Frank Turner on ‘Girl From The Record Shop’ and the importance of venues

Frank Turner has shared new single ‘Girl From The Record Shop’. Check it out below as Turner talks to NME about new album ‘Undefeated’ and his continuing endeavours with the Music Venue Trust.

The energetic new track is the second single to be taken from ‘Undefeated’, which is due out on May 3 via Xtra Mile. It also marks Turner’s first album as an independent artist, having spent the past 10 years on a major label, and the first record that he has produced himself.

Turner described ‘Girl From The Record Shop’ as a “borderline fantasy type thing” from the point of view of his teenage self.

“Record shops were hugely important to me as a kid, both as refuges but also as a place to discover music and to meet other people,” Turner told NME. “I made a lot of my friends at Selectadisc in Soho in the late ‘90s and early 2000s – even if I had no money, I would go in and listen to records all day and nerd out. If there was a beautiful woman working in the record shop who was wearing a Riot Grrl t-shirt, then I’m completely fucked. What am I going to do? Absolutely nothing – I didn’t talk to people that I fancied as a teenager.”

He continued: “Both musically and lyrically, it’s got that sense of teenage romance. There are times when people try and slag off rock’n’roll as being an adolescent art form, but of course it fucking is. Rock’n’roll is about your first kiss and staying up all night for the first time, or discovering the band of your dreams when you’re 19. There’s something to celebrate in that.”

‘Girl From The Record Shop’ is a remnant from Turner’s original plan for his 10th album, which he initially envisioned as a concept album of an argument with his teenage self.

“That is a self-involved thing to do on some levels,” he said. “But in terms of my own mental health, I spend a huge amount of time arguing with an uptight, pristine, kept-in-a-box version of myself. It’s not a healthy way to be, and I spend a lot of time trying to deal with it.”

Despite this, Turner also mentioned that several other songs on the album have a similarly nostalgic feel – admitting that he had “a strain of that in my character that I try to keep a lid on”, but that it spilled out more into ‘Undefeated’.

“The initial impetus for this record involved thinking back to what was a golden period of my life in one sense, but it’s kind of a psychological albatross because ultimately, nostalgia is a false high,” he reasoned. “Everyone’s very selective in the way that they remember things – I think it’s quite easy to remember the summer when you were 16 as being perfect if you want to.”

Another standout track from ‘Undefeated’ is ‘Pandemic PTSD’, which sees Turner confront the realities of the lasting societal hangover from COVID-19, aiming to start a conversation that he doesn’t feel is being had. Its bridge even incorporates the dictionary definition of PTSD at the suggestion of his wife, Jessica Guise, who is a trained psychotherapist and pointed out he was using the term in the original draft of the song in an imprecise way.

“There’s a fair degree of trauma for a lot of people in a lot of different walks of life,” he explained. “Ultimately, if you work in the live entertainment industry, it was an especially shitty time because our job is to gather large numbers of people together in confined spaces, and travel around doing that, which is not an ideal form of employment during an airborne pandemic.

“I think a lot of people don’t want to talk about it who are in positions of power, because they fucked it up and they want nothing more than to move on. Part of me feels quite good about putting out a song with the word ‘pandemic’ in the title in a time when everyone seems to be trying to leave it behind.”

Regarding his newfound independence, Turner was keen to stress that there is no bad blood between him and former label Universal. In fact, after finishing his deal, they offered him the option to continue their working relationship, from which Turner had released his last five albums. Turner politely rejected the proposition, hoping to become a free agent.

“I feel fantastic about it,” he said. “It feels like it’s the right place for me to be right now. I feel better understood, and that’s not that I ever had creative restrictions on the music I was making, but some days I did have to fight quite hard for that freedom. Nowadays, I do what the fuck I want. I produced the record myself in my garden, which I’ve never done before. I’m not saying I should have been doing that all along, but it feels like the right time now. I’m in a very confident, comfortable place with my own art.”

Since the pandemic, Turner has also become one of the most prolific artists advocating for more support to be given to grassroots music venues in the current period of economic upheaval, where ongoing damage done by the pandemic-enforced closure has been compounded by the current cost of living crisis. He has been a patron of the Music Venue Trust, even performing in the House Of Commons to mark the launch of their 2023 Annual Report.

Turner said that he “would love to say he was surprised, but I wasn’t” by the news that 2023 was the worst year for venue closures to date, with 16 per cent of grassroots music venues shutting their doors over the past 12 months at a rate of two per week.

“An awful lot of debt was incurred, a lot of rainy day funds were spent, but a lot of behaviours have changed,” he acknowledged. “We’re trying to remind people that going to independent gigs is fun, and teaching the kids who came of age in 2020 or 2021 that this is a cool thing to do. My role in this is twofold – to shout about it whenever I can and be positive and say it’s a really fucking cool thing to go to indie gigs. Don’t fucking go to an arena gig where you get charged nine quid for a beer!”

Turner also echoed the MVT’s call for a £1 ticket levy to be implemented on large scale music events, which would then be funnelled back into grassroots venues. He also praised Enter Shikari for implementing the initiative voluntarily on their recent UK tour: “Hats off to them, I fucking love those guys. I saw they’d been doing that and I thought ‘What a fucking good idea’.”

He also shot down suggestions from critics who have suggested that a levy could price people out of larger gigs. “People have already committed to spending a certain order of magnitude of money,” he argued, before turning his attention back to the idea of encouraging young people to come to gigs.

“I look at my teenage nieces and nephews who are glued to their phones 24 hours a day and I think, ‘You know what? A corporation is taking the piss out of your adolescence. Put the phone down and go to a gig!’”

‘Undefeated’ will be released on May 3 via Xtra Mile. Turner last released music with 2022’s ‘FTHC’, an album which saw him gain his first UK Number One. The record examined his relationship with his trans parent as well as reflecting on Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson’s death, which he spoke about with NME.

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