony, these guys weren’t just one of those bands that sound great but in reality are actually incredibly ugly. They had the bone structure to back it up. Between songs they spoke softly and sparingly in a canorous Belfast vernacular, taking Guinness sips in unison. Louis Walsh really missed a trick with these guys. With each song offering something new, they never let the set turn stale. Thundering along in one direction, the pair would quickly turn tail and canter off in another. After a while the heady daze of the gig put me in a reflective mood, and I got to thinking that maybe it wasn’t a giraffe costume. Maybe that was her real neck.

I recently caught up with Frank & Beans, via ‘email’. Here’s what they had to say.

How are things down at the seaside?

Pebbly and overpriced. 

You guys seem to have some sort of creative symbiosis going on. How has that come about?

We’ve been playing together from the age of eleven, at least once every week until now. 

‘Trashmen’ takes its lyrics verbatim from a Bukowski poem. Where is the line between referencing and plagiarising?

The fact that ‘Trashmen’ is sung exactly how Bukowski wrote it means it’s a cover, no? We’ve always made sure that it’s said before we play the song that it’s a Bukowski poem, just in case the shirts at Harper Collins hammer us with copyright infringement. Plus, we’ve made sure we can never make any money from the song. Overall though, it’s sharing what we think is good stuff, in a way in which we know how. 

Some songs are told following fictional narratives whilst some forfeit lyrics altogether, to what extent is the songwriting personal?

Even though all of the songs might not be factual, they’re definitely still personal. A narrative can be fictional, doesn’t mean it’s void of truth. 

In ‘Hugo’, you simply chant over and over that you have nothing to say. Why should people listen to an artist with nothing to say?

‘Hugo’ was a song written to describe the life of Northern Irish radio DJ, Hugo Duncan post-bankruptcy. We chant from his perspective and attempt to interpret his feeling during this difficult time for him. Chin up, Mr. Duncan.  

In the UK music scene there seems to be a sort of silent firewall somewhere around the North Channel. Why do you think we’re not hearing a lot from Northern Ireland?

We’d say this firewall exists not only with the music scene, but with all cultural aspects from places like Northern Ireland and Scotland. If the British didn’t take the Northern Irish and Scottish politics and social rights seriously, what chance do you think their music had? We believe we’re still seeing this today; the brits don’t want anything to do with Northern Ireland, unless Theresa May wants votes from the DUP to bolster her crock of shite.

What other challenges face musicians in Northern Ireland today?

We’ve been in Brighton for four years now and we know the scene back home has changed but we couldn’t tell you how. Probably the same challenges face them as they face any other band anywhere else: Closing venues, greedy promoters and having to explain to explain to your girlfriend’s parents that what you ‘do’ is play in a band. 

What might the future look like for Frank and/or Beans?

Best ask the future, as we’re not spoiling anything. 

by Jethro Jeffires