Frankie Rose has little difficulty identifying the artists that inspired her when she was writing her second solo album, Interstellar. When the Straight reaches Rose, who made a name for herself in indie-rock circles during stints behind the drum kit with the Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, and Crystal Stilts, she’s only too eager to drop a few names, ranging from the Cure to Tears for Fears to Arvo Pärt. One act in particular, however, came very close to providing a blueprint for Rose’s record.
“You should hear the demos,” she says on the phone from her home in Brooklyn. “The demos sound like straight-up Cocteau Twins rip-offs. Someday I’ll probably release them. It’s so funny. They’re all guitar; there’s no synths in there. It just sounds completely like Cocteau Twins.”
In the studio with producer Le Chev, Rose stripped the songs way back, abandoning the Cocteau Twins’ ocean-of-guitars approach for a more spare aesthetic, one driven by melodies rather than by layers of interwoven sounds.
“That was a huge part of what I wanted for the record,” she says. “I wanted space. I didn’t want too much going on at one time. I wanted people to be able to hear the vocals. I just didn’t want a lot of stuff piled on top of everything. I mean, I think that’s one of the biggest lessons I learned from the first to the second record: less can be more, depending on how you are treating things. Just because you have more tracks, that doesn’t necessarily make a bigger album.”
Rose’s first solo outing, 2010’s Frankie Rose and the Outs, was a noisy, lo-fi affair, equal parts shoegazing fuzz, bell-bottomed garage rawk, and back-to-mono girl-group harmonies. For Interstellar, she dialled back the fuzz and brought in synthesizers. For proof that Rose can still knock out a killer pop song, check out “Know Me”, which positions shimmery, lost-in-the-forest guitar chords over an ’80s dance-floor beat. It’s on tracks such as “Pair of Wings”, however, that she reaches for an altogether different aesthetic, one marked by subtly shifting textures and chorus-of-angels singing.
“I knew that I didn’t want to make the same record twice, and I knew that I didn’t want to make a record that was just guitars,” Rose says of her determination to deviate from the indie-rock template. “I didn’t want to make a guitar album. I kept joking around, too, when I was just first starting to conceptualize about what I could possibly want to do on the next record. I would joke to people: ‘I’m going to make a dance record. It’s going to be all synths.’ I’d say, ‘I’m making a synth-pop record.’ So, in a strange way I guess this is my synth-pop record.”
It isn’t exactly that, though, nor does it fall strictly within the confines of any other genre. Even its creator has no idea how to classify the sound of Interstellar, and she’s okay with that. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s definitely something,” Rose says. “And it’s definitely different. The less people can place it, the better, as far as I’m concerned.”
Frankie Rose plays the Biltmore on Tuesday (April 24).