Accessing Glen Hansard feels like some sort of covert operation. For starters, the Frames' frontman is safely tucked away in the back of a long and dimly lit tour bus, which is parked in front of Montreal's Cabaret La Tulipe. Adding to that, he and his four bandmates-who play Richard's on Richards on Thursday (March 10)-are militantly democratic about their interview rotation system. Today, the tour manager firmly points out, is bassist Joseph Doyle's turn. But since the scheduled interviewee is stuck in sound check, Hansard peels himself away from his laptop and explains his reluctance to chat up every music writer who wants 10 minutes with him.
"I just don't want to turn into a whore that knows how to turn you on by what I say, someone that knows how to be quotable," he says, not realizing that as soon as he said "whore", my sound-bite radar started pinging uncontrollably. "Plus, it's nice to give the boys a bit of the action. Some of the lads have some great positivity to share, whereas I can be a real morose bastard sometimes."
Not today. Even after Doyle comes bounding in for his turn with the media, Hansard happily continues to dominate our Q&A period.
We begin by discussing the success of "Fake", a single that was released in Ireland in 2003 and instantly catapulted the Dublin veterans from a local cult act to Irish rock royalty.
"It's not a fancy song; there's no?thing super-intelligent about it," says Hansard, whom many may recognize as the guitarist in The Commitments. "It's just a straight-ahead rock song with a bit of a hook."
That's an understatement. Upon first listen to the inescapably catchy number, featured on the Frames' latest album, Burn the Maps, you can pin?point the exact note (approximately 9.8 nanoseconds in), where fans are likely to raise their hands and sing along. The guitar-driven "Fake" is noticeably different from Radiohead-esque rockers like "Happy" and avant-folk drifters like "Keepsake". Throughout most of the record, violinist Colm MacConlomaire remains a unifying force. He deftly builds pastel swirls of Celtic noise, subtly underscoring both the experimental ballads and the OK Computer-indebted chart toppers.
Along with ample radio play in their native land, these working-class blokes' fifth studio LP scored them the headlining slot at Dublin's Marley Park music festival last summer. Frame-mania has yet to conquer U.S. airwaves. But according to Hansard, that's probably for the best. "I think we'd implode overnight," he says, snapping his fingers with conviction. "The band would just freak out because we're a small simple business that knows how it works and likes how it works. So if, for example, "Fake" suddenly shot straight to number five in America, we'd have a pretty rough ride of it."
Breaking his silence, the quiet Doyle dreamily interjects: "Actually, I think we'd have a pretty good time."