FrnkIero andthe Cellabration, the solo project of former My Chemical Romance rhythm guitarist, Frank Iero, is on its first headlining tour. Iero, along with touring members Matt Olsson, Rob Hughes, and Iero’s brother-in-law Evan Nestor, stopped in Toronto to play an all-ages show at Hard Luck in February.
We sat down to talk about the tour, the debut album, Stomachaches, and moving on after 12 years and four records with My Chemical Romance.
How does it feel to be headlining with your solo project for the first time?
It’s very strange. It feels nice though.
I mean, there’s a sense of responsibility because I don’t have any management or anything. I’m heading out with a bunch of friends and I’m at the helm.
There’s also this other sense of shock, a little bit, because you show up to venues and there’s a lot of people there to see you, and it feels really nice. I’m at that port of coming to grips with people enjoying what I make, and also having to still be in control of everything.
That must be amazing.
It’s pretty surreal!
You recently toured with The Used and Taking Back Sunday. What was that like?
Well, it was really fun. It was nice to get to tour with old friends.
Have you known them a long time?
Yeah! Jeeze, I’ve toured with TBS and the Used like so long ago. Like I remember touring with both those bands in the early days of My Chem. We’ve probably toured more with Taking Back Sunday over the years, but we did US and European dates with The Used when we were very, very young, so it was kind of like learning about the world together, a little bit.
What are you looking forward to most about your European spring tour?
There seems a lot of excitement there. We booked venues and a lot of them got upgraded, and some of them sold out and stuff, and it’s very flattering. I’m looking forward to that, but I would say that feeling is only matched by how nerve-racking it is to know there’s that much excitement.
Including your experiences in other bands, what have been your favourite tour memories?
Oh man, here’s the thing. I feel like going on the road…it’s difficult. It’s a monster, and it’s two headed. You have everything that you love about playing music, going to shows, and experiencing and meeting the people. And then there’s that other head; how much you hate being away from the ones that you love, and the travel. Some people just really love the travel; I’m not one of those people. I like being at the shows, I like playing the shows, but I’m not so much like “Oh, I can’t wait to get in the van for eight hours! It’s great!”
You hope, though, that the good times outweigh the bad, and I think that happens a lot.
I think some of my favourite memories, though, are having my grandfather or my mom and dad see me get to play places that they’ve always dreamed of seeing me play, or that my dad always dreamed of playing, like the Garden or doing Saturday Night Live. Having kids sing along to words that I wrote in my basement; that is the best feeling.
It’s different, from this project to, say, My Chem. We did so many things that I never even dreamed… that I couldn’t even dream of dreaming of! But with this one, I did everything, and to know that it touched people in a far off land, that’s an amazing, amazing feat.
How do you handle being on tour, away from your family, for so long?
I don’t know, I’m learning. I’m learning as we go along, but that’s a good question. Thank god for the Skypes and the FaceTimes, and all that stuff, but it’s not a replacement. It kind of just appeases you for the moment.
I don’t know, to be honest. I’m working on it, I’m trying.
Let’s get into a little bit about your new album, Stomachaches. You played everything but drums on the album?
I played drums on ‘Joyriding.’
I love drums, I really do. My father’s a drummer, my grandfather’s a drummer. I never was able to live up to their level or any expectation that I could possibly have, and so, when doing this record, I was like “There’s no way I’m playing on it,” so I asked my friend Jarrod Alexander to play, and he crushed it. It was like “Oh, thank god I never played on any of this stuff,” because he did it so much better than I ever could have imagined.
I did all the rest of that stuff. There’s usually two guitar parts being played on most of the songs, sometimes there’s three. There’s a little bit of acoustic in there. It’s pretty straightforward.
What was some of the inspiration behind the songs on the album?
I feel like, very much, the heart of it is a folk record. I drew upon a lot of things that I saw and I feel probably shaped me and the person I became.
I drew upon a lot of things my dad played for me as a young kid. Just old rock-and-roll, early blues and stuff like that. Stuff where there was a bunch of guys in one room playing at the same time around one microphone and for better or for worse, that was it. That was the song, that was the take, and I wanted that.
And do you feel like you got that with this album?
I think so. Some of my favourite things about music in general are the human element, the mistakes. And I think there are a lot of mistakes on this record [laughs].
How do you think you’ve evolved as a musician?
I think I’ve learned how to maximize on my weaknesses. I feel like you learn certain pitfalls that you might fall into, and you learn to not overthink the little stuff, but then again, there is nothing little. Everything is a big deal.
So as far as songwriting goes, I’ve definitely learned to trim the fat. I think that’s been a big thing. And I think as a young songwriter, I feel like a lot of young songwriters fall into the trap of including everything, and then you end up with these nine-minute opuses.
Sometimes, if you can say what you need to say in a small, little box, maybe that’s the best way to do it.
Let’s go back a bit to your time with MCR. How did you cope with the breakup?
Well. I think I coped pretty well. I’d never done anything for 12 years, other than that and smoking, I think.
It felt like school, and I mean that in a really good way. I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about the world. But no one wants to go to school forever, and at some point, you learn what you can, and you feel like “Alright, I’ve graduated, and now I’m going to do something else.” But I’m extremely proud of everything we accomplished. It was really fun, it really was.
There are obviously still people that are like “MCR, get back together,” but how have the fans handled with it?
When we were together, some people would say, “You saved my life.” And my reaction to that was always, “well, I appreciate you saying that. I understand you were inspired by the band and maybe we were the soundtrack to you finding your own way, but in actuality, you saved your own life. I feel like you don’t give yourself enough credit.” And then, a lot of those kids would then say to me, “but you saved my life.” Then it’s just like, “okay, if that’s what you need, that’s fine.”
Now, some people just say, “Well, just get back together.” And it’s like, “You can experience those records again and again, but for us and our lives, that was it. It wasn’t meant to go on forever, only for as long as it did.” And then they’ll say, “Well, just get back together.” And it’s like, “alright, well… yeah, that’s fine.”
Are you and the other guys still close?
Yeah, as close as we can be. When we were together in a band, when we would come off the road, we wouldn’t see each other for months at a time, and then we would get back on the road and it was that family unit again.
But now that we’re not on the road, we don’t see each other because we’re very far apart, but if any of us needed each other, we would still be there.
This interview has been edited and condensed.