When Frank Carter left hardcore punk band Gallows, few expected him to resurface as the frontman of a more accessible rock act - and to be singing the songs rather than screaming them. But an encounter in New York with fellow hardcore musician Jimmy Carroll (The Hope Conspiracy, The Suicide File) led to a whole new outlook on life and music. The result is Pure Love, and the first fruit of their union is Bury My Bones, a riffy, hook-laden and, most importantly, hugely enjoyable slice of classic rock available to download for free from their website. The follow-up single, ‘Handsome Devils Club’ will be released on July 23rd. They play the Dot To Dot rolling festival this month and their debut album follows in the autumn.
You’ve both come from a background in hardcore punk, but this music seems a lot more accessible. Was that always the intention for Pure Love?
JC: I’ve been writing songs like, say, Bury My Bones, for years. In fact, probably since I first started playing guitar. The sound just came very naturally to us when we starting putting Pure Love together. Yes, it is hooky, but it’s not contrived in any way to be so.
FC: The album is naturally rock orientated, absolutely. It’s certainly got more hooks in it than people will have been used to hearing from me in the past. But that’s no bad thing.
Is it true, Jim, that you had this archive of songs and snippets of material, and you were waiting for the right person to sing them?
JC: Yeah, I was just waiting for David Bowie to get in touch! Seriously, though, I had loads of demos and voice memos of ideas. I forget things very easily and it was a way of collating everything so that when the time was right, I could dive into this archive and there would be plenty of stuff to work on. When we started doing Pure Love I had to go back through it all - a lot of it was complete garbage but some was really good. Although, a lot of it didn’t actually end up on the record…
FC: His archive was more a good starting point for us: Jimmy would send me rough ideas, I would work on lyrics that might change the tone of the song and from there we started putting songs together. It actually worked out that very few of the songs from that early period made the cut for the album.
JC: He’s right - most of the songs are proper collaborations that were written after we had started the band. But those early songs are important because they excited us and made us realise that we could do something really good.
So how did hardcore punks from Watford and New York hook up in the first place?
FC: We played a show together when Jimmy was in The Suicide File and I was in Gallows. This was 2006, so a long time ago. And then after that when I moved to New York I was looking to start a new band and I met up with Jimmy at a show. We both immediately realised that we didn’t want to play hardcore music right now, that we wanted to try something different. He sent over a couple of songs that night, I put lyrics and a melody to one of them straight away and the rest is history.
How did it feel when you realised the music was really clicking?
FC: It was great because I hadn’t written music for a long time. The Gallows stuff towards the end wasn’t coming out very easily, and to be honest the songs had ground to a halt. But this was a lot of fun, it was fresh and new and Jimmy I just got on really well from the get go. Even the decision making process was different from what I had experienced previously; it was fast and instant. I knew very early on that Pure Love was what I wanted to do, and a couple of months later it was time to make a conscious decision. So I quit Gallows to work on putting this album together in the studio.
Bury My Bones has the line “so sick of singing about hate”. Is that something of a manifesto for Pure Love?
FC: Well, I’d been in quite a negative place for a long time. I was punishing myself for the entertainment of other people and I wanted to change things if I could. Like Jimmy has an archive of songs, I have the same with lyrics and I’d written those lines a long time ago; Pure Love was just the right music for them. I’ve got a whole new lease of life, and all these old lyrics now have a place.
With Gallows, you were known for your lyrical content, which often had a social and political edge. Has that continued into Pure Love?
FC: This record’s definitely more personal, but then, that’s how I actually started writing lyrics. It was only when Gallows went into making Grey Britain that the social commentary came in. But this one is about me and my life in the last couple of years; there’s a lot of conviction in the words because it’s all stuff I’ve experienced or seen in the people around me who I love and care about. I’m really comfortable with that, and I think Jimmy feels the same - we play off each other so well. What he found in my lyrics I found in his music, if you see what I mean. It’s a perfect partnership.
Does that make sense to you Jimmy?
JC: Yeah, Pure Love is going great. I couldn’t be happier. I quit a band, moved to a new city and I was really trying to find something new. I knew what I wanted to do, and I tried my best on my own but I needed the right people around me to make all these songs come to fruition. When I met Frank and he played me a demo of him singing, I immediately asked him why he was wasting his time screaming in a band. He has the best, most natural sounding voice for rock when he sings. And as soon as we sat down to talk about Pure Love I knew it was going to work. It’s been the easiest writing process I’ve ever gone through - when things worked, we simply recorded them and moved on to the next song. The music is very simple in some respects, but it’s also the biggest sounding thing I’ve ever done. I love it.
It’s interesting you should say the sound is “big”. Which bands inspired you when you were writing?
FC: It’ll be a shock for Gallows fans to hear maybe, but Oasis, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. The classic British bands actually. We want to have fun, play music that we love and if it’s huge-sounding… then great.
Which puts the album on a different level to an underground punk record doesn’t it. What would you hope people feel about it when it’s released later this year?
FC: That they’ve had a religious experience!
JC: A sexual experience.
FC: A sexual religious experience… that all sounds wrong, doesn’t it? In all seriousness, there’s no pretense or arrogance to these songs. All we’ve wanted to do is be really honest and have fun, and play the music that we want. Whatever people get out it, fine. As long as people listen to it with open ears and not write it off immediately. There’s a lot of critics out there these days - I don’t know why people can’t just relax and enjoy the music.
JC: These are songs that people should sing along to. They’re definitely celebratory. And looking into the crowd at our second show, where people were singing along to songs that haven’t even come out yet… I think that proves we’re on the right track. It blew my mind actually, to see these people with such joy on their faces.
Jimmy mentions singing along to the songs. Of course, you’re singing too now, Frank…
FC: The music that Jimmy wrote lent itself naturally to my voice, and singing these songs every night gave me a huge amount of confidence. I went to a handful of lessons with a singing instructor to make sure I wasn’t damaging it, and I felt immediately that I had control over it. I’m actually a little gutted because right now I can hit a stronger register than I could when we recorded the album. I’ve seen a few bits and pieces from people online doubting that I could pull off a singing voice live, so those people are going to be silenced very quickly.
So it’s all moved quickly from being a project between friends to a proper band. Was making the name up a big moment?
FC: We had a lot of songs and song titles before we had a name for the band. We’d been firing stuff back and forth for ages - there was a text conversation one week which was pretty much limited to band names.
JC: There was never a yes or no. But one day I was listening to 1970s prog/jazz band Mahavishnu Orchestra and looked at the song titles and saw Pure Love. It just stood out - I texted Frank and he agreed. That night we had the stickers!
FC: Yeah, I went straight home and made 500 stickers. We covered Brooklyn with them. We were committed to it by then because I’d spent so much money on printer cartridges!
Have a look at the brand new and exclusive Pure Love video ‘Handsome Devil’s Club’ below.