Need To Know: Frankmusik
By Ellen Carpenter
Vincent Frank is a fashion-school dropout and former beatboxer who lives with his grandma. But he's also Frankmusik, it-boy of London's nu-pop scene and Perez Hilton's latest obsession. The compact, doe-eyed 23-year-old released his debut album, Complete Me -- a synth-heavy celebration of all things '80s -- earlier this month and earned a spot on Hilton's debut tour alongside Ladyhawke and Ida Maria. The day after his New York gig, Frank -- looking dapper in a gray cardigan, dark jeans, and intricately designed X-I-T frames -- chatted with us about his love for America and Whitney Houston.
Out: You wrote, recorded, and played all the instruments on your album. Did you study music growing up?
Frankmusik: In an abstract way, yes. I did learn the piano and a few other instruments, but not to any high standard. For me, it was more that I grew up being educated by what my mum used to listen to. She had great taste in music. Well, I thought she did [laughs]. I'd be listening to a lot of music from the '80s to the late '70s -- Earth Wind and Fire to Human League to Billy Joel to Chicago. She used to listen to chart music, basically. Chart music used to be artists. Proper artists. Nowadays it's all about singles and singles and singles.
So what of this music was a big influence? I read you especially love Billy Ocean's 'Get Into My Car' --
Ohhhh! [Clutches his chest in ecstasy.] Great song.
I find that really funny because most Americans your age would consider that song downright lame. Though, of course, they'd also know all the words.
So do you feel like you're purposefully trying to capture that kind of sound? To me, it really seems like an homage.
I look at things like 'Get Into My Car' or Bobbie Brown's 'Every Little Step' -- they're just great songs. None of this boom-boom-pow crap. If I hear another 'in da club' song, I'm going to kill myself. However cheesy that music was, the reason you know every single word is because it was a really good song. Like, Whitney Houston's Bodyguard album? Incredible love songs. Do I try to put that sound into my music? Indirectly, yes. But I'm not trying to sound nostalgic. What I'm trying to do is capture what influenced me, subconsciously, the most as a child. I have that sound built into me.
You started out as a beatboxer when you were 17 and even made it to the final round of the BBC's Let Me Entertain You talent show. How did you get into that?
I could just do it. I heard Rahzel do his infamous 'If Your Mother Only Knew' thing and I tried to work it out and I had it in no time. I was just naturally quite good at doing it. Everyone in my school thought it was hilarious. And I did the talent contest and I started doing beatbox battles in London. That was a whole different thing. It was very hard for me because I went to a good school and I've got a quite posh accent and I'm white. But it wasn't so much my skin color -- it was that I didn't dress correctly for these events. I'd turn up like this [fingers his cardigan] and everyone would be like, 'Who the heck are you? You're in the wrong building.' I just started getting scared going to these things. When you've got guys -- big, big guys -- standing here [holds his hand right in front of his face], saying, 'You're shit, you're shit!' at the top of their fucking lungs when you're trying to beatbox, it's just like, 'No thanks." So I said goodbye, thank you very much, and made Frankmusik.
This is your first time touring the U.S. as Frankmusik. How is it different from playing in the U.K.?
People are a lot more willing to talk to you here. Most of the time in England, people watch the gig and leave. Over here, you don't have to be so ashamed about selling yourself. Semi Precious Weapons, who play after me, they'll make an absolute effort to stand by the merch table and talk to their fans, whereas that would be frowned upon in England. You need to be offstage and disappear because you need to show this kind of divide -- that you're better than your fans. People are a lot more negative in England.
Especially the press.
Pfffff' tell me about it! But that's kind of why creativity does come out of England -- because it's not a particularly nice place to live socially. That spurs people on. In America, things are a nicer and people are a bit more laid back and a lot more positive, so there are less things to get pissed off about. I quite like the weird transition, and I will be doing a lot of work in America for my next album. I'm going to record, write, and produce it here. I want to do a studio tour and hopefully meet some cool writers. I didn't have any writers on my first album, but I wouldn't mind getting creative with some other people.