Tuesday, 06 September 2016 21:38

Frank Turner Takes the Stage (Again) at Bell’s Brewery

Written by  Eric Mitts
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Every one of Frank Turner’s live shows means as much to him as the one before. In fact, the British folk singer-songwriter has kept a running tally of all the shows he’s ever played, and he’ll hit 1,966 when performing in Kalamazoo on Oct. 1.

“I started keeping a list of shows in my old band, Million Dead,” Turner said. “Once the band was done (in 2005) I was very happy that I’d done it, because it gave me a record of what we’d achieved as a group. So when I started playing solo, I kept a list. That has certainly developed into something of a monster now.”

Turner has now played more shows solo — and with his backing band The Sleeping Souls — than he ever did with the post-hardcore Million Dead. And while his 2000th show is approaching, at this point that milestone isn’t anything more to Turner than a comforting reminder of his refusal to grow up or settle down.

It also means that his performance at Bell’s beer garden will be every bit as momentous as his mainstage slots at major festivals like Reading and Leeds in his native country or the massive Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. It’s also part of a short run of headlining shows he’s doing in the U.S. this fall, following his stint opening for Flogging Molly here this summer.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
wsg. The Arkells, Will Varley Bell’s Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
Oct. 1, 7 p.m., 21+
$25 advance, $30 day of show
bellsbeer.com, (269) 382-2332

“My choice of venues is very much governed by accessibility,” Turner said about keeping his punk-rock ideals intact. “I don’t want to be someone it’s hard to go and see live, or, god forbid, that you have to be ‘cool’ to get access to.”

In the decade since he’s gone solo, Turner has become a major star back home across the pond. His fourth LP, 2011’s England Hold My Bones, brimmed with British pride and took his brand of bar-room acoustic punk to some of the country’s biggest stages, including the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Stateside, his song “Recovery” off 2013’s Tape Deck Heart brought him onto the American airwaves. Still, he’s continued to maintain most of his loyal following through tireless touring all over the world. 

“It’s weird having my name in lights, on backdrops and T-shirts and so on,” Turner said of the commodification of his identity. “It certainly feels like an entity that is separate from me at times, which is something I have trouble with. I don’t want to be disassociated from the art I make. That said, it can also be psychologically helpful to walk away from it from time to time. I don’t want to have my public face on all the time.”

Turner released his latest LP, Positive Songs for Negative People, last summer. It’s his fourth album with his backing band and he feels it’s their pinnacle of playing together.

“We’ve been touring as a unit for eight years now,” Turner said. “We all push each other in terms of performance. As a songwriter, well, I still technically work alone, but knowing who will be playing the parts to accompany the songs I’m writing certainly pushes me in certain directions.”

Artistically, Turner is a lot harder on himself. He is his own worst critic, and recently self-imposed something of a songwriting ban to break himself from writing about his own personal heartache. Thankfully for fans, he has now all but lifted the ban and returned to his guitar for more.

“I felt like after six studio albums in a row, it was time to have some clear creative water between the past and the future,” Turner said. “Every time I finish a record I think about taking a break once we’re done with the touring cycle. And every time I have something ready to go at the end of that time. I have a whole lot of new stuff on the way, but it’s pretty different, in places, to what has come before.”

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